PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Though it's fun to page through the pages of the latest home décor magazine and ogle the latest trends in kitchen design, don't get too mesmerized by the gleaming white backsplashes or the stainless steel sinks.
Before you decide to exactly replicate the kitchen on the magazine cover, think hard about how you and your family actually use the epicenter of your home.
Jennifer Laurens of Tiny Anchor Studios in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, an interior designer who focuses on kitchens and bathrooms, takes her clients through a process called "kitcheneering" (a term she has borrowed from designer Moorea Hoffman) to precisely determine who's using the kitchen and how so that the new space is perfectly functional. She says the space should conform to your life, not the other way around.
In the kitcheneering process, Laurens asks questions like: Who is the primary cook? How tall is that person? Are they left- or right-handed? How often do you eat out? Do you buy a lot of fresh produce? What are your parties like?
The answers to these questions will dictate the size and type of storage, the amount of counterspace you need and even where the trash can should go.
Throughout her design career, Laurens has added features that generally won't be found in a model home, but have helped to make her clients' kitchens fit perfectly into their families' lives.
It's a Dog's Life
Is Fido an important member of your family? Consider hiding his dog bowl in a slide-out drawer. Or install a hideaway dog gate in your island to keep him out of the cooking area. Is Fido a Chihuahua? Make sure your window seat is low enough so that he can jump up to be able to look out into the neighborhood. Tuck away his dog crate beneath a counter so it doesn't take up floor space unnecessarily.
A Workstation for Kids
With busier after-school lives, kids are more frequently doing their homework in the kitchen as they eat. Consider turning your island into a workstation with storage for school supplies and a charging station for all of their devices.
The Self-Sufficient Teenager
Do your conflicting schedules mean your teen is frequently tasked with making their own dinner? That might mean you need more prepared food storage - even a second refrigerator.
We are drawn the to kitchen during parties. (That's where the food and drinks are, after all!) If your home is party central, make sure your guests have easy access to wine storage and the icemaker. Even consider turning your underused pantry into a bar area.
Spice of Life
Do you grow your own herbs? What about installing an herb refrigerator? And make sure your windowsill is wide enough to house your herbs that need natural sunlight.
Is your home going to be the place where you enjoy your retirement? Be cognizant of how aging might limit your physical ability. Make sure that your main storage areas aren't too high or too low to reach. And build a wide doorway in case you ever need the assistance of a walker or wheelchair.
Kitchen renovations, though one of the smartest investments you can make in your home, can come with a significant price tag, so be thoughtful about your design.
"If you are able to devote a major budget to your kitchen renovation, you shouldn't be satisfied with a cookie cutter design," Laurens says. "Your kitchen should work with you."
Jennifer Laurens will offer her tips in a presentation entitled "From Pets to Parties: Kitchens That Fit Your Lifestyle" at the Philly Home + Garden Show on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 3 p.m. The Philly Home + Garden Show runs Feb. 17-19 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks. Visit www.phillyhomeandgarden.com.