The Ultimate Kitchen Design Guide
Designing the ideal kitchen is no small task! It may seem as simple as choosing some cabinets and countertops, but there’s a lot more that you should be considering!
Think about it. You don’t just want your kitchen to look great; you want it to be incredibly functional, too. That’s what kitchen design is all about, and that’s what this guide is going to prepare you for. In it, you’ll learn everything you need to marry form to function, designing an aesthetically pleasing kitchen that’s a song to cook in along the way.
We’ll go over every aspect that goes into planning the ideal kitchen, from crafting to overall layout – where the sink goes, where the prep area goes – all the way to choosing the right flooring system. If you follow these steps, and consider all of these things carefully, you’ll be setting yourself up to design the kitchen you’ve been dreaming of. It will be one where you can cook all of those fantastic meals, entertain guests, and even one that will add value to your home.
So, if you’re about to get started with a kitchen remodel, or if you’re designing a kitchen from scratch for your new home, check out this guide! You won’t regret it.
Table of Contents
1. Getting Started
2. Laying It Out
3. Picking Your Countertops
4. Choosing Colors
5. Grab a Seat
6. Choosing Your Floors
7. Cabinets and Storage
1. Getting Started
Before you get fully into designing the kitchen of your dreams, there are a few things you should be aware of to start out. The most important thing is this: You need to determine what you absolutely need in your kitchen. This will depend upon how much cooking you do, what appliances you might want, and even if you plan on using your kitchen as an area for entertaining. You’ll want to make sure that your kitchen design incorporates all of your needs before you start adding on the things that you “want”.
Aside from this, there are a number of practical concerns that you’ll need to consider. For one, you’ll want to be sure you’re fully apprised of any local building codes that pertain to your kitchen renovations. Also, you’ll want to establish your budget, as this will guide the entire process. You can, after all, only incorporate design elements into your kitchen that you can afford. Finally, you may also wish to consider how the renovation will impact the value of your home. In a way, your kitchen renovation is a kind of investment.
2. Laying It Out
The first step in laying out your kitchen design is deciding how big you want your kitchen to be. Most of the time, people want to expand, but it’s important to remember that bigger isn’t always better. For example, if you make your kitchen too large, you may find yourself inconvenienced when you’re trying to prep your meals! Contrarily, if your kitchen is too small, then you may find it impossible to cook with more than one person in the kitchen at a time.
In determining the size of your kitchen, think about your needs. Does your kitchen need to accommodate more than one cook at a time? Do you want to use the kitchen as a place for entertaining? What kind of appliances are you going to need – they’re going to take up a lot of space! How much storage space are you going to need?
As a rule of thumb, you can consider any kitchen that’s 70 square feet or less to be a small kitchen. A medium-sized kitchen will generally be somewhere between 100 and 200 square feet, and a large kitchen will be anything larger than that.
Once you’ve got an idea of how large (or small) you want your kitchen to be, you’ve got another important decision to make. Are you going open concept, or are you going for a closed kitchen? Nowadays, most people prefer the open concept, but there may be reasons you want to go with a closed kitchen. If, for example, you tend to get messy while you’re cooking, you may want a closed kitchen so that guests aren’t exposed to the mess when they’re over. Of course, if you do go with the closed kitchen, then it will be hard to entertain while cooking.
Here’s an example of an open concept kitchen design.
You can also go for a partially open concept.
This is an example of a closed kitchen design.
Regardless of whether you go open concept or not, there are five primary ways in which a kitchen can be laid out.
The U-shaped kitchen provides plenty of cabinet and counter space, and is ideal for those who do a lot of cooking.
The L-shaped kitchen is the preferred design style for open-concept kitchens like the on you see here.
In a smaller home, you may want to go with the galley design, as it will maximize the space available.
Finally, you may consider going with a single-line kitchen. This can work well with an open-concept design, as it takes up the least amount of space.
If you like the idea of a single-line kitchen, but you want more counter space, you can always consider adding an island.
After you’ve chosen an appropriate size and general layout idea, it’s time to start planning out the space. In doing this, you’ll want to constantly thinking about how you plan to use the kitchen, establishing different zones for the tasks that you undertake while cooking. These are the zones you should consider.
Washing: You’ll want to place your main sink and dishwasher adjacent to one another. Also, you’ll want to have ample counter space around your sink and dishwasher.
