48 Expert Kitchen Design Tips by 16 Top Interior Designers
Welcome to our first designer roundup, where we’ve asked some of our partners about their own expert kitchen tips.
While we have written a lot here about fantastic home kitchen ideas, we wanted to give the designers a chance to speak directly to you.
Thus, what follows is a selection of each partner’s top three kitchen design ideas, along with photos of the gorgeous results.
You might imagine that those behind the work featured on this site would have some seriously interesting things to say, and you’d be right. We asked around and received some fascinating replies.
Foremost, we noticed many of the designers offered some highly specific tips that aren’t often considered by those who don’t perform the direct work of crafting homes. This applies even to folks like us; being an expert on home design isn’t quite like actually crafting them yourself!
Because all of our partners are so unique, you’re bound to find some truly individual takes on kitchen design here. The ideas clearly spring from the minds of folks with different backgrounds and specialties, and as such, there’s a wild variety at play here.
Whether you’re considering practical additions, aesthetic changes, or a complete reinvention of your own home kitchen, you are virtually guaranteed to learn something new and valuable from this selection.
As you read on, please try and take note of the very specific ideas some of these designers put forth. Even the most subtle suggestions could end up being the key to your next kitchen project!
Take for example the exquisite material choices in the above pictured kitchen, courtesy of Jane Lockhart Interior Design.
We would like to emphasize the fact that these ideas are all directly from the minds of our partners, so there’s a wide range of ways that they’re presented and expressed. No two designers are alike, and that’s a great thing. When you’re receiving carefully considered suggestions from experts, you know that it’s going to be solid information.
There are even a few suggestions you’ll see expressed from different sources, which is a great cue that they’re very solid ideas.
We hope you enjoy this new feature and take something away from the selection of thoughtful kitchen ideas. Whether you’re building a new home, reinventing an existing one, or simply looking to perk up your kitchen, here’s the best place to start.
Table of Contents
- FORMA Design
- Rebecca Mitchell Interiors
- Kerrie Kelly Design Lab
- 2e Architects
- The LWK Kitchen Company
- Jane Lockhart Interior Design
- ACM Design
- Burnazzi Feltrin Architetti
- McLeod Bovell Design
- MF Architecture
- Ganna Design
- Baran Studio
- SHED Architecture and Design
- Hatem+ D
Here are our 2 cents on kitchen design:
The kitchen, other than functional, should also be an integral part of the rest of the house. Especially in an open plan, the kitchen should match the quality of the lighting, finishes, and feel of the house, in a way that it becomes part of the Living/Dining/Entertainment area, rather than a defined “kitchen space” by itself. It’s ideal if the flooring in the kitchen and in the rest of the house is the same, so the barriers, visual and other, are further eliminated.
The kitchen should accommodate all the functions that are typically related to cooking. Chopping, drinking while chatting with the chef, watching the news, listening to music, planning the next grocery trip, and ideally, being able to connect with others in the Living/Dining/Entertainment area, both visually and aurally.
3. Matching Cabinetry
The cabinetry in the kitchen should ideally match the cabinetry in the rest of the house, so the barriers of a distinct “kitchen space” are eliminated. In the example below, the cabinetry and furniture in this flat in Tenleytown, in Washington DC, were all walnut, so the kitchen lower cabinets were also walnut, and the upper cabinets were white lacquer with a back-painted glass backsplash, that took it away from a “cooking” area into just an extension of the Living areas.
Here are my three top tips:
1. Cabinet Height
Cabinets that go to the ceiling will make any room feel taller, more spacious, and more modern. See this project where we did just that.
2. Unique Backsplash
Choose a backsplash that is different from everyone else’s. It’s the one thing that can make your kitchen truly unique.
3. Location Inspiration
Think of a favorite place you’ve travelled to and use it as inspiration for your kitchen. These clients had fallen in love with Florence, Italy and wanted to incorporate the patina and palette of this old city into their new kitchen.
Here are our three go-to kitchen design tips:
Countertops are the workhorses of the kitchen and need to stand up to a lot of wear and tear. For this we recommend using quartz because it’s water resistant, durable, and easy to maintain.
Even if your new appliances aren’t for your “forever” home, it’s important to take all the home’s users into account. Elderly visitors, young children, or others with challenged mobility should feel comfortable in your kitchen. Pick appliances that everyone can use and be safe around.
3. Test Drives
Ask your appliance showroom if you can take a ‘test drive’ by bringing in a recipe and seeing how it turns out on the appliance you are considering, The look, touch, and test rule is crucial for such a major purchase.
