As we approach this holiday season, never has it been truer that the kitchen is viewed as the heart of the home. In addition to celebrating the holidays with family and friends, this season may also be a perfect time to note those changes needed to improve the functionality and look of our kitchens.

There are many good reasons to consider renovating your kitchen. Updates can add beauty, create extra storage, enhance ergonomics for home chefs and result in a higher resale value, according to members of the Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association.

Gonzalo Garcia, president of JRG Builder & Remodelers and current president of the Remodelers Council, said homeowners are attempting to dress up their kitchens by adding higher-end finishes and custom touches, such as more elaborate backsplashes, LED light fixtures and more glass-front cabinets to their kitchens.

Tom Pellegrin, president of Third Coast Builders and vice president of the Remodelers Council, agreed, saying that updating a custom finish can make a world of difference. “Homeowners are also asking for upgrades to cabinets that might have been original to the home,” he said. “Almost everyone wants the soft-close feature on drawers and doors. Solid-wood drawer boxes with dovetail construction are also popular choices.”

Updating the kitchen often requires literally thinking outside the box by opening up new space, he said. “Kitchens are getting larger and more central to the home. In remodeling, we are constantly looking for space to expand the old 10-foot-by-12-foot kitchen. Sometimes this can be done by moving walls, and other times it involves adding space to the home.”

In addition to making kitchens more spacious, the Remodelers Council points out other popular improvements:

Invest in appliances. A new stove or refrigerator can be more than just appealing to the eye – updating appliances might also save money on the next energy bill. “The appliances in homes these days are definitely higher end with a more professional look. It is not uncommon to see a dual-fuel range, or gas cook top with an electric oven,” Pellegrin said, adding that high-end options now exist in smaller sizes. “Even a small kitchen can look like a larger space with the addition of these newer appliances.”

Make it multifunctional. Since kitchens have become central spaces for most families, the room often provides double duty. “Clients often want their kitchens to serve as a multifunctional entity,” Garcia said. “First it must be efficient, but it also can serve as an attractive place to socialize with family or friends. The last two grand kitchens I designed and built included a cozy area off to the side where the homeowners can entertain one or two guests.” Larry Abbott, with Abbott Contracting, agrees that kitchens have become an important place for socializing. As a result, homeowners are looking for more open space, with several entry and exit points. “Everyone still entertains and gathers in the kitchen,” he said. “Islands and peninsulas are built big to accommodate more guests, especially when having a party – the more bar stools, the better.”

Save room for food. Abbott said that while kitchens may double as the gathering spot during a party, the space still must accommodate its primary function of preparing food in the most efficient way possible. “My clients want big-apron farm sinks and a lot of counter space to work on,” he said. “They want to add more space for preparing foods and for drink glasses during parties.”

Ask for a helping hand. Renovating a kitchen can be a challenge – and with so many options for creating a better space, it is important to work with a professional.