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My guide to
kitchen design

The kitchen is my favorite room in the house. This is the room where everyone gathers to tell stories and fill their tummies with tasty, home-cooked food. This is where we celebrate birthdays, graduations, and every Friday if you are like my family. This is where we come together after a hard day, making it the heart of the home, the place where families are supported and nourished physically as well as emotionally.

 

Are you thinking of doing a kitchen remodel? Follow my tips for a space that is both beautiful and functional and that you and your family cherish for years to come.

1 - Space Planning

Space planning is an art. Assimilating the various wants and needs is an exercise in both logical and emotional pulls. My space planning approach is to balance the homeowner's wants and needs with ergonomics, efficiency, convenience, and flow. I visualize the occupants using the space and compose the space with them in mind. Without proper space planning, you risk creating a design that doesn't function and doesn't meet the needs of the client.

Evaluate the layout

The first thing to look at is your appliance layout. Is it fine as is? Do you need to move appliances to improve the function? If you can, it is best to work with the appliance layout you already have. Sinks connect to plumbing and stoves might connect to gas pipes. Plumbing can be costly to move especially if you lack access to it, but sometimes it is well worth it.

 

Optimal appliance layouts consider the following:

- Proximity of fridge to the garage to make carrying groceries easier. Any task you do over and over again is worth making easy and ergonomically friendly.

- Landing spaces to serve appliances and the sink. A minimum of 15" should be provided on each side of the stove and sink, 18" or 24" is even better. You will also want landing space adjacent to or across from the fridge. Maintain 15" minimum between the stove and fridge so the fridge doesn't have to work extra hard in the additional heat.

- The flow in a kitchen is from fridge, to sink, to stove, to table, to dishwasher, to dish storage areas. Any task you do over and over again is worth making ergonomic and pleasureable. 

Get accurate measurements

Every remodel starts with accurate site measurements. Like a tailored suit, fit is the most important aspect of a successful space. Do not attempt to skip this step!

Identify needs

What are your goals? Do you need more storage? Do you want to create a more open and airy feeling in your home? Do you need to improve the function of the spaces? Does your space have poor acoustics or bad lighting that needs redesigning? Are you doing just cabinets and finishes or do you need to knock out a wall or enlarge a window? These first steps in evaluating your existing space lay the foundation for your project and must be done with care and diligence. 

2 - Layout & Composition

Design is a balance of finding the right proportions and style. Carefully consider the clearances required between counters and the island and around each appliance. Avoid wasted space such as cabinets in corners where they aren't very functional. Cabinet doors should be proportional and composed 3 dimensionally with consideration of ceiling heights, windows and doors, and sightlines, not a series of random cabinets pulled from a catalog that happen to fit the space. 

Spatial Qualities

The first thing to look at is your appliance layout. Is it fine as is? Do you need to move appliances to improve the function? If you can, it is best to work with the appliance layout you already have. This is because sinks connect to plumbing and stoves often connect to gas pipes. Plumbing can be costly to move especially if you lack access to it, but sometimes it is well worth it.

 

Consider the following:

- Landing space at fridge and stove. A well-designed kitchen has a sensible flow from the fridge where food is stored to the sink where it is washed, to a prep area for chopping and mixing, and then finally to the stove or range where food is cooked. You will want to have a landing space adjacent to or across from the fridge for placing items you take out of the fridge. An island can serve as the landing space for the fridge. A minimum of 15" should be provided on each side of the stove and sink, 18" or 24" is even better. Ideally, you should not have to take more than a few steps to get from one appliance to another. Consider if your kitchen is a one-cook kitchen or a multi-cook kitchen. Most modern kitchens are multi-cook kitchens where kitchens from the 50's, for example, were designed for one cook.

- Proximity of the dishwasher to the cabinets that hold the dishes. Often during design, clients will tell me that this doesn't matter. Sorry, but I know better than to listen to them. In most kitchens, there is no need to have even one step distance to put away the bulk of your everyday dishes. You can thank me later. 