1. No Traffic
While the Kitchen is normally the heart of the home, the traffic pattern of the home should absolutely not extend into the “cooking area” of the Kitchen, usually on the other side of the island. It is shocking to me how many times I see this mistake in homes today.
2. Ease of Access
Another “flow” issue, always locate the refrigerator in a place where the cook can easily access it and so can all of the cook’s family without stepping into the cooking zone.
Extend the countertop 4″ to make a normal refrigerator look like a counter depth refrigerator. This serves several goals – first, the larger counter is the perfect spot for coffee makers, knives etc. Second it saves money as the smaller counter depth refrigerators cost more. Note that the lower cabinet will be normal, except that it will be installed 4″ away from the wall.
1. Two-tone kitchens
The simplest way of making your kitchen look different than normal is to have two tones; so, using two colors of doors in the kitchen. Some basic rules for this is to have your darker doors lower down in the design, so underneath the worktop. You can also run that color through into the tall units as well. Make sure you have a light work surface in the kitchen and light wall units – so for instance, if you’re going to use the likes of Basalt Grey or a Lava Grey color which are darker grey shades, then you should make sure you use a light worktop (a White or Veined Carrara Marble) with some white wall units. That means that when you’re actually at the worktop space; all you can see is the worktop in front of you and the wall units.
2. Expressing personality through the kitchen
The way that one could do this is to have relatively simple kitchen units and worktops, so either white or neutral colors, while expressing your personality through the means of the backsplash, like a splash of teal or red or by adding color to the parts that are actually easily replaced. Most kitchens these days can last between 10 to 20 years and backsplashes can be replaced every 5 to 10 years if you find that they are getting dated. So you can use your backsplash to show personality, not only necessarily through the doors in the kitchen.
3. Using an island in the kitchen
I would recommend that your hob (range) should be on the island – most people tend to create a mess around the hob space as they’re cooking but then they actually end up taking that back to the sink after they are done cooking. Things tend to gather in the sink rather than actually being put away and this will especially happen if you have a sink on the island. So it is best to have the hob on the island, where everything can be cleared off and put onto the wall or sink if you are having a dinner party.
Note on extraction on the island:
Extraction on an island is always best with a flush mounted ceiling extractor on, so there are no pendants or anything hanging from the ceiling to impend the view from where you’re cooking or from the room back up towards your design.
1. Consider Material Choices
Tremendous advancements have been made in material technology in terms of appearance and durability. Think of porcelain tiles rather than ceramic as they are more durable and you can have smaller grout lines.
2. Add More Lighting, Not Less
You can never have too much lighting because you can just turn it off or add a dimmer! Consider adding LED lights hidden within a valance box which is both tidy and an energy saver. Add cool pendant lights over islands for extra lighting as well as a decorative element. These are like jewelry for the kitchen.
3. Make Your Backsplash A Focal Point
Pick amazing tiles or patterns to add to this area. After all, it is at eye level so it is quite visible. Do add tile inserts and even consider painting on your backsplash tile.To make your backsplash look perfect, hide electrical outlets within the upper light valance. This way the entire backsplash is completely clear of plugs and switches!
Room designed by Jane Lockhart, Principal Designer, Jane Lockhart Interior Design.
Photography: Brandon Barré
These 3 kitchen design tips come from our owner and principal architect, Amy Conner-Murphy.
Tips for Kitchen Design:
1. Think about who will be using the kitchen.
- If the kitchen will be used by a growing family, then consider arrangement of work areas for multiple cooks and space to physically accommodate children as they grow and begin helping with meal prep, homework areas nearby, separation of storage for drinks and snacks from main work center of the kitchen, etc.
- If the kitchen will be used by persons who wish to age in place, be sure to provide easy access at the sink and use a single faucet that has multi-function, consider using an induction cooktop or provide remote switch location for the exhaust hood with a gas cooktop, consider using pull-out storage such as drawers or spice racks rather than conventional base cabinets, etc.
2. It’s all about placement.
Determine if the primary cook is left or right handed, as this will inform placement of appliances and work areas within the kitchen to maximize efficiency of meal prep and clean up.
3. Craft for the cook.
Determine if the primary cook likes help in the kitchen or just visitors, and design the work space accordingly. If the cook likes to work alone, then providing seating and access to drinks away from the primary work triangle allows the cook to move about unencumbered while still being able to visit with his/her guests.
The links below highlight some specific projects we feel are relevant to the above tips:
1. Let The Light In
If you have glass windows and doors in your kitchen you can place the kitchen island and the dining table towards them so, while eating or preparing the food, you can enjoy both the brightest spot in the room and the view!
