Kitchen Design Ideas, A How to Guide

kitchen design

1. Begin with your kitchen design vision

Are you building a new house? Are you gutting an existing kitchen and starting anew? Or, are you renovating an existing kitchen with no major structural changes? Visualize yourself in your ideal kitchen. Do you want a Bosch dishwasher or a Maytag? Do you want a 30” Big Chill pro stove or a GE? Here are some kitchen design ideas.

2. How are you going to use your kitchen?

Do you like to entertain? Do you create gourmet meals? Does your family gather in the kitchen daily? Do your kids do their homework in the kitchen? Or, do you use it to sort the mail and microwave frozen meals and not much else? Do you clean up as you cook or right after eating or do you need to let things sit until later? These are the things you want to think about when you are beginning your kitchen design. Your kitchen is where you are going to spend a significant amount of time. Your kitchen also plays a significant role in determining the value of your home. This is important to keep in mind for resale.

3. Observe how you use the space

Start thinking about what you want while you are using your current kitchen. What do you like? What do you want to change? Make notes of your thoughts about how you want the new kitchen to be.

4. Create clusters

You might want the coffee maker to be near the kitchen table or the breakfast nook. The cabinet holding the hidden trash can would be near the section of countertop used for food prep. Also consider how the kitchen will look. Having all the countertop appliances bunched together might make part of the kitchen look cluttered. Consider how your major appliances will blend in with the decor. You might even consider Fisher & Paykel model refrigerators that integrate into the cabinetry.

5. List the elements you want in your kitchen design

A kitchen’s basic function is the preparation of food for the residents to eat. In order to do that, there are some basic things a kitchen needs: stove and oven for cooking food, refrigerator for storing food, and a sink for washing. Beyond that, you want to think about what else is needed for food preparation. For example, where are you going to prepare the food? What equipment do you need for preparing and eating food? How are you going to clean up? Where will you store everything? 

The basic appliance for cooking is the range. You can have the common stovetop and oven combination or they can be separate with a cooktop in one location and one or more ovens in another location. Smaller appliances such as a microwave oven or a toaster oven can be added to compliment the range. Also, there are specialty cooking appliances such as bread machines and toasters that can also be part of your kitchen.

The standard appliance for cold storage of food is the refrigerator. It contains a cold section and a frozen section. Refrigerators can be very basic or have fancy extras like drinking water dispensers and ice makers. A wine cooler would be a specialized cooling unit which could be a part of your kitchen.

Kitchen cabinets are necessary for storing the things you need for food preparation. You aren’t going to just pile them all over the countertops. You may want closed cabinets or cabinets with glass inserts. When making this decision, keep in mind how neat you keep the inside of your cabinets. If you want glass front cabinets, you may want to remember that the insides will be visible and you might want to keep them neat. Open shelving will give a feel of more space in your kitchen. Again, everything is visible so you might want them kept neat. Plus, open shelving means no protection from dust.

If your kitchen is large enough, you might want to add a custom kitchen island. This is a unit with extra counter space and cabinets in the middle of the kitchen. It can even accommodate a sink and / or a cooktop.

A cast iron kitchen sink is your kitchen’s water source. It brings in potable water for drinking and cooking. It also is the place where you wash dishes that don’t go into the dishwasher.

6. Consider the best layout for your kitchen design

Are you renovating an existing kitchen or are you gutting the whole area and starting anew? If you are doing a partial renovation, you’ll probably not be changing your kitchen layout. But if you have to remove everything to replace it all, you might want to consider changing the layout to better fit how you will use your kitchen. You want the kitchen to fit your lifestyle.  If you have an open-plan kitchen, or are creating one by removing one or more walls, you want to take into consideration the layout of the entire open space and those rooms’ functions.

When planning your kitchen layout, consider what kitchen designers refer to as the working triangle: the triangle created by the three main components of the kitchen which are the stove, the sink, and the refrigerator. If you have the triangle spread out across the room, it means you have to move around more as you are cooking. This might cause you to tire out more while cooking. It also may make coordinating several dishes at once more challenging. The smaller your kitchen work triangle, the more efficiently you can prepare meals.