Prep: In most kitchen designs, you’ll want to locate your prep zone as close to the washing zone as possible. In addition, you’ll want this zone to be close to the refrigerator, since you’ll be pulling out and putting away ingredients.
Cooking: Wherever you decide to place your range, you’ll want to provide yourself with ample counter space on either side of it. If space allows, you may also consider adding even more counter space adjacent to the range so that you have a perfect spot for plating your meals.
Storage: Really, you can never have too much storage space in your kitchen. But, as you’re laying out your cabinets, consider what you’ll be doing in each of the kitchen zones, and what kinds of storage you’ll want at hand. For example, if you do a lot of baking, you’ll want to have cabinets in your prep area for storing all those large appliances! The goal in laying out your cabinets should be to make your life in the kitchen as easy as possible.
Entertaining: If you’re designing a large kitchen or an open-concept one, you’ll want to have a zone for guests. In many cases, people will design an island that offers bar seating, but there are a number of different things you can do. For example, you could incorporate a couch into your island, or you could add an attractive breakfast nook to the layout.
Unique Needs: There may be some very specific things you need or want in your kitchen. For example, if you want to have an espresso machine, you’ll want to consider its placement when you’re in the layout phase of your design.
Television or Computer: If you like to watch television while you’re cooking, you may want to create a zone for this. Additionally, you may also want to consider adding a computer area, where you can pull up recipes and information while you’re cooking.
Once you know what zones you need, you’ll then want to consider everything that goes into each zone. What appliances will you need storage for? What about different utensils? Once you know what you need for each zone, you can then plan out that zone fully. It will take some time to do this, but the result – having a well-planned out kitchen – can make cooking time a dream!
3. Picking Your Countertops
Getting your countertops set up begins with deciding how much counter space you want. As a general rule, you don’t want to have any less than 26 square feet of counter space. In ideal world, however you’ll have much more than that. In fact, if there’s one thing you shouldn’t skimp on with your kitchen design its counter space.
As far as depth is concerned, you’ll want your countertops to be 24 inches deep, with at least 15 inches of clearance above. This will ensure that you have a maximum amount of space in which to work, as well as space for storing various kitchen appliances – like coffee machines, blenders, mixers, and things of that nature – that you may keep out in the open.
As far as the height of your countertops is concerned, the standard is 3 feet. However, you may wish to adjust this up and down a touch depending upon how tall (or short) you and the other cooks who might be using the kitchen are. However, do think hard about veering from the standard, as countertops that are too high or too low could affect the resale value of your home.
Once you’ve hammered down the dimensions of your countertops, the real fun begins. You’ve got to choose the material! There are more than a few options, the most popular of which we’ll be exploring below.
Stainless Steel: If you’re the kind of person that wants a super professional kitchen that’s easy to keep clean, then stainless steel is the way to go! It may not be the most popular option out there, but it’s certainly the most versatile.
Tile: With certain styles – like a rustic style, for example – you may want to consider tile. It can be incredibly attractive and really complete a look, but that comes at a cost. Tile can be tough to maintain overtime, and your countertops will be naturally uneven.
Granite: When it comes to countertop materials, granite is, without a doubt, the most popular. Aside from being incredibly attractive, granite is also incredibly durable. The durability comes at a cost, though, as you won’t have as much opportunity for customization as you might with another material.
Quartz: For those who want the look and feel of a granite countertop, but would also like more opportunity for customization, quartz is a solid choice. It’s not as durable as granite, as it can be quite easy to chip, but provided your careful with your knives, you should be fine.
Marble: As far as stone countertops go, this is the Rolls Royce. Naturally, it’s extremely expensive and, like concrete, the options for customization aren’t as great. But, if you want that thoroughly luxurious look, then marble may be the best choice for you.
Concrete: This countertop material is rapidly growing in popularity, and it’s easy to understand why. There’s a lot of opportunity for customization, as the concrete will be poured in the molds, and stamping and staining will allow you to get the exact color and aesthetic you want.
Acrylic: If you’re looking for a cheaper option, you may want to consider acrylic. It’s relatively maintenance free compared to other countertop materials, and there’s a lot of room for customization. However, you’ll have to be careful with it, as it can burn quite easily.
Laminate: This is the cheapest option available for countertop materials. Its low cost is the best thing that it has going for it, but it’s nowhere near as durable as any of the above options. Also, if you eventually find yourself selling your home, you can bet that the buyers will want to take the laminate countertops out, which will affect that value of your home.
