Building a home is overwhelming (been there, done that!) … and one of the hardest parts is designing your kitchen layout. The kitchen is the most utilized room in the house and the top place for friends and family to gather … so you want it to be FUNCTIONAL for both entertaining as well as everyday living (e.g. putting away your dishes)! In this post, I’m sharing 9 tips for designing a functional kitchen. These are all things I LOVE about my own kitchen layout. I’ll also include a couple of things that I wish I had done differently in my kitchen (so you can learn from my ‘mistakes’).
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MY OPEN KITCHEN LAYOUT
First of all, I personally LOVE having my kitchen open to our family room. These are the two rooms my family (and probably your family) spends 90% of our time in … so why not combine the rooms so we can all be together?! I highly recommend an open kitchen floor plan :).
Here is a visual of my exact kitchen layout. I apologize for the blurry photo, but this image shows you in detail my kitchen floor plan …
Interested in seeing my entire custom floor plan for ideas?! Please visit my FLOOR PLAN PAGE for details.
DESIGNING A FUNCTIONAL KITCHEN: 9 TIPS
All tips below are based on things I LOVE about my own functional custom kitchen.
1. AMPLE WALKING SPACE ON ALL SIDES OF ISLAND
Be sure to have plenty of space to comfortably walk around your kitchen island.
We have at least 42″ on all four sides of our kitchen island. This allows us room to open the dishwasher or the refrigerator without our back bumping up to the island.
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2. STOVE DIRECTLY BEHIND SINK
I find it very functional to have my stovetop directly behind me when I’m standing at my sink.
This allows me to easily ‘transport’ a full pot of water to the stovetop to boil. I simply turn myself around (as opposed to walking across the kitchen with a full pot of water). You can even go a step further (no pun intended) and include a pot filler above your stove!
3. SILVERWARE + EVERYDAY DISHES NEAR DISHWASHER
One of my least favorite kitchen tasks is unloading the dishwasher (which is why we make our daughters do this as one of their chores)! However, unloading the dishwasher is more pleasant (and faster) when your silverware and everyday dishes are stored very close to the dishwasher.
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4. PULL OUT GARBAGE/RECYCLING CABINET
Including a rollout garbage/recycling cabinet by your kitchen sink allows for VERY easy cleanup when cooking or doing dishes. A word of caution if you have a dog … our pup sneaks in the cabinet when it’s open (to find crumbs) and she’s been nearly closed in the cabinet a couple of times!
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5. DRAWERS, DRAWERS + MORE DRAWERS
Drawers allow for SO much storage! Our large drawers under our stove have proven to be much more practical than traditional cabinets.
I highly recommend installing drawers inside your lower cabinets (shown below). Installing large drawers inside your lower cabinets makes it MUCH easier to reach dishes in the back of a cabinet. Just sayin’!
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6. DRAWER UNDER OVEN
Adding a drawer under your oven (if you have a wall oven) is very practical as well. This is a great place to store cookie sheets.
7. SOFT CLOSE DRAWERS + CABINETS
We have soft close on all drawers and cabinet doors. While this isn’t necessary, it definitely is a great feature to have.
8. CENTRAL VACUUM VACPAN TOE KICK
If you have a Central Vac system, consider installing a vacpan toe kick on the bottom of your kitchen island. When turned on (with your foot … hence the name), the intense suction allows you to sweep crumbs and debris right into your central vac system.
Tip: we installed our toe kick on the inside of the island so it wouldn’t be visible from the family room. You can see my toe kick in the kitchen island photo above.
9. SINK IN THE KITCHEN ISLAND
I personally love having my sink in the island because it’s right in the middle of all the action and I can keep an eye on my kids while doing dishes.
I do love the look of a sink under a window, but my husband didn’t want to worry about pipes bursting during our sub-zero winter temps. However, I have been repeatedly ‘schooled’ in the comments that pipes on exterior walls are perfectly fine for most people … even those who live in harsh climates as I do.
MY KITCHEN DESIGN ‘MISTAKES’
Ok, so these aren’t exactly mistakes … but they are two (significant) things I would change about my kitchen design if I were to build again.
HIDDEN PANTRY CABINET DOORS
First of all, I love my hidden pantry … however, I would do our pantry cabinet doors differently. Our pantry doors are opened and closed probably 20 times a day … so these tall cabinet doors take a beating.
They’ve held up fairly well after 8 years of use, but they aren’t perfectly straight anymore (which annoys me). I’m not exactly sure what I would do differently (possibly a swinging pantry door?) … all I know is that I will NOT do tall cabinet pantry doors again :).
KITCHEN ISLAND SIZE IS NOT IDEAL
I would LOVE to have a huge (12′ -14′ long) kitchen island with tons of prep space and storage on all four sides! Obviously, my 8′ x 4′ isn’t terrible, BUT a large island with ample storage is a MUST in my next home build.
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I hope you now feel more excited and ready to create your own list of kitchen layout and function must-haves (as well as ‘no-nos’) to communicate to your builder or architect. If you want to dig deeper, download my *FREE* guided Design Decision workbook to help you choose kitchen design finishes with confidence :).