June 11, 2021

The Kitchen Design Checklist

The kitchen is no longer just a place to make meals, it’s truly the hub of the home. A kitchen can be a social area, storage space, craft center, works zone, family gathering room. Really, the kitchen is a catch-all space in modern homes. They need to be versatile and able to adapt from breakfast through dinner and everything that happens in between.

Once you’ve stepped foot in a really well-designed kitchen (or looked at a few too many Pinterest boards) it can often leave you taking a look at your own kitchen and thinking, “this doesn’t work” or “it needs to be updated.” Kitchens can be difficult to design and expensive to build, so it’s important to take a few things into consideration before making the decision to move forward. Whether you’re planning a renovation or looking at a blank slate, it can be equally overwhelming. If you’ve been asking yourself where to go from here, we hope this checklist can serve as a good starting point.

1. Lighting

Lighting is a major consideration in any space, but in a kitchen, it should be one of the top priorities. We like to use “layers of light” in a kitchen space, meaning a combination of daylight, overhead light, and task light. Planning a sink near a window is common practice because it benefits anyone standing doing dishes, especially once you’ve let them pile-up and you’re going to be there for a while. Daylighting is fantastic in kitchens, but windows also need to be coordinated with the need for upper cabinets. Direct-indirect overhead lighting helps enhance light distribution and eliminate shadows on work surfaces while being conscious of harsh reflections. Light fixtures are often thought of as being simply for aesthetics, but there is also a functional component. Under-cabinet task lighting can adequately light a task like checking for pinkness while cooking or chopping vegetables, both of which could be dangerous if not properly illuminated.

2. Cleanable/Durable Finishes

Cleanability is essential in a kitchen, so selecting cabinets, flooring, countertops, and backsplashes that are durable is crucial. Higher-end finishes may seem like a big price to pay when budgeting for a kitchen design; however, investing upfront in finishes that will last longer will save a homeowner money and headache in the long run. Timeless materials like tile and quartz are durable and easy to maintain, meaning your kitchen will look great for longer. Whatever materials you ultimately select, make sure you take into consideration sanitation and longevity. Many natural kinds of wood and stones (though beautiful) can become a maintenance issue due to their natural porosity. Consider limiting finishes like these to places that won’t come into contact with heavy water/grease.

3. Storage

When planning your kitchen, it’s important to visualize everything you will need to store. Do you need more cabinets or drawers? Do you keep a large amount of dry food storage that would work best in a large pantry? Over the last few years, we have seen the number of countertop appliances in a single-family home steadily increase: Toaster ovens, Air Fryers, Instant Pots, Slow cookers, Coffee pots, Blenders, Juicers, and the like all take up a significant amount of space in a kitchen. These items usually require tall, deep shelf space that can be hard to come by in a typical kitchen. Planning for storage of these items off the countertop can keep counters de-cluttered as well as maintain valuable prep space.

4. Organization

There are limitless options to customizing the inside of cabinets and drawers to get your kitchen perfectly organized. Two of the resources we rely on heavily when designing kitchens are Rev-A-Shelf and Häfele. They offer organization solutions for everything from spices to pots and pans and concealed trash cans that just make sense. Having an organized kitchen helps the user to focus on getting tasks accomplished rather than spend most of the time looking for your spatula, spoon, plate, whisk, or the hundreds of other items kept in your kitchen drawers.

5. Working Triangle

The relationship between your range, sink, and refrigerator is called a working triangle. Since these are the three main components of a kitchen design, we look to them to lead the space plan. Essentially, the distance between each of these components becomes a leg of the triangle. The legs are the circulation path you take from each station. If the legs are too short, it creates a bottleneck, too long and you lose some efficiency. When designing kitchen spaces, designers have magic numbers in mind for maximum and minimum distances between each of these components as well as around oven and dishwasher drawers.

6. Proximity to Other Spaces in the Home

Many of our clients crave the “open floor plan” design. Limiting walls between each room promotes interaction between those in the kitchen and the other spaces within the home. We also need to keep in mind adjacencies, for example, planning a dining room near to the kitchen. We think accounting for any outdoor adjacencies (openings/access to decks, patios, etc.) makes for some awesome grilling opportunities!

7. Appliances and Technology

The kitchen is one of the only spaces in the home that you’re designing around large pieces of equipment, so there are some considerations to keep in mind as you go. Appliances come in an array of “standard sizes”, for example, ovens can be 24”, 27”, 30”, and 36” wide. It’s important to coordinate the size of your appliances with the openings you have planned with your cabinetry. This seems simple enough, but it often gets overlooked and can cause delays if re-ordering is the only solution. When it comes to appliances, there are also abundant choices for finishes. Our advice is to look for appliances that are energy efficient and easy to clean.

One thing I included in my own home kitchen remodel is a Bluetooth speaker lightbulb in the recessed can above the sink. This clever little innovation has replaced the need for wiring-in speakers throughout your home, and it was a low-cost item we use almost every time we’re in the kitchen.

8. Flexibility

Over the last year, we have learned to be adaptable to whatever life throws at us. Knowing now that our kitchens can function as an office, classroom, and more when they need to, what lessons can we take from that concept? Can we include things like charging stations, homework stations, comfortable seating, and storage for items and tasks that don’t necessarily belong in the kitchen but inevitably make their way in there? We have seen families spending more time together than ever before, and we think we can preserve some of that by designing more holistic kitchen spaces.

There are many things to take into consideration when designing a kitchen, but the most important is to make sure it works for you and your family. At CWG, we prefer timeless kitchens to trendy ones and love to incorporate our client’s lifestyles and functional needs into their kitchen spaces. Designing a kitchen, whether remodeling or building new, can be a daunting task. Our training as interior designers allows us to learn about how you use your kitchen, process your needs and wants, then balance that with a budget and help turn that information into the kitchen of your dreams. We are eager to help with your project, no matter the size. We can assist you from conception through construction or with just one step of the process. Contact us today for more information on our services.

Tyece Pool, CWG Interior Design Director