It's time to think Christmas in July. But we're not talking about trees and trimmings or retailers' ubiquitous sales events.

We're talking about planning now for Thanksgiving and Christmas when relatives show up at the door expecting a comfy place to stay or when a family get-together requires a kitchen that will accommodate cooking for a double-digit dinner list and a powder room that deserves more than white walls and a fancy hand towel.

Savvy planners don't wait until the day after Halloween, when you're stuffing the Iron Man suit in the attic.

"Summer is the right time to start," if you are thinking about a kitchen update for the holidays, says Karen Kinsella of Kinsella Manufacturing of Madeira, specializing in kitchens and baths.

"A lot of decisions have to be made "” cabinets, counters, faucets, flooring, appliances. And those all have to dovetail. Everyone varies on how long it takes them to choose. I had one customer come in and see the exact cabinets she wanted. But when it came to faucets and powder room fixtures, it was much harder for her and a longer process."

Kitchens and powder room are often most targeted for holiday makeovers.

"For someone entertaining a lot of family, the gathering area or kitchen" is front and center, says Andrew Glasgow of H. Glasgow Construction in Madeira.

"People like the grand vista kitchen opening into a nice living space, and many people are doing powder rooms. It's a small space they can tackle now," he says, and a spot almost every guest sees during holiday events.

The depth of kitchen remodeling that folks are asking for depends on the age and condition of the room," Kinsella says.

"We're doing a lot of partials now because people are much more dollar conscious. They often have us look and ask "¢do we have to do the whole thing?' We may refinish cabinets, add roll-out shelves, maybe a new shelf or island without doing a full remodel. And depending on the cabinet line, it can be six to 12 weeks depending on how custom the work is."

Doing your homework ahead of time will make the process go smoothly, says Glasgow, whose company last year won a Contractor of the Year award in the residential bath category from the Ohio Valley National Association of the Remodeling Industry (

"Some people like to start with a contractor right away. Others want to visit showrooms and formulate an idea or selections in their head . . . or collect magazines to show the contractor. An educated shopper is always good."

"Kitchens and new upholstery" are the big requests and some of the easiest holiday décor updates that designer Holly Rebensdorf gets. "Dining rooms and kitchens, where families entertain" are the hot spots.

"Typically people buy a dining room set and keep it forever, but still want a fresh look." She suggests small changes like replacing the seating fabric on chairs, switching out an area rug, replacing window treatments, faux painting walls, changing out a brass chandelier or even just replacing the chandelier shades.

"Usually people are looking for window treatments and furniture makeovers or purchases for the holidays," says designer Carole Maloney Donahue of Nancy Ross Interiors in Hyde Park.

"The really smart ones start in the summer, but this is rare. Most wait until fall and then want to fast-forward the process for their deadlines."

But occasionally even pre-planning backfires.

Donahue cites a client looking for a specific holiday garland in early spring but they found it wasn't even going to be available until summer or early fall.