There are some basic shapes for kitchens. Galley kitchens are narrow kitchens where everything is along one wall or two parallel walls facing one another. They are small kitchens but are actually very efficient. U-shaped kitchens have everything along three walls. The fourth wall can be open to another room. L-shaped kitchens are good layouts for open-space plans. In an L-shaped kitchen, everything is along two walls but the walls are perpendicular to one another. Open plan kitchens have minimal wall space. Everything may be along one or two walls and include a kitchen island.

7. Create a floor and wall plan

You need to get your plans down on paper. You can draw floor plans to scale or you can use kitchen design software to create the floor plan with dimensions you enter.

8. Draw up a detailed kitchen design floor plan

Once you have a kitchen floor plan, you can think about whether you want to rearrange things. A simple way to do this is to make a copy of your design and cut out the elements. Then, simply move them around to come up with different arrangements. Small kitchen designs might have less options but you will see more of them with this method. Don’t forget that a family kitchen has its own unique requirements. Perhaps children need to do homework while a parent cooks. Or children need space to “help” Mom or Dad prepare a meal

9. Keep “chaos” contained

When designing your kitchen layout, keep in mind the traffic through the kitchen as well as the water area (the sink) and the fire area (the stove). You don’t want people randomly getting in the way of the cook but realize that it’s impossible to keep people out of the kitchen. The compromise is to keep them out of the actual work area. You also want to be able to have space for another person to help the cook.

10. Gather kitchen design ideas

There are lots of online kitchen galleries and photos to give you ideas. You can match the style of your home or go with something different. The most important point to consider is what style you would like. If you have plans to sell the home in the near future, you might want to pick something that is likely to appeal to most everyone rather than something completely unique. Kitchens usually fall into categories of modern, traditional, or freestanding.

For modern kitchens, think sleek and minimalist. Modern kitchens have a lot of built in appliances and storage space to keep the area clutter free. Luxury kitchens can often be copied with a smaller budget. 

Traditional kitchens can be formal, rustic, or country. Shaker kitchens are simple with no complicated details or moldings. They are great to add your own personal touch and because they are simple, they never date. This style will always work if you are planning on reselling in the near future. Country kitchens include a lot of painted designs. Farmhouse kitchens have a rustic look. Vintage kitchens have a dated look on purpose. They can incorporate details of the home from the era in which it was built.

Freestanding kitchens have a lot of elements that are not built in. These could be furniture pieces that line up along the wall or kitchen islands in the center of the room. Freestanding kitchens require a lot of design thought ahead of time and aren’t really as randomly put together as they look.

11. Plan the outline of your kitchen design

The kitchen layout is dictated by the walls that make up the space. Two sided cabinetry can also create a boundary space similar to half a wall with a countertop. A U shaped kitchen is made up of three walls with one wall open to the next room. A G shaped kitchen would be a 3-½ wall space with the half space turning into a peninsula leading into the center of the room. An L shaped kitchen is made up of two walls perpendicular to one another while a galley kitchen is made up of two walls parallel to one another. Kitchens with islands are spaces large enough to put a kitchen island in the middle. Take careful measurements of the kitchen dimensions in order to get an accurate plan.

12. Research your appliances and fixtures

After choosing your cabinets, you need to choose an oven, sink, and countertops and the accompanying fixtures.

What kind of oven do you want? Do you want separate ovens and a cooktop or a range with both included? Do you want electric or natural gas? How many burners do you want? And don’t forget the vent hood and the microwave. You can have a microwave mounted under the cabinets or over the stove to allow you more counter space.

What kind of sink do you want? Do you want a drop-in sink, an undermount sink, or a farmhouse sink? After you choose your sink, you need to pick out fixtures. And don’t forget the garbage disposal.

Countertops are a big decision. There are various types and colors available. You can choose stone or laminate. You probably want to avoid marble because it stains and etches easily. But there are a lot of quartz countertops that look like marble.

13. Place the appliances and fixtures

Once you have established on your plan where the kitchen triangle is and what the kitchen cabinet dimensions are, you can add in which appliances you chose and adjust for their specific measurements. If you decide on a wider stove, you can modify your plan to accommodate it by having a narrower cabinet next to it.

