14 Essentials In Kitchen Design

14 Essentials In Kitchen Design

The kitchen is typically the most used room in any house.  Because of this, a well planned and designed kitchen is critical to the enjoyment of every home.  While design trends will change from one year to the next, what remains consistent are the 14 essential design elements required in every high-end kitchen design.


1. The “Work Triangle”
An efficient kitchen is typically a key point in enjoying the heart of your home.  When designing one you need to start with the basics of space planning, a good work triangle.  The kitchen work triangle is the centerpiece of good high-end kitchen space planning. The goals of a good kitchen work triangle are to place the three most common work sites at the most efficient distance apart and to minimize traffic through the work zone.  In the traditional kitchen the three main work sites are:

  • Refrigerator – the cold storage work site
  • Sink – the cleaning/preparation work site
  • Stove – the cooking work site

If you place these too far away from each other you waste a lot of steps while preparing a meal. If they are too close to each other you have a cramped kitchen with out any place to work.

  • Each leg of the triangle should be between 4 and 9 feet
  • The total of all three legs should be between 12 and 26 feet
  • No obstructions (cabinets, islands, etc.) should intersect a leg of the work triangle
  • Household traffic should not flow through the work triangle

2. An Island
An island is essential because it will serve several functions.  In the overall space plan, the island will become the social center of the kitchen.  Practically speaking it could help with the design of the “work triangle”, be a place for additional storage, provide a casual eating place or give extra counter space.  Ideally it becomes that place where people just love to hang out and chat.

3. The Eating Area
There is nothing like a warm cup of coffee, a good book and a window seat to help kick start your day.  Well planned high-end kitchens have a place to set a small cafe table or create a cute built-in breakfast nook.  While dining at the island will work for some situations, other kitchen designs require a separate dining area.  This ancillary dining area does not need to be large, just comfortable.  The number of seats will depend on your family’s need, but 2 to 4 are typical.  It’s purpose is to be a place to relax, eat, talk and just “chill” first thing in the morning or after a long day at the office.  

4. A Workstation
Every well planned kitchen needs a workstation or “drop-off” site.  This is the place you first come to after a long day at work.  It the place you “drop-off” your keys or dock your cell phone.  It is also the place where you can sit to do bills, shop online or kids can do their homework.  It is an ancillary space which is essential to effective household management.

5. Cabinets
After getting the space plan resolved deciding on what the cabinets will look like is the next major design decision.  What material to use, what color to make them, what features should they have and what level of quality construction should be used to build them are all complex decisions which will impact both aesthetics and function.  As the major design feature in high-end kitchen design, the cabinets set the tone for your kitchen’s design style.  Is it a traditional kitchen or is it modern?  Through the use of material, color, detailing and texture the cabinet design gives your kitchen that feeling of quality and style.  You could easily spend as much as $100,000 on cabinets alone for a high-end kitchen.  At this level you want to take your time, seek the advice of a good professional, think through your decisions and get it right the first time.

6. Counter-tops/Back-splashes
As a professional designer I treat these horizontal and vertical surfaces as one design element.  Even though I may treat one surface with stone or concrete and the other tile or glass as a design composition they must work together or aesthetically it will be a disaster!   Have fun with this design element, feel free to be playful!!  This is one area where you can use the design elements of texture, color, pattern and light in creative ways which will give your kitchen flair and that much desired “wow” factor.

On the practical side, counter-top material needs to be durable, non-porus and heat resistant.  The most common height for a kitchen counter top is 3-feet (36-inches).  For most people, this height provides a comfortable work station.  However, if you are extremely short or tall, or those with special needs, you may want to modify that height to better suit your specific need.  Back-splashes need to be durable and cleanable.  This design element can get expensive, but for high-end kitchens do not go cheap.  You will pay for it in the end.

7. The Floor
Most people, and many design professionals, would tend to overlook the impact of design element because after all, it’s just the floor.  An excellent kitchen design is a comprehensive design which treats all surfaces and maximizes their impact potential on the overall design composition.  I had a client import tile from a old chateau which was being demolished in France.  They wanted this tile for their new kitchen floor because of it’s quality and character.  It accentuated the feeling they wanted for their French Country kitchen.  If hi

8. Wall Color/Texture
After working around your window locations, determining where the cabinets will go and designing your back-splash you may not have much wall space left.  I will guarantee you whatever you have left is significant.  Believe me the color you choose for the 12″ of wall space above the cabinets or next to the breakfast nook will make a difference.  Even though it is typically in the background of your kitchen composition wall color/texture needs to accentuate the major design elements.  This can be done with either using color as a contrast or compliment, but whatever method is chosen needs to be thought through.  Color is completely subjective, what one person likes another will not.  There is no right and wrong in this area, so be honest with what you like and what you do not like.  Remember you will be living with it for a long time.

9. Natural Light
Always look for ways to maximize the use of natural daylight.  Nothing makes a kitchen feel more warm and bright than direct sunlight.  If possible, eliminate cabinets next to windows.  Where you can, have at least one large window focused on an exterior view.  Use transparent or reflective materials like glass and stainless steel to allow the light to freely bounce throughout the space.

10. Artifical Light
The sun will eventually go down, when it does you will need to have some options.  You never want a dark kitchen.  General lighting design standards for kitchen illumination are 300 Lux for general lighting and 750 lux for task lighting.  While most local codes will require energy efficient light fixtures and switches for the main lighting source you can always include secondary lighting sources.  This provides you an opportunity to be creative.  The use of custom decorative light fixtures can add a splash of color or become a visual focal point.  Hidden accent lighting, when well placed, will give your kitchen a sense of drama and sophistication. 

11. High-Performance Appliances
Today, high-efficiency burners and ovens with convection and self-cleaning are really indispensable.  High-efficiency refrigerators and freezers will provide you space and save you money.  Do your research and get what meets your families needs.

12. A Hook
Every great kitchen has a hook, that one unique element that just pulls you in. It could be a hood, a sink, a pot rack or a decorative tile pattern in the back-splash.  Consider it your signiture piece.

13. A Designer
Kitchen design is complicated, and the landscape is constantly changing. Hiring a design professional is perhaps the most valuable investment you will make.

14. Quality Wine or Chocolate Cake
In my opinion, no kitchen is complete without it either one.

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