A kitchen is the heart of the household, no matter what that household looks like. It's the place where we make breakfast, mix drinks, pack lunches and consider late-night snacks. It's no wonder that updating a kitchen is a popular home remodel — and that a much-needed refresh can be a worthwhile investment if you ever sell your house.

It's also a journey that can go quickly off the rails. Allow me to explain.

A CASE OF DIY FEVER

It all started while watching a particularly inspiring episode of Rehab Addict. When my husband and I bought our home, we knew a kitchen renovation was in our future: The original 1950s cabinet doors — attached with rusted hinges — never lined up quite right. The drawers stuck when we opened them. The oven was strangely situated next to the fridge. And, while the yellow and rust-colored tile did tie in nicely with those aforementioned hinges, it was also objectively ugly.

After watching a 30-minute tutorial, courtesy of DIY Network, I decided to strip and repaint the kitchen cabinets, much to my husband's chagrin. (Let's just say that I'm no Nicole Curtis.) The whole process took about a month, and when I screwed the last door on — complete with new hinges — I was unimpressed.

The layout still wasn't right. The tile was still hideous. The laminate floor remained. We didn't have a good place to eat our meals since our home doesn’t have a dining room.

Soon after, my husband and I found out I was pregnant with our daughter. My nesting instinct was naturally high, but pregnancy kicked it up a notch. We needed a fixed-up kitchen before this baby arrived.

CALLING IN THE PROS

The kitchen became my pregnancy project and, seeing as how I wasn't great at doing the work myself, I hired pros and installed myself as project manager. I drew a layout incorporating elements I knew would be essential: A corner banquette with storage that could create an eating nook, open shelving to make finding cups and plates easy, and a slim-profile sliding pantry so we could fit a bigger fridge.

Before they got to work, I decided to gut the kitchen myself. While five months pregnant. Using a crowbar, I pulled off every single piece of cabinetry, dreaming of how we could use our space as a family of three. My (oh so patient) other half devoted a weekend to help me rip out the floor and tile and, weeks later, painted the walls and ceiling with me.

While kitchen renovations can add value to your home, they're about more than money.

Week after week, I scheduled pros to come in and do their work, juggling schedules and the supposed order of operations. Of course, there were hiccups. Like the drywall guy who didn't make sure the wall was actually level before patching it up (he then blamed the plumber for the issue). New kitchen cabinets that couldn't be painted on schedule because the weather was too humid. Having to get a hotel one weekend when we realized the wood floor sealant was not exactly odorless.

While I wanted to jump in more and get my hands dirty, I knew that trusting the professionals was the only way to get what our family needed: A kitchen we could all enjoy and grow in together.

BUILDING A PLACE FOR OUR FAMILY TO GROW

Our daughter is now 2, and every morning while I cook her eggs, she crawls up onto the corner nook to hang out with me and drink her milk. I'm still amazed by the transformation and grateful for the changes we were able to make.

Kitchen renovations can add value to your home, but they're about more than money. Our kitchen is the place where we blow out birthday candles. Where, someday, our daughter will do her homework while we make her after-school snacks. Where we have all of our important family talks. To me, a kitchen that's comfortable, functional — and yes, beautiful — is priceless.

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