Designing Your Dream Kitchen

Gearing up for a kitchen remodel? Dreaming about the day you can rip out your old kitchen and start fresh? Wherever you’re at in your home design journey - this is a must read for anyone who wants to know how to properly design their dream kitchen someday.

I’ll warn you now, this is a long post. So get cozy - grab a glass of wine, cup of coffee, or whatever tickles your fancy, a comfy chair, and possibly a notepad. We’re giving you a step by step guide on everything you need to know when planning out your kitchen. Plus a BONUS of an easy to use checklist outlining what’s discussed in this post that you can reference in the future.

Sound pretty good? Great, now let’s get started on planning that dream kitchen of yours!

Floor Plan

First thing’s first, create your new kitchen’s floor plan. There are three main factors that determine it’s layout: work aisles, workstations, and following code (building standards set by your city).

When drawing out the floor plan it’s important to keep in mind the walkways in your kitchen. At a minimum, it is recommended to have a minimum of 36-42” (preferably 42”) of clearance for an aisle where one single person will be working. If there will be multiple people working simultaneously in the same area of the kitchen, a minimum clearance of 48” is recommended. If you have the space, always air on the side of the bigger the better and make walkways at least 48”wide. Having these walkway dimensions in mind will help decipher if your kitchen can accommodate an island or peninsula.  

Now onto establishing your workstations. Years ago a kitchen’s workstations or work zones were commonly referred to as the work triangle. This was a design principle developed many years ago referring to the refrigerator, sink, and range being between 4-9 feet apart roughly forming an equilateral triangle. Keep in mind this was during a time when kitchens were smaller and closed off from other rooms of the house - a place solely meant for cooking. Nowadays we all want larger, open concept kitchens and have more appliances then ever before - wall ovens, cooktops, microwaves, extra sinks, etc. Kitchens are also used for entertaining purposes more than just cooking. The work triangle is still helpful in today’s kitchen planning but is taken with a grain of salt and instead thought of in terms of workstations (or work zones).

In order to maximize efficiency in your kitchen, make a list of all the workstations you want in your kitchen. Here’s a list of what we see as “wants” in many of today’s kitchens:

  • Food prep area

  • Cooking (range or cooktop and wall ovens, microwave, refrigerator, etc.) - this will be divided up into multiple work stations

  • Dry food storage (pantry)

  • Cleaning (sink, dishwasher)

  • Serving area

  • Eating area

  • Coffee bar

  • Wine fridge / wet bar

Depending on your kitchen’s size and your budget, your list may look very similar or very different. Most importantly you’ll need a prep area, room to cook, clean, and store food. After those are established and if you have extra space, you can start incorporating other wants (serving and eating area, wine, coffee bar, etc.) into the mix.

Once you’ve chosen your workstations, next step is to choose their locations and select appliances/fixtures. This all depends on how your kitchen is oriented. Do you have an island or peninsula with seating? Do you have windows with a nice view? Is your kitchen apart of a great room or connected to your dining room? You’ll need to envision yourself cooking or entertaining in the space - when using the sink do you want to look out into your backyard or face guests seated at your island? Would you rather have your back be turned to guests while working at your range or cooktop? Will you need space next to your sink for drying dishes? Where will your dishwasher go in respect to your sink (hopefully next to it!)? There are so many more questions to consider but it’s ultimately driven by what YOU want. Take time on this!

Answering those questions will drive what appliances you want and where they will fit. You’ll also want to brief yourself on if your kitchen is following code - which is the third factor for floor planning. Your designer or contractor will be able to help you with this or do this for you but it’s good for you to know that there are guidelines that drive a lot of your decisions. For instance, it is required to have 12-15” of countertop space on BOTH sides of your cooktop as a landing area for prepared food. Code regulations vary depending on what city you’re in and whether you want your kitchen to be ADA compliant.

Cabinet layout

Now that you’ve placed all your appliances and located your workstations, let’s think about the nitty gritty stuff that goes into kitchen planning - cabinet layouts! When you plan out what every drawer, cabinet, and shelf will be used for you are setting yourself up for success in your new kitchen. When we are helping a client figure this out this is typically what we cover:

  • Spices - your cabinet maker should have inserts available that create drawers into great spice organizers, or you can specify a lazy susan in a cabinet, or a pull out cabinet with small shelves for spices - the list goes on. Make sure to see what your options are with your cabinet maker and what works in your kitchen. You should also make sure to put the spices close to your cooking appliances for easy access

  • Trays / cutting boards- one of the most common ways we see trays and cutting boards stored is in a cabinet that has dividers so they can be propped up and easily stored side by side. Just like the spices, ask your cabinet maker what your options are and think about what works in your kitchen. Try to find a middle ground between your prep area and oven/range so trays and cutting boards are both easily accessible for food prep and cooking

  • Pots/pans - if you have a cooktop, one of the most common locations we see for pots and pans are in drawers below the cooktop for easy access. You can also do cabinet doors with pull out drawers. We are seeing less and less lower cabinets with adjustable shelves because they make accessing your kitchenware a headache - no more bending down and having to dig through to find that one pan! If you have a range, have drawers or a cabinet with pull-out drawers on either side of the range for convenient access.