14. Plan detailed storage

Look at your current kitchen and think about kitchen storage ideas. What do you really like? What is missing? What do you need more or less of? Perhaps you have everyday dishes as well as fine china to store. Once you figure out what you need, you can look at kitchen storage solutions. Cabinets come in configurations for pantries, regular shelves, lazy susans, and trash bin holders.

15. Choose the best materials for your kitchen design

Once you choose your cabinet dimensions and types, you need to decide what materials you want your kitchen cabinets to be made of. Hardwood is the top of the line. Plywood is also a good alternative if you want to save money. Fiberboard is also a good option for a sleek look in a modern kitchen. A couple of budget options that won’t last very well are wood veneer and particleboard. Wood veneer can chip and peel.

16. Best Color Scheme for Kitchen Cabinets

When picking a color scheme for your kitchen, remember that you want a color scheme you won’t get tired of. If you are going to put your house on the market, you may want to avoid dramatic color schemes. White kitchens are popular because they feel brightly lit and can easily accommodate any color scheme in accessories and decor. Grey kitchens are good for traditional and contemporary design styles. Dark kitchens are dramatic but work best if you have a lot of natural lighting. Otherwise, your kitchen may look dreary. The most important thing is that you love your kitchen color scheme.

17. Select the best kitchen worktops

Countertops come in different materials. Laminate is the least expensive countertop material. It comes in many different colors and can look like other materials. Wood countertops are a nice touch. They can be high maintenance as they have to be cleaned and oiled regularly. Natural stone such as granite can be a wonderful countertop. You may want to avoid marble since it stains easily. Natural stone countertops need to be sealed. Manufactured composites such as quartz can mimic natural stone but are more durable and easier to take care of. For a more industrial look (and minimal maintenance) go for stainless steel. Polished concrete and concrete-look quartz are also lower maintenance and come in many colors. Glass is another option for a countertop. The best kitchen countertops are different for everyone based on budget and how much maintenance they are willing to provide.

18. Choose the best kitchen wall tiles and flooring

Placing tiles on the kitchen walls, whether covering them completely or just creating back splashes, will help keep the walls from getting stained. Kitchens can be prone to accidents that involve splatters and splashing. The best kitchen tiles will stand up to these types of accidents. Marble is lovely but will also be prone to staining. As a backsplash behind the stove, marble is probably not the best choice. Porcelain and glass tile are great options and they come in a lot of color and design options.

The best kitchen flooring is one that will withstand the moisture, traffic, and spills that are to be expected in kitchens.

Tile is durable for flooring. Choosing floor tiles starts with what your budget is and the required maintenance. Ceramic, porcelain, or stone are all good options. Again, avoiding marble might be a good idea because of its tendency to stain. One thing to keep in mind with a tile floor is that dropped breakable dishes seldom survive..

If you like the look of hardwood, you should consider engineered wood. It stands up better to moisture. How to choose the best engineered wood involves looking at the different colors and wood composition options. Engineered hardwood cannot be resanded as many times as real hardwood. But some newer versions have a slightly thicker wood veneer that will take multiple resandings.

Laminate flooring is very budget friendly and can look like wood or tile. How to choose the best laminate flooring involves budgeting for the best you can afford. Cheap laminate can look just that: cheap.

Vinyl flooring is also a budget-friendly option and is very durable. It comes in lots of colors and designs and mimics other flooring types. Choosing vinyl flooring is a good idea for high traffic kitchens.

Rubber flooring is becoming more popular for kitchens. It is comfortable to walk on because it “gives” when you step. It’s also easy to clean. Choosing rubber flooring is a good idea if standing comfortably in your kitchen is a high priority.

Polished concrete flooring is a popular choice for contemporary homes. Resin is a similar option. How to choose the best resin and concrete flooring starts with choosing the color as it comes in many different colors.

19. Lighting

The next choice you need to make about your kitchen is the lighting. Good lighting is essential since the kitchen is still a workspace. There are many kitchen lighting ideas to explore.

