Designing a kitchen can be an exciting yet daunting process. With so many options for layouts, appliances, cabinets, countertops, lighting, and more, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, not all design choices require the same amount of time and consideration. There are four key areas where it’s worth spending extra time in order to end up with a functional, beautiful kitchen that suits your needs and style.


Cabinetry is one of the most important elements of a kitchen design. The layout, style, and quality of the cabinets will have a major impact on the look, storage capacity, and functionality of the space. Rushing through cabinet selection could result in a kitchen that lacks sufficient storage, doesn’t maximize efficiency, or simply doesn’t reflect your personal taste. Here are some tips for giving cabinetry the time and attention it deserves during the design process:

Take Time to Plan the Layout

The cabinet layout directly impacts how you will utilize the kitchen on a daily basis. Take time to think about how you cook, what your storage needs are, and how you want the space to flow. Consider the following:

  • How much wall, base, and tall cabinetry do you need for dishes, cooking equipment, pantry items, and more?
  • What are the optimal placements for the sink, stove, refrigerator, and other major elements?
  • Do you prefer an L-shaped, U-shaped, galley, or island layout?
  • Where will you need pull-out shelves, lazy susans, or other storage accessories?
  • What size cabinets do you need for large cookware and appliances?
  • Is there enough space planned for prep work and traffic flow?

Thoroughly planning the cabinet footprint is time well spent. Even small tweaks to the layout can make a kitchen much more functional.

Browse All the Styles and Finishes

Once you have the cabinet layout mapped out, take time to explore the myriad options for door styles, wood types, colors, and finishes. Cabinetry has a huge impact on the overall aesthetic of a kitchen. Look through photos online or in catalogs to find styles that appeal to you. Some considerations include:

  • Doors: slab, shaker, inset, distressed, glass front, etc.
  • Wood species: oak, maple, hickory, cherry, etc.
  • Color/finish: natural, stain, painted, glazed, two tone, etc.
  • Hardware: knobs, pulls, hinges, color, etc.

Don’t feel rushed to narrow it down. Looking at all the possibilities will help crystallize your true style preferences. Don’t underestimate small details like hardware either—the right knobs or pulls add personality.

Choose Quality Construction

Cabinets come in a wide range of construction types, from RTA (ready-to-assemble) to semi-custom and full custom. In general, you get what you pay for in terms of quality. Spending more upfront for solid wood doors and boxes, soft-close hinges and drawers, and strong joinery is worthwhile. These cabinets will last longer with fewer issues. Patiently compare brands and construction methods. Ask about:

  • Solid wood vs. plywood boxes
  • Dovetail joinery vs. staples/nails
  • Soft-close hardware
  • Reinforced shelves
  • Warranties

Cheap cabinets tend to warp, break, and look shoddy quickly. Take time to make a wise long-term investment.


Choosing the right countertop material for your kitchen is an equally important decision. Durability, maintenance, cost, and aesthetics should all be weighed carefully. Many factors impact how a countertop performs over years of use. Be sure to:

Consider Your Lifestyle

How you use your kitchen can help determine which countertop materials are best. For example:

  • Avid home chefs may opt for the durability of granite or quartz.
  • Families with kids and frequent spills might prefer seamless, impervious quartz or granite.
  • Those who bake a lot should avoid porous options like marble or limestone which can stain.
  • Homeowners on a budget can find affordable options like tile or laminate.

Think about your countertop usage habits—prepping, cooking, cleaning, serving, homework, parties, etc. Let your lifestyle guide your selection.

Research Maintenance Needs

All countertops require some degree of care and maintenance, but the specifics vary significantly by material. For instance:

  • Granite must be sealed to prevent staining.
  • Butcher block needs regular oiling.
  • Marble is prone to etching from acidic foods.
  • Quartz can develop superficial scratches.

Be sure to research the regular and long-term maintenance required for countertops you are considering. Confirm it fits with the level of upkeep you are willing and able to provide.

Compare Costs

Countertop pricing depends on the material, edge profiles, thickness, and more. While cost shouldn’t necessarily override all other factors, it does need to be weighed in the decision making process. Some general cost comparisons:

  • Laminate is the most budget friendly at $20-50 per linear foot, installed.
  • Tile costs $40-100 per square foot for materials and installation.
  • Butcher block runs $50-150 per square foot.
  • Quartz ranges $80-150 per square foot.
  • Marble and granite range from $100-200 per square foot.

Set a countertop budget ahead of time and get quotes on your top choices to make an informed decision. Combining materials is one way to save on costs as well.

See Large In-Person Samples

It’s hard to get an accurate impression of countertop materials from small swatches alone. When possible, look at full slabs at distributors’ showrooms. Seeing granite, quartz, marble and other large samples will provide a much better sense of how each surface looks in full scale. Details like veining, pattern variation and depth are more visible. If samples aren’t feasible, look at high resolution photos online. Don’t choose a countertop solely from a tiny chip! The time spent viewing larger-scale samples is worthwhile.


