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Will Your Home’s Dated Kitchen Lose Its Sizzle At Resale Time?

The kitchen often is called the heart of the home. But in today’s style-conscious society, this fundamental living space can age fast.

Like cold bacon in the pan, experts say a typical Chicago kitchen loses its sizzle in only 10 to 12 years.

Design styles are always shifting as profit-hungry manufacturers struggle to compete. Those once warm and shiny oak kitchen cabinets now look out dated, because frosty white now is in vogue. Brass hardware is out, while cool nickel and dark black cabinet hardware are now in demand.

In only a decade or two the hot appliance package went from white to black to stainless steel. Now it’s black/stainless that sells. Who knew that a near-silent dishwasher and a “talking” refrigerator would be in great demand among both Millennial and move-up home buyers?

So, when it came time for this writer to prep and stage his 13-year-old North Side single-family abode and put it on the market, Realtor Sara Benson, president of Chicago-based Benson Stanley Realty, said: “Your kitchen needs a beauty makeover.”

Designed by award-winning architect Patrick Fitzgerald, and built in 2005, the 4,000-square-foot, 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath home overlooks Legion Park in the North Park-Hollywood Park neighborhood. The garden is an oasis of mature trees, with nearby bike paths, a river walk, tennis courts and a playground.

With the retail price of an “affordable” kitchen rehab ranging from $30,000 to $40,000, every thrifty homeowner should consider wise alternatives that can slice this hefty bill in half if you act as your own general contractor.

Here are some suggestions on how to save money from sage rehabbers who have done dozens of new kitchens in recent years:

• Kitchen-cabinet refinishing. The big cost savings in the kitchen was cabinet refinishing going from solid oak to classic white. Although it costs thousands of dollars less than new cabinets, and avoids dusty and time-consuming cabinet demolition, this task is not cheap, nor a job for amateurs.

We hired highly recommended Justo Paz of J.P. Refinishing and Upholstery, who dismantled the cabinet doors and hardware and shipped them to his shop on South Kedzie Ave. A few weeks later, the sparkling white doors were returned, and the existing cabinet boxes were refinished on site. Cost, not including new hardware, was $4,200. Call: 773-679-8730. Earlier, white Subway tile was installed under the cabinets.

• New kitchen island top. After reviewing trends in the marketplace for North Side homes priced at $1-million-plus, Benson suggested we go for the two-tone look of white cabinets topped with the original black Uba-Tuba granite along with repainting the oak island light gray. A white quartz top from The Granite & Marble Depot was installed at a cost of $1,850.

• Lighting is key. Benson advised that it was important to make a “design statement” with bold over-the-island lighting in the kitchen. She shopped on Wayfair and selected a unique 24-bulb LED contemporary kitchen pendant fixture from the Wade Logan Collection.

Featuring clear-glass bulbs suspended on wires from a rectangular chrome mount, this ultra-modern fixture added amazing “wow” to the kitchen. Retail price was $2,697. However, the fixture was available on sale at a significant discount.

• New upscale appliances. A highly rated Bosch appliance package cost nearly $7,000 at Lowe’s, but German engineering was worth every penny. The Bosch dishwasher is quieter than a kitten purring. A top-of-the-line French-door refrigerator with icemaker and pullout freezer drawer is part of the package. The microwave is top notch, and so is slide-in, convection wall oven. The five-burner range-top rocks.

• Vintage granite repair. Instead of tossing thousands of dollars down the drain, consider cleaning, resealing, repairing and refinishing that old granite. We were referred to Mario Lemoncello of Lemoncello Stone Restoration, a Bensenville-based company that specializes in granite and stone restoration. In business since 1991, the company does amazing repairs on existing granite chips and cracks. Lemoncello also cleans, re-caulks and refurbishes granite with excellent results. Call: 630-669-5711. Visit:

• Trendy new paint colors. Pale Oak, a light gray Benjamin Moore hue, was the interior color of choice with white cove and moldings for accents. The kitchen, adjoining family room, butler’s pantry and powder room all were painted in Pale Oak, as were the media room, the master bedroom and the entire lower level of the house. Oak stairway spindles were painted white, and so was the fireplace mantel in the family room.

Other house-wide interior upgrades included painting, new wall-to-wall carpeting, professional staging with new furniture and framed original art, along with the most important work to prepare a home for sale: declutter, declutter, declutter.

For more housing news, visit Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit

“The book is Escaping Condo Jail by Sara Benson and Don DeBat. I would say that anybody thinking about buying a condo, or even anybody serving on a condo board, or anybody who has any connection to a condo, this is must reading—all 600 and something pages. Thanks a lot for a great book!”


Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

By Don DeBat

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