Last week we answered a question from an empty-nest couple who had just paid off the mortgage on their 1980s-era rancher in Pleasanton, Calif. Rather than sell and downsize, they decided to stay put. Trouble was, they were getting tired of their home’s tired look. How, they wanted to know, should they go about updating?

We tackled walls, floors, doors and trim, suggesting new paint, some hardwood flooring, new molding and baseboard, and new interior doors. Today we’ll discuss the "wet" rooms — kitchen and baths.


Any way you crunch the numbers, a kitchen update is going to be expensive. But, assuming you don’t have to open too many walls, reroute plumbing or add electrical circuits, it won’t break the bank. If you have a workable footprint, cabinets, countertops and appliances are all you need to transform a 1980s kitchen into a 2011 model.

Whether custom-made or modular, new high-quality cabinets will cost thousands of dollars — sometimes tens of thousands. For that you get silky-smooth sliding drawers, Lazy Susans and other fancy accoutrements that will never be seen from the outside.

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