How to Create a Dream Kitchen You'll Love

Top Characteristics for a Life of Happiness with Your Kitchen


Do you remember when you were in high school and some well-meaning adult tried to get you to list out characteristics that you should look for in a future spouse?  Perhaps they wanted you to focus on good character and to be able to recognize those traits in other people, as well as in yourself.  Well, today, I'd like to take that same approach with your future kitchen!  Let's pretend that you're back on the dating scene but this time you're looking for your perfect match in the form of a dream kitchen.  While some characteristics on your "wish list" will be unique to you and your tastes, I've come up with a list of traits that I think are fairly well appreciated by most people.  If you discipline yourself to adhere to this list while you're designing your kitchen, I think you'll have a space you'll love so much, you'll want to just marry it!

Source:  Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles


Traits to Look for in Your Dream Kitchen


Respects Your Need for Space

No matter how great every other detail of your future kitchen is, you won't be truly happy with it unless you've got good flow and some elbow room.  A masterfully good layout is essential.  Space planning happens to be one of my favorite aspects of the design process.  I love taking a dis-functional space (whether it be a generic layout on a set of blueprints or an existing kitchen space that needs to be gutted) and transforming it into something that truly works for the homeowners.  It is such a personal process that you really can't tell someone else how to do it.  What works for one family may be horrible for another family, but in general, these are some of the important aspects of a spacious and good layout:

Try to think in terms of clusters of work zones instead of the old concept of a work triangle, especially when working with a large space.  So for instance, in addition to the cooking area you might want to create:

  • prep area (prep sink, chopping block, trash) near the main refrigerator or near refrigerator drawers.
  • clean-up area (large sink, DW, trash, & recycling)
  • baking area (marble counter space for working with dough, close access to ovens) with lots of drawers for measuring cups, spoons, and bakeware.  Try to position with good access to a sink for washing sticky stuff off your hands.  Consider placing a stand mixer in a cabinet with a lift-up shelf for a stand mixer.
  • a place for related breakfast tasks (with a toaster, blender, coffee maker, etc).  Consider tucking this area away behind pocket or bi-fold doors to reduce countertop clutter.

For good flow in your kitchen, examine how your other family members and guests will interact with the space...and then try to keep everyone out of each other's way.

  • Create the main cooking area in a place where no other traffic patterns will intersect with it.  This would mean that the cook should have a fairly compact work zone comprising of the range, prep sink, and refrigerator/freezer.  If the refrigerator/freezer is a bit too far away or will be frequented by others during meal preparations, then adding refrigerator drawers near the prep sink can be a great help.  Items frequently needed during meal prep and cooking can be kept here, such as milk, butter, eggs, and fresh vegetables.
  • Create a designated area for other family members (especially children) and guests to hang out with the cook and not be in their way.  Bar stools placed opposite of the cooking area (usually the back side of an island) are a start, but consider providing them with their own set of refrigerator/freezer drawers and perhaps an ice maker.  That way they can easily help themselves to snacks or beverages without crossing into the cook's territory.  Even better, if the size of the room allows, having two islands is a great way to give everyone their own space

Source:  Thompson Custom Homes

Lots of counter space is an obvious luxury.  It's almost impossible to have too much, at least from a functional stand point.  In this kitchen above, a generous sized prep sink, pairs with the range and refrigerators (to the right) for a compact work zone.  An additional alley way behind the range is also highly practical and keeps a lot of the cooking and prep tasks well out of the way of family members and guests.


Source:  Humphrey Munson

A very long island works well in this kitchen because all of the primary work zones are contained on one side of the island.  The refrigeration units are paneled so well as to be almost invisible (they are on the right side of the range).  Keep in mind that this length of island will require an engineered/man-made countertop material or wood to span the whole distance.  If you want to go this big with your island, you might want to check out my post on Designing a Large Kitchen Island.

