Archive for Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tradition key to ‘WOW’ factor

December 13, 2006

With our legs, knees and energy levels pretty well shot, my husband and I are toying with the idea of selling our two-story house in exchange for some kind of one-level dwelling. In looking at our options, we have been amazed at what it takes these days to actually get a house prepared to go on the market.

We have sold several houses during our 20-something-year marriage, and although I remember sprucing up the joint with minor repairs before placing it for sale, I never felt the need to update or remodel our existing house before we could move into a new house. I guess things have changed.

All the literature I have read, substantiated by my Realtor, remodeler, banker and, of course, my hairdresser, supports the notion that homes sell quicker and for top dollar if the kitchen has that special something experts now call the "WOW" factor.

As I ready myself to enter this real estate rat race, I have spent the last few weeks exploring my options.

Apparently, creating the WOW factor in your kitchen requires new stainless steel or black appliances ($5,000 minimum), slab counter tops of granite or something like it ($5,000 minimum), and hardwood or high-end tile floors ($5,000 minimum). Some kitchens are even equipped with flat-screen televisions on the backsplash and drink coolers built into the drawers. We have come a long way since the day when the primary kitchen decor was an iron skillet hung on a pegboard and the countertop was surfaced in the same linoleum as the floor.

Call me a fuddy duddy, but my definition of a kitchen's WOW factor has very little to do with brass knobs or faux painting, and everything to do with what goes on in that kitchen. I have vivid childhood memories of coming home from school to the smells of freshly baked pies, cookies or cinnamon rolls.

Some of my favorite mealtime memories are of simmering pots of chili on a cold winter's day and sizzling skillets of fried chicken for a summertime Sunday dinner. There were cakes of all shapes and flavors, in honor of a loved one's birthday. In my childhood kitchen, I learned how to fry an egg, frost a cake and make potato salad, brownies and other family favorites.

My mom was the key to the WOW factor in my childhood kitchen. And I hope my kids will remember that I was the key to the WOW factor in theirs.

I did break down and buy a new stainless steel refrigerator last week. I can't put magnets on it, which is a shame, because I had three little magnets on my old frig that were dear to me - framed pictures of my kids when they were small, each engaged in some kind of cooking activity. I also had a laminated magnet of a recipe card for cranberry salad, in my grandmother's own handwriting. It was her favorite recipe and one my sister still makes for our traditional Thanksgiving feast.

So as I prepare to make the needed changes to my kitchen in order for a quick sell, I plan to stay true to my own version of the WOW factor. I am going to keep my favorite recipes and pictures on display somewhere. I am going to keep my kitchen organized in the same way it has been since the day I moved in. I am going to stick to my belief that family tradition is the key to a kitchen's WOW factor. After all, as I jokingly remind my children every now and then, WOW upside down does spell MOM. Surely, an interested buyer will understand that.

-- Marcia Hallenbeck McFarlane, who grew up in Leavenworth County, now lives in Johnson County. She can be reached via e-mail at

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