As exciting as the idea is, the planning involved in remodeling a kitchen can be overwhelming for most people. Who doesn’t have a dream kitchen remodel in mind? Who doesn’t fantasize about being able to customize our cooking, eating, and storage spaces? However, when it comes to the actual designs, demolition, and installation, the task can feel insurmountable. There are so many unknowns: Where to start? What changes will make your kitchen both inviting and more functional? Which improvements will appeal to future buyers? And perhaps most importantly, how will you use the space?

These days, when people think about a kitchen remodel, they often have similar finished products in mind: professional-grade stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and a huge island. Such kitchens are certainly attractive and useful, but there are always more options to consider. Think outside the box, and consider how your family will actually use the kitchen.

Do your children like to do their homework there? Would you like your kitchen to be the central hub for organizing family activities? If so, perhaps you’d like a desk to be included in the design. Do you entertain often and need a long dining table to accommodate guests? Are you a foodie with a need for extra refrigeration, prep, or gadgetry space? Your personal needs should inform a part of your design plan.

If you are interested in improving your kitchen with an eye to selling your home, you’ll maximize the financial return on your remodel if you keep the fundamentals in mind—counters, cabinets, and lighting. To attract maximum value in your kitchen remodel, put cabinets at the top of your list. This doesn’t always mean tearing out and replacing your current cabinets, though in some cases, a full replacement may be advised. Sometimes simply repainting your cabinets and installing handcrafted new pulls provides a refreshing update.

Islands and countertops lead the way when it comes to significantly altering the appearance and value of a kitchen remodel, and quartz is currently the surface of choice. A combination of minerals and resins, it’s harder than natural stone but won’t scratch like Corian or other solid surfaces. Depending on individual design, it can work as well in traditional or farmhouse décor as it can in a modern industrial-style loft.

Remember also that many relatively inexpensive changes provide a big wow factor, such as paint color. Choosing the perfect color not only makes for an appealing, pleasant space, but also can easily return great value. Timeless white? Chic dark gray? The possibilities and combinations are limited only by your imagination.

Kitchens are at the heart of our sustenance and sociability. A successful kitchen remodel will unite form and function for this all-important hub of the modern home.