Kitchen Design Basics

You’ve got a remodeling request that just came your way. Or maybe there’s a new construction project that you’ve just signed up to do. You might be trying to do the work on your own in your home to save on labor costs. Whether you’re a professional or you take the DIY approach, kitchen design basics always create a unique set of challenges.

There is always a set amount of space that is dedicated to the kitchen. A new construction project has a little more flexibility, but there are still some insurmountable boundaries that are present. You’ve got flooring considerations. There are cabinetry issues that must be handled. What do you install? Can you re-face an existing cabinet?

What about the kitchen sink? And does the kitchen faucet need an upgrade as well?

What Is the Size of the Kitchen?

The available space of your kitchen must be the first step in your evaluation process. Most kitchens are relatively small, averaging 200 square feet or less. Some homes may even dedicate less than 100 square feet to this central room.

That 100 square foot size is important. It is the benchmark that is used by the industry to create a fully functional space. You can still install cabinets and have counter space in a kitchen that size. Anything smaller and you’re forced to begin compressing the fixtures and features.

Having a small kitchen isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With modern technologies and innovative features, a one-wall kitchen can still be more than a simple gallery. It just requires a creative, unique approach to the remodel or design. Ingenuity will always conquer space limitations in all but the most extreme circumstances.

One of the easiest ways to create a warm and inviting kitchen is to keep the Triangle Approach in mind as you build a design. For most homes, including apartments, flats, and condos, there are three points of contact that receive daily attention.

  • The sink.
  • The stove.
  • The refrigerator.

A kitchen design basic element is to create a triangle of movement between these three contact points that is tight and refined. When you can make the space efficient, it becomes easier to cook, work, or find a snack in time to beat the return of a show from a commercial.

That means focusing on the features that these three elements can provide. A refrigerator can double as an ice-maker and a drinking water distributor. The stove can also host the microwave above it while still reserving space for an exhaust vent. At the sink, the best kitchen faucets provide a multi-functional approach to accomplish multiple chores with good speed.

Features and efficient movement aren’t enough. There must also be a good kitchen layout for the remainder of the design elements to make the space become as inviting as possible.

The Best Kitchen Design Layouts to Use

Once you’ve figured out how to incorporate the Triangle Approach for your 3 key elements of the kitchen, then you’re ready to build out a design that makes it easy to access that triangle at all times. There are four common design options that are routinely used in homes and businesses today.

#1. The Corridor. This is the most common design option. It provides a walkway through the kitchen, offering cabinetry and counters on both sides of the walkway. The design can still be used in small spaces as well, especially if the sink is on one side of the corridor and the fridge is on the other side of it.

#2. The “L” Kitchen. This design is similar to the corridor approach, but it utilizes a “L” shape to the corridor so that accessing the core appliances and fixtures is very easy to do.

#3. The Island. This type of kitchen uses the same design elements of the L kitchen, but has enough space in the middle of the room that an island can be built. The island might hold the sink, the stove, or be extra cabinetry and counter space. The island can be any shape, though efficient space is often created when the L shaping is added to this extra space.

#4 The Horseshoe. This design option is good for homes that either have a large space for their kitchen or the structure of the home puts the kitchen into a natural “U” shape. The benefit of this design option is that it provides added storage space and can often include a pantry.

One design consideration that is often under-utilized is cabinetry height. Many homes have a cabinet above the refrigerator that is not accessible to a person of average height. Some kitchens have shelving that is too high for the average person as well. Bringing the cabinets down from the ceiling can solve many of these issues.

Cabinets that are not flush with the ceiling also create a cleanliness issue. Over time, a gap between a ceiling and the top of a cabinet can even be a fire hazard. Grease moves upward with smoke particles from cooking if an exhaust fan is working inefficiently. Those particles settle on the top of wood cabinetry. With enough heat, that grease can turn to oil and then catch fire.

There is no easy answer here. Talk with your clients. For homeowners, think about how you might use that space. Then you can design elements that work with your faucets, sink, and appliances to have the best possible use of your space.

Flooring and Your Kitchen: Here Are the Requirements

The kitchen floor must meet certain requirements. It is the most popular room in most homes, which means it receives the most traffic. The floor must be able to stand up to consistent moisture exposure. It must be comfortable to stand on for long periods while cooking, cleaning, or doing other kitchen-based chores.

And then the flooring needs to look fantastic. One of the elements that makes or breaks a home sale is the condition and aesthetic value of the kitchen floor.

Here are the requirements that you’ll want to think about when working out a basic kitchen design for a remodel or a new construction project.

