Kitchens come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are quite large with islands and open concepts that lead into living spaces whereas others take up the footprint of a closet.In any case, as the “heart” of the home, kitchens are often a popular place for people to gather, and in recent years, open kitchens have become very popular. Of course, a city apartment kitchen is going to be incredibly small compared to one in a home in the suburbs, but there are many ways to create a stunning kitchen environment, no matter the size. In this article, we will walk through the process of making kitchen design choices for all size spaces.
Determine Your Needs
When you decide to upgrade your kitchen, the most important factor you need to consider is what you typically prepare in the kitchen. Of course, it goes without saying that normal weekday meals must be made, but do you also like to entertain? When you do entertain, are guests in the kitchen or do they visit in another room? Is it a traditional Sunday dinner with the family, or a monthly cocktail party with friends? Are you making pizza and chicken wings or steak and lobster? In other words, is it worth installing a pizza oven and deep fryer, or are you better off with an indoor grill?
What you plan to do in the kitchen should be what you base all purchasing and design decisions around. If you host the family’s Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners each year, it’s a good plan to make sure you can fit enough food in the oven. You’ll want to make sure you have enough counter space and have space in the fridge to defrost a large turkey. If your teenage son or daughter is popular and your house is where their friends hang out, it’s worth making sure you have a big enough pantry for snacks and munchies.
If that wasn’t enough to worry about, you also need to consider storage and space to move about.
Who’s the Chef?
On an average night, do you do the cooking? Is it your wife or partner? Or is it a shared responsibility?
Do your kids enjoy baking cookies with you? All of these factors need to play into the design and concept. Having counter space that lifts up with storage underneath can be a blessing when you have limited space, but if you’re a hunter and often cook with raw meat, any crevice or opening in the counter can be a hotbed for bacteria and disease.
For large families or those who frequently entertain, having two ovens can be great. But it’s important to factor in space and determine how you move in the kitchen to figure out if it’s better to have them stacked, or side by side with a cook top above.
Some people are home chefs or culinarians. In fact, they may be a professional chef looking for a chef-style kitchen that offers most of the amenities their restaurant kitchen has. This may include multiple ovens, a gas range or induction cooktop, built-in fryer, flat top, a large counter space for prep and some even enjoy the perks of a walk-in fridge, freezer or pantry.
For others, it means having appliances that take the work out of cooking. It might mean more room for eat-in options with quick-service options for meals such as convection ovens and oversized microwaves. The important thing is to determine your personal needs followed by your desires when planning the design.
Here are a few things worth considering:
- How much do you enjoy cooking, cleaning and prep?
- How many people do you plan to feed on a daily basis?
- Do you tend to eat at the table as a family or do the members of your household fend for themselves?
- Do you entertain a lot? If so, what is the maximum number of people you regularly cook for?
- Do you plan to eat in the kitchen, entertain in the kitchen or just cook?
- Do you hire staff when entertaining? Will you need space for them to work?
- What style is your home? Will the kitchen be open concept or closed off to the living areas such as the sitting room and dining room?
- What styles of cooking do you enjoy?
- What special appliances do you need for your enjoyment? (i.e. – a pizza oven, deep fryer, flat cook top, indoor grill, etc.)
What Are Your Goals?
Goals are different than needs or wants. This determines the purpose of the renovation. Typically, there are three reasons to do a full renovation of a kitchen or upgrade the design.
- You plan to sell and want to increase the value of your home.
- You just moved into the home and want a kitchen that better suits your needs.
- Your kitchen is outdated and in need of an upgrade.
Once you’ve determined your primary goal, it’s time to assess your wants and decide on a budget to allocate to the redesign.
How to Select a Budget
It’s often difficult to plan a budget without first speaking to a designer or sourcing your new appliances. We do recommend speaking with a few decorators to determine a base budget, but you should have a general idea of what you want to spend in advance, with a bit of a buffer should construction go over budget.
The first thing you want to consider is your needs vs. wants. Do you need a Viking range or will a less expensive stove suffice? Are you set on imported countertops or will locally sourced granite work? Put together a list of your must-haves and the items you would simply like to have. Then contact the designer and ask them to give you a range so you can determine if you can afford everything you want or if you’ll have to prioritize and cut some things.
In the event you have to cut items, it’s often a good plan to redesign with the intention of upgrading over time. A good designer and contractor will be able to figure out ways for your kitchen to meet your needs and budget while still allowing you to add-in the luxuries you couldn’t afford during round one of construction. Often there are other ways to find savings.