- Another proximity to consider is that of the fridge to the garage. This is to make carrying groceries easier. Any task you do over and over again is worth making easy and ergonomically friendly.

Color and Texture

One of the most perplexing things about kitchen design and color is that... white doesn't go with white. What? Yes it's true. This is because there are dozens of shades of white and all the cabinet makers, appliance manufacturers, and other building material suppliers do not coordinate their whites. Designers with training in color theory understand cool and warm colors, contrast, brightness, hue, saturation, the psychology of color, and how color either helps or hurts your overall vision.

 

A big mistake amateurs make when making color decisions is to try to make everything match. What you want to do instead of match is COORDINATE.

Texture is not only something we see, it is something we can feel. Get samples of materials especially cabinet doors, countertops, and counters. When you pick a tile, picture it not as a singular item but with grout as it will be installed. When picking pulls, think about how they will feel in your hands. For example, are they easy to grasp and feel good to the touch?  Or are they going to forever be a nuisance, ripping your pockets as you walk by or collecting dirt and grime in their crevices. 

Design Qualities

You may not be able to put it into words, but everyone knows how a particular space makes them feel. Think of your current kitchen. Does it make you feel peaceful? Productive? Cheerful? Or maybe it makes you feel claustrophobic, bored, or disconnected.

 

Now, how do you want your kitchen to feel? Fun? Friendly? Cozy? Easy-going? Playful? Luxurious? Spacious?

Design has a direct connection to your well-being and the enhancement of your lifestyle. Don't waste that opportunity! 

3 - Action

Complete the design with detailed drawings and specs.

Cabinets

- Since cabinets form the majority of your kitchen design, it is important to know what you want to get out of them. Cabinets, in their most basic form, are boxes with doors on them. The quality of the cabinets can vary as well as the size, type, and finishes offered.

- I like to first design the kitchen's layout and desired look and feel, then find a cabinet manufacturer that can fulfill the design. But doing the steps in the opposite direction can work especially for jobs with a short timeline such as flips and rental units.

- Semi-custom cabinet lines can meet most homeowners' needs but full custom is a possibility as well. Custom may be the best option if there are unusual conditions to work around or if something special and unique is warranted.

- Cabinet sizes are standardized in 3" increments. Base cabinets make up the bottom part of your kitchen under the counters. They are standardized at 24" deep but this dimension can be altered. Upper cabinets are usually 12" deep. Standard countertop height is 36" and raised bar areas are often 42" above the floor. Upper cabinets are often 30" tall but can be 36" or 42" tall. 

- Cabinet proportions should consider your home's style and proportions. Narrower and taller cabinets that look great in a Victorian home would not look as good in a sprawling, spacious ranch home.

More cabinet size tips: In general, avoid overly narrow cabinets (15" or less) if possible. If you do have to have narrow cabinets, install pullouts in the cabinets to make the contents easier to reach. Also, avoid overly large cabinets with large doors that are unwieldy and may look sloppy if they aren't perfectly straight. Finally, while it's tempting to maximize storage, avoid cramming as many cabinets as you can into the space which can feel cramped and cluttered.

Details

Outlets, lighting, accessories, hardware, HVAC, handles and pulls. With so many options it can be overwhelming to have to make so many decisions but it is important to not ignore these details and how everything works together. Be careful to not get swept up in all the options and gadgets available. Select the few that work for you and be done with it.

 

A new kitchen is a big investment and not something you are going to do often. The more you figure out now, the better your odds of construction going smoothly and your budget being honored.

Role of drawings

Why do professional designers draw their designs? To prevent costly mistakes and work out all coordination issues beforehand. In other words, the drawings allow you to PALN AHAED. Detailed, scaled drawings and renderings are an essential step to getting it just right and protecting your investment. What you draw is what you get so don't try to skip past this part.

"Becky knows more about this project than everyone else on the job combined. She's just amazing."

                                                 - Karen

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