Our kitchens are where our lives are lived — from kids doing homework at the counter, the baby pulling the pots and pans and tupperware out of the bottom cabinets, to the meals and snacks labored over with love, it’s the heart of our home. So whether you’re looking to remodel to improve storage and efficiency, or you prioritize high-efficiency appliances and clutter-free space, a kitchen makeover is a big deal. Read on for our tips for a smooth project:

Hire a professional

Going for more than simply replacing your countertops, or painting your cabinets? Hire a pro to create a design plan, and you’ll end up saving money by preventing costly errors that come from miscalculations due to DIY.

Don’t skip the small things

Add-on storage features like pull-out drawers and lazy Susans may seem small, but they mean big increases in storage and efficiency — and they’ll cost more if you opt to add them in later.

Choose your materials before you start

Before you begin the actual remodeling process, make all of your materials choices. Why? Choosing everything beforehand will help you stay on budget simply because you’re able to pivot easier when certain materials turn out to be back-ordered, or discontinued.

Choose appliances first

Because your appliances need to go in certain spots — to create the all important “work triangle,” the triangular space between the sink, stovetop, and refrigerator — choose the exact models first, then plan your cabinets and countertops around them.

Prioritize your budget

Consider your kitchen remodel goals: is it more storage? More countertop space? More style, or a better system for trash and recycling? Organize your wishes from “must-have” to “wish,” and see what fits into your budget. Keep in mind that kitchen cabinets typically take up one-third of remodel budgets. The easiest way to save money? Keep your current layout — costs rise quickly when you start moving walls and wiring.

Go for quality

For example, if you skimp on cabinet hardware and sides, the doors can end up warped and crooked. Making sure the materials you choose are quality will help ensure you won’t be having to replace them a year or two after your remodel.

Think light

Have a small kitchen? Avoid dark colors — using light colored kitchen cabinets and adding windows to maximize natural light can really help open up your space. Try interesting additions like glass doors or open shelving to break up large — and boring — blocks of cabinet doors and drawers.