Do make sure the flooring is stain-resistant. Tile floors are an excellent option, but they do need to be sealed to prevent staining. As an added bonus, tile tends to be one of the cheaper options that is available, but still meets durability requirements.

Don’t use carpet for your kitchen. You’re just asking for trouble if you do. It might seem like common sense, but there are more carpeted kitchens out there than you might realize.

Do think about using a hardwood or laminate flooring. Not only are these flooring options popular because of their nature-driven themes, but they are easy enough to maintain or repair if necessary. This flooring option can add a lot of value to the kitchen and the overall home. Avoid softer woods, like bamboo, for the best results.

Don’t let the flooring lapse under your appliances. Some homes stop the flooring from extending underneath the refrigerator or the stove. This can unbalance the floor and lead to structural issues. Although flooring under these appliances can be a hassle to clean and maintain, it’s a better solution than the alternative.

Do think about vinyl flooring, but make sure it is rated for the kitchen. It will still look nice, but reduce the cost of the project compared to other flooring options. By the time you’re ready to replace your kitchen faucet, the flooring will need to be replaced as well. Think about 7-10 years of life for this flooring option.

Kitchen Counters and Your Sink

If there’s one place where quality should not be ignored, it is the kitchen counter. The kitchen counter is the most-used surface in the average home. Not only does the counter add to the look of the kitchen, but it also enhances its usability.

The cheapest solution is usually a laminate counter. It is a good all-purpose option that can withstand moisture, but it won’t withstand heat. Patterns, imagery, and solid color designs are all available and the quality of this option has been improving in the last decade. You just can’t use a laminate counter as a cutting board.

For the safest solution, go with a granite counter. Not only do they increase the value of the home, but they can withstand the splashing and mess that typically comes from the kitchen sink.

One trend that comes and goes for kitchens is the use of a wooden counter. It provides a rustic, homey feel to the kitchen, but requires a lot of care. The counters must be routinely sealed to prevent moisture damage. Marks may form from pans, cups, and other common kitchen tools. From a price consideration, it’s about the same cost to install a wooden counter as it is to create a tile counter.

And then don’t forget about the backsplash. Protecting your kitchen drywall from cooking and water damage is extremely important.

Never Under-Estimate the Power of a Kitchen Faucet

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Kitchen faucets are the unsung heroes of every home. The good ones are often ignored, but the bad ones never escape notice. Without a good kitchen faucet, it is almost impossible to complete your chores in a reasonable amount of time.

A poor kitchen faucet can also set up homes and businesses to future water damage issues. Leaking and dripping may occur below the sink, which is rarely inspected on a regular basis. Water is the patient destroyer, seeping through cabinets, walls, and floors to the lowest possible level.

Given enough time, it is possible for a leaking kitchen faucet to encourage mold development, cause rot within a sub-floor, or damage cabinets that neighbor the sink beyond repair.

When looking at your kitchen design basics, include a diamond-coated or ceramic disc valve faucet on your list of necessary items. Make sure the faucet is backed by a lifetime warranty for the purchaser as well. That way you will effectively lower the risk of something bad happening.

Make sure any homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance policy includes water damage from a leaking faucet to possibly limit financial losses. 

Kitchen faucets come with several fantastic features today that make it easier to complete your sink chores as well. Faucets can pull down, pull out, or go in other directions. There are multiple spray patterns available, including jet sprays that rip away stuck-on food particles. Faucets include side sprays, soap dispensers, or even fixtures that allow you to install a filtered drinking water system if desired.

There are several finishes available with the modern kitchen faucet to benefit the overall design and appearance of the kitchen as well. Chrome is the most popular finish for most homes and businesses since it goes with almost anything and requires little maintenance.

A kitchen with Earth tones might benefit from a kitchen faucet with polished brass, antique copper, or oil-rubbed bronze. A kitchen with stainless steel appliances will crave a faucet that has a similar finish. There are colored finishes, matte black finishes, and nickel finishes that all provide that last needed boost for the perfect kitchen.

Now is the Time to Create Your Dream Kitchen

There’s no question that times have been hard for many households since 2007. Wages have been low. Raises have been few. Some homeowners have struggled to just hang onto their homes and not always with success.

But times are changing. Home values are rising. Salaries in many areas are beginning to go up again. Homeowners have been putting off remodeling projects or building new homes because they’ve been saving money.

Now is the time to act. Many kitchens are 10+ years old because of these financial challenges. They are in dire need of an upgrade, whether it is professionally designed or the DIY approach is taken. Start with the kitchen faucet, work your way around the kitchen triangle, and create your dream space today with these design basics.

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