Arguably the greatest and most used room in the home. Albeit cliche but the kitchen really, truly is the heart of the home, (and your wallet for that matter). We cook, chat, create, do homework, laugh, cry, activities that happen here in this space go on and on exceeding far beyond food. Different activities but yet the same end goal for all of us – it’s the gathering place. And, for all of these reasons, is why creating this room takes and army and can drain you of all life force as you work to bring to life a room that is so important to you, and all of those around you.
The functionality of your kitchen is where we need to start as we explore the components of this room. We all know kitchens are so much more than for cooking or food storage, but your individual needs and goals are important factors here as we build.
Like other rooms, let’s start with the questions before we even approach budget.
do you cook?
are you a small or large family?
and children and/or pets?
do you love to entertain?
do you eat more fresh and natural or love a well stocked pantry? or BOTH?
do you like how a kitchen looks and doesn’t need to actually function? (like Carrie in Sex In The City do you store sweaters in your oven? *please don’t btw)
do you wipe your counters ten times a day, at least or a few crumbs don’t bother you much?
(go to your closet for this next bunch, yes clothes closet please)
what are the 3 most prominent colors?
is it well organized or a bit disheveled?
if you open a drawer, are the contents of similar category or are there socks in with your jeans?
Your answers from above will help us later with a variety of design discussion points.
What you store and what you eat is where to start here. How much storage do you need and for want? Food storage, cooking utensils all need a designated home. A glorious pantry to put all food items, but a more sleek and modern kitchen with less cabinetry and more style is a great design. If space is at a premium, the more cabinetry the better may be best. Regardless, the quality of the cabinetry really counts. I’m one for a bargain all day long, but your cabinets need to stand up to the test of time, and lots of use. Don’t skimp here. All wood construction, dovetail drawers, quality painted finish are boxes to check. The cabinet’s construction as well as door and drawer style can vary here ($-$$$$). A slab front or shaker style are the most common and typically the most affordable. When you get into “5 piece” drawer fronts, it’s more detailed, and more costly.
We’ll chat colors and finishes in a bit.
As a proud type A personality, clean and clear counters are important to me. I don’t want to worry about staining (natural stone like marble) and even more so, I want my kitchen to be ground zero for all things. Art projects, home DIY projects, holiday wrapping oh, and of course eating, cooking and entertaining. I treat my kitchen island like a grand slab for all things life and I do not want to worry about ruining it with red wine, pasta sauce or hot glue and paint. The best material from the recent past has been Quartz. 97% natural stone with 3% bonding agent. No staining or etching and can handle hot pans. Winner! Worth mentioning, and new to the scene in the more recent past has been the use of porcelain. Think super large tiles in the form of slabs that can handle it all – temperature, staining and, 30% stronger than granite. It also can be offered in countless design colors and patterns.
All types, sizes, special features and price points here and it truly comes to your budget and your cooking style. The basics would be refrigerator, oven and vent hood, dishwasher, microwave. Your local hardware store offers package deals on these basic kitchen appliances which check all of the boxes. If you’re looking to splurge or you’re a real home cook, you can get as custom as you would like with appliances like dual fuel ranges (gas cooktop and electric oven), column fridge and freezer units, specialty dishwasher drawers and microwave convection combination units. IT’s also fun to look at the colors that ranges can now come in and also consider “panel ready” appliances where your cabinet supplier applies a cabinetry panel to the front of your appliances bumping up the kitchen design a few notches.
A few of my favorite brands from low to high are LG, Bosch, Thermador, LaCanache and LaCornue. Because the kitchen is truly my happy place, the range is really important to me. I love this type of double oven that fits in a standard 30″ spot. To be truthful though, when budget allows, you’ll find me gazing at the amazing French ranges that are available in the loveliest of color options.
GE double oven Hallman KitchenAid LaCornue
Microwaves can be a bit controversial. Because I don’t really use one, I prefer having a cabinet where all small appliances can live, more recently termed “appliance garage”. Again, it’s how you live. We rarely use the microwave and toaster, so keeping them out of sight keeps the countertops clutter free leaving a spot or two for something more decorative like candle holder or stylish pepper mill.