20. Design a kitchen lighting scheme to suit your space

Kitchen lighting ideas include accent, task, and ambient lighting. Accent lighting is usually decorative. It might be interior glass-fronted cabinet lights to show off fancy dishware. Task lighting is for over the stove and work areas so preparing meals in the evening does not involve working in a dim light. It could also be a pendant light over the kitchen table for evening meal times. Ambient lighting is the general lighting for the whole kitchen. Ambient lighting is important because preparing food can take place all over the kitchen.

21. Rethink can lights

With so many beautiful lighting fixtures available, there’s no reason to resort to can lights. Past kitchen designs have used can lights. Now, you can install lighting that is stylish as well as practical. Schoolhouse Electric has attractive surface mount fixtures that can even accommodate the vintage-looking LED bulbs. Rejuvenation has beautiful wall lights that can be customized in many different color configurations.

22. Electrical

The electrical wiring in your kitchen begins with the hardwiring of your large appliances. This may include a 220-volt line for your range. Once the big stuff is taken care of, you need to decide where you want the electrical outlets for small appliances. Don’t skimp on the number of these. You don’t want to be stuck trying to run all your small appliances in one spot. Also think about where you want the outlets placed. In addition to the normal, middle of the wall spot, you can also have them placed higher up or even under the cabinets over the countertop. You can have a pull up outlet that pops up from the counter or an outlet strip under the countertop edge.  Don’t forget outlets for your kitchen island. They can have a door that closes over them that looks like a drawer when in the closed position.

23. Use drawers and doors deliberately

There is a lot of stuff to store in a kitchen and all of it is shaped differently. Cabinets with doors are good for things that stack on shelves. Deep drawers are good for odd shaped things like small appliances and pots and pans. Cabinets with slots are good for flat items such as baking sheets. Blum has great kitchen storage ideas for every type of kitchen.

24. Choose materials wisely

Some materials are higher maintenance than others. Marble countertops, for example, will show wear pretty quickly. They will etch, stain, and chip. You might be okay with that or you might always see that stain first thing whenever you walk into your kitchen. If it will bother you, you might want to choose a more durable material for countertops, floors and walls such as Fireclay Tile. Devos Custom Woodworking offers wooden countertops. Wood can require some extra maintenance but, to many, it actually looks better as it ages.

25. Let the kitchen “make sense”

When you choose the overall design of your kitchen, take a cue from the overall design of the house. A minimalist kitchen might not feel like a good fit for a restored farmhouse.  Likewise, a 1950s style retro kitchen will feel out of place in a contemporary 21st century home.

26. Find you kitchen design company

Hiring a kitchen designer might be the best decision you make. Designing the kitchen yourself and then choosing all the elements can be overwhelming. When choosing a kitchen designer, follow the same guidelines as you would when hiring any contractor. Make sure your designer is willing to respect your budget and listens to what you want. Just because something is the current hot trend, that doesn’t mean you have to add it to your kitchen. You’re the one who will be cooking there, not the designer. Your designer should be able to help you work within your budget. You can create the whole kitchen with off the shelf elements or you can elect a custom design. Take your kitchen cabinet dimensions page with you to meet with the designer. Before the final order, the designer will come over and do another set of measurements to make sure everything is accurate.

27. Settle on kitchen window dressings

Kitchen window dressings can’t be too fragile or fussy. Things have a way of getting splashed around in kitchens. So, you want something that is easy to clean. When pondering all your kitchen window treatment ideas, keep cleaning in mind.

Shutters are an option for windows and French doors. They are great for privacy or if the hot sun tends to warm the kitchen. How to choose window shutters starts with knowing why you want shutters and then making sure your choices will provide what you need them to provide. For example, if you want to block the sun, louvered shutters will work well if they close up completely.

If you are thinking of kitchen blind ideas, keep the same things in mind: what purpose you want blinds to serve. For privacy, they are great. Get the ones designed for kitchens so they are easier to keep clean.

If you don’t have windowsill clearance for blinds or shutters, consider window films. There are some wonderful window film ideas out there. They are great for providing privacy. They are permanent and, unlike blinds or shutters,cannot just be “opened up”.

28. Cozy up in the dining room

Finally, don’t try to stuff a big table and all the chairs into the kitchen. If you have a separate dining area, plan on putting the dinner table there and have just a small kitchen table or even no table in the kitchen. There’s nothing worse than trying to prepare a meal and not having room to move.