4. Choosing Colors
Once you’ve got a handle on the countertops, it’s time to choose a color scheme. The colors your choose will be incredibly important for establishing the “vibe” of your kitchen.
If you prefer being conservative, then the most popular choice for most homeowners is the all-white kitchen, followed closely by a wood kitchen. Either color scheme can work great for any design style you might be considering, from rustic to contemporary. In the case of wood kitchens, the most popular (and most durable) choices are Oak, Cherry, Alder and Maple.
However, you needn’t limit yourself to only these options. You can use a number of different colors together to create a unique visual effect. If you’re going for an open-concept, this may be the way to go, as you may wish to incorporate the colors of the other living spaces surrounding the kitchen into the kitchen itself. To give you an idea of the range of possibilities, here are a number of examples of kitchens with different color schemes.
This contemporary kitchen design uses bright green to keep things cheerful and airy.
Contrarily, you can see how darker colors have been used to great effect in this kitchen design for a sleek look.
This amazingly beautiful rustic kitchen design brings multiple colors together to create a charming atmosphere.
Sometimes the best way to add vibrancy to your kitchen design is to add touches of color here and there. These touches can be incorporated through the décor, backsplash, wall color, floor color, and any other element of your kitchen, right down to the chairs you place at an island or counter. Here are some excellent examples of kitchen that add touches of color to great effect:
The natural wood of this rustic kitchen design is given some spark by the subtle use of red on the island.
This all-white kitchen with stainless steel countertops adds a touch of color with its red backsplash.
The muted colors of the kitchen design are perfectly contrasted by the brightly colored center island.
Now, as we’ve already hinted, the style you choose for your kitchen will necessarily inform the color scheme you go with.
With a modern and contemporary style, you may wish to go with more muted colors.
However, a modern and contemporary style can still rely on exposed wood and bright colors, if you so choose.
In a craftsman style design, you’ll want to add the right touches of color in your countertops, décor, walls and backsplashes to compliment the exposed wood.
A rustic style kitchen will incorporate exposed wood and stone, with color being added where appropriate.
In an all-white, traditional kitchen, you’ll want to find ways of keeping things from becoming to clinical by incorporating splashes of color here and there.
If you like to use a lot of color, going with a country style will give you plenty of opportunities to do so.
Ultimately, you want to find a way of matching your color scheme to your style that accentuates the overall design. It may take some time, but finding the right balance will ensure you have a kitchen that looks great and that adds value to your home!
5. Grab a Seat
More so than in the past, kitchens have become places for entertaining family and friends. That’s why you may wish to consider incorporating seating into your kitchen design. There’s a number of ways to go about this, but these are the most popular.
Peninsula Counter: If you’re going open concept, then this can be an excellent choice. It provides a degree of separation between the kitchen and the surrounding living space, while at the same time allowing guests and cooks to interact.
Island: A kitchen island that provides seating can work for both an open-concept kitchen and a closed kitchen.
One way that people spruce up their kitchen islands is by having multiple counter levels – one for dining and one for prepping.
In a larger kitchen, you may even consider having two islands, one for guests and one for cooks.
Dining Table: If you have a large space to work with for your kitchen, you may wish to consider placing a dining table right in the room! This can be incredibly attractive, and it will give you the opportunity to further accentuate your overall design.
6. Choosing Your Floors
When considering floors for your kitchen design, you’ll want to keep their aesthetic quality in mind, as well as their functionality. If you do a lot of cooking, you’ll want floors that can stand up to more foot traffic and spills; if your kitchen is more “for show” then you may be able to sacrifice durability in order to get the specific look you want. These are the various materials you’ll have to choose from:
Linoleum: If your budget is a concern, and you need some quick and cheap, then linoleum is it. Just don’t expect it to be as aesthetically pleasing as any of the other options on this list!
Carpet: Although you’ll seldom see this, it’s still possible. Of all the materials it will be the easiest on your knees, however that comes at a cost. Kitchens are a place where spills happen, and we’re sure you know what happens when someone spills something on carpet.
Concrete: For those going for the modern and contemporary style, the concrete floor can be a great choice. Not only does it look great, it’s also very durable. However, concrete can be hard on your knees, and it will be the mortal enemy of any glass or ceramic you drop.
