How to design the perfect kitchen (6 food bloggers tell all)

Do you love to cook? Me too. I wondered what professional chefs would find important in a home kitchen, so I asked 6 of them. I thought they might want things like 8 burner Wolf stoves and industrial freezers, but it turns out they want the same things we all do - lots of light, lots of space, and the right equipment.

Read on to find out just what's on their wish lists and how to get it in your kitchen.

Designing a kitchen? Remember these 4 things: lighting, layout, organization, + tools.

Tweet this

Plenty of lighting

Every well designed space should have 3 types of lighting: ambient, task, and accent. The kitchen is no different. Plenty of natural daylight is ideal but most of us have to cook at night, too! 

AMBIENT LIGHTING

Daylight is the perfect ambient light. Here's how to make sure you have some:

  • Remove a wall if it will let in more light from an adjacent room.
  • If you have an exterior wall with no windows, consider removing your upper cabinets to add windows. What do you do with the lost space? Read the "good organization" section to find out!
  • Don't forget window coverings, especially if you have a southern or eastern exposure!

Ambient light at night is usually provided by recessed or canned ceiling lights. Use a smaller aperture for a more modern look. 

The pendants over a kitchen island are another example of ambient lighting. These serve another function of accenting your kitchen island and creating a focal point. This is a great place to have some fun and show off your personality, so get creative and pick lights that you truly love.

TASK LIGHTING

If you cook, your kitchen simply must have under cabinet lights. These can be hardwired or plugged in and mounted under your cabinets. LED strips work well - their low profile means they don't shine in your eyes and their tight spacing avoids "hot spots" where too much light is concentrated in one place. 

If you have floating shelves or no cabinets at all, you don't need this lighting because - yay! - there are no cabinets to cast a dark shadow over half of your work space! 

Another important task light you don't want to forget is a pendant or canned light directly over your sink. 

ACCENT LIGHTING

For open shelves or glass front cabinets, add rows of LED lighting below each shelf and at the top of a cabinet. You can also add cove lighting if you have a space between the top of your cabinets and the ceiling. This is typically hidden behind the moulding atop your cabinets. 

A good layout

The worst thing about my kitchen is the layout. The room is very enclosed and cramped, with limited counter space and a small galley between the counter and refrigerator. It is difficult for more than 2 people to be in the kitchen at the same time, and even then it can get crowded.
— Dawn Karwoski | Our Food Fix

OPEN FLOOR PLAN

Most new houses today come with an open layout, but if you have an older house that hasn't been remodeled (yet!), you probably have a kitchen that is a discrete room. Here are the steps to create an open floor plan:

  • Remove a wall
  • Add an island
  • Fix the flooring and the ceiling

Just kidding. It's a tiny bit more complicated than that. But those are the basic steps.

There is usually a wall that can be removed to open up the space either to a living room or dining room. If you can't open the wall completely due to budgetary or structural restrictions, consider creating a "pass-through" or peninsula.

Removing a wall is a great time to add an island. These can include a range, but unless you like to cook for an audience I actually think they work best without them. They add counter space and can double as a dining/ entertaining area. A sink is optional. 

I would love to open the kitchen up more and have an island versus a wall cutting it off from the living room. This way, I could cook or bake and still be able to entertain my guests in the living room. Also, it would provide much better lighting as more natural light would be available.
— Zach Harpine | Poco Cielo

Removing a wall means that suddenly, you will see two rooms at once. If these rooms had different flooring, it may clash. The best solution is one new flooring for the entire space. 

You will also suddenly see two sets of light fixtures at once. This may make your space look cluttered, or they may actually no longer be in the right place. Fixtures may need to be moved to re-center them. Some pendants or flush lights may need to be removed and replaced with canned lights if too much is happening on the ceiling. 

MINIMAL UPPER CABINETS

Upper cabinets take up wall space that can be used for - you guessed it - windows! They can make a kitchen feel a bit claustrophobic. Some of them are also hard to use - think of those cabinets over your fridge or microwave. Can you remember what's in them? I can't. 

