If you will be one of the more than 4 million U.S. homeowners who renovate their kitchens each year, first reading “Kitchens for the Rest of Us” by Peter Lemos will show what can be accomplished. It has more than 250 beautiful color photos by Ken Gutmaker.

This unusual book includes before and after photos of kitchen makeovers. The only word to describe many of the old kitchens is “dreadful.” But the renovation results, usually without expanding the often tiny spaces, are amazing.

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Author Peter Lemos, who was formerly editor of Home magazine, as well as House and Home magazine editor, must have wonderful contacts in the kitchen renovation business to obtain access to these dozens of renovated kitchens. Many are upscale $100,000 kitchens. But the majority obviously cost far less, although the book neglects to state how much each kitchen renovation cost.

Throughout the book, the prominent color seems to be an “earthy yellow.” I didn’t spot even one dark-brown cabinet, which used to be so popular. Emphasis is on light colors, but without the stark white colors I’ve seen too much in the last year at the home shows.

Appliances shown are predominantly stainless steel. However, some appliances, even dishwashers, have custom panels to match the cabinets.

Especially enjoyable are the short comments of the homeowners describing their pre-renovation kitchens. My favorites include “It was like cooking in a closet”; “A funky 1970s renovation”; “Like cooking in a time capsule from 1934”; “More work space on the stove than the countertops”; and “A weekend builder’s prefab delight.”

This is the kind of picture book homeowners can enjoy at leisure and point to attractive features, such as kitchen cabinets or surfaces, and say “That would be perfect.” Occasionally, I even said “Yuk!”

An especially valuable feature is the resource section at the back of the book. Readers will find architects and designers with the page numbers of the kitchens they created. Other resources include the appliance sources (many unknown with very creative products), cabinet suppliers, countertop providers, faucet and sink manufacturer contacts, as well as lighting, tile, and flooring sources.

“The kitchen is the hardest working room in the house,” author Peter Lemos writes. His great new book shows how to make the most of this often very limited but important space. I just wish I had spotted this book earlier to include it on my list of the best real estate books of 2005 because it would have been an easy winner.

Does the book have a flaw? It’s hard to find one. But as a homeowner considering renovating my kitchen, as I looked at the before and after photos I kept asking, “How much did this cost?” Although labor and construction costs vary widely by region, it would have been helpful to show approximately $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 or even “If you have to ask, you can’t afford this beautiful kitchen.”

If I get really serious about remodeling my perfectly fine but outdated kitchen, this is the book I will show to a kitchen designer, point to the beautiful photos and say, “Can you do this for my kitchen?”

Topic examples in this captivating book include “Counter Choices”; “A Bright Kitchen That Looks Bigger Than It Is”; “Cabinet Council”; “A Beautifully Crafted Kitchen for Six”; “Clever Styling Created a Beauty on a Budget”; “A Prairie-Style Renovation Full of Craft and Detail”; “Storage Strategies”; “Mid-Century Chic in This ’50s-Era Home”; “Appliance Science”; “An Old-Fashioned Kitchen Loaded with Modern Amenities”; “A Cook’s Paradise with Spectacular Views”; and “A Beautiful Bungalow Update That Uses Every Inch of Space.”

This is one of the very few kitchen design books that cannot be recommended too highly. It must have taken years to create it. The beautiful photos steal the book, but author Peter Lemos’ insightful explanations tie everything together. On my scale of one to 10, this outstanding book rates an off-the-chart 12.

“Kitchens for the Rest of Us,” by Peter Lemos with color photos by Ken Gutmaker (Taunton Press, Newtown, CT), 2005, $29.95, 181 pages; Available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries, and www.amazon.com.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

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