Careful planning is required to ensure a kitchen that's both beautiful and highly functional. Here are 20 tips to consider when designing your kitchen.

By BH&G Editors
Updated October 08, 2020
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Your kitchen hosts a wide variety of important everyday tasks, so it needs to both work hard and look good. Whether you're cooking, cleaning, eating, or entertaining, the kitchen should be a space you enjoy being in, and thoughtful kitchen design can help make that happen. If you're planning a kitchen renovation or designing a new kitchen, these tips will help you create a space you'll love. Follow our advice on planning, organization, and must-have features for a kitchen that looks beautiful and functions efficiently for all your needs.

Credit: Edmund Barr Photography

1. Eliminate wasted steps.

When organizing a kitchen, think about how and where you typically use items. Store breakfast foods and bowls near the breakfast table. Keep wraps and plastic containers in one handy spot near a work surface for wrapping leftovers. Locate dishware and flatware near the dishwasher to ease the process of unloading.

2. Design wide walkways.

Ensure your kitchen floor plan includes enough room between cabinetry and the island to easily move through the space. As a general rule, paths throughout a kitchen should be at least 36 inches wide. Aisles within the cooking zone should be 42 inches wide for a one-cook kitchen and 48 inches wide for a two-cook configuration. When planning, adjust kitchen islands and peninsulas accordingly.

3. Direct traffic through the kitchen.

Traffic flow is a key consideration when designing a kitchen. For kid-friendly kitchen design, keep the cooktop out of traffic areas so children don't catch handles and cause spills when passing through. Also, make the refrigerator accessible to both passersby and people working in cooking and cleanup areas.

4. Stay clear of corners.

Pay attention to corners when deciding where to place cabinetry and appliances. To make cabinet and appliance doors fully functional, plan space for the door's clearance and swing direction in your kitchen design. Keep appliances away from corners, and make sure doors won't bang into each other if open at the same time.

5. Find the right height for the microwave.

The correct height and location for a microwave oven will vary depending on the chef or the kid-friendly nature of the kitchen. For adults, 15 inches above the countertop level is a good microwave height. If kids will be using the appliance, a below-countertop setup might be safer and more suitable.

Credit: Anthony Masterson Photography, Inc.

6. Determine the island's function.

When it comes to kitchen islands, form follows function. Think about how you'd like to use the island within the space before you consider the design. If you want to cook and eat on the kitchen island, for example, plan enough space so the cooktop is safely separated from the dining area. The island can also house other elements such as a sink or dishwasher for added functionality.

7. Plan landing space near appliances.

Landing space around appliances provides a spot to place items while cooking or preparing ingredients. When designing your kitchen, allow 15 inches of countertop on each side of a cooktop and refrigerator. Landing space is also important near the microwave and other small appliances, such as a coffee pot or toaster.

8. Consider the countertops.

Think through your needs for meal preparation to help guide your countertop choices. Chefs who like to cook require more counter space (ideally between the range and sink) than those who cook infrequently or who prepare simple meals. Additionally, incorporating two countertop heights can make baking easier and help kids who are involved in meal preparations.

9. Double up kitchen appliances.

If you have a large family or extensive cooking needs, consider doubling up on your most often-used appliances. A second microwave oven and a mini-refrigerator or refrigerator drawer positioned at the edge of the kitchen work center, for example, can spread out the workload and keep snackers out of the cook's way. Add a snack bar with stools for an after-school spot for the kids.

10. Arrange the range area.

Plan to store important cooking essentials in the space directly around the range. Place a shelf beside or behind the range to keep cooking oils, utensils, and spices handy. Place S-hooks on the side of the range hood to hang frequently used pots and pans.

Credit: Tria Giovan 

11. Install a pot-filler.

Tired of lugging water-filled pots from the sink to the cooktop? A swing-out tap, also called a pot-filler, installed near the cooktop fills pots near where you heat them. Alternatively, you can install an extra-long hose attachment on your main faucet to fill pots on the cooktop.

12. Be smart when storing knives.

Hang knives on a magnetic strip tacked to the backsplash. Place it above the stretch of countertop you typically use for prepping ingredients. This makes it easy to spot the right knife for a job and keeps dangerous items out of children's reach.

13. Make recycling easy.

Plan spots for waste and recycling to make sorting as easy as possible. Equip a cabinet with separate containers for glass, plastic, and metal. A spare drawer could hold old newspapers and other papers to recycle.

14. Organize items within reach.

When organizing your pantry and other food storage areas, place frequently used ingredients and snacks easily within reach. Consider the needs of other family members as you arrange items. If you have small children, for example, make sure to put kids' favorite dishes and snack foods on shelves they can reach.

Credit: Laura Moss

15. Add a message center.

Establish a message center in an easily viewable spot, such as next to the refrigerator. Put a bulletin board, chalkboard, or whiteboard on the wall to create a spot to jot down reminders or grocery lists. Store a calendar, notebook, and writing utensils in a nearby drawer or wall-mounted baskets.

16. Consider electrical outlets.

Ensure your kitchen includes plenty of electrical outlets in areas where you plan to use a coffee pot, toaster oven, blender, and other countertop appliances. Install multiple outlets along the backsplash and on the island so you'll have electricity wherever you need it. For extra customization, consider outfitting a drawer with outlets and USB ports to create a hidden charging station for devices.

17. Cut kitchen cleaning time.

Careful design decisions make kitchen cleaning easier. For example, glass refrigerator shelves catch spills that wire shelves let through. Flush-set or undermount sinks don't have a crumb-catching rim to worry about. Matte finishes don't show dirt as much as glossy ones do.

Credit: Lincoln Barbour

18. Break up cabinetry blocks.

Kitchen walls completely covered in cabinetry can appear heavy and uninteresting. Break up long blocks of doors and drawers by adding interesting details such as glass doors and display shelving. You can also try placing wine storage or windows between cabinet areas.

19. Use light colors in a small kitchen.

Dark color schemes can shrink an already small space and make it less inviting. Use soft shades on kitchen cabinets to visually expand a small room. Outfit large windows with simple window treatments to ensure the space receives plenty of natural light.

20. Find a focal point.

Choose one focal point within your kitchen design that draws the eye or makes a bold statement. Splashy backsplash tile, fancy flooring, a sizable range hood, bright kitchen cabinets, or patterned countertops can all serve as the attention-grabbing element. Once you select the focus, complement that area with a few other quieter but still eye-catching details.

Comments (3)

Anonymous
November 30, 2020
I really like your ideas for designing our kitchens. Thanks for sharing it:)
Anonymous
November 7, 2020
I have never understood the attraction of a pot filler. I get it that it is more convenient to fill the pot on the stove rather than carry a full pot from the sink. But just as difficult and more dangerous is to carry a pot of scalding hot water from the stove to the sink. Where else would you dump the water?
Anonymous
November 7, 2020
Perhaps this article was geared solely toward new construction, not a remodel. Still, I would like to point out that many, many, many homes (perhaps the majority) in this country do not and will not have space for an island or even a peninsula. The assumption in the article that there WILL be an island in the design, I think contributes to the obsession with shoehorning islands into inappropriate spaces.