There When You Need 'Em

A good cook needs support.  A kitchen that will be there for him/her when the going gets tough.   Think in terms of multiples when it comes to certain appliances, such as refrigerators and freezers.  I'm constantly amazed by how much my need for refrigerator space grows each year as my children get bigger!  My son will soon require his very own refrigerator just for the gallons of milk he consumes each week.  The luxury kitchens that I design almost always have at least two 30" refrigerator/freezer units.  On some occasions, I'll even design with two 36" units and even have another unit in a nearby pantry or butler's pantry for overflow.  You can always prioritize the items most frequented and put them in your primary refrigerator.  Bulk items with longer expiration dates can go in the secondary refrigerator, as can lots of beverages for guests.  Nothing will make you feel as organized about your kitchen as will having ample refrigerator and freezer space!

As mentioned previously, the placement of refrigerator drawers can really solve a lot of problems.  While they are fairly expensive, they are hard working in the kitchen and can be a great way to help with the organization of your space as well as for getting you just a little bit more refrigerator space, which is always a luxury.

Multiple sinks area another nice treat when you can work them in.  Obviously, one large sink will be your main clean-up sink.  However, your prep sink doesn't need to be small.  In fact, there are two reasons in my experience, that people don't use their prep sinks in their current kitchens.  1)  The sink does not have a garbage disposal....2) The sink is too small.   So it's best to err on the side of too big than too small for a prep sink.  Oh, and put a good garbage disposal in it! 

While drawers are more costly in terms of cabinetry, you can almost never go wrong choosing them over a cabinet with doors.  Sure roll-out shelves are nice, but who wants to have to open a door and then pull a roll-out shelf?  That's two actions as opposed to the singular action of opening a drawer.  In the kitchens that I design almost all of the base units will have drawers.  I will usually give a couple of cabinets with doors just for awkward items or items that are rather tall and won't work well in drawers.


Source:  Heather Hungeling Design

Multiple Sub Zero refrigerators are concealed with panels to blend in seamlessly with the surrounding cabinetry.  Additional refrigerator drawers were placed next to the prep sink for added convenience.  Countertop appliances were tucked away in the corner behind tall dresser doors.


Source:  Heather Hungeling Design

Two apron front sinks look twice as pretty.  Along with two dishwashers , it makes clean-up a breeze.

Smart as a Whip

Technology always makes its way into luxury kitchen designs in some way or another, but I am apt to counsel against too many technology applications at once.  For one thing, they can date the kitchen just as easily as trendy tile.  Secondly,  they can be annoying and expensive to change out should they prove to not be all that they were cracked up to be - especially if custom cabinetry cut-outs are involved.  However, these are a few of the technologies that I think are well worth considering and I incorporate into most of the kitchens that I design:

  • Miele built-in coffee maker
  • Gaggenau's wall ovens (these are the top ovens out there and I love the side-swinging door)
  • Miele's dishwashers (go for the top of the line's not that much more and it's almost silent)
  • Microwave drawers
  • Drawers with built-in outlet strip for charging tablets and phones
  • LED lighting inside of cabinetry as well as underneath wall cabinets

Side swinging wall oven

Source:  Gaggenau

Miele's built-in Coffee Maker

Image Source:  Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles

Drawer fitted with outlet for charging tablets and phones

Source:  Docking Drawer



Neat as a Pin

It makes me eternally happy to know that my husband is a tidy man.  He is exceedingly well organized and that's just how I like my kitchens too.  Your dream kitchen should have well thought-out details that will make your life easier.  For most people, that would be things like drawers with organizers and storage for small countertop appliances.  But even if you just want a good hidey-hole to throw stuff in and forget about it, hey...that's ok!  I'm not judging.  A good kitchen design can do that for you too!  I encourage you to go through your kitchen (or let your designer do it!) and make notes of the categories and quantities of things that require storage.   Here are a few things that I always make sure to incorporate into a well-designed kitchen:

