The kitchen is the room where you likely spend the most time, which makes it the ideal place to invest in a redesign.

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Q: It’s time to remodel my kitchen. How do I design the perfect one?

A: The kitchen is the heart of the home, and the room you likely spend the most time in, which makes it the ideal place to invest in your home.

Scouring photos of dreamy kitchens online is helpful to determine your taste, but the idea of designing a kitchen from the ground up can be overwhelming. It’s complex — there are dozens of choices to make and even more options from which to choose. A design-build contractor or an architect is usually hired to help with the planning and decision-making. They will guide you, lend their expert advice and help you with permitting, building codes and inspections.

Regardless of whether you’re hiring a pro or going the DIY route, the key to the perfect kitchen is to strike a balance between functionality and aesthetics.

One of the most important choices you’ll need to make is what kind of layout you want. There are only a handful of archetypal kitchen layouts, but there are many ways to blend those layouts or modify them to fit your needs.

Keeping in mind that changing the layout of your kitchen could be more expensive than working within its existing parameters, think about the top three things you don’t like about your current kitchen. If one of them is layout, consider how you might open up the space or make it more usable — the two most common problems in older kitchens. This choice is mostly about functionality, and how the kitchen will flow best.

Your kitchen requirements may help determine which layout is right for you. For example, if you want to include seating somewhere in the kitchen, you’ll probably consider installing an island or peninsula. Other times, additional appliances such as wine refrigerators, convection ovens or microwave drawers are going to be added. Those appliances may help determine how the kitchen is laid out naturally.

One of the best-known kitchen design concepts is the “work triangle.” This concept implies that a kitchen is composed of three interconnected work areas — the refrigerator, stove and sink — which should form a triangle for optimal usability. It’s rare to see a one-wall kitchen because placing three work areas in a row leaves little room for preparation and is therefore less efficient when making a meal. If you often have multiple cooks in the kitchen, this concept will help you give each person plenty of space at their individual workstation. Once the layout is chosen and its feasibility is determined by an architect or contractor, you can start thinking about the fun stuff.

Next, consider the kitchen fundamentals: cabinets, floors, countertops, backsplashes and appliances. These choices will be a combination of functionality and aesthetics. Most people have a good idea about what they want in these areas, but to design a kitchen that will really wow guests, you’ll want to select at least one of these to make a statement. Whether that’s a unique texture, color or material is up to you.

There should be at least one unique talking point in the kitchen that not only shows your personality but also sets the tone for the rest of the room. Examples of this include two-toned cabinets, specialty tile, a waterfall countertop or exposed beams. There are many, many ways to give a space character, but most commonly we see homeowners choose tile to express their individual style, since there are so many options.

Finally, you’ll need to choose the fixtures and fine details of the kitchen. This may include lighting, cabinet and drawer hardware, outlets, storage, shelving, sinks, faucets and paint. These choices will be mostly about aesthetics and what will bring the look you’re going for together.

Consider the statement piece you chose from the kitchen fundamentals and work around that. Ensure that every decision you make for fixtures works well with that statement piece. Many people, especially designers, find it useful to create a mood board that shows the color palette and samples of tiles, textures and materials all in one place.

If your kitchen lacks light, under-cabinet lighting can help make tasks easier to see and do. If your current faucet doesn’t move, a pull-out faucet can easily be a game-changer. Often, spending time thinking about storage and how things will be arranged within kitchen cabinets is one of the most important exercises in kitchen design. There are many custom, yet affordable, upgrades that you can add to your cabinets for specialty storage that will exponentially improve the organization of your kitchen.

No detail is too small when designing the perfect kitchen. If it adds to the character of the room or makes your life easier, it’s worth considering. Making deliberate, thoughtful choices during your remodel will make all the difference in how you use and enjoy the space for years to come.


Cat Schmidt is the lead designer at Model Remodel and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 3,000 members, write to