ADVICE & TIPS, TECHNICAL

Top 10 Kitchen Design Tips – From A Kitchen Designer

In my day-to-day life as a kitchen designer, I’m always getting questions and being asked for advice or kitchen design tips on what clients need to think about when designing a new kitchen.

So, to help out. I’ve come up with my Top 10 Kitchen Design Tips. Full of information I most often get asked about or I think are the most important things to consider when designing a new kitchen.

Let’s go!

Top 10 Kitchen Design Tips

1. Time

As with most tasks in life, things tend to take longer than you anticipate. This is especially true when it comes to designing your kitchen.

Not only can the job of designing take several weeks, but once you are happy with the design ordering the kitchen units themselves can take anywhere between 2-10 weeks depending on the brand (very high-end may even be longer).

With such a large and important purchase, give yourself as much time as possible so you don’t feel panicked or rushed into making a mistake or overlooking those small details. And believe me, the small details matter.

If you are doing a refurbishment, take your time; get it right before you pull the trigger on the project. If you are having an extension built and the kitchen is part of that, I would suggest starting the kitchen design as soon as you have your plans drawn up and you know the dimensions of the space.

Securing the kitchen layout is the priority as this will then dictate the rest of the space as well as locations for water, electric, gas etc. that all need to be known before building work can start.

2. Budget

There is no right or wrong budget, but knowing your budget will dictate the type of kitchen you can achieve, and it can help avoid some heartache.

There are many brands and markets out there that cater to every budget. When we talk about the kitchen budget it should include cabinets, worktops, appliances and installation.

It is important to first come up with your overall spend, then once you know that you can allocate this across the four sections according to which is most important to you.

Example: for the tech-heads amongst us, you might be happy with a more cost-effective cabinet to get the latest and greatest kitchen appliances.

Conversely, it might be all about those hand-painted, finely detailed, solid wood cabinets and just some more basic appliances and a timber worktop.

But how much does it all cost!?

I hear this question all the time and the truth is it costs as much as you want it to (within reason).

Let’s take a medium-sized kitchen, maybe a run of units with some tall cabinets and a modest island or an L-shape with a peninsula, nothing enormous but also nothing very small, and break down some rough costs.

Quick price guide:

CategoryBudgetMid-RangeHigh-End
CabinetsBig Sheds: £2k-8kIndependent Kitchen Companies: £8k-20kTop Kitchen Brands: £20k-80k
Worktops£250-1.5k£2k-5k£6k-12k
Appliances£2k-4kMid-Range: £4k-10kTop-End: £10k-50k
InstallationsLocal Trades: £1.5-3kKitchen Company: £3k-5kTop-End Full Service: £5k-10k
Kitchen renovation price guide

These figures are just a guide to help give an overall picture of the industry. The actual costs can vary hugely depending on the type or brand of product picked.

For example, a thin plain slab door is usually much cheaper than a solid wood shaker; even if the layout is identical the cost difference from just the doors can be thousands.

Know there is always room to go up and down in these categories – that’s why a budget and allocating it to what you deem most important is such a critical step.

You May Also Like:
How Much Does A New Kitchen Cost? | An In-Depth Guide


If you prefer watching videos, check out my Kitchen Design Tips video below:


3. Function & Layout

In my opinion, this is THE most important part when designing your kitchen (or any space for that matter).

How you use and interact with the space on a day-to-day basis is huge. You want it to work seamlessly and logically. You don’t want to be walking from one end of the kitchen to the other all the time just trying to make a cup of tea.

Often referred to as the working triangle (or triangles), you want to achieve a working flow that connects the main sections of your kitchen without spacing them too far apart or being on top of one another. These sections are usually the sink, hob, fridge, and ovens.

So think, when you are stood at the hob and you want to get something out of the fridge, can you pivot and walk 1-3 steps to get there, then pivot and walk 1-3 steps to the sink to fill your pan with water, then back to the hob.

Think about these sections and the main pathways between them. What you don’t want is to walk from one end to the other and then around the island to something else.

It’s not just about the floorplan, think about the practicality of your appliance placement. For example, if you’re vertically challenged, you want to make sure that you can reach your essential cabinets and appliances.

A poor layout will drive you mad!

Working triangle kitchen design tips
Example of a ‘Working Triangle’

You May Also Like:
Best Kitchen Layouts – A Complete Guide To Design

4. Space

Having just talked about the function/layout, it is also important to consider the physical space in the kitchen. Once you’ve got your layout locked down, just take a step back and look at what space you have between everything.

While you don’t want to walk miles, you also need a certain amount of space to walk around and not bang into other people. As a general guide, you want to allow a minimum of 1 metre between cabinets. A little bit more is great, much less and things can get a bit cramped.

You want to allow space to stand and open the doors widely and not be squashed or be able to stand to prep a meal while someone else can walk behind you without everyone breathing in and shimmying past. 

Look out for pinch points (the narrowest sections created between units or walls/beams/furniture etc.) and apply the 1-metre rule there as well. This may mean having slightly shallower units or stopping that little bit shorter on the run so you have more general moving-around space.

Top Tip: When it comes to seating in a kitchen, be that on an island or peninsular breakfast bar, allow at least 60 cm per person you want to seat.
Once again, a little more is nice for some extra elbow room, much less and everything becomes too much of a squeeze.
So, if you want to sit 4 comfortably at an island breakfast bar, you should make the island at least 2.4 metres.

