10 Things I Learned About Kitchen Design

I rummaged through kitchen design literature, online web forums and interior decorating magazines in the hopes of teaching myself everything I need to know to design a beautiful kitchen. Here are ten tips I learned about kitchen remodeling along the way.

toe kick action

  1. The Toe Kick: A toe kick is a recess that runs underneath your bottom cabinets to give you enough room to get as close to the sink, countertops and cooktops as possible. Without this precious space you start to hunch over in the kitchen and, over time, would be uncomfortable. The toe kick should be at least 3 inches deep and at least 3 1/2 inches in height. Who knew that even your ten little toes required their own dedicated space in the kitchen? Fascinating!
  2. 20130806_143208Drawers vs. Shelf Cabinets: By using deep drawers instead of traditional cabinets with shelving, you save yourself from crouching over and searching the depths of darkness to find your crock pot way in the back (and avoid back problems, again). Drawers simply pull out and everything is within sight and reach. Nifty!
  3. Experiment with Color: Not all the cabinets need to be the same color. I’ve visited half a dozen showrooms in the last two weeks and I am beginning to really appreciate two-tone kitchen cabinetry. The top row can be a lighter color while the bottom is dark, or vice versa. Also, having a kitchen island that is a completely different color, say turquoise, would be a nice pop of color to a monochromatic kitchen, adding personality and style.
  4. una y mimiConsider the Pets. We have two kittens, Una and Mimi. I bring them up to consultants when discussing my kitchen layout. One rendering even had a box designed specifically for the cats to have a hidden space for their litter, alongside a broom closet. It made me laugh, but they’re part of the family too and will utilize the space!
  5. Plan Ahead. You want to consider every possible thing that could go wrong. Removing the ceiling? Expect to replace the beams! Knocking down walls? Add that new dimension to your flooring. Adding a bay window? Go outside of the house to make sure there isn’t anything interfering with the new protrusion from the building. Closing off a door? Now you must consider the siding (for a frame house) or consult with a mason (for a brick house). With every conversation I have, I pick up a new sense of how something could go terribly wrong. This is a good thing. You want this to happen because it helps you become more prepared for the undertaking.
  6. Differentiate the Pantry: This was a cool tip I received from a reddit user. She likes to specialize the pantry space into three categories: food pantry, appliance/seasonal and cleaning storage. This is a neat way to be orderly in the kitchen making exactly what you need to find a cinch!
  7. Open shelving from shelterness.com

    Open shelving from shelterness.com

    Be Practical: I love the look the open shelving in the kitchen. It feels light, airy and charming but I know that I am not the type of person to be chasing dust bunnies every 48 hours – I just do not have the time (because I’m on reddit). Think about your lifestyle and who you are before plotting in the cabinets. If you’re anal-retentive about cleaning, then go for it. If you’re a bit more lax, like me (and that’s OK!) then be realistic about what you appreciate vs. what is functional for you and your lifestyle.

  8. Create Illusions: A big limitation that we have, albeit having a large kitchen, is that we have low ceilings. By painting the ceilings a lighter color than the walls, it gives them the illusion of being brighter and higher. Adding a high-gloss finish reflects light in a way that also gives the appearance of space and openness.
    Restoration Hardware

    Restoration Hardware

    Finally, lighting can be used strategically here to highlight the room and make it feel more open. You want light that emanates in all directions, illuminating the upper parts of the room and avoids casting dark shadows. You won’t gain height but you will create the illusion of a big, open airy space.

  9. Consider Donating: Instead of crushing your old cabinets, appliances and trinkets that will end up in a landfill somewhere, consider donating them. Husband and I will be donating our kitchen cabinets, tile floors, old doors, appliances and miscellaneous items to Build it Green: Gowanus, a non-profit retail outlet that recycles household goods. Bonus: it’s tax deductible at the end of the year 😉 Giving back gives back to you too!
  10. Don’t Be Afraid of the Big Box Stores: Gulp! That’s a hard one for me because I am totally the first person to promote and shop at smaller mom & pop shops and boutique stores. The thing is, stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot and especially IKEA carry items for significantly less than boutique shops. IKEA cabinetry is pretty decent and comes with a 25 year warranty. Their appliances are on par with department store brands according to Consumer Reports and according to the blogging community, people who have installed them are happy years later. We are going with IKEA for cabinets, a local flooring shop for  hardwood floors and Lowe’s for the tile backsplash and custom island countertop. In the end, you do what makes you feel comfortable, happy and within the limitations of your budget. Everyone has an opinion on what’s right – you just listen to your inner voice and do what works for you 🙂
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About Maya

I like words like "labyrinthian," "kerfuffle," and "serendipitous" because they're mellifluous. I love poetry, pumpkin ales, sangria, long summer days, Fall foliage, going out of my way to step on crunchy leaves in October, live music, Jazz, Salsa dancing, theater, film (foreign and indie), the arts (myriad varieties), dance (in theory and practice) and any place where I can sit outdoors and take it all in.
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One Response to 10 Things I Learned About Kitchen Design

  1. wvs says:

    Hi Maya,
    open shelving (7) is almost never a good idea – it may look convincing but considering cooking fumes, moisture & dust it will be a never ending fight to keep it looking ‘good’ …. so is anything covered with glass or reflecting surface: Every touch leaves stains, no way to keep such a surface (looking) ‘clean’. I’m speaking from experience. We finally decided to replace open by covered space. And in addition we covered the top of all cabinets that do not reach the ceiling with a layer of paper – this keeps the top clean & the paper can easily be removed / renewed.

    On different colors:
    Be sure to think about whether you will like it after a week, month, year … over time, the personal taste and perspective may change – and there you are with colors you can’t stand any more.
    About seven or eight years ago [in Germany] most kitchens had bright red, blue, green or even black front panels, something that has totally disappeared by now. So have the metal surfaces.

    Anyway. I’m curious to see what you finally will install.

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