The area between your countertop and your upper cabinets is known as the “backsplash”. This can be tile ($-$$$$), a fun way to bring some personality into your kitchen. All price points, materials from ceramic to natural stone and styles like subway or mosaics are available. Another option is using your countertop material. This type of backsplash can range in height from a standard 4″ ($$) up to a “full height” level ($$$$)where the countertop. Whatever you’re drawn to, the goal is the same, a cleanable surface near the cooking and prep areas.
The island to me is critical to not only cooking and food prep, but also everyday life. The island is also a major design point in the kitchen. Let’s go over a few must-haves in my kitchen designs. First, make your island as large as possible. This hardworking element will be everything from food prep, to homework, to serving holiday dinners. Because the island will check so many boxes, having a surface that is low maintenance is also key. Quartz is my go to because virtually indestructible and a great choice like we mentioned above. My next tip is to keep the island surface free from things like appliances and sinks which help keep a lovely clean visual and also easier to work at regardless of the task. (I will never understand the trend of cooktops in islands where children could be sitting nearby, or arguably worse, splattering red sauce on your guests!) Next tip is keeping your island one level. No split level for bar height here. I like my eye to travel around the kitchen, not feel like I need a ladder to see over the bar. Lastly would be seating and how your home functions.
Questions I would ask to hone in on your design selection would be the following:
Do you prefer arms and backs on stools? Or, would you rather the stool tuck under the island completely and out of sight.
Do you like something easily cleanable? Try leather, metal or wood options
Think about fabric. More comfortable than wood or metal stools but you’ll want to protect your pieces so look into having them stain treated and/or performance fabric selections
A high pattern fabric will also hide spills or stains more easily as well
Check out some of the lovely woven options like rattan which you can find at all retailers and all price points
Check your island height for the right size stool. “Counter height” is typically around 26″
Like most rooms, this is for function and style. Ideally you’ll have recessed ceiling lights and under-cabinet strip lighting for functionality leaving a variety of surface mounted fixtures to bring in some pretty personality. I typically like larger fixtures over the island. this commands your attention as the eye travels through the space and offers a way to bring in some texture to punch up the cabinetry and countertops which can feel flat. I plan the finish on the fixtures to match the cabinetry hardware.
Design Tip – no matter what room you’re designing, make sure you have multiple hits of the same color, texture, finish helping spaces to feel thoughtfully planned. If the light fixtures are brining in some brass, I’ll repeat this with cabinet hardware and a brass accessories or two.
With the building blocks now discussed and organized, let’s talk style. All white kitchens are now seen as out. Let me rejoice! If not executed correctly, white can feel so sterile and void of warmth and personality. White cabinets and countertop options will never go out of style, white is mass appealing and classic. It’s how we balance and introduce other tones, textures and colors that create a successful design.
I like to start my kitchen design with a mood board. Spend some time on Pinterest and see what you’re drawn too. Wood cabinetry or painted? Stainless appliances or some of the new finish materials like color glass? Do you love black hardware and lights or something softer like polished nickel? Sleek design with limited upper cabinets because you have a pantry to hide more of the utilitarian items. A mix of glass door cabinetry and solid doors? Now, remember the exercise above where I sent you to your closet? Notice the colors that repeat. This is a great hint at what you’re naturally drawn to. Also, are your drawers organized? If this is a struggle, think more closed cabinetry versus open or glass fronts.
Design Tip – With glass cabinets you will see everything inside so best kept for barware or pretty serving pieces versus your cereal boxes and vitamins.
Some kitchen design tips I love and why…
White cabinetry with rich wood elements like floating shelves and a bold stone for impact. Also selecting a great accent color (maybe a painted island, or paint the inside of the glass door cabinetry) helps keep the white from feeling sterile.
Mixing wood and painted cabinetry feels so warm and even cozy with a quiet stone countertop.
Panel ready appliances whenever budget allows to help appliances disappear
TWO DISHWASHERS always, use one as a primary but the 2nd is there and ready for faster clean up post holiday dinner.
A gorgeous backsplash. A great place for a splurge as you won’t need a lot of material but it’s so impactful and something you will look at every single day.
Barstools come in all price points, if needed, save here and splurge on lighting!
Select stools for comfort, I love nothing more than guests or kids’ friend’s happily hanging out in the heart of my home.
February 22, 2023