Things to Consider When Designing a New Kitchen
My husband and I bought an old 1904 farmhouse in August 2015 and completed renovating it in December 2017. One area of our home that is of most importance to us is our kitchen! We both love to cook and enjoy entertaining, so we definitely spend A LOT of time in our kitchen.
I remember when we first bought our house, we both started dreaming and talking about how we were going to change/update our kitchen. So when the time actually came to design our new kitchen we took it very seriously and put a lot of thought into it.
I thought it might be helpful to share some of the main things that we considered when designing our kitchen as well as what we love about our new kitchen and maybe some of the things we would do differently next time. So here we go! Let’s start on a positive note with the things we considered when designing our kitchen and truly love.
Integrated vs. non-integrated appliances
I vote integrated! This is when you opt to have your appliances paneled to match your cabinetry rather than them being left white or stainless steel. When we renovated our kitchen we decided to integrate our fridge, freezer, and dishwasher into the cabinetry and I’m so glad that we did. Best decision ever! I love how it limits the amount of stainless steel in our kitchen (more clean white as our microwave, wall oven and stove are stainless) and I especially love that I do not constantly have to wipe away finger prints!
People often even have to ask us where our fridge/freezer is because it blends in so well. If it weren’t for the massive handles on the doors you would probably just think it’s a pantry or something.
I know this might sound obvious but it was important to us that we would have enough space to move comfortably around our new kitchen. Our new kitchen has an island in the middle so when laying out the design we wanted to make sure that there was ample space between the wall cabinets and the island to walk around each other. For example, one person could be preparing food on the island and the other right behind them cooking without stepping on one another.
Another thing we did that I highly recommend is ensuring that you have enough room around your appliances. Once we picked out our appliances we made sure that there would still be enough room to walk in the passageway between the island and wall cabinets even with the dishwasher or oven door completely open. It might seem like a lot of space when your originally designing your kitchen but once your kitchen is in it’s really not an overabundance of space and boy is it ever worth it!
To ensure you have enough room around your kitchen I would recommend grabbing a measuring tape and actually laying it out. I remember us contemplating whether or not we had enough space between our sink and oven. So we grabbed a measuring tape, measured it out and both stood where each would go to ensure we didn’t feel too close for comfort.
One more tip on spacing and then we will move on, I promise! In our old kitchen our Kitchen Aid mixer wouldn’t fit on our counter underneath our upper cabinets. It’s a pretty heavy piece of kitchen equipment that we use pretty often so it wasn’t something that we wanted to have to move around a lot and would rather just store on our counter. So when designing our new kitchen, we measured the height of our mixer and any other smaller appliances we wanted out on the counter, like our espresso machine, and made sure there was enough space between our counter and upper cabinets to fit everything. So glad we did this as now everything fits perfectly!
Recipe book nook
As I mentioned, my husband and I both love to cook. As you can imagine we have collected quite a stash of recipe books over the years. In our old kitchen we had a designated drawer for our recipe books but I found it so demotivating to find a cook book because you had to take them all out and usually the one you were looking for was always on the bottom!
So in the new kitchen I wanted a better solution, a little recipe book nook! I knew I didn’t want them on an open shelf because that would require having to dust them every now and again. So instead we added a little cupboard with glass doors to one end of our island. Not the end of the island you see when you first walk into the house but at the other end in case our nook gets a little disorganized from time to time. I LOVE this little feature in our kitchen. We’ve lined up all our recipe books like a little library which makes them SO much easier to find and access. A much better way to get inspired for sure!
Make your kitchen practical
When designing our kitchen we really thought about how we use our kitchen to figure out where to put things, like the sink, oven, dishwasher, etc. For example, your dishwasher should be right next to your sink as you typically use them both at the same time. Dirty dishes go in the sink, and then you rinse them and load the dishwasher. Imagine your dishwasher was farther away from your sink. That would mean taking more steps than necessary, which would make cleaning up and doing the dishes take longer (yuck!), and likely dripping water across your kitchen. No thank you!
We also opted for built in garbage and recycling, so that was another facet of our kitchen we really thought about the location of. It was important for it to be in the middle of the kitchen for easy access but also still close to the sink. If you think about it, after a meal you scrape off any table scraps into the garbage and then put your dirty dishes in the sink. So for that reason it was also important for the garbage and dishwasher to be close together as well. So much to think about I know but again so worth it!
We ended up putting two built in garbage drawers in our kitchen, one beside the dishwasher and another in the island. I must say, it’s so nice to have both, especially when entertaining, and the one in the island is great because you can simply open the garbage and wipe your counter right into it (I hope that makes sense).
Cabinet/drawer organizers that are worth it
These days, kitchen cabinet companies have a plethora of cabinet/drawer organizers to choose from. These are the ones that we chose that I think are well worth it:
- Built in cutlery organizers: they look way nicer than the plastic ones you buy at Walmart or Ikea and are very durable
- Built in spice display: such an easy way to keep your spices organized and from rolling all over the place. I love how I can just open the drawer and see all of our spices right away, it makes them so much easier to find and keep an eye on what we might be low on.
- Baking sheet/cutting board slots: the BEST and EASIEST way to store these items in your kitchen
- Lazy susan/magic corner: I may be old school but I love this contraption for lower corner cabinet areas, it’s where we store all our baking stuff. You can also opt for just a big old cabinet here but I find it hard to keep things organized in these bigger cupboards and access the items near the back.
