How to design a kitchen

Planning a kitchen can be a daunting and overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be!
Redoing things in your home to create the home you love should be one of the most exciting times so with this guide I want to take away the sense of pressure, and give you back the feeling of excitement to plan the kitchen of your dreams.
Let’s go!

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How to design a kitchen

Hi, I’m Nadine

Interior design expert, globetrotter and the creative mind behind this blog and NH.DESIGN.

I’m originally from Germany but have been living abroad for over 10 years, from Canada and the UK to Sweden.

So I ask myself the question what “home” means every day.
I have made it my mission to help as many people as possible to find their own answer to this.

Join my creative world on Instagram @nhdotdesign or find out more about me

Create a Mood Board

A clear vision is the starting point for any interior planning but especially for planning your kitchen.
Not only are kitchens one of the most technical rooms, they’re also often the heart of the home, where the action happens.
Plus, redoing a complete kitchen can easily get quite expensive (keep reading to avoid that).

Having that clear vision in your head is a great start for planning your kitchen but when you put it all together on paper (or digitally) you’ll immediately see if what you have in your head actually works well together.
Oftentimes we like things individually but they might not look good together.

Check out my post about how to create a Mood Board with Canva!

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Pro Tip

Get samples of all your materials and finishes before committing to anything! Things often look different in real life, and colours completely depend on the lighting in your home.

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    Set a budget

    Money is usually the first thing we think about when planning a new kitchen because it can get expensive fast.
    We see all those beautiful inspiration pictures on social media and want those kitchens for ourselves but what we don’t see is the price tag.
    So before you get into the detail planning of your kitchen think about the different costs and set a budget for yourself.

    To determine a realistic budget for your kitchen design, check out my post about renovation costs for each room!

    What you need to budget for when planning a kitchen

    It’s not just the obvious things like cabinets, appliances, countertops and backsplash to consider when budgeting for your kitchen renovation. There are a million little things that just creep up during the project and at the end you’re way over budget and have no idea of how it happened.

    To avoid that here’s a handy checklist of things to budget for when you’re planning your kitchen*:

    • Designer fees
    • Contractors (carpenters, painters, fitters, plumbers, electricians etc.)
    • Inspections or permits
    • Cabinets (including fronts, plinths etc.)
    • Handles and pulls
    • Countertop
    • Backsplash
    • Appliances (range/oven/stove, fridge/freezer, extractor fan, microwave)
    • Sink & faucet/tap
    • Custom made carpentry solutions and joinery
    • Paint & primer (potentially also wallpaper, glue etc.
    • Flooring
    • Carpentry materials if not included in contractor’s quote (drywall, cement, filler, screws, nail etc.)
    • Interior organisers (liners, shelf inserts, baskets etc.)
    • Lighting
    • Other furniture (dining table, chairs etc.)

    *This list is based on all work done by licensed designers, carpenters and other contractors.

    In addition to all these costs also comes the time factor for each step from planning to build. Depending on the scale of your kitchen renovation this might also mean extra costs for eating out while you don’t have a kitchen.

    Nadine, founder of Malmö-based interior design studio NH.DESIGN.

    Design Consultation

    Ask a Designer

    Need help putting the finishing touches onto your home?

    During this 1 hour virtual Design Consultation you get my expert advice on your specific interior challenge.
    From finding the best layout, choosing the right colours to solving storage problems and styling tips – ask me anything!

    How to save money when planning your kitchen

    The numbers above may sound terrifying but don’t worry, there are some great ways to save money on your new kitchen.

    DIY to save money

    Doing some of the work yourself can really save a ton of money. Of course it’s only worth it if you’re comfortable doing it. Things like painting walls and trim are quite easy and fun to do and not having to pay a contractor for it can save you quite a bit.

    However you should never do things that by law require a license, like plumbing or electrical work. And doing construction yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing can get very expensive down the road if things need fixing.

    Also read my post about transforming your kitchen with KABRIC textured paint.

    Budget-friendly kitchens

    Another great way to keep the budget in check is to plan and buy your kitchen with one of the many budget-friendly suppliers out there, like IKEA.
    It’s great quality for money, and other companies have caught on and offer custom fronts, handles, legs and more to make your mass produced IKEA kitchen unique.