Take a look at this single family house kitchen.
In this project the rectangular kitchen island, used for preparing the food, and the round dining table are the main features of the space, which is especially designed for the family and the pleasure to stay together. The round table, extendable and turning elliptical whenever there are guests, is highlighted by the suspended light. The dining room, south oriented, is the brightest area of the house and it has the most amazing view looking towards the historical city center. The terrace, located between the living and the dining room, becomes the natural extension of the kitchen, especially during spring and summer.
2. Multitasking Furniture
Do you have/want an open space? You can use multitasking furniture instead of walls to divide and organize your space! This is what was done for the MP kitchen/living room.
Entering the apartment the kitchen island is one of the first piece of furniture people can see. The main element of the open space, around which everything is organized, is the fireplace: it looks like a sort of totem. The kitchen island is a custom made multitasking piece of furniture: here everybody can prepare food, stash dinnerware and have breakfast. The L shaped kitchen doesn’t show any appliance except for the stove and the two ovens, one of which is a steam one.
Even the hood is hidden inside the Corian counter top. The hood need an adequate aspiration power (airflow rate) since it’s located in an open space so a specific engine was placed on the roof.
3. Incorporate The Landscape
If you have a terrace/garden you can make them a part of your kitchen! In this way not only can you enjoy the view but you can live the landscape! Look at MP “interior” and “exterior” kitchen.
In this apartment the glass doors, south oriented, link the kitchen to the garden, which is partially floored with wood and where aromatic herbs, useful for cooking, grow. During the warm season it’s possible to use the garden as a dining room where you can have lunch with family and friends, enjoying the beautiful view of the lake. The kitchen expand itself on the outside and doubles it’s size, absorbing part of the garden and creating a shielded space through a weathering steel pergola. Even if the “exterior” and “interior” kitchen look quite the same, constructively they are very different because they have to satisfy specific needs, for this purpose the interior one is made of lacquered wood and the exterior one of steel.
1. Unbroken Countertop Space
Place the sink to one side of your island or counter. A large unbroken counter space is always better than two smaller pieces.
2. Hide Your Dirty Space
Lay out your kitchen so that there is a designated “dirty space” for prep and clean up, hidden in view from the living or dining area.
3. Extra Seating
Provide extra seating in the kitchen for a more lively and interactive space, whether this is with a built in bench or stools along an island.
As we call the kitchen a “culinary stage,” designing a kitchen is a lot like designing a stage play. Our three top tips thusly follow:
1. Getting to know the play and the characters
Each script (client and project scope) is different, which will determine what the mood and atmosphere should be, inside and outside flow, actor (chef) – audience (family & guests) relationship, and so on.
2. Maximizing the performance
Once we understand the script, all the elements should have a purpose to maximize the desired performance, including power, lighting, furniture and finishing.
3. Executing within the budget
Instead of viewing a budget as an obstacle or constraint, we find it to be equally liberating and inspiring, resulting in the ability to take concepts to reality.
Here are a couple of example projects:
1. Make use of the kitchen island
The kitchen island is a good way to improve the communication among people in the house, especially in Taiwan or elsewhere in Asia. Traditional kitchen design tends to isolate the cook from others, so a kitchen island is a good tool to provide more social interaction. For example, friends or family can prepare a meal together or, at least, chat with each other while cooking.
2. Arrange the kitchen in a place with better view or with better illumination.
If the condition of natural illumination in the house is limited and the designer needs to make a choice between different rooms such as kitchen and living room, we will prioritize the kitchen. Since people are likely to be watching TV in the living room, it doesn’t need as much natural light. Putting the kitchen nearer to the windows can make the best use the environment.
3. Enlarge the kitchen as large as possible.
The kitchen is an important space for a residential house. Enlarging the kitchen can make the whole house feel more impressive. Besides, like the reasons mentioned in the first point, we aim to make the kitchen more than simply a place for cooking.
1. Layout First
Think about how the kitchen will function, start with the basic triangle, but also factor in other location specific information. Is the kitchen open to another space? Is there a good location for a window? Think about how you want the kitchen relate to those elements. Do you like to look out the window at the sink, or be able to face your family and guests? Also, don’t forget to leave ample counter space between other elements to allow room for setup and prep.
2. Keep it Simple
Convoluted layouts with twisting circulation spaces and inconveniently located cabinets or appliances may seem clever at the time of design, but never work out that way when you’re actually using them. Keep lines simple and layouts open. Minimize circulation ‘corridors’ and appliances in odd or distant locations. Also, less material is better. Kitchens are open, singular spaces and can’t hold up under an excessive number of materials.