5. Storage

Along with more practical space, increased storage is the reason I hear most for why people want a new kitchen. Let’s be honest, you can never have too much.

When it comes to storage, I break it down into two types: more physical cabinets and cabinet size to increase storage, and more practical storage solutions such as pull-out larders and ‘le-mans’ (kidney bean) corner units.

A combination of both is best, but if you only have a small kitchen to work with, concentrate on more practical storage and maximizing the space and ease. Drawers are more expensive than a normal swing door cabinet but far more practical for storage.

Just think, you pull everything out to you so you can see and access everything, rather than bending down and looking in the back and moving things to get to what you want. The same applies to corner units that have mechanisms such as the ‘le-mans’ that pull out towards you.

When it comes to the size of your cabinets most manufacturers have a few different ‘standard’ sizes. So going for taller wall units or tower units can be a great way to increase storage and help maximize space.

Just keep an eye on your ceiling height and what you can fit into your space.

You May Also Like:
The Best Corner Cupboard Storage Solutions For Your Kitchen

6. Light

Often overlooked, light can play a big role in the overall feel of your kitchen space. Whether that’s adding some new spotlights to a refurbished kitchen or planning in skylights and a lovely set of French doors to an extension, you want to create a light environment in which to live and cook.

No one likes a dark dingy corner, so pay attention to where your light is and don’t block it, and if you don’t have much, create it.

Using pendant lights over an island or breakfast bar is a fantastic way to bring in some unique style to your space as well as some more direct light for those areas.

Adding under-wall unit lights is an absolute must and most manufacturers can do this in the factory now creating a flush built-in light, so no ugly plastic thing sticking down.

Not only does it give more light for prep work, but it can also double up to create a softer atmosphere in the evening, turning off the main lights and only using the cabinet lights. LEDs are the way to go now, not only will they last much longer but they will also cost a lot less to run, so avoid those fluorescent tubes and halogen lights.

Top Tip: LED lights come in different colour temperatures. Depending on your preference you can have a warmer more yellow colour or a colder white/blue colour.

7. Worktop Space

You’ve done it; you’ve got your dream kitchen and you’re moving everything back in and filling the cupboards. You put your toaster out, your microwave, your mixer, your coffee machine; the radio goes back along with that bowl for the keys and general rubbish.

Then it hits you…there’s no more worktop space to actually use to prep and cook food. Fail!

As with storage, think about what items you have that live on the worktop and plan these in during the design stage. This will let you know how much real working space you will have left.

Thinking about this earlier may dictate your kitchen, for example, to gain some more worktop space you may consider putting the microwave in a wall unit or tower unit.

Instead of having the toaster and mixer out all the time maybe plan in a worktop or pantry unit to hide them away when not needed and save worktop space.

8. Bins

I know, not the sexiest of topics but you do need them and you do use them every single day, which makes them important to think about.

I’ve been to houses where they’ve had a lovely new modern handle-less kitchen with clean lines and empty worktops only to have some ugly plastic bins plonked on the end of it. Illusion shattered!

I’m not saying you have to have built-in bins, although they are great at keeping a clean-looking kitchen if you have the cupboard space to sacrifice. Bigger freestanding bins are often a necessity, especially for a family kitchen.

My advice is to think about this during the design stage. Plan them into your space so they are a bit more subtle or have a dedicated spot. It’s when they become an afterthought that it can ruin the space. So don’t forget your bins!

9. Power

Like storage, you can never have too much power – and now is the time to add those extra power points. Better to have one or two spares than to have to get multiple plugs or extension leads, creating a spaghetti junction.

Just remember, not too close to the sink or hob and don’t forget to add power to the island! Pop-up sockets or sockets on end panels are a must for any island, especially if you intend it to be a social/workspace.

Sockets these days are more than just square and white. You can get all kinds of different finishes, so have a quick look around and for not much more money you can really create a luxury feel to the space.

Top Tip: Get sockets with built-in USB ports for charging phones and tablets. This will free up the socket itself for other items.

10. Floors

Okay, I admit this is a little off the kitchen topic, but a new floor is almost always part of a new kitchen project. Whether that’s wood, tiles or a form of vinyl, there are pros and cons to all. Style/budget/durability etc…

However, once you have decided, make sure you get the floor down first and make sure you floor the entire area. This may split opinions but in all my experience it pays to get the whole area done.

Not only does this create a uniform level on which to install the kitchen cabinets, but if you ever decide to change something or move a unit, you’re not left with an ugly gap to try and fill.

It is especially important if you have any freestanding appliances, such as an American fridge freezer, washing machine or wine cooler.

You want these to have the flooring running all the way under, again, to avoid any unsightly gaps in the floor and to make sure if you swap any of these items in the future that you’re covered.

You May Also Like:
10 Kitchen Design Mistakes – Try To Avoid These!

Final Thoughts…

There you have it! My top 10 kitchen design tips.

I hope these kitchen design tips can help you out and get you thinking about your new kitchen a bit more. I wish you the best of luck with your new kitchen project. Happy designing!

If you’d like some more information about getting a new kitchen, have a read of my post How Much Does a New Kitchen Cost?

DISCOVER MORE

Author

Michael from Kitchinsider.com

Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.