10 Things to Consider When Redesigning Your Kitchen

by Al Heavens | The Home Remodeling Podcast

Al Heavens is a Haddonfield, N.J.- based, nationally syndicated, home-improvement writer and author whose newspaper columns, magazine articles and books have been the first word on remodeling for 50 million readers for more than three decades. He is the author of What No One Ever Tells You About Renovating Your Home and Remodeling on The Money: Fifteen Innovative Projects Designed to Add Value to Your Home and was “The Gadgeteer” on Discovery Channel’s Home Matters program.

I built a kitchen that proved to be a major selling point for our last house.

We bought our current house because my wife fell deeply in love with the kitchen the moment that she saw it.

There are kitchens to die for and ones that are ripped out and replaced right after closing, even if the seller spent $60,000 on it (I have seen that happen twice).

A kitchen should not just sell a house, however. It should be a place to create and experiment, to gather, to celebrate, a getaway, and a showplace.

The plaque on the wall of my late mother-in-law’s kitchen said it all: “No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best.”

When it comes to designing the right kitchen, there are more questions than answers, and even the answers you come up with may not be the right ones.

With that caveat in mind, here are 10 things to consider when designing a kitchen. There are many more considerations, of course, but you need to start somewhere.

Price

The first is the price. What is your price range? How you will use the kitchen should be the primary component in your thinking. If you live on takeout, an Emeril-style kitchen is an overkill. If you aspire to be Emeril, then go for it. Just do not spend more than you can reasonably pay for. You should have enough money left over to buy ingredients once the kitchen is operational. 

Prioritize. For example, if you like to cook, spend more money on the stove than on the cabinetry or flooring.

Layout

Next is the layout, which is determined by the space available (many experts say that the space should be at least eight feet by eight feet).

The layout’s purpose is to reduce the number of steps required to go from Point A (the stove) to Point B (the sink). The boiling pot of angel-hair pasta is nearing al dente stage on the cooktop. How quickly and safely can you get that pot to the colander in the sink and turn on the cold water to the stop the cooking before the spaghetti turns to mush? 

There are at least six common kitchen layouts, the experts tell me, and they are typically referred to as U, L, one-wall, galley, island and peninsula. The work area is in the shape of a triangle, a century-old concept, with the stove, the refrigerator and the sink in each of the angles. (Here’s a great video talking about planning kitchen layouts in more detail.)

Style

Next is style. What will the finished kitchen look like? You should be up on the current design trends so that today’s kitchen will not look dated in five or 10 years.

On the other hand, the kitchen should fit in with the rest of the house. If your house is Colonial or Victorian, you do not want an all-stainless-steel industrial-style kitchen under the same roof. Modern appliances and cabinetry can look totally retro, thanks to manufacturers here and abroad who not only come up with trends but are in tune with the wants and needs of consumers. (Cipriani’s designers talking about style in more detail during a seminar )

Focal Point

Next: Every room, but especially kitchens, need a focal point. Too often kitchens are cluttered with so many bells and whistles that the focal point is lost. Pick one and design the kitchen around it. 

Typical focal points are the island, the backsplash, the stove, and the cabinetry. In the case of our kitchen, it is the lighting – more important as we age. (To learn more about having a focal point in your design watch this helpful video.)

Lighting

That is a perfect segway to the fifth design point. The importance of lighting cannot be overemphasized. A combination of natural (windows and skylights) and artificial lighting should maximize work-space visibility as well as illuminate darker areas of the kitchen, especially those under cabinets. 

If there is no way to create natural light in the kitchen space, the designer should find a way to bring it in from an adjacent room. (Lighting is something that can’t be ignored – learn more about it here.)

Materials

Artificial lighting falls under our next design point, materials. The lighting fixtures, countertops, the floors, the cabinets, backsplashes, plumbing, sinks, faucets, doors, windows, trim, kickplates, hardware, the walls and ceilings, and what is behind them – the list is seemingly endless.

Which countertop material is the best? Each has its pros and cons. Granite is durable and almost impervious to heat, but it is expensive and needs to be sealed so it will not stain.

Soapstone may darken and needs to be treated periodically with mineral oil but it does have an antique look. Marble is heat-proof but porous and expensive. Quartz, ceramic tile, laminates, butcher block, concrete, and numerous others all have their good points and drawbacks.

Quarry and ceramic tile and stone floors are durable, but a dropped glass will likely shatter. Other options include hardwood, laminate, cork, and bamboo.

Universities should offer a degree in cabinet selection. Door styles range from traditional to glass front and everything in between. Material choices range from wood to fiberboard and, well, yes, everything in between. Width and height. Upper and lower. Stationary or moveable shelving. 

Storage

While we are considering cabinetry, another design point is storage. There is never enough, or at least that is what consumers, designers, remodelers and home builders have been telling me for 40 years.

Bulk buying has increased the need for storage, but even those of us who grocery shop once a week often find space at a premium. Because I find storage needs difficult to quantify, I went to Divine Design, a Boston-based kitchen design firm, for ideas.

Divine Design recommends allowing at least 14 to 18 cubic feet per person. For reference, a standard upper cabinet of 12 inches deep by 36 inches tall by 36 inches wide is nine cubic feet, and a pantry closet that is three feet long by two feet deep and eight feet tall is 48 cubic feet.

Not including a pantry in a kitchen design is considered as much of a mistake as blocking access to adjacent rooms or not having an exhaust hood for a stove, some experts I have talked with say.

Appliances

The range hood is a good way to reach Design Point 8 – appliances – which I already touched on when talking about style. Innovation in kitchen appliances has made design easier. Instead of having to work around a traditional stove, the consumer can install a cooktop in the kitchen island and ovens in the wall.

Models of refrigerators, microwaves, cooktops and ovens, garbage disposals, dishwashers and other appliances are changing constantly.

Gas, electric and induction cooktops, convection ovens and microwaves, counter-depth refrigerators that look built-in, dishwashers with pull-down doors that can blend in with the cabinetry, range hoods that can be traditional stainless steel and even glass, warming drawers, and exceptionally deep sinks of stainless steel, cast iron, quartz and solid surface with an adjacent and smaller prep version offer a virtually endless choice of options.

Modern appliances require up-to-date wiring and plumbing that need to be considered in any design plans.

With food preparation comes waste, so how and where to store it is the next-to-last design point.

Trash Placement

The most popular solution is the under-the-counter slide-out trash kit, which has bins for trash, recycling, and even vegetable matter for the composting bin. Typically located under the counter adjacent to the sink, the pull-out drawer avoids the need for some sort of free-standing receptacle that may end up in the way or draw the interest of pets or curious children.

Color

Last, but certainly critical to any design plan, is color, which is determined by everything else in the kitchen from countertops, to floors, cabinetry, and appliances.

Traditionally, kitchens have been white or pale, but the trend has been to bolder colors lately, including, according to HGTV.com, something called “Kabuki red” that complements stainless-steel appliances.

Blue, yellow, red, and green and a variety of shades of those colors are popular these days, but if you are stumped, just pick up a copy of House Beautiful, where you will find 43 of their favorites.

One or two should be sufficient for your needs.  (Choosing the right colors can be tricky, but don’t let it intimidate you. Get more information here.)

The Designers at Cipriani Remodeling Solutions are able to help you with all these kitchen design considerations. It all starts with carefully listening to you and caring about you and your living space to give you the best design possible for your lifestyle.