Kitchen Design Checklist: How to Prepare for your Initial Kitchen
Design Meeting and Achieve the Kitchen of your Dreams
There is no shortage of kitchen design inspiration out there. While preparing for your kitchen remodel, I am sure that you have already considered the overall style, colors, and features you wish to have.
However, there is one critical area that most homeowners often neglect in their planning and this can make the difference between a common kitchen remodel and a fantastic dream kitchen that works for you. When preparing for your first meeting with your designer, please do collect inspiration images to share, but also use the checklist below to ensure hat your kitchen’s performance is optimized to fit your lifestyle.
Kitchens are the workhorse of the home. Depending on the way you live your life, your kitchen can serve a variety of uses. A kitchen that performs flawlessly for a single person working her way through medical school and hospital internship schedules, who barely has time to microwave the boxed dinner she picked up on the way home, will likely not function well for a large family of five with three teenagers, two dogs, a mom with a high-profile CEO career dependent on entertaining guests, a stay at home dad who loves to cook, and a live-in grandmother who bakes all the time.
In other words, what you consider your dream kitchen, may not work for your best friend, your brother or the family down the street. Consider this…you have just downsized and are remodeling the outdated kitchen in your new home. Space is somewhat limited in the existing kitchen, but you reasoned when you bought the house that the new kitchen looks to be about as large as your previous kitchen, enough to accommodate all of your dishes and your favorite kitchen gear. Fast forward to the end of the remodel and you are unpacking your boxes and placing kitchen items in your new kitchen as the following nightmare begins to unfold:
· Saying Goodbye to Family Traditions. Four times a year, you gather the entire family for a lobster boil at your house. It is one of your favorite memory-creating experiences of the year. The lobster pot is 15” tall. However, you opted for base cabinets with three drawers, the largest of which is 12” tall, so now the lobster pot doesn’t fit.
· Giving up your Favorite Healthy Habits. For your anniversary years ago, your husband bought you a gorgeous, copper, citrus press because you must have your daily fresh-squeezed orange juice before yoga. As you unbox the juicer, you realize it is 21” tall but requires 29” of space to operate the press, and you only allowed 19” of clearance from the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets; so now, your juicer will have to be stowed elsewhere making your daily juice routine harder than it needs to be or you will just have to adjust to store-bought orange juice.
· Wasting your Precious Time. You and your designer agreed that the best kitchen layout for your space was one in which the dishwasher is located on the perimeter of the kitchen with one cabinet close-by to house your silverware, dinnerware, and glassware. However, when unpacking your kitchen boxes, you realize that you forgot to tell your designer about your crock-pot addiction, your grandmother’s antique double-tiered cake stand and your German mandolin which you use every day and there is only one cabinet that will fit all of these items, and it happens to be the cabinet in which the designer intended to store your daily service close to the dishwasher. So, to accommodate the forgotten items, you have now dispensed the everyday glasses, dishes, and silverware to various other cabinets in the kitchen. You find yourself taking five steps from the dishwasher to the silverware drawer, two steps from the dishwasher to the dinnerware cabinet, and seven steps to put away the glasses, carrying two clean glasses at a time!
This innocent mistake is now adding 10 minutes to your daily routine.
The one thing all of these nightmares have in common is that you can avoid each of them with a little forethought and preparation. While designers should be prepared to ask you questions which help arrive at good solutions to achieve your kitchen goals, it is up to the homeowner to disclose anything of importance to them, especially if it is critical to your lifestyle and not commonly assumed – like the lobster pot, the citrus press or crock-pot addiction.
The best kitchen is the kitchen that functions and performs the lifestyle tasks that are important to you. You may not have a lobster pot or a citrus press, but I guarantee that you have some item in your kitchen that is critical to your kitchen performing efficiently for you. So let’s make sure that we don’t overlook it.
Honestly assess what type of kitchen user you are. For example, do you have every Martha Stewart book ever written, and you spend 10 hours a week watching cooking shows, then you are probably going to need two ovens, a six-burner range, and plenty of storage for small appliances like a stand mixer and spiralizer. Maybe you are a wealthy executive who is never home and eats out for every meal, so you don’t need a fancy kitchen, but the home you own is a high-end architectural masterpiece, and it must impress potential buyers when it comes time to sell the house next year. Or, are you a working family with several teenagers that come home from school hungry with several hours to wait before dinner, then you might want to make sure you have a top-of-the-line microwave located close to the freezer. Your designer will ask you questions to help you along the way, but if you think through the following checklist before your initial design meeting, you will reduce the risk of having the final design not fulfill your dreams.
Thoroughly consider the checklist below before you have your first designer meeting.
1. Think through the tasks you perform and how you use your kitchen.
Do you eat at home? What kind of meals do you prepare? How often do you cook? How many cooks are in the kitchen at one time? What is each family member’s role during family dinner preparations, table settings, and table clearings? When you cook, are their two cooks, or does one person cook and the other cleans?
