Kitchen Design Basics


With so many choices in materials, appliances and accessories, sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start when choosing the components that make up your new kitchen.

A good designer should be able to point you in the right direction and sites such as this can give you some good hints, tips and ideas, but ultimately the choice of kitchen style is entirely up to you.

If you have any questions about kitchen design that are not covered in these pages then give us a call!


Obviously, planning is the first and most important part of buying a new kitchen.

The main steps involved are usually the following:

  1. List the reasons you want to remodel, or the problems with your current kitchen. These can be such things as:
    • old cabinets
    • limited storage
    • old style
    • too cramped
  2. Measure it fully and accurately. Remember to include the following:
    • the width of all windows and doors
    • the position of the window or door from the corners of the room
    • the height of the bottom of the windows above the floor
    • the height of the ceiling
    • the height, width and depth of the appliances you want to keep
    • the height, width and depth of the appliances you intend to buy
    • the position of each of the following in the room:
      • light switches
      • radiators
      • pipes and plumbing
      • electrical outlets
      • thermostats
      • phone jacks
  3. Decide on a style and shape. Check this site (see ‘Styles‘ below for example), and others to help you here. Also magazines have tons of pictures of kitchens to give you ideas. It will probably be one of the following:
    • contemporary
    • country
    • traditional
    • southwestern
    • eclectic
    • ultra-modern
    • minimalist
    • classical
    • shaker
  4. Determine a price you are comfortable with. See the ‘Costs‘ section for more on this. Remember to include the following items:
    • cabinets
    • appliances
    • countertops
    • walls
    • flooring
    • fixtures and fittings
    • labor
    • professional costs
  5. Contact a professional (see ‘Choosing a Professional‘ below). Not essential, but any of the following should be able to help you save time and money (some give free advice and they often pay for themselves by helping you avoid costly mistakes):
    • contractor
    • designer
    • architect


Contemporary – simple in design, uncluttered. Smooth, sleek surfaces such as marble, glass and stainless steel. Backgrounds are neutral or light, with strongly colored accessories and accents. Lighting is usually hidden and window treatments minimalist.

Country – simple designs hearkening back to old times. Earthy colors, subtle hues with plenty of wood and brick exposed. Wood beams and pine panels. Rustic.

Traditional – as above, but more formal. Woods used are finer and cabinetry more detailed and finished. Colors are deeper. Elegant and refined.

Southwestern – natural materials and craftmanship. Earthy background tones accentuate the primary colors of the accessories. Materials used include, quarry and ceramic tiles, wood, and hand-painted fabrics.

Eclectic – combines elements from various sources, both old and new. Colors and materials are mixed, with no particular bias. Furniture and accessories can be new or second-hand, modern or antique, sometimes collected over the years, to make an individually-styled kitchen.

Ultra-modern – state-of-the-art, smart, high-tech appliances, the ‘kitchen of the future’ look.

Minimalist – more a discipline than a style, can be nice to look at but hard to live with, favored by architects and designers, clutter is reduced to a minimum, each item has its own defined space.

Classical – brings together any of the classic architectural styles of the past few centuries; Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian etc., and offers the opportunity for householders to enjoy the aesthetic of a bygone era, but in a much more labor saving form. Modern day versions of classic styles are widely available. Rebuilding a period look with authentic materials can be one of the most rewarding ways to furnish a home, but it can also be a long, hard job.

Shaker – characterized by purity, simplicity, and utility, a combination of simplified furniture style, clear crisp lines, lightness and strength fits well into modern interiors, while the utilitarian aspect of the design often translates into clever storage solutions. Modern versions allow mixing and matching traditional woods with granite surfaces to great effect. Good looks and practicality make this a good choice for style conscious family life.

Who will use your kitchen?

Different people have different lifestyles and, since the kitchen is the center of the house and the room in which your daily food will be prepared, lifestyle is the key to planning a kitchen that works for you.

It is obvious that a single person or a couple will have different expectations from their kitchen than families with growing children. For example, if you’re a single person that eats out a lot, your kitchen will look completely different from a family that takes their evening meals together. Assess your kitchen area accordingly.

Plan how much storage space you need for your groceries, cutlery and crockery, which equipment you will use (oven, grill, stove-top and time-saving electrical appliances), and how much seating area you need. Check out the ‘Storage’ section of this site for more help in this area.

In a small kitchen it is obvious that a large seating area is out of the question, but a small breakfast table might just fit in. In a big kitchen, the seating area will take a big part of the space. Decide which part of the kitchen area you want to commit to seating and work your kitchen around it.

Choosing a Professional

Installing a new kitchen involves many different skills such as plumbing, carpentry and electrical work. All the work can be done yourself, such as contracting the required professionals, creating schedules, budgeting, arranging permits and insurance.

However, keep in mind that doing it yourself can sometimes work out more expensive in the long run if you include the real cost of your time and the risk of incurring extra expenses if you make a mistake.

If you decide to hire a contractor you can usually get names from friends and neighbors or at the local home center. Kitchen showrooms often use the same contractors for each job as they have proven themselves time and again in the past.

Things to look out for are experience, a minimum of five years in business, correct licensing and insurance, and the willingness to supply names and addresses of past clients.

Designer, Architect, Installer, or Home Center?

It is possible to do all the design, planning and installation yourself. However, with so much free advice out there it is well worth consulting a professional. Not only can a trained designer save you time and money by helping prevent mistakes in product selection and layout, they are also familiar with the latest developments in materials and techniques.

Home centers and cabinet showrooms both offer design services and advice for a small fee (or for free).

Click here to find out how to get your free kitchen consultation.

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