If you do have upper cabinets, make sure there is a good 18" between the counter and the bottom of the cabinets. Less than that not only looks cramped, it IS cramped. It will be hard to fit your small appliances (coffee maker, mixer, etc) under there. 

MAXIMUM AISLE WIDTH

48" is the gold standard. If you ever expect two people to be in your kitchen at once, you should have a minimum of 42". 36" is the absolute minimum, but use that only if you really never cook or your house/ apartment is tiny. 

AMPLE COUNTER SPACE

Adequate counter space is so important. Luckily, there are well established guidelines telling us how much we need. 

  • 20" to either side of the sink
  • 15" to either side of a range
  • 36" - 60" of continuous prep space (this can include the landing spaces around sinks and ranges)

Keep in mind that these are minimums. You will never regret adding more counter space to your design. 

Easy organization

Everyone wants to be organized but finding the right system can be elusive. Building systems in to your kitchen can help tremendously. Eliminating items you don't actually use is another great way to be more organized in the kitchen. Do what you can to make staying organized day-to-day easier. 

If an item isn’t essential, unused, or broken it’s gone. Cooking in a cluttered and packed kitchen isn’t fun or inspiring.
— Bianca Osbourne, Private Chef

CUSTOM CABINETRY

If you are installing custom cabinetry, anything is possible. But even if you're not, there are many add-ons that can improve stock or semi-custom cabinets (or whatever you already have). 

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Trash pull-out
  • Sponge tilt-tray
  • Pull-out cabinet drawers
  • Spice rack pull-out

I am also a big fan of drawer dividers and strong knife magnets

FULL WALL PANTRY

IF you are eliminating upper wall cabinets and don't have a walk-in pantry, you need one of these. They take up about as much space as a fridge and look just like a cabinet from the outside. Because, well, they are cabinets. 

The right equipment

You don't need every fancy (and expensive!) gadget out there. You just need the right ones for how you cook. This is what the chefs I surveyed asked for:

MARBLE COUNTERS

Because these stay cool, they are wonderful if you bake a lot and make pastries. They also happen to be right on trend at the moment and a classic choice for any kitchen. 

The one thing I would change about my kitchen is the counter tops. I would like deeper counters made from a different material. Marble would be ideal for the cool aspect when making pastries and breads that benefit from a cool work surface.
— Rebecca Robson | The Budget Allergy Kitchen

GAS BURNERS

Cooking with gas gives you more control than cooking with electric burners. If you are lucky enough to have gas already, use it! If you want to add a gas line to your kitchen, you will have to run gas from the nearest source. Many houses have a gas furnace or water heater, but this depends a lot on the area where you live. If your house has no gas at all you will have to contact your local municipality to get it permitted and have a line brought to your home.

PLEASE NOTE: I am writing from the US and everything is based on my experience here. In some other countries I have spent time in - Mexico, China and Singapore - it is common to have a propane tank in your kitchen and simply draw gas from that. Always follow your own local codes. 

DOUBLE OVENS

I love these. You can either buy two wall ovens and install them one on top of the other, or you can buy a range that has two ovens without taking up more space. Depending on the style, they can be stacked or adjacent to each other. 

Some people who don't ordinarily bake a lot do want two ovens for holiday baking. Depending on your area, these can be a bonus when selling a home. 

THE FOOD BLOGGERS:

A special Thank You to the wonderful chefs who contributed to this article.

If you love to cook, check out these websites - you will find some DELICIOUS recipes.

Marlee Brady | I Just Make Sandwiches | Mussels alla Puttanesca

Bianca Osbourne | Bianca Osbourne | Italian Meatball Soup

Zach Harpine | Poco Cielo | Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

Penny Arnold | The Twin Kitchen | Blueberry Streusel Pie

Dawn Karwoski | Our Food Fix | Cauliflower Fried Rice

Rebecca Robson | The Budget Allergy Kitchen | Baked Southern-Fried Chicken

 

Subscribe BELOW to get the Free Perfect Kitchen Design Checklist AND access to our Resource Library

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in: