It seems just about everyone is remodeling their kitchen these days, whether it’s a complete overhaul or just a few additions. With serious planning tips and some design inspiration from local kitchens, you can ensure success for your renovation project.

There are a lot of things you can change to transform your kitchen: countertops, appliances, sinks and faucets, flooring, or of course, the entire layout. So where should you begin?

The August 2006 issue of Consumer Reports focused on kitchens, giving readers an idea of which trends to splurge on and which ones to avoid. In a nutshell, it said to always focus on safety and space—this is where it’s OK to shell out a little extra cash. Be sure there are no sharp edges you or a family member can be hurt by, and check that lighting is adequate. Make small rooms larger by implementing space-saving appliances and maximizing storage space. Mix and match materials: if a huge slab of granite isn’t in your budget, combine a small piece with laminate. Hardwood flooring is also great, but maybe not the best choice for your budget—try laminate or vinyl, and the hardwood can always be added to the plan later, after your wallet rebounds from the other additions.

There are good kitchens, and then there are dream kitchens—for some of us, money is no object when it comes to our kitchen overhauls. We want what we want, and the kitchen is our main priority. In such cases, Consumer Reports says to splurge on customized granite with curvy looks for both safety and style, refrigerators with lots of extra space, undermount sinks and wall-mounted faucets that clear up your counter space, and factory-finished hardwood or bamboo flooring, both of which tend to hold up better through time. Just be sure to do some extensive research and preplanning to ensure your kitchen remodeling project stays on target.
DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen cautions that many DIY projects end up catastrophic, taking longer and costing more than expected. It stresses that hiring a professional from the beginning could make a big difference in the end. Often times homeowners overestimate their home improvement skills and forget to factor in the actual physical labor, time away from their families, energy spent researching the correct supplies to use, and additional time shopping. “Many people falsely believe that engaging in DIY remodeling projects will save them time and hard-earned money,” said Chuck Gabbert of DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen of Peoria. “They don’t always evaluate all aspects and costs of the projects, and find out the hard way it’s not worth the hassle, money, and time invested.”

Regardless of your budget or taste, whether you’re hiring a professional or throwing caution to the wind by taking on a remodeling project yourself, you can always get kitchen renovation ideas from the Cook’s Tour of Peoria, a fundraising event held by the Peoria Medical Society Alliance (PMSA). This is the 20th anniversary of the Tour, which will include homes with unique architectural features and kitchen remodels. This Tour’s five homes are of varying ages, from brand-new to historic, and all have new kitchens.

The home featured here is owned by Dr. Apichart and Crystal Radee. A member of the PMSA, Crystal Radee said she wanted to support the Cook’s Tour because of the causes PMSA supports, such as Belwood Nursing Home, Heartland Clinic, reading programs at Tyng and other grade schools, and more. Her kitchen has Brazilian Cherry cabinets, deep-green countertops with black and specs of amber/gold granite, and amber-colored glass knobs and light fixtures. Radee knew it was important for her kitchen to incorporate glass because her grandmother loved antique glass. “She used to have old colored bottles on display in her windows,” she said. “I remember how I loved to see the sun shine on those bottles. When she passed away, I kept some of those, and have displayed them throughout the house.”

Windows are a necessary design to the Radee’s home so all the glass in the house can be reflected. Another crucial element is the Asian inspiration that honors Apichart’s birthplace of Thailand. Asian treasures are peppered throughout the home, and Radee also commissioned special artwork made for the room by local artists Hiriam Toraason, who works in glass-blowing, and Suzanne Stewart, a two-dimensional fine artist. “My favorite aspect is how the whole kitchen turned out amazing with such an eclectic variety of inspirations,” she said.

Radee renovated her kitchen at 314 East Morningside Drive in the Edgewild subdivision two years ago due to its previous lack of space. “The kitchen is such an important part of the home,” she said. “It’s the family meeting place.”

The Radee’s kitchen was remodeled by Noah Herman & Sons, who provided a more efficient space by designing an eat-in area, bumping out the original kitchen, and adding a bay window and skylights. The overall remodeling process took only four months. The flooring from the adjacent room was continued into the new kitchen, lending cohesion to the adjoining areas. Dutch Abraham was in charge of the cabinetry, and even took inspiration from the dental molding in another area when creating the cabinets, unifying the entire house. “My husband likes detail, and that was expressed in the cabinets Dutch created,” said Radee. “To display all our collections, Dutch incorporated some custom-made ornate architectural display cabinets, which all in all make the kitchen look stunning.”

Co-chairs Mary Rice and Kristy Gorenz, and Publicity Chair Linda Couri hope to raise $15,000 to $20,000 through this year’s Cook’s Tour. With the money earned, the PMSA grants money to projects that promote the health, education, and quality of life for people in our community. “We’re always on the lookout for beautiful kitchens to feature on the tour—we hear about kitchens from our members, or sometimes others who’ve attended our event in the past will call us with suggestions,” said Couri.

The committee begins preparations at least four months before the event by visiting each home to gather presentation ideas. Different florists are asked to provide arrangements; this year’s florists include Michele’s, Carol’s Flower Shop, Monier’s Flowers and Gifts, and Sterling Flower Shoppe. Vendors providing table settings, serving pieces, and decorations for each kitchen include anecdotes, Bergner’s, The Bronze Frog, and The Hyacinth. In addition, Gloria Jean’s Coffee and Fired Up will be special features at a couple of the homes.

Rice, Gorenz, and Kouri agree the best part about the Cook’s Tour is that around 100 PMSA members come together in one day to volunteer and aid in fundraising that helps support the PMSA’s educational and health-related projects. The PMSA’s board of directors will assess the needs of the community in deciding how to utilize the proceeds from this year’s Cook’s Tour. PMSA projects include Tyng Adopt-a-School program, Hard Hats for Little Heads, the Cinderella Project, Bel-Wood Nursing Home support, and Reach Out and Read, and more.

The Cook’s Tour of Peoria is being held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, September 14. There are eight ticket locations in Peoria: anecdotes, The Bronze Frog, Carol’s Flower Shop, Fired Up, The Hyacinth, Michele’s, Monier’s Flowers and Gifts, and Sterling Flower Shoppe. Tickets may be purchased in advance for $15 or at the door for $20. For more information, call Rice at 685-7053. a&s