  • Roll-out shelves work well inside of a tall, deep, pantry-style cabinet for storing lots of serving pieces.  Just make sure that you don't put roll-outs above shoulder level.
  • Divided bins for storing bulk food items
  • A dedicated coffee station or breakfast pantry
  • Appliance Storage to hide countertop clutter
  • Divided drawers for pots & pans - especially to organize pot lids
  • Divided drawers for cooking utensils, tea towels, oven mitts, napkins, eating utensils, placemats, cutlery, Tupperware, etc.
  • Vertical dividers for trays and bakeware.  I usually put that in the deep space above a wall oven.
  • Spice storage.  This is a controversial topic!  In my opinion, the best way to store spices is to put them in a drawer, in divided rows.  You can have one wide drawer to hold them all or several smaller drawers to further organize them.  You can do those little, tilted drawer inserts as well.  I realize this isn't the fanciest option out there but I think it's the most practical!  The other options always seem gimmicky to me and I really just don't think those options are as practical as being able to look down into the drawer and see all of the labels face up.  I've even had clients alphabetize their spices before!


Source:  House & Home via DecorPad

Source:  Unknown

Source:  Hayburn & Co


Steadfast and Enduring

Luxury does not chase after trends.  That is something that I'm reminded of over and over again with my clients.  They always choose things that are well-suited to their particular tastes and they don't give a hoot about what's trendy.  Kitchens, especially when adhering to high quality standards, obviously cost an arm and a leg, but they also are a huge emotional investment.  It is enormously energy consuming to build out your dream kitchen and think through every detail.  As a result, most people will choose timeless classics over trends hands down - especially on the big investment items.  So with that in mind, I encourage you to make your cabinetry the top priority in terms of your budget.  If done really well, the cabinetry will likely outlast your appliances.  Quality cabinetry can survive a remodel if you plan a great layout and stick with the classic styles.  Even if you tire of your cabinet finish, you can paint over it.  You can also change out your hardware and your backsplash tile.   Just keep in mind how styles might change in ten years and try to plan ahead for that by choosing a cabinet style which can make the transition.  Here are a few tips on choosing quality cabinetry that won't date:

  • Shaker style, recessed flat panel cabinet doors.  I'm sure you've heard this before, but it really is true.  I've worked on several homes from the early 1900's and the existing cabinetry had shaker style doors.  The homeowners were updating because of layout changes and the fact that the cabinetry was worn out after almost 100 years, but I think that's pretty impressive that no one had ripped it out earlier.  That's a real testament to the timelessness of that style.
  • 3/4" plywood construction for the cabinet boxes.  I once had a client use a custom cabinet maker who quoted her a huge amount of money as an upcharge for using 3/4" plywood over 1/2" plywood.  I challenged that and won the argument because there is no significant increase in material cost between a 3/4" and a 1/2" sheet of plywood at the home improvement store!  Furthermore, the labor is exactly the same to make the cabinet box!  Honestly, I think sometimes people just make stuff up because they think it sounds good.  The moral of this tale is that you can and should expect to receive 3/4" construction on your custom cabinets.  If they won't give it to you for little upcharge, find someone else.
  • Dove-tailed drawers with full extension under-mount glides (with a soft-close feature).
  • Framed cabinetry with inset doors - a hallmark of bench-made custom cabinetry.  It's amazing what a difference this will make in contributing to the quality look of your project.  This is also the only type of cabinetry that will endure for a long time.
  • Natural stone counter materials like quartzite or marble that will stand the test of time in regards to trends.  If you're scared of marble, then you should definitely check out quartzite.  It is a natural stone and a completely different material from quartz (which is man-made).  Quartzite has a lot of the same beauty as marble, but it is extremely hard and does not etch like marble.  I'm using it for almost all of my projects nowadays.  You also might want to check out my post on Using Marble Countertops in the Kitchen.
  • Subway tile backsplash, particularly white will really weather the test of time. However, backsplash is the one area where I often encourage my clients to have a little fun.  If everything else is classic, you can always change out your backsplash tile down the road without really impacting anything else).