Here are a few of our favorite techniques for saving money on design elements:
- Prioritize the finishes. List all of the components that go into your new kitchen and then prioritize them in terms of where you will spend money first. If you can’t imagine your kitchen without granite countertops but can , then put them first.
- Source appliances, fixtures, tiles, granite, marble, etc. on your own in addition to letting the contractor source it for you. Unfortunately, some less reliable contractors will often add significant markup to the cost of materials, and you can sometimes avoid paying extra by finding less expensive options yourself. Contractors will also often go to the same place for materials to save time and due to a business relationship with the vendor. You should never feel bad about directing them somewhere else or making the purchase yourself to save some money. Often the savings on materials can be quite significant.
- Consider Ikea kitchens and other DIY-capable kitchens if you’re working with a small budget. There is no requirement to have your designer or contractor source cupboards and other kitchen materials that can be found at stores like Ikea for less. This is especially useful if you’re doing the renovation for the purpose of increasing your home’s value or appeal for sale.
4. Don’t just buy local. In the world of online shopping, it can sometimes prove to be less expensive to have an item, appliance, fixture or material shipped in than to purchase it locally. You can often purchase direct from the manufacturer, and it’s not unusual to find larger items available with free shipping through sites like Amazon.
5. Talk to friends. You may find that your friends know someone or can recommend a place where they had a good experience.
6. Buy dented or open box appliances. These appliances have been returned to the store opened or superficially damaged. If the side of your dishwasher or fridge won’t show and it has some scratches, then why not save a couple hundred dollars?
Small Space Kitchens
Kitchens are all about capabilities. For many who live in rental spaces, renovating a kitchen isn’t always an option. The paint color may be the only element you are allowed to change when the entire room needs an overhaul. If you do plan to stay in the rental long term, you should try negotiating with the landlord by explaining that if you pay the cost to upgrade the kitchen, they will reap the benefits in the end by being able to charge higher rent for the next tenants. You could even ask about splitting costs. At the very least they may be willing to let you sub-out the appliances, which you can negotiate by explaining that new appliances have less risk of starting fires, which mitigate their risk as a landlord. You may feel like you’re stuck with what you moved into, but many landlords are happy to let you make improvements if it won’t cost them and they can approve the details.
For houses and apartments will small kitchens, the biggest part of the design can often be finding space and making sure every space is utilized. Incorporating larger drawers for storage instead of cabinets can give you extra space, as can purchasing a separate cooktop and oven vs. a packaged all-inclusive stove. Appliances from Europe can often help save room. German, Dutch, Swiss and Swedish manufacturers are renowned for the quality of their products as well as producing items that work well in confined spaces.
An induction oven can be very useful in small spaces as you can often fit more on the cook top than you could on a range. Since it’s flat, items won’t fall off, and all the space is usable. Plus, if you touch the cooktop you won’t risk burning yourself, and non-induction cookware can safely sit on the stove without heating.
Granite counters are also a swell idea since you don’t technically require cutting boards and can cut directly on the counter, which saves room and means not having to take up valuable storage space.
For larger spaces, there is more room to play. However, it is often challenging to create a comforting space in a large kitchen, and a risk is that it may often feel sterile or industrial. The biggest tip we can offer for a larger remodel is to engage an experienced designer who understands texture and using various raw materials. By implementing different design elements in small spaces, you can use texture to lend an air of coziness you may not be able to achieve by sticking with a solid color scheme as you might in a smaller kitchen. Rather than using matching cupboards under the counter and above, you may want to consider contrasting cupboards, the use of raw materials like stone, brick and woods and larger, oversized counter spaces to take up room.
Small items like double sinks, two stoves instead of one and a larger custom cooktop will add depth to the kitchen, giving you more opportunity to cook and a more comfortable and cozy environment. Wrought iron, wood beams across the ceiling and even ceiling fans and the use of focused lighting can add to the comfort of a large kitchen. Adding an island or two, an eat-in table or a bar area can help to take up unused space. Another popular technique is to build out the cabinetry with room for a walk-in pantry that’s hidden behind the wall of cabinets and cupboards.
We all dream of the ultimate renovation, but they can get very expensive. Here are few ways to immediately improve the look of your kitchen without spending a fortune.
- Repaint the trim and cabinetry for a fresh feel.
- Focus your money on matching appliances rather than design.
- Replace wood cabinets with a different style such as open shelving, glass cabinets or even a heavier stone cabinet.
- Replace the kitchen hardware such as the handles on your cabinets.
- Change out the lighting in your kitchen and consider spot lighting as well as lights under the cabinets that shine onto the counter.
- Spend money on one area that’s a focal point, such as the countertop or redoing the floor.
