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Kitchen design tips that make a big difference

The kitchen is the heart of your home. It’s food central, from a quick snack to a family meal. Your guests congregate in the kitchen, no matter where you put the food and drinks. The kitchen is where you share the details of your day with family members, where you make plans, help with homework and manage other problem-solving challenges. So, make your space work on every level. Follow these kitchen design tips that make a big difference.

Function and flow come first

Before you fall in love with the tempting finishes, styles, and kitchen design trends available, focus on the essential function in this room. For all the reasons listed above, you need to be able to navigate the space with ease. That means, when you have the clutter of people, how can you make it look easy to do what you do?

Start with the flow from storage (pantry, cabinets) to the cleaning and prep area (sink, dishwasher, and counter workspace) to cooking (stove, oven, microwave). Each one represents a zone. You might have a center island, an L-shaped, or a galley style kitchen. Whatever the style, look at the steps required to move easily between kitchen zones. Your goal is to keep the distance no more than six feet between each area.

Think safety

With so many people coming and going and the literal hot spots in your kitchen, think about safety when designing your kitchen. Place the stove and sink sufficiently far enough from each other to prevent the possibility of splashing water from the sink into hot oil on the stovetop. 

If you have young children, consider the advantage of a rounded (e.g., bullnose) countertop edge rather than a square. By softening the edges, you minimize the injury when a child bumps into it.

Make smart use of cabinets

Storage is a critical factor in the kitchen. You need space for cooking utensils and tools, pots and pans, small appliances and gadgets, servingware, drinkware, ingredients, and the inevitable drop zone (a.k.a., junk drawer).

George Neill, a sales and design consultant with Kettler Forlines Homes, asks homebuyers, “Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘We don’t need more storage space’?” When planning your kitchen, it’s not just about the quantity of storage, but the quality—the function it provides.

Drawers have become more popular in kitchens, It’s easier to open a drawer and see what’s inside than to rummage deep into the dark spaces of a cabinet. Multi-tiered drawers present a great solution for organizing items like plates, silverware, utensils, and linens in an easily accessible space..

Whether or not your kitchen is on the small side, think about installing cabinets that go to the ceiling. Sure, it might be hard to reach up there, but the extra height gives a great space for those rarely used items, like holiday dishes and that strange gadget you received as a gift but haven’t quite figured out why you need it. With taller cabinets, you make better use of your vertical space and accentuate the height of the room. And, without it, you simply create a dust-gathering area between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling.

Another nice kitchen cabinet feature is the pull-out cabinet. Under or next to the sink, you’ll be thankful to have a pull-out trash receptacle. Next to the stove, a narrow pull-out cabinet makes for good storage of spices or baking trays.

As you plan the best placement of kitchen cabinets, think about what you will store in each one. You should have dishes and silverware near the dishwasher, making it faster to unload. Pots and pans, of course, should be stashed near the stove. 

Let’s not forget the pantry. Since the pandemic began and people invested in massive stores of non-perishables, the need for a large pantry has grown. A walk-in pantry is a smart use of kitchen space! Some homes also incorporate a serving station or butler’s pantry. This is usually situated between the kitchen and formal dining room. It features a sink, countertop, and cabinets. You can use this area as a beverage station, too. Without taking up much room, this addition complements the functionality of your kitchen.

Choose the right kitchen lighting

The lighting should serve two functions: function and style. You don’t need to compromise on one feature to achieve the other. Lighting manufacturers offer a wide array of designs, styles, and colors. Here are some things to think about when choosing kitchen lighting:

  • Overhead lighting: Recessed lights are a great choice for kitchens. You can space them out, ideally 24 to 48 inches apart, depending on the size of the room, to cover the entire workspace. Add a dimmer switch to control the brightness.
  • Task lighting: Some areas need the benefit of more focused light. The kitchen sink and center island, for example, should have specific lights. Use pendants over the island and sconces or an overhead light fixture at the sink, depending on whether or not you have a window behind it. 
  • Under-cabinet lighting: Here’s another worthy investment in your kitchen design. Maybe you’re chopping vegetables, measuring ingredients, or reading your mail on the counters below the cabinets. You’ll thank yourself later for adding this particular task lighting.

When choosing lighting for the kitchen, remember that dark surfaces (cabinets and countertops) absorb more light than lighter surfaces. The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends that you allow one-third more light for a darker kitchen.

Kitchen compromises don’t work

For all the times you’ve quietly or outwardly cursed your kitchen’s inefficiency, you need to ensure that your new kitchen presents the right fit. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get the features that matter. Create a wish list of priorities. Start with what you dislike about your current kitchen. Then determine the solution to that problem. 

Once you have your ideas together, talk to your builder or kitchen designer. Be clear about your budget. Ask for suggestions. These professionals have a lot more experience with many types of homes and kitchens, giving you a valuable resource for ideas within your budget.

If you’re thinking about your next home or ready to remodel your current one, count on the experience, expertise, and knowledge of Kettler Forlines Homes. Our family has been building homes in the Maryland and West Virginia areas for more than 40 years. 

Take a look at our photo gallery of kitchens to spark your inspiration. Then reach out to George Neill to finally have the kitchen you deserve!