Source:  Heather Hungeling Design

A framed cabinet with an inset door and a flat, recessed panel is the most classic style of cabinetry ever.  My suggestion is to choose a wood stain or a painted finish as per your current tastes because if you're investing in quality cabinetry, you can always paint over it all later when you tire of the finish.  While there are some beautiful trends out there right now in terms of cabinetry colors, you need to make sure you have a plan of action for how you will adapt when the trend inevitably ends.  Choosing high-quality, classic cabinetry will be the backbone of your kitchen now and in the future so choose wisely!

Source:  Hammersmith Atlanta

This kitchen is a great example of timeless style.  Although they gave a subtle nod to the architecture of the house by incorporating a Tudor arch on the island end panels, they stuck to the classic shaker-style door everywhere else.  Nothing is trendy here except for the backsplash tile, which can be changed out later as the style changes.


Source:  Cooper Pacific

White never goes out of style and combining that with the shaker-style door and framed, inset-door cabinetry, these homeowners will be happy with this kitchen for a very, very long time.


Good Character

A dream kitchen that you can love forever will have great character.  The best kitchens are the ones that look beyond simply selecting nice finishes and quality materials.  They have at least one element that really makes the whole room sing.  Consider looking to the character of your overall home for clues.  Incorporating aspects of your home's architecture can be a lovely way to infuse character into the kitchen. Texture also plays a key role in most great kitchens.  Don't discount how much value a high quality wood floor can bring into the room, as well as accents of stone, brick, or tile.  Here are some of my other favorite ways to develop character if you find your space is lacking in this department:

  • Cool hardware.  If you aren't already a subscriber, check out my Luxury Resource Library at the footer of this page.  I give you several of my favorite resources for amazing cabinetry hardware.
  • Pretty glass cabinet doors.  Beveled glass is always a luxury and not offered by cabinet makers very often.  
  • Interesting millwork & cabinetry details
  • Pretty details inside of open cabinets or behind glass doors, such as burled woods or beadboard.
  • A fabulous custom range hood can anchor the style of the entire room
  • An amazing large window or a wall of windows over the sink.


This stunning dream kitchen by The Wiseman Group has an elegant furniture-style island and farmhouse sink.  Combined with the wide plank wood floors, large scale hood surround, and ceiling treatment, the kitchen positively sings with character.

Source:  The Wiseman Group

Character can be achieved in so many ways.  Layering in texture with refined details and then adding a large scale element to the mix is always a nice way to go.



Source:  Cooper Pacific Kitchens

La Cornue ranges are one of my absolute favorite appliances to bring in for a dream kitchen.  They have been around for over 100 years!  They came up with this concept of a vaulted oven back in the very beginning and they are still known for this feature today.  The domed shape of the oven interior allows hot air to rise constantly, which pushes the other air back down the sides...convection without the need of fans!  Not only do they have ravishing good looks, but they come in a multitude of colors and trim options.  They give a luxury kitchen an instant dose of character and history.


Source:  Heather Hungeling Design

A classic kitchen doesn't need to be boring.  Unique details, such as this cabinetry & millwork by Clive Christian, provides character by reflecting the architecture of the house.  


So what do you think?  What would be your recipe for a life of happiness with your kitchen?  I'd love to hear what qualities you think are the most important, so feel free to leave your comments below!  

No matter how great every other detail of your future dream kitchen is, you won't be truly happy with it unless you adhere to this list of important characteristics. It’s a little bit like selecting a future spouse…you’ll want that person to have good character, respect your need for space, be steadfast, neat as a pin…come join me as I explain these traits and others in today's post about CREATING A DREAM KITCHEN YOU CAN LOVE FOREVER.  #dreamkitchen, #whitekitchens, #clivechristian, #luxurykitchendesigner, #kitchendesign, #kitchenlayout

No matter how great every other detail of your future dream kitchen is, you won't be truly happy with it unless you adhere to this list of important characteristics. It’s a little bit like selecting a future spouse…you’ll want that person to have good character, respect your need for space, be steadfast, neat as a pin…come join me as I explain these traits and others in today's post about CREATING A DREAM KITCHEN YOU CAN LOVE FOREVER.

#dreamkitchen, #whitekitchens, #clivechristian, #luxurykitchendesigner, #kitchendesign, #kitchenlayout