Appliances are central functional elements of any kitchen. Cooktops, ovens, refrigerators and more get daily use for years to come. With today’s options for fuels, ventilation, capacities, finishes and features, choosing the right appliances for your needs warrants sufficient research.

Decide on Fuel Types

One of the first appliance considerations is which fuel types you want for cooking. Key options include:

  • Electric: Works anywhere; smooth cooktop surfaces; precise temperature control.
  • Gas: Provides instant adjustability; ideal for serious cooks.
  • Induction: Cooks fast; safe; easy to clean.
  • Dual fuel: Combines gas cooktop with electric oven for best of both.

Evaluate your cooking habits, ventilation, and preferences. If you’ll rarely bake casseroles but frequently sear meat, gas may be the better main cooktop fuel, for example.

Compare Sizes and Capacities

Next, decide which appliance types and capacities suit your space and needs. Consider factors like:

  • Range or cooktop/wall oven: Separating the cooktop from the oven provides more installation flexibility.
  • Refrigerator width: Standard counter-depth is 30-36″; wider pro-style units up to 48″.
  • Oven capacity: Standard single ovens are 4.5-6 cubic feet. Larger ovens facilitate bigger meals.
  • Cooktop size: Options include 4, 5 or 6 burners or electric elements.

Measure your spaces and think about the sizes and volumes needed for your cooking and storage habits. Bigger isn’t always better if it results in a cramped kitchen.

Don’t Overlook Ventilation

In addition to the appliances themselves, take time to plan proper overhead ventilation. Effective systems include:

  • Range hoods that vent outside
  • Downdraft systems for island cooktops
  • Built-in microwaves with internal ventilation

Proper airflow is essential for eliminating smoke, grease, and odors. Review ductwork requirements and CFM ratings when selecting appliances and ventilation.

Browse for Unique Finishes

Many appliances now offer customizable finishes, from sleek stainless steel to antique-inspired look. Browse options like:

  • Stainless steel finishes: brushed, shiny, satin, black stainless
  • Color finishes: bold hues and neutrals like blue, green, red, white, etc.
  • Custom wood panel inserts to match cabinets
  • Glass/metal finishes like brushed bronze or copper

Unique finishes can make appliances true focal points. Coordinate with your overall kitchen design vision.


Lighting is often overlooked in kitchen planning. But the right mix of well-placed fixtures not only illuminates tasks, but also sets the mood and style. Give careful consideration to lighting design and fixtures to enhance the space.

Include Multiple Lighting Layers

The key to sufficient kitchen lighting is providing multiple illumination layers, including:

  • Ambient: overall general lighting. Often recessed cans or surface-mount fixtures.
  • Task: focused lighting for prep/cooking areas. Under-cabinet or pendant lights work well.
  • Accent: adds style and highlights particular areas or features. Try mini-pendants, track lights, or rail fixtures.
  • Toe-kick: concealed lighting of base cabinets for safe navigation at night.

By combining 3-5 lighting layers, you can achieve bright, functional spaces free of shadows or dark areas.

Pick Fixtures that Align with your Style

Beyond providing adequate illumination, lighting fixtures significantly impact decor. Sleek contemporary pendants make a different stylistic statement than vintage-style schoolhouse lights or dramatic chandeliers. Take time to find fixtures that coordinate with your overall kitchen design vision. Some aspects to coordinate:

  • Finish/color: Polished nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, brass, black, and more
  • Shade material and shape: glass, metal, fabric; drum, globe, linear, or unique shapes
  • Filament style: Vintage Edison bulbs, flame-tip, globes, spotlights, etc.
  • Mounting type: flush mount, track, pendant, sconce, chandelier

Browse lighting options that suit your preferred kitchen style–casual farmhouse, sleek modern, traditional, industrial, and more.

Other Key Elements

In addition to the major components above, don’t overlook key details that contribute significantly to kitchen design. Taking time to thoughtfully select and place these elements leads to a more cohesive, polished look.

Create a Focal Point

Every kitchen benefits visually from one or more distinctive focal points. Strategically use focal elements such as:

  • Statement light fixture
  • Eye-catching tile or textured backsplash
  • Standout wood hood surround
  • Bold island color
  • Expansive window with view

Focal points draw the eye, add interest, and keep the design from feeling flat or monotonous.

Select Coordinating Finishes

The door handles, faucet finishes, and other metallic elements should coordinate aesthetically in the space. Mixing clashing finishes makes a kitchen feel disjointed. Some complimentary options include:

  • Stainless appliances + nickel/chrome fixtures
  • Black stainless or matte black appliances + black hardware/fixtures
  • Bronze appliances + bronze/oil-rubbed bronze fixtures
  • Brass appliances + brass hardware and lighting

Take time to envision how metals and finishes will look together across cabinet hardware, lighting, plumbing fixtures, and appliances.

