I Flip Kitchens for a Living, and This Golden Design Rule Guides Every Decision I Make

published Apr 6, 2024
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A renovated kitchen with grey cabinets and a light wood countertop.
Credit: Andrew Kung

Traditional wisdom says one must keep the resale value of their home in mind before making any major design decisions. This is especially true when it comes to kitchen renovations (think: tile, cabinets, countertops, appliances, etc.) that aren’t easily swapped out. Fear of what that unknown future person may think about your bold floral wallpaper can also lead to decision paralysis, or a tendency to default to a sort of generic, non-offensive, but also decidedly non-interesting look. 

Here’s the thing: Chances are, the person who lives in your home after you is going to come in and change things anyway. Kitchen design trends move at a speed that’s dizzying, after all. Some designers even say you shouldn’t partake in trends at all! So when it comes to redesigning kitchens, as someone who’s renovated nearly a dozen of them professionally, I follow this golden rule:

It only takes one.

As in, you only need to sell to one person! So what if half the population doesn’t like the color you painted your walls? You only need one who does! What difference does it make if you’re obsessed with a tile that isn’t considered on trend? All that matters is that one other person — besides you — likes it. And hey, maybe one designer says big range hoods are out, but you love to cook and want that statement hood anyway. I say, go for it! There’s certainly someone else who digs it. The kitchens I admire most are the ones where the designer has thrown any trend rules out the window, and I like to count myself in that camp.

Credit: Diane Deaton Street

With my “only takes one” rule in mind, I’ve made kitchen design decisions that may have seemed a little out there. I painted one kitchen black several years ago before dark and moody kitchens were trending. (Even my mom thought that was a terrible idea.) I’ve had a custom island built to look like furniture because I didn’t like any of the stock islands at cabinet shops. And guess what? A film crew came to shoot a cooking show there because it, and I quote, “didn’t look like everything else out there.” And when we sold the house, there were exactly zero complaints about the paint among the several offers we got. 

In another kitchen that I renovated, we painted the walls Farrow & Ball “Scotch Blue,” which read very purpley. We also put the range on the kitchen island, which many people disagreed with, but we felt the person cooking should be able to engage with everyone. And lo and behold, there was a person out there who agreed and bought the house. 

Credit: Courtesy of Dana McMahan

At my current home, which I renovated to sell, I painted the entire kitchen, including the ceiling, pink (Benjamin Moore’s “Boudoir”) and the cabinets black (Benjamin Moore’s “Deep Indigo”), and put pink panels on the bespoke fridge. Is this for everyone? Not even a little bit! But I know there will be at least one person who does like it, and that’s all that counts. Because in all my years of flipping and renovating homes, that’s all it takes. 

It works in reverse, too. I’m under contract to buy a house with an original, vintage pink GE wall oven. Is that for everyone? No way. And someone afraid of not finding a buyer might have replaced it. But it was that oven that drew me to the house and propelled me into a bidding war — because it turned out that in this case, I wasn’t the only one!