    Also read my post about how to customize your IKEA kitchen.

    Up-cycling old stuff

    Bringing old stuff back to life is an inexpensive and fun way to save money on your kitchen planning. 
    Don’t have the budget to replace your cabinets? Just paint the fronts!
    The hardware looks a little worse for wear? Simply replace them or buff them up!

    You’d be surprised how easy it can be to make an old piece look brand new.

    From Bland to Bold - 5 easy ways to customize your IKEA furniture

    FREEBIE – IKEA HACKS

    From Bland to Bold

    Transform your IKEA furniture into one-of-a-kind pieces without breaking the bank, and add your own personal touch to create a unique home you love.

      Decide on the best layout and flow

      The right layout is crucial when planning your kitchen. It’s such a high traffic area, with so many activities happening, that the flow needs to be super efficient.

      The kitchen triangle

      You might have heard the term “kitchen triangle” before, and if you haven’t, here’s a quick explanation.

      The kitchen triangle refers to the placement of range/oven/stove, sink and fridge/freezer. Those 3 are the main key elements in any kitchen and should be laid out in the shape of a triangle. That way it is easy and efficient to walk back and forth between them, focusing on the main activities in a kitchen: getting food from the fridge, cleaning it in the sink and cooking it on the stove.

      It doesn’t matter what kind of kitchen type you have (more about that below, so keep reading), the triangle is the first step to planning a successful kitchen layout.

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      Pro Tip

      Make sure your triangle is not obstructed by the corner of an island or other elements!

      Get your measurements right

      To create the perfect kitchen layout there are some key measurements to keep in mind.

      • 120 cm (approx. 47”) between cabinets and a kitchen island (same for a Galley kitchen)
      • 100 cm (approx. 39”) around dining table to allow for chairs to be pulled out comfortably
      • ca. 90 cm (approx. 35”) – top height of the countertop
      • 60-75 cm (approx. 23-27”) from the top of the island to pendant lamps above
      • 36-60 cm (approx. 15-24”) surface space beside the pantry to set down food
      • 45-90 cm (approx. 18-36”) of countertop space on one or both sides of the sink for cleaning and prepping
      • 50-90 cm (21-36”) of countertop on either side of your cooktop
      • ca. 50 cm (approx. 18”) between countertop and wall cabinets
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      Pro Tip

      Look for a 30'' free standing fridge if you want to match the depth of standard cabinets and countertops. Otherwise allow for more space in front of a standard 36'' fridge.

      The White Guide by NH.DESIGN is a helpful resource to choose the right white paint colour.

      The White Guide

      Not every white is the same, and choosing the right one isn’t easy.

      Learn everything about undertones and how to pick the perfect white paint colour for any room in your home with my White Guide.

      Use the right words when talking to your designers and carpenters

      When planning a kitchen it’s crucial that everyone involved speaks the same language and is on the same page. Words like “shaker-style” are used and known by almost anyone looking to redo their kitchen. But did you know that there are about a dozen different types that people-next-door call “shaker-style” when they are in fact similar, but not the same?
      (And just to satisfy your curiosity, some gorgeous examples of similar styles to shaker include raised panel and beveled edge.)

      Types of kitchens

      Then there is the topic of different types of kitchen layouts. Most likely you already have a kitchen at home, and when you’re redoing it chances are you’ll stick with the same type layout.

      But if you want to mix things up or your kitchen is part of a larger renovation you can go for one of these common layouts:

      • L-shape
        This layout is exactly what it sounds like – the cabinets form a letter L shaped combination.
      • Galley
        Two rows of kitchen units on walls opposite each other.
      • Linear
        Also pretty straight forward, this layout is one line of cabinets.
      • U-shape
        Just like the L-shaped kitchen layout, this one resembles the letter U.

      Carpentry & joinery terms

      First, carpenters and joiners are not the same thin. No? No!
      So whether you need a carpenter or a joiner for your kitchen project is the first question we need to answer.
      The simple version is that joiners create things like window- and door frames, and tend to fabricate those in a workshop. Whereas carpenters work with the structural building of things which is done on-site. Even though the difference between the two is minimal, it’s still relevant. For example, a joiner would build a beautiful staircase while a carpenter fits it inside your home. Basically, a joiner makes the piece a carpenter installs or repairs.

