Designer Tips for What Makes an Ideal Kitchen

Get the kitchen you'll actually enjoy cooking dinner in using designer tips for your kitchen remodel

Designer Tips for What Makes an Ideal Kitchen

Not everyone agrees how a kitchen should look. Some people like Contemporary, some like Farmhouse, some like Traditional. But there are some features that everyone can agree on. 

What separates the just-okay kitchen from the one you’ll actually enjoy cooking dinner in? Here are the most often requested, must-have features and layouts that create an ideal kitchen, as reported by kitchen designers. 

1. The Ideal Kitchen Encourages Socializing

Today’s kitchen has become much more than a place to cook and wash dishes. The ideal kitchen is the social hub of the home, where everyone gathers – where you find out about your children’s day, have coffee with the neighbors, host parties for colleagues, socialize with your extended family. When kids come home from school, they go to the kitchen. When you’re cooking, chances are your kids and their friends are right there too, talking, reading, checking their phones or doing homework. Maybe even helping.

And you know it’s true: everyone at a party ends up in the kitchen. That’s why you want your kitchen to be welcoming. The look, feel, and design of your kitchen is an important part of how good it will be for your social gatherings.

An ideal kitchen should be integrated into the flow of the home, rather than closed off from the living areas. A dark, cramped kitchen feels – well, dark and cramped. Your new kitchen should open up the space as much as possible to allow as many people as possible to take part in food prep, cooking, cleaning up and socializing at the same time. By combining the kitchen, dining room, and living room into one cohesive, comfortable area, your friends and family will be happy to gather in. 

The social focal point of the kitchen is the kitchen island. A multi-functional island can be used for food preparation, cooking, eating, visiting and entertaining. The island makes socializing easy without creating a “too many cooks” vibe. 

If you love to entertain, then your new kitchen needs to be designed accordingly. When planning a new kitchen, there are ways your Kitchen Design Partner-approved kitchen designer can make the space conducive to relaxed company and enjoyable socializing.

2. The Ideal Kitchen is Built Using Materials that Look Good and Have Lasting Value

What’s the point of a beautiful new kitchen if it doesn’t stay looking great? When remodeling your kitchen, specify products that are built to last, that are hand-crafted using time-tested techniques, that have a proven record of longevity. Not something that looks good initially but falls apart, deteriorates or stops working in a year or two. 

Countertops. Mother Nature creates the longest lasting and most durable countertop surface materials. Nothing lasts longer than stone. Granite, marble, soapstone, limestone, quartzite, travertine – any of these will outlast everything else in your house. 

Quartz has replaced granite as the most popular countertop material. Quartz countertops are pricey, but quartz never requires any maintenance. (Natural stone requires special cleaners and regular sealing.) Unlike marble and granite, manufactured quartz is resistant to stains, mold, mildew, and bacteria. Hot pots, knives, lemon juice, wine and abrasive scrubbing pads can’t damage quartz. And it will last a lifetime. 

Sinks. A stainless steel sink looks good in any style kitchen, from modern to country, and it’s better than other sink materials when it comes to resisting stains, abrasions, high heat, and chips from sharp impacts, like from a dropped knife or cast iron pan. Stainless steel never chips.

Floors. Glazed ceramic tile on floors will literally last longer than you do. It’s impervious to moisture and stains and wipes clean easily. The tiles that look like hardwood planks are especially popular. 

Hardwood has warmth and personality and makes homes cozy and inviting. And it goes with any kitchen style — from contemporary to transitional to traditional. A solid hardwood floor can be refinished 10 to 12 times during its typical 100-year lifespan. Now that’s long-lasting.

Backsplash. Subway tile is a classic, long-wearing material that can’t be beat. It really was used in NYC’s first subway tunnels, a fact that shows long lasting value. White subway tiles always look classy and they’re versatile: they can be installed in ways other than horizontal – vertical is interesting and herringbone gives a different look. 

Cabinets. When it comes to cabinets, think plywood construction. If you’ve always thought that quality made cabinets must be crafted from solid wood, that would be wrong. Furniture-grade plywood is made of pressed layers of wood and adhesives, which give it composite strength. And it doesn’t warp like solid wood. 

Lighting. Don’t forget lighting – the ideal kitchen is well lit for both tasks and ambience. LED lighting has revolutionized how kitchens are lit. Not that long ago, incandescent and halogen lights were the only options. Now with the wide variety of LEDs available, those types of lighting are history. Why LEDs?

  • They use much less electricity than other bulbs
  • They produce very little – if any — heat
  • They can be used for the types of lighting a well-lit kitchen needs
  • They’re extremely long lasting (their longevity can be measured in years, rather than hours) 
  • They can be installed in the toe kick, inside cabinets, doors and drawers 

3. The Ideal Kitchen Has Matching Appliances

An ideal kitchen feels pulled together. A coordinated color scheme adds to this feeling, and this includes matching appliances. 