Find the Right Backsplash

The backsplash is a prime opportunity to infuse color, texture, or pattern into the space. Consider elements such as:

  • Color: match or contrast with cabinetry
  • Material: tile, metal, glass, stone
  • Pattern: geometric, moroccan, art deco, herringbone, etc.
  • Finish: glossy, matte, metallic, handmade
  • Shape: subway, hexagon, penny tile, large statement tile

The ideal backsplash complements your style and adds decorative flair.

Include Personalized Touches

Make the kitchen truly your own with personal elements like:

  • Display favorite dish collections
  • Frame meaningful art, photos, or prints
  • Monogram the kitchen with custom tiles or glass inserts
  • Add a chalkboard wall or feature wallpaper
  • Use accent colors matching your personality

Unique personalized accents express your style. Have fun accenting with items you love to give the kitchen character.

Key Takeaways

  • Thoroughly plan cabinet layout for optimal function and storage. Browse all door style and finish options. Select quality construction and materials for longevity.
  • Choose a countertop based on your lifestyle needs, maintenance preferences, costs, and aesthetic tastes after viewing large in-person samples.
  • Take time to select the right appliance fuel types, sizes, ventilation, and finishes based on how you cook and your overall design vision.
  • Include a layered lighting plan of ambient, task, accent, and toe kick lighting using fixtures that coordinate with your kitchen style.
  • Don’t forget key details like focal points, finish coordination, statement backsplashes, and personalized decorative touches.

While the process of designing a kitchen can feel overwhelming at first, taking the time to thoughtfully make key decisions will ensure you end up with a cohesive, functional space you’ll enjoy for years to come. Pay special attention to cabinetry, countertops, appliances, lighting and finishing touches. With careful planning and selections, your kitchen will not only look beautiful but also suit how you live and cook.

FAQs About Kitchen Design Decisions

How much should I budget for a kitchen remodel?

The average cost of a midrange kitchen remodel is $20,000-40,000, while high-end remodels typically range from $40,000-100,000 or more. Location, materials, appliances, size, and customization significantly impact costs. Always build in a 10-20% cushion for unexpected expenses too.

How long does a kitchen remodel take?

Kitchen remodels usually take 4-8 weeks from demolition to completion, depending on the scope. Small cosmetic updates may take 1-2 weeks, while large gut renovations with structural changes can take 2-3 months. Staging demolition and installation in phases can shorten the process.

Should I choose open or closed cabinetry?

Open shelving provides display space and a light, airy look but requires keeping everything well organized. Enclosed cabinetry hides clutter and hazards better. Many kitchens strike a balance with a mix of open and closed storage. Glass-front cabinets are another option blending display and protection.

What cabinet brands are best?

Well-known midrange/upper cabinet brands include KraftMaid, Thomasville, Kemper, Wellborn, Marsh Furniture Co., and Wood-Mode. Top custom brands are Christopher Peacock, CliqStudios, and Canyon Creek. Always inspect construction and materials rather than judging solely on brand.

How much space do I need for kitchen islands?

A kitchen island should be a minimum of 36-42 inches to provide ample usable surface and traffic flow. Allow at least 42-48 inches around all sides of an island for safe navigation. For seated dining, allow 66+ inches for stool clearance.

Should I get stainless steel or custom color appliances?

While stainless remains popular, colored appliances are trending. Built-in visualizers from brands like GE allow you to preview how different hues will look. Neutral colors like white, matte black or navy are versatile. Bolder colors make a dramatic statement.

Are marble or quartz countertops better?

Quartz resists stains, etching, and heat better than marble. But marble offers a luxurious, timeless look. Quartz requires less maintenance while marble needs periodic sealing. Both can work beautifully. Durability vs. aesthetics should guide your choice.

How much lighting do I need in a kitchen?

For adequate ambient light, allow for 25-40 footcandles or about 20-40 lighting fixtures per 100 square feet of kitchen. Additionally include task lighting over key areas like islands, sinks, and counters. Combine at least 3-5 lighting layers.

How do I choose a backsplash?

Coordinate your backsplash with cabinetry finishes and countertops to tie the look together. Contrasting colors or materials can make it a focal point. Avoid overpowering small kitchens with bold backsplashes. Consider ease of cleaning for high traffic zones.


Kitchen remodels require many complex design decisions. But thoughtfully focusing your time and attention on cabinetry, countertops, appliances, lighting, and personal accents will ensure your new kitchen is tailored, functional, and beautiful. Beyond checking off items from a list, envision how all the details will come together cohesively. With diligent planning upfront and help from experts, you can create your dream kitchen within budget and on schedule. Enjoy the creative process as you design a welcoming kitchen your whole family will enjoy for years. What kitchen design decisions are you most excited about?