      To make conversations with your designer and carpenter or joiner easier, here’s a list of common terms used when planning a kitchen:

      • Plinth or toekick
        Refers to the piece of wood covering the legs of the kitchen cabinet so they’re not visible.
      • Filler strip
        A piece of wood or other material to fill the space between a cabinet and the wall to make it look built-in.
      • Apron front sink
        Large sinks that have an apron on the front. This type of sink usually sits on the top front edge of short kitchen cabinets.
      • Backsplash
        A backsplash is the panel above the countertop, usually behind the stove or sink, that protects the kitchen wall from splashes.
      • Different materials for countertops such as butcher block (wood), granite (natural rock), marble (natural stone), quartz (stone) or quartzite
      • Cantilever
        A supporting element extends beyond the element that it is supporting. For example, if a countertop extends beyond the cabinet that it is resting on, like an overhang for seating on an island.
      • Crown molding
        Decorative borders on kitchen cabinets.
      • Edge treatment
        When the edges of kitchen countertops are shaped in a particular way, such as rounding them.
      • Sheen
        The glossiness of paint. The dullest sheen would be called “flat” and the shiniest one “gloss”.

      Smart ideas for any kitchen

      Since kitchens are such technical areas and all about functionality and efficiency, there are tons of fun and smart ideas to make your kitchen perfect.

      Kitchen islands

      Kitchen islands are a great way to add extra storage and work surface to your kitchen. Plus, they give that dreamy look of being fancier and more expensive than they are.

      If you don’t have the space for a built-in permanent island, there are many great smaller options. I love this VADHOLMA one from IKEA because it looks great, has shelves for storage on one side and space for bar seating on the other.

      Interior organisation

      Most people say that storage is the main issue in their kitchen. What if I told you that you could easily fit everything (and more) with the right interior organisers?
      Think beyond cutlery inserts and spice racks. How about stackable shelves like these VARIERA ones from IKEA? 
      You can use the full height of your cabinets instead of wasting space above small things like glasses and stacked plates.

      Another great tip to maximise kitchen space is drawers because you can use the full depth of the cabinet, not just the front part you can reach. It’s also more ergonomic to place stacks of plates and other heavier items in a drawer than lifting it off a shelf above your head.

      Corner cabinets can be the worst waste of space in your kitchen, but they don’t have to be. With an integrated carousel you can make the most of that space.

      Clever solutions for all your electronics

      Almost nobody thinks about electrical solutions when planning a kitchen, and wonders after where to plug in the mixer.
      Let’s not do that and think about what electronics you have in your kitchen that could use some clever solutions.

      What about a countertop level cabinet with hidden sockets to store all your small appliances? No more cluttering up the counter and having to move them back and forth.
      Or charging solutions inside a drawer recessed into the countertop (popping out at the push of a button)?

      And let’s not forget about the Smart Home appliances out there, like a fridge that displays its inside and reminds you to buy milk? Or even better, orders it for you before you run out? I know I would love that!

      Clever ideas to save energy

      Kitchens need a lot of energy, all the appliances being plugged in and running 24/7 makes up a sizeable chunk of your bill.
      You can change that with some smart solutions that are more energy efficient.

      A-rated appliances save energy and even allow for outside temperature changes.
      Chances are you have quite a few lights in your kitchen, from overhead lighting to cabinet and countertop lights. Choose LED ones for any kind of light you have in your kitchen (and home) to save energy, money and make your lights last for years.

      Need help designing your home and pulling it all together?
      Not sure where to start?
      Can’t visualise what it’s going to look like in the end?

      With my virtual and in-person interior design services you get everything you need
      to transform your home into a space you love.

      Book a free Discovery Call with me and let’s chat!

      With these design tips it’s easy to design your dream kitchen.

      Thanks for reading!
      If you enjoyed this post, follow along for more interior design tips and inspiration on my Instagram @nhdotdesign and sign up for my Welcome Home Letter.

      Take care, Nadine

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