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The kitchen is the focal point of a home, and along with offering ample functionality, it should reflect the style and personality of the homeowner. If you’re thinking about remodeling or renovating your kitchen, you definitely want every detail of the new design (e.g., cabinetry, countertops, appliances, etc.) to contribute toward creating a space that you and your family can enjoy. For this reason, it’s vital for you to take your time and really consider what you want in a kitchen before settling on any final design.

One of the first steps a homeowner usually takes during the design process is to assemble “idea books” or folders that contain various photos and notes representing the type of kitchen you’d love to have. Along with this step, it is also a common practice to visit a kitchen showroom to get samples for your countertops, backsplash, cabinets, flooring, knobs, handle pulls and so forth.

This is an important part of the information gathering process, as it will help you get a more accurate, hands-on feel for each of the materials that you’ll be using in your renovation. But once you’ve gathered a decent armload of samples to take home with you, what exactly should you do with them? Below are some suggestions to help you along those lines.

1. Consider the overall aesthetics of your kitchen area, and take note of whether or not your samples will complement or clash with the surrounding space. While originality and unique design are important, you don’t want any of the details of your kitchen to stick out like a sore thumb. Be sure there’s a certain level of visual harmony among all of the different elements of your kitchen, so you won’t make a design choice you might regret later.

2. Now that you have some good samples of your ideal countertop materials (e.g., granite, marble, laminate, quartz, etc.), consider what type of edge profile you want to have. The edge profile is the type of design that’s fabricated on the outer edge of the countertop. You’ll also need to figure out what types of cutouts you might need, such as for sinks or cooktops, and get the corresponding price estimates for each type of material (contact your showroom representative for this information). This will save you from any headaches and unpleasant surprises down the road.

3. Carefully look over your samples and decide which types of materials would make the most sense for your family’s lifestyle. For example, if you have young children, it’s probably a good idea to select countertops that are highly durable, stain-resistant and easy to clean overall. If you can afford to sacrifice a little functionality for the sake of form, it may be worth it to spring for the more elegant cabinet finish versus a rugged finish that would work better in a high-traffic kitchen.

Always remember that the main goal behind your kitchen redesign is to create a space that provides optimal usability while looking great at the same time. Keeping the above tips in mind will help you make the most of the information gathering process, so that you can have a good foundation to work from when it’s time to begin the actual renovation.