Cork: Believe it or not, there are many who choose cork for their kitchen flooring. It looks great, and its softness will be something that you appreciate when you’re on your feet cooking that five-course dinner. However, that softness means its not as durable as some of the other options on this list.
Tile: When you want a customized look, tile can be the right choice, as you’ll be able to create virtually any kind of pattern you’d like. However, tile is not the most low-maintenance floor option, and it can get expensive.
Laminate: If you want the look of hardwood without the problems associated with maintaining hardwood, then laminate may be the right choice. It will give you a very similar look, and it will stand up better to spills and drops.
Hardwood: Much like granite countertops, people love hardwood floors. If you want that truly luxurious look for your kitchen, then this is undoubtedly the way to go. However, it’s generally the most expensive option, which might not be all that bad, considering how much value it can add to your home.
27. Cabinets and Storage
In putting together a kitchen, the second most important aspect is going to be storage. You’ll want to start thinking about this – which includes everything from your refrigerator to your cabinets and drawers – once you’ve mapped out your overall layout.
In purchasing cabinets, you’re going to have three basic options. You’ll have stock cabinets, which – as the name suggests – come as they are. This is the cheapest option available, but that comes at the cost of customization. To keep things cheaper but also to include some degree of customization, there are stock options that allow you to tweak various aspects. Finally, you can go completely custom, which is great, but which is also quite expensive!
Beyond that, there are four categories of cabinets that you may wish to include in your kitchen design. At the bare minimum you’ll have base cabinets, which fit below your countertops. Provided you’re going with the standard 36-inch counter height, you can go with a stock option here. However, if you adjust the height of your counters, you’ll need to go custom.
Next, you may wish to incorporate wall cabinets. These are the ones that hang above your countertops. Remember here that you’ll want at least 15 inches of clearance below these countertops to ensure your countertops offer ample space for storage and work.
Floor-to-ceiling cabinets can also be incorporated into your design. They provide a great amount of storage, which is why they’re often used as pantries, but they necessarily come at the sacrifice of counter space. If space is at a premium in your kitchen, you may wish to avoid these kinds of cabinets, or else use them sparingly.
If you’re going to be incorporating an island into your kitchen design, this cabinet system (which will be similar the base cabinets) will be separate. There are stock options available, but if you’re trying to do something different with your kitchen island, you’ll have to go custom or semi-custom here.
With every cabinet, you have a choice of door. The four standard types are:
Frame and Panel: These are incredibly common and offer you the opportunity to get decorative.
Frame Only: Frame only doors are typically used to incorporate glass.
Slab: These are incredibly standard and common in modern and contemporary styles.
Plank: These kinds of doors are made flush with the cabinet face and are typically decorated in some form or another.
Aside from cabinets, you may also wish to include drawers. These are great for storing small utensils and things of that nature. However, it is possible to create larger drawers, which can be used to store everything from dry food to appliances. In general, you’ll want to use a mix of both cabinets and drawers in your design. In doing so, consider the different “zones” of your kitchen, and what kind of mix will work best for each.
If you have the space to allow for it, having an amply sized pantry can be a real lifesaver. As mentioned earlier, a floor-to-ceiling cabinet can offer you the pantry space you need quite well. However, if you have a large space to work with, you may consider adding a pantry room. With this, you’ll want to design it in such a way as to maximize the amount of storage and to make it as convenient as possible to the different work zones of your kitchen.
If you’re adding an island to your kitchen, and you want to use if for storage, you’ll almost necessarily want to go with a permanent, built-in island. This will allow you to match the island to the other cabinets in your kitchen, keeping your design aesthetic consistent. However, you can go with a floating island if you choose, or even one that’s on wheels.
Beyond your cabinets and your island, think of all the other things you keep in your kitchen, and where you want them to be. For example, if you have some nice pots and pans, maybe you’d like to keep them out in the open with a suspended rack? Or, if you have an extensive collection of cookbooks, maybe a glass-front bookshelf is in order? As with everything else, consider your needs, and let those guide your kitchen design, and you’ll end up with a cooking oasis that you’ll enjoy for years to come.
Get Some Inspiration
Think you’re ready to get started? Then we’d encourage you to check out these amazing galleries of kitchens in all shapes and sizes. Here you’ll see a number of creative kitchens that could just very well provide the spark for your own custom kitchen design!