3. Be Consistent
The kitchen should feel like a part of the house itself, not something that was tacked on. When looking at choices for lighting, cabinets, tile, tops, and appliances and their implicit details, try not to think too much about the kitchen you loved from that latest Sunset Magazine. Instead, think about how it ties into the ideas that are present in the rest of the architecture. The effect will be a smooth integration into your space rather than a jarring one.
Here are out top 3 kitchen design tips:
1. Counter Materials
Photo credit: Mark Woods
Different kitchen zones have different performance requirements. In some kitchens we use multiple counter materials in response to particular functions. In this case a solid oak surface at the peninsula is a warm and friendly surface around which to gather. Heavy stainless steel plates flank the range providing a virtually indestructible surface for heavy/hot pots and pans while white quartz is a durable and easy to clean surface at the sink.
2. Recessed Pulls
Photo credit: Mark Woods
We used recessed linear pulls instead of surface applied knobs or pulls to give the kitchen a smooth and elegant feel. There is nothing to snag the eye or the hip. Recessed pulls are also highly custom though need not be for the more budget-friendly kitchen.
3. Window as Backsplash
Photo credit: Mark Woods
Glass is a washable surface that provides continuous natural illumination of the work surface. Why pay for a backsplash when you can use a natural glass backdrop?
The following are our 3 most important Design Tips for a perfect kitchen:
When it comes to kitchen planning, it’s always a special challenge. Demands on aesthetics are often in strong contrast to requirements of utility. Especially for small kitchens, our motto is always “form follows function.” The smaller the room, the more economical our material choice becomes.
Still, remember that even large kitchens need to be planned carefully. Avoid placing too large a distance between the stove, refrigerator, and sink!
2. Deep Countertops
Extra deep countertops (up to 90 cm) offer additional space for frequently used kitchen devices.
3. Material Choice
These are our current top three kitchen crafting materials: anodized aluminum, bronze, and nero assuluto (brushed and flamed) granite.
Kitchens are high performance areas that are located at the heart of the home so practicality and functionality are critical elements. The Canny design team strive to design open plan sophisticated stylish kitchens that have uncluttered order and a well thought layouts so it’s important to always take a clear brief from our clients as to how they use and enjoy the space. We like to incorporate hidden storage and bold eye catching elements to help open up the space in addition to adding integrated appliances and luxury finishes. The location and number of appliances like multi ovens and build in coffee machines generally dictate the layout so these need to be planned for first.
2. Materials Choice
There are so many exciting choices in kitchen cabinetry and benchtop materials, there is something to suit everyone’s budget and style. Our design team often choose the classic combination of natural stones and timbers however we’re now starting to experiment with metallic materials like brass and copper. Try to keep one material as your feature and then match your other materials to this to ensure a complimentary selection of materials and nothing too overpowering.
We always try to make the most of natural light in our homes via window splash backs and large floor to ceiling windows in the surrounding living spaces. Natural light always makes the space look larger and can create drama with shadows depending on where the sun is sitting throughout the day. However if the kitchen is lacking natural light or you’re looking to add some extra flair, feature pendants create wow factor and can really enhance the mood when positioned above an island benchtop.
3 Top Kitchen Design Tips by Simon Hatem:
1. It all starts with a meeting…
To accomplish the mission, I push the customized beyond the design and implementation of the project. This approach is part of a special relationship with the customer. A relationship that will start with a simple meeting. A meeting that will feed exchanges and discussions. Tastes, lifestyles, sensitivity to colors and materials, how you like to host friends or simply spend time with those you love … all these ingredients will be incorporated into your project. Anything that makes your story.
If your kitchen telling your story, the doors, the work surface, interior fittings, lighting, household appliances, valves … are the vocabulary and punctuation.
2. A customized work plan.
The work plan is to the kitchen what the stage is to theatre. This is where it all happens. Absolutely essential, it seems to go unnoticed and yet it is on it that the gaze falls first, that the culinary creation comes alive. A place of experimentation designed bespoke, whether contemporary or classic, curved or graphic, its seductive game combines practicality and beauty to lighten up the kitchen.
3. It’s an interplay between material and aesthetic elements, ecological and functional.
Here, a touch that sharpens the sensations; where a flat tint of color plays with the tones and contrasts. Contemporary or classic, raw or processed materials come and fit together, respond and transform our vision of the kitchen of the house, and finally our living space.
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