- Ingredients storage/organizer: this is another aspect of our kitchen that we love. It’s so easy to organize and access our dry ingredients this way.
- Built in garbage/recycling: I love that these are built into the cabinetry and that we don’t have to have a free standing bin or bins in our kitchen. The free standing garbage bins I find take up room, are hard to keep clean as they’re usually stainless steel and are also very pricey.
One thing that always bugged me in our old kitchen was drinks taking up space in the fridge. Especially when entertaining! I always want to provide space for my guests to keep their drinks cold but don’t want my fridge to be taken over by drinks. Or depending on the occasion, my fridge would be too full for drinks! Anywho, I always said that in the new kitchen I wanted a separate bar fridge just for drinks. So we put one in and it’s the best thing EVER. It’s so nice to keep our beverages separate. We still store our milk, juice, etc. in our main fridge but any pop/mix, wine, beer and alcoholic beverages get stored in the bar fridge. Highly recommend!
Glass door cupboards vs. open shelving
I know open shelving in kitchens is SUPER popular right now. It definitely creates a more open and airy vibe and I’m sure also cuts down on the cost. But if I’m being honest, I’m just not about it. I love the way they look but don’t believe they are practical. I feel like I would constantly be adjusting the dishes on them because I would want them to look perfect which isn’t practical if you’re using the items on them regularly. And most importantly, who needs another surface/area to clean? Not me! I would hate having to clean the shelves all the time and the dishes/items on the shelves that you don’t use often.
Instead of open shelves, we opted for cabinets with glass doors. I think it gives you that more open and airy feel but still keeps your dishes tucked away and clean. We only did a few cabinets with glass doors as I only wanted to display a few things in our kitchen, such as our nicer glasses and bar stuff. Again these are cabinets that in my opinion you want to keep organized and not display things like food packages in with a bunch of writing and graphics on them. The open and airy vibe of glass door cabinets can easily go wrong if you clutter them with the wrong items.
Under cabinet lighting
This might not be for everyone, but I personally love it. Especially at night after dinner once the kitchen is cleaned up I turn off all the lights but leave the under cabinet lights on. I don’t know what it is but it kind of sets the tone for the night and helps wind things down.
Alright, now let’s shift gears to a few things that maybe didn’t turn out so well or that we would do differently next time.
We opted to put in-cabinet lighting in the glass door cabinets, except for the recipe book nook. We personally never put them on, I just don’t love the way it looks. I much prefer the under cabinet lighting throughout the entire kitchen and use that ALL the time. The other thing with in-cabinet lighting is that you need glass shelves instead of wood shelves in order for the light to shine through the entire cabinet. This is typically more expensive so next time I would save the money on the lights and glass shelves.
I love our kitchen island, but I don’t love the overhang where we have our bar stools as I’d link to have more of an overhang. It may be due to my long legs but I just wish there was a bit more room. However, there is a reason why it is the way it is, which is another thing I recommend that you consider when designing your kitchen.
Once we picked out our counter top, we found out the sizes of the slabs that it was available in. Unfortunately our island was bigger than the biggest slab available but not by much. So instead of having to use two slabs and have a seam running through the middle of our island, we opted to make our island a little bit smaller to fit the slab. This I’m glad we did as our island is huge and it doesn’t really need to be much bigger. However, this also meant that we had to cut into our overhang a little bit. In the grand scheme of things it’s not a big deal and I would much rather have a shorter overhang then have to look at a seam in the middle of my island. But if you have the option to pick any size overhang I would definitely recommend getting out a measuring tape and feeling it out to ensure there's enough room.
We had a decent little walk-in pantry in our house pre-renovation but we always said we wanted a bigger one when we renovated. Unfortunately, with the new kitchen layout, it just didn’t work out. We still got a pantry but it’s still underneath the stairs and kind of small.
I love walk-in pantries for storing food. We keep all of our kitchen cabinets, except for the lazy susan, for non-food items. I also love the pantry for storing bulkier food items (we’re Costco shoppers) and bigger small kitchen appliances, like our bread maker and ice cream maker.
Butler pantries are SUPER popular these days and I would LOVE to have one of those one day. It’s essentially a glorified walk-in pantry or secondary small kitchen, as some even have a second fridge in them, but they are so ideal for entertaining.
Pain in the butt secret cabinets
Due to the size of our island we were able to fit cabinets on both sides. Therefore, we opted to have these “secret” cabinets underneath our overhang. Obviously, we don’t store everyday items in these but I have to say they are nice to have for extra storage. So why are they a pain in the butt you ask? Well instead of putting a knob on the doors of these “secret” cabinets we opted for a push and release. We thought this would be smart as you wouldn’t even know they were cabinets due to their lack of knobs/handles, making them more “secret”, and you wouldn’t be constantly hitting your knees on the knobs/handles when sitting up at the island. However, since our overhang is a tad short, when sitting at the island your knees or feet often push on the door causing them to release. It drives me mental! We probably would have been way better off with knobs near the tops of the doors as you wouldn’t even see them due to the overhang and the island is tall enough that you wouldn't nail your poor knees on them all the time. First world problems I know. But you live and learn!
I hope you found this little kitchen design review helpful. It can definitely be a bit of an overwhelming experience as there is SO much to think about. But from first-hand experience, it's well worth the time trust me! If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me as I’d love to help.
Until next time,