Designing a layout for two people in the kitchen is different than designing for one. Everything from passageways between countertops to where you place the trash can will be affected by these answers.
2. Inventory your current kitchen.
Before you pack up your kitchen, accurately assess your kitchen needs by creating an inventory of the items you want to accommodate in the new design. Make a list of everything. What is your largest pot? What is your tallest glass? How many glasses do you have? How many coffee mugs? Do you have dinner service for 8 or 16? Are you a baker with multiple cake, quiche, cupcake, bread and muffin pans? List each of one your small appliances – stand mixer, hand mixer, coffee machine, espresso machine, juicer, spiralizer, crock pot, rice cooker, etc. Do you host gatherings – turkey roasters, chaffing dishes, extra fancy bar-ware? Are you a salt & pepper type of chef or do you have a vast array of spices you use to cook a variety of cuisines? Are you a warehouse/bulk shopper – do you tend to purchase 20 lbs. bags of rice and family- sized boxes of cereal? Do you typically store large amounts of frozen food? What do you recycle? Do you compost? All of these will affect the choices you and your designer make regarding your
kitchen layout and design.
3. Inventory your future kitchen purchases.
Some homeowners have coveted their very own dream kitchen for years and have told themselves that, when the kitchen renovation is complete, they will then purchase a full set of Japanese knives, beer brewing equipment or a pro-style, large-capacity stand mixer…make sure you think through all of the purchases which your new kitchen might inspire and let your designer know that you will likely need space for these items.
4. Honestly assess any special physical needs.
Does anyone in your household have any mobility or special physical challenges? Or do you anticipate some in the future? If you know your elderly mother-in-law may be moving in sometime this year, then consider her in your design. Do you have arthritis that makes opening certain drawer and door pulls difficult? Now is the time to discuss with your household what tasks they find difficult to perform in the kitchen and why.
5. What atypical activities do you like to do in your kitchen?
Does your kitchen accommodate special interests? Do you have a serious wine collection? Do you like to grow culinary herbs indoors? Do you brew your own small-batch wine or beer? Do you enjoy hunting or fishing and require an oversized or separate freezer? Do you pay bills and run the busy household from your kitchen command center? Do you watch cooking shows and would you like to watch them in the kitchen while you follow along with their steps? Do you create large craft projects or use your kitchen island to prepare to ship out your Etsy creations? If there are ANY other tasks you perform in the kitchen which aren’t related to preparing or consuming food or beverages, then you must let your designer know. This is the time for your designer to learn that you host a monthly wine & painting event in your kitchen.
The Initial Meeting with the Designer
When reviewing with your designer everything you’ve discovered from the checklist above, it is helpful to prioritize what is most important to you. Your designer will do their best to accommodate all of your kitchen wishes when the design phase begins.
Sometimes, it is not possible to accommodate every wish into limited kitchen space. Perhaps you may not have room for an indoor herb garden, but your beer brewing equipment is a necessity that you cannot live without. Being realistic about your budget, your wishlist and the reality of space limitations is essential to your kitchen’s success. So, be prepared to make concessions.
The Initial Customized Layout
Once your designer provides you with a floor plan, this is the time to ask questions speak up if you do not see critical items you discussed with your designer in your kitchen plans. Once the designer has walked you through the layout and fully-answered your questions, you are left alone to digest your kitchen plan. Now is the time for a little fun homework. Take out your kitchen inventory list and go item by item and map out where storage is for each of your necessities. Make sure your must-haves have space in your kitchen. If you use your stand mixer every day, you will want
to make sure that it’s accessible and not on a high shelf in the pantry. Do not skip this step. This is where you will start to realize that you forgot to mention certain things to the designer – like your antique salt and pepper shaker collection that require prominent display space.
Also, think through the new layout and how it will work for your family and their roles during meal prep. For example, in my kitchen, I am typically preparing produce to be cooked (I walk from the refrigerator to the sink to wash food items before placing them on the island cutting board) and I am also washing knives and food prep utensils as we go. My spouse will trim and chop the food at the island before placing it in a pot on the stove-top where he will cook the dinner, and my daughter will be clearing and setting the island table for dinner. All of these tasks are going on simultaneously, but we are not in each other’s way as we perform our dinnertime duties. You will want to watch out for activities that prevent other tasks from being completed – for instance, while someone is loading the dishwasher after dinner and the dishwasher door is open, it is problematic if that person or the door is blocking another person from accessing the trashcan or leftover food storage containers.
This is the time to tell your designer about any changes that need to be made. Once the kitchen is in production, these realizations become very expensive for the homeowner to change. And only YOU (the homeowners) know precisely how your family uses your kitchen and what items you must store there. Make sure to identify any potential issues or revelations to your designer so that they can incorporate them into the final design. This can make the difference between a good kitchen and a great kitchen design.