20 Tips for How to Design a Kitchen Where You’ll Love to Cook

Careful planning is required to ensure a beautiful and highly functional kitchen. Here are 20 kitchen design tips to consider.

Life happens in the kitchen. From rushed breakfasts before you head out the door, to family meals, to sharing a cup of tea with friends, the kitchen is the activity hub of your home. 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, and thoughtful kitchen design can help make that happen.

Whether planning a kitchen renovation or designing a new kitchen, our kitchen tips will help you create a space you'll love. Follow our advice on how to design a kitchen layout with ideas for planning, organization, and must-have features for a kitchen that looks beautiful and functions efficiently for all your needs.

black and white kitchen with island open shelving
Edmund Barr Photography

1. Eliminate wasted steps.

When planning how to design a kitchen, think about your most frequent tasks. You'll save time and energy by placing items needed to complete a job close together. For example, keep coffee mugs, coffee grounds, and all your java essentials near the coffee machine. Your groggy early-morning self will thank you.

Similarly, 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. Generally, 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 crucial consideration in how to design a kitchen that works for you. It won't work if the cook bumps into people constantly coming and going. If traffic flows through the kitchen to another room, make sure the range or cooktop is not placed along that busy path.

A central kitchen island is a nice way to separate the working area of the kitchen from the social part of the kitchen. It keeps family and friends nearby to chat with the cook while deterring them from getting in the way.

Also, make the refrigerator accessible to passersby and people working in cooking and cleanup areas.

4. Stay clear of corners.

An important kitchen design tip is to pay attention to corners when deciding where to place cabinetry and appliances. Plan space for the cabinet doors' clearance and swing direction in your kitchen design to make cabinet and appliance doors fully functional. Keep appliances away from corners, and make sure doors won't bang into each other if open simultaneously.

If you have a tight corner to work around, consider opting for low-profile handles. Knobs, pulls, and appliance handles sticking out can make opening neighboring corner cabinet doors difficult.

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. However, a below-countertop setup might be safer and more suitable if kids use the appliance.

White kitchen counter and dark cabinets
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 deciding how to design a kitchen. If you want to cook and eat on the kitchen island, plan enough space so the cooktop is safely separated from the dining area. For added functionality, the island can also house other elements, such as a sink or dishwasher.

7. Plan landing space near appliances.

Landing space around appliances provides a spot to quickly place hot items from the oven or microwave. It's also helpful when prepping ingredients. When planning how to design your kitchen layout, allow at least 15 inches of countertop on each side of a cooktop and refrigerator. Landing space is also essential near other small appliances, such as a coffee pot or toaster oven.

8. Consider the countertops.

Think through your needs for meal preparation to help guide your countertop choices. For example, chefs who often cook big meals require more counter space (ideally between the range and sink) than those who cook infrequently or prepare simple meals. Additionally, incorporating two countertop heights can make baking easier and help kids 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 during kitchen planning. For example, a second microwave oven and a mini-refrigerator or refrigerator drawer positioned at the edge of the kitchen work center can spread out the workload and keep hungry kiddos out of the cook's way. Add a snack bar with stools for an after-school spot.

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. Plan your kitchen layout to include extra deep drawers for cookware near the range or under a cooktop. For a more open kitchen design, place S-hooks on the side of the range hood to hang frequently used pots and pans.

kitchen stove with overhanging faucet
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, 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 the 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, take stock of what you plan to store in the pantry and measure the height of storage canisters or frequently-used products. Then you can have pantry shelves installed at the right height and know everything will fit in the pantry. While planning how to design a kitchen, you'll also want to decide if any small appliances will be housed in the pantry. If so, be sure also to dedicate enough space for those items.

White shelves on wall filled with important documents
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 place 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 needed. For extra customization, consider outfitting a drawer with outlets and USB ports to create a hidden device charging station.

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.

open shelving kitchen wood counters
Lincoln Barbour

18. Break up cabinetry blocks.

Kitchen walls completely covered in cabinetry can appear heavy and uninteresting. Instead, 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does a kitchen remodel cost?

    Depending on the size, scope, cost of materials, and design features, the average price of a small-scale, simple remodel is between $10,000 and $20,000. A mid-scale remodel, with upgraded appliances and finishes, averages $20,000 to $70,000. A high-end, total remodel, including redesigning the layout and moving appliances, electrical, and plumbing can be between $70,000 and $130,000.

  • How do you remodel a small kitchen?

    Making the best use of your space is the most crucial part of a small kitchen remodel. If you plan to DIY your remodel project, make sure you have the necessary tools and materials and a floor plan that makes sense. If you can hire a kitchen designer, they can give you ideas for maximizing your square footage and cabinet storage that you may not have considered.

  • How do you budget for a kitchen remodel?

    The budget for a kitchen remodel starts with the most significant items, including cabinets, countertops, and appliances. Once you've determined what you're spending on those three things, you can decide on the rest, including flooring, backsplash, lighting, and the sink and fixtures. Then comes decorative touches, such as paint, window treatments, and artwork. 

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