In this article we’re referring to the appliance finishes, not if they are all from the same manufacturer. That’s a different issue altogether. 

Have you ever been in someone’s kitchen and admired the fact that all of their appliances came from the same manufacturer? Probably not. This is why kitchen designers say that unless you’re personally very particular about it, brand matching isn’t a requirement during a kitchen remodel. 

Ask any realtor, and they’ll tell you that kitchens sell homes. They all agree: walking into a kitchen with different colored appliances, from bisque to white to black to hold-over colors like avocado or goldenrod, causes prospective buyers to say “no thanks”.

Obviously, no one wants a big old mish-mash of styles and colors in their kitchen. Even if you’re “color challenged”, just about every kitchen appliance ever made comes in white and black and stainless steel. It should be no problem to find appliances in matching colors, even if they do come from different manufacturers.

4.  The Ideal Kitchen Has an Efficient Work Triangle

The “work triangle” is defined by the National Kitchen and Bath Association as an imaginary line drawn between the sink to the stove to the refrigerator and back to the sink. The idea is that the cook should be able to move easily and without obstacles between three points – sink, stove/oven, and fridge – and the distances between those points should not be far. 

For comfort, efficiency and safety, the three legs of the triangle, when added together, should not total more than 26 feet. (Of course, this is something your kitchen designer will take care of during the design phase of your remodel.)

The recommended distances make sure that the kitchen doesn’t feel cramped and that when you are the cook, you have room to work efficiently. 

5. The Ideal Kitchen Includes a Trendy Item Or Two, But Overall Stays With Timeless

The “trendy vs timeless” kitchen decision has always been one to consider before remodeling your kitchen. Trends are fun, but trends come and go. Will you still like those trendy floating shelves years from now? Or will you wish you had installed wall cabinets instead? That is the question.

We all know that our style and taste will change over the years, but how do we create a space — especially one this expensive — that will spark joy for us years from now? 

Sometimes, a trend can develop into a timeless style – think white painted kitchens — but if you want a truly timeless kitchen, you’ll be very selective about the materials you choose.

Timeless Kitchens Use Neutral Colors

Timeless kitchens use neutral colors; they never really go out of style. White, grey, taupe, or even black are top neutrals for cabinet finishes. Stick with one of those, and you’ll be very satisfied long term.

Bright colors for your cabinet finish can often be trending and will look good when first installed, but they can get real old, real quick. 

A trendy backsplash is hard to remove without damaging cabinets or countertops, so be careful when choosing tile. Subway tile is always in style. Not only does subway tile appear in the long-wearing category, it appears again here in the “timeless” section. It goes with virtually any kitchen style, from traditional to contemporary to transitional and anything in between.

Countertops are expensive to replace. You can’t go wrong with stone or quartz countertops; they will survive the test of time. Like subway tile, stone and quartz countertops are durable, and they never go out of style — unless you choose bright orange or a busy, busy granite pattern. 

Overall, granite or quartz is a win, especially whites, greys or tan patterns. They go with every color, they last forever and they can stand up to years of use and abuse. What’s not to love?

Timeless Cabinet Style

When it comes to selecting a timeless cabinet style, Shaker style is ideal. Flat panels, low profiles, simple clean lines – it will never get old. The Shaker style cabinets are versatile – you can make they look wonderful, no matter what your personal style may be.

Cabinets are the single most expensive part of your kitchen, and they come with a lifetime warranty on the finish (for many manufacturers). That’s because your cabinets will last a long, long time. You must like them for a few decades because that’s how long they will last.

Where To Work in a Trend

Where can you work in something trendy? Lighting is a good option, as it can be replaced without too much expense of difficulty. Cabinet hardware, faucets, or accent pieces are all great ways to stay on trend without compromising your timeless kitchens potential.

Timeless kitchens take in all the styles that you’ll love for years to come, which is exactly what the ideal kitchen should be all about. 

Conclusion and Take-Away

And there you have it, the five items that make up the ideal kitchen. When you start your plans for a new kitchen, you’ll want your Kitchen Design Partner-approved designer to

  1. Design to encourage socializing
  2. Incorporate long-lasting materials
  3. Specify matching appliance finishes, not necessarily from the same manufacturer
  4. Incorporate the work triangle
  5. Choose timeless, not trendy, design elements

A new kitchen can be the most expensive project you ever take on. We know you want to get it right so that it lasts as long as you live in your home. 


KDP exists to offer insight and advice about all things related to kitchen remodeling. Our goal is to connect homeowners with talented, experienced kitchen designers who live and work in their communities. We are a serious resource for anyone preparing to remodel their kitchen so they can make the best possible choices about designers, contractors and products.