For a fully integrated dishwasher, choose a model with controls hidden on the top of the door, which disappear when the door is closed. The Star Sapphire Dishwasher by Thermador holds 18 wine glasses

Fantasy or reality? Go for both. If you’re a cook’s cook, let your imagination run with it. “If I had that, I could...” Coveting high-tech features and custom finishes is a good stretch and can lead to bolder, better decisions in the long run. Much is available and investigating it all is smart.

A generous budget is a good start, but space constraints, lead times, and your family’s needs all have to factor into your decisions. Then, working with a designer or not, you can plan with exact dimensions, electrical and other constraints.

Analyze your needs before appliance shopping

Before you approach a showroom, you should have a design plan that includes a layout, a budget, and a list of the features you’re looking for. The latest innovations are overwhelming.

“Technology is playing a huge part in appliance innovation,” said Juanita Gillespie of Builders Source. “Appliances can now be accessed through apps on smart phones, letting customers interact with their appliances no matter where they are. They can now preheat their oven on the way home from work or ‘look’ inside their refrigerator to see if they need milk or not.”

Completing a needs analysis is a great way to focus your wish list. When it comes to appliances, consider your age, family size, and lifestyle:

• Are you hosts for holidays and weekend gatherings? Double ovens and a small refrigerator for drinks are a big help.

• Are you seriously into cooking? A commercial-style range offers many custom features. Be certain you’ll use them before you splurge.

• If you’re into healthy, fresh food prep, a large refrigerator with extra produce storage is a must.

• Do you cook large batches and freeze meals ahead? Consider a separate freezer so you’ll have plenty of space.

• If you’re passionate about fine wine or gourmet coffee, features like chilled wine storage or a built-in coffee machine are upgrades you’ll love.

• Do you have young children? An island microwave and refrigerator drawer for snacks lets them help themselves.

• How tech-savvy are you? Connected appliances let you multitask while monitoring the oven or stove on your phone, and refrigerators can keep track of groceries and order for you. Really.

• Approaching retirement? High-end appliances increase your home’s value, if you’re planning to sell when you retire.

Once you’ve culled the “wants” from the “needs” in your kitchen, you’re ready to shop.

An appliance wish list for your budget

Your designer and appliance pros are experts at finding the best appliances to meet your needs, while working within your budget. Stainless-steel finishes and sleek, commercial-style designs provide many upscale features at a mid-range price point.

Most cabinet manufacturers make appliance panels to match your cabinets, so a freestanding refrigerator and dishwasher can blend in beautifully. However, appliances that truly disappear into the cabinetry require more customization (and a larger budget).

Integrating appliances for a seamless kitchen

If you want an integrated refrigerator, there are two types:

• Counter-depth refrigerators are taller and are level with the front of the countertop. Matching cabinet panels give them a built-in look.

• Fully integrated or column refrigerators are counter depth and designed to blend seamlessly into the cabinetry.

Depending on the manufacturer, you may need custom-made cabinet panels. For wall-mounted appliances, such as ovens or coffee machines, choose models that feature flush installation.

For a fully integrated dishwasher, choose a model with controls hidden on the top of the door, which disappear when the door is closed.

Wish-list appliance trends for 2019

While the biggest trend in appliances at the moment is connectivity, there are certain items trending on everyone’s wish list. “Consumers looking for high end appliances are looking at SubZero, Wolf, Viking, Dacor, Monogram, and Thermador appliances,” Juanita Gillespie said. “Consumers’ wish lists include speed ovens, microwave drawers, convection steam ovens, and coffee machines.”

While stainless steel is still the top finish, colorful appliances are already trending on wish-lists. They won’t be custom, either — manufacturers are adding bright colors to their regular offerings.

You won’t want or afford every bell and whistle, but just veering off a strict budget for one item will give you a super custom look and years of pleasure.

Edy Keeler is the owner of Core Value Interiors. She is a designer specializing in remodeling and new construction with an emphasis on kitchen and bath renovations. She is also a color and a materials consultant. Reach her at (505) 577-2167 or edyk@corevalueinteriors.com.