- Use decor elements to change the look of the kitchen.
Choosing Appliances – Do Your Homework
As far as kitchen design, the award goes to the Germans. The appliances produced are top of the line; the storage options are unlike the ones we see in America, and the ability to find room in a closet-style kitchen is worthy of a slow clap.
If you are in the market for new appliances, be sure to check out the various ones produced in Germany.
When discussing essential appliances, we’re referring to the large ones like the fridge and freezer, the stove, the oven and the dishwasher. Often the thought that bigger is better comes into play, but there is so much more to consider.
The way a kitchen is designed should be based on the way you cook. If you have a busy family, and you need to get dinner on the table quickly, an induction stove and cooktop will heat up the fastest and provides the most accurate heat. On top of that, with some of the new technology, you don’t have to worry about burning small fingers on the stove should they touch the element while you’re cooking.
On the other hand, if you’re old fashioned you might prefer a gas range. Most culinarians will argue that gas ranges offer the best control over your cooking but induction is actually more accurate than gas. Moreover, gas stoves are extremely challenging to keep clean, while induction cooktops are easy to clean.
When you are ready to buy new appliances, make sure to educate yourself first and compare prices online.
Certain Brands Are Known For Certain Items
Often, people get all appliances from one brand and sometimes even the same series to create a consitent look. At the same time, many stainless steel appliances these days have the same finishes but they look very different under the hood. Also, Bosch dishwashers have earned a reputation for being not only delivering super clean dishes, but they are also extremely quiet and easy to maintain. Everybody who had a Bosch 800 series dishwasher for years won’t switch back to something else. Yet, the induction cooktops produced by GE is superior to Bosch. On the other hand, if you like to bake, Bosch makes once again a phenomenal product, but their microwaves are of poor built quality and are way overpriced. Instead, Panasonic, LG, Samsung or Sharp will deliver a better quality.
The biggest tip to keep in mind is to stick with reputable brand names only. There are many lesser known brands and no-name brands that sell their products for far less than the household names do, but you also don’t typically get the same quality of the product. Now sometimes, certain products sold at Sears or Ikea are just private labelled and made by bigger brands, but that doesn not mean they are made to the same quality standards. So keep that in mind.
Brands with a good track record include Bosch, Miele, Viking, Gaggenau, Thermador, La Cornue and Subzero/Wolf. Other brands like Samsung, GE, LG, Kenmore and Frigidaire also offer good value for less money.
Research The Brand
Don’t just take the salesperson’s word for it. Check online reviews of the products and ask questions. One product may work well for one type of cook but not for another, and it does not make sense to buy appliance “packages.” Of course, you can always get a lemon, but some products are truly superior than others.They may offer a slight discount to buy all the appliances from one brand, but few brands perform well in all appliance categories. If the uniform look of your kitchen is the primary concern, then a package may be right for you. For all others, research each appliance based on your needs.
If you want a well-designed kitchen from one source including the appliances, take a look at SieMatic, their luxury kitchens are pricey but last for decades.
Design and Construction
Unless you’re extremely handy or own a construction company, it’s best to leave the kitchen to the professionals. Hire a licensed interior designer to take charge and help you figure out the best layout and design. Once your kitchen is built, though, you still need room to grow.
Extra Tools and Small Appliances
If you’re anything like the Gentleman’s Gazette editors, you have a collection of rarely used and frequently used equipment. From a sous vide to a sausage maker and Vitamix blender, there is no shortage of small gadgets in the kitchen. Having them well organized is important. If you don’t have defined spots for everything, it doesn’t matter how big the kitchen is; it will always feel small and disorganized. On the other hand, you might have a galley-sized kitchen but utilize German-inspired design to make the most of the space, meaning each gadget has its spot and the ones you only use once or twice a year are stored in the basement or the pantry.
There is no shortage of design opportunities for your kitchen. A quick look on Pinterest will show you thousands of different kitchen designs and cool gadgets to consider. In the end, you have to design the kitchen that works best for you and the way you cook.
Stick with brand names, focus on buying appliances that will last, and don’t waste money on gadgets that take up space if you’ll never use them. If you do need to save money, consider kitchen designs by Ikea instead of hiring a contractor, or try and find gently used appliances or showroom appliances you can get for a discounted price.
Kitchens are one of the most expensive renovations you can do in a home. Unless you have an unlimited budget, that design needs to last for years. Avoid trends and focus on classic designs that won’t go out of style as quickly. To add personality to the kitchen consider tablecloths, flowers, art and unique seating or lighting configurations. What tips and tricks do you have? What are your favorite appliances?