  • Dishware, glassware, and silverware - all should be close to the dishwasher so unloading it is a breeze! We most commonly see dishware in upper cabinets on adjustable shelves, in drawers that have divider pegs to keep things organized, or in cabinets with pull out drawers. If you have a lot of plates, make sure to request drawers with heavy duty hardware! Glassware is most always in an upper cabinet with adjustable shelves and silverware is in a drawer with an organizer

  • Knives - Nowadays a lot of people like having a dedicated drawer for knives instead of out on the counter. Most if not all cabinet companies have an option to add a knife block so your drawer is ready to go when you’re moving back into your kitchen. Knives should be close to your food prep area.

  • Trash / recycling bins - If you have the cabinet space and don’t want your trash to be under your sink, opt for a pull out cabinet close to your sink and dishwasher that accommodates your trash, recycling, and/or compost bins. This makes it much easier to access and frees up space under your sink for cleaning supplies or other household items. If you want shorter bins and a drawer above the trash pullout cabinet, save this drawer for garbage bags and liners for your bins!

  • Baking / cooking utensils -  typically allocated in drawers near the oven or range

  • Cuisinart, food processor, and/or other small kitchen appliances - because some of these items are heavy, the most efficient way to store these are in a cabinet with pull out drawers that have heavy duty hardware. You’ll want to think about what open countertop area you’ll be placing these appliances when in use. Depending on where that is, try to put the pull out drawers directly below that counter space for easy transferring.

  • Dry goods / tupperware - If you don’t have a dedicated pantry for these items think about adding a full length cabinet to your kitchen that has pull out drawers for easy access to dry food, tupperware, and other kitchen items


Finishes - the most fun part of the project! This is where you’ll select your flooring, cabinet color, backsplash, countertop, hardware, decorative lighting (if any), and finishes of your plumbing fixtures and appliances. These selections highly depend on your preferences, budget, and wants/needs. If you are overwhelmed by the idea of choosing something that’s functional yet aesthetically pleasing, hiring a designer will be your best bet :)


This is mostly a job for your contractor and electrician, however it’s good to be in the know and have an idea of what you want as lighting is the most important part of design. A well lit kitchen is EVERYTHING! You don’t want to be prepping your meals in spotty light, do you? Making sure your ceiling lights (most likely recessed cans) provide evenly spaced light is crucial, and adding under cabinet lighting is not only a way to provide layered light but to also ensure your cooking and prep areas are well lit.

If you have an island or peninsula and a ceiling height that allows for it, adding decorative lighting like hanging pendants is a must! These will add more interest to your kitchen as well as provide more light. Having your recessed ceiling lights, decorative lighting, and under cabinet lighting on their own switches creates layered lighting, catering to all moods! Are you done in the kitchen but are in the next room over entertaining or watching tv? Turn all the lights off except the under cabinet lighting to have some soft mood lighting.

Your contractor and electrician will make sure your kitchen’s electrical is up to code, but it is smart to have a discussion with them on outlet and light switch locations. You’ll want to make sure light switches are in a place that’s easy to access and makes sense to anyone who enters your kitchen. As for outlets, there are rules around their locations but talk to your electrician if there are certain areas you want to make sure you have one (where you’ll be plugging in appliances, under or on the side of your island, etc.)

Not going to lie, outlet locations can be the bane of existence for interior designers .Why, you ask? Because we don’t want the pretty backsplash design we select to be interrupted!! Which is why we LOVE to specify outlet strips underneath upper cabinets if we can. You should look into this if you’d prefer to have outlets hidden too.

WHEW, that was a lot to get through! I bet you need to refill that wine glass or coffee cup of yours (if you hadn’t already). BUT even though that took awhile to get through, don’t you feel a little more educated on what’s in store for when you make your dream kitchen a reality? I hope so! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions and make sure to print out the check list below.

Kitchen Planning Checklist:

  • Kitchen Layout

    • Workstations

    • Codes & Regulations

    • Work aisles

  • Cabinet layout (finding a place for everything)

    • Spices

    • Trays / cutting boards

    • Pots/pans

    • Dishware

    • Glassware

    • Silverware

    • Knives

    • Trash / recycling bins

    • Baking / cooking utensils

    • Cuisinart, food processor, and/or other small kitchen appliances

    • Dry goods / tupperware

  • Finishes

    • Flooring

    • Cabinet color (stain, paint, etc.)

    • Countertop material

    • Backsplash

    • Hardware

    • Light Fixtures / plumbing fixtures / appliance finishes (integrated, stainless steel, etc.)

  • Electrical

    • Ceiling lights layout

    • Under cabinet lighting

    • Light switches and outlet locations

As a side note, if all of this seems overwhelming to you - the most beneficial thing for you to do is hire an interior designer. We have years of experience in space planning, selecting finishes, and all the like when it comes to designing your kitchen - or any room of your house for that matter. So please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or want to know more about our process and doing business with us!

Kimberlee GorslineComment