Design a kitchen that works for you

Many homeowners design their kitchen around an island.

When planning a new kitchen, where do you start? There are cabinets and countertops to select, appliances to peruse and plenty of decisions about layout and space planning.

How much space do you need? What type of cabinet configuration do you want? Would you like an island or an adjoining breakfast room?

Before throwing your hands up in frustration, take a logical approach to the process. Start by narrowing down your style and the level of finishes you want in the space. "The old standby of looking at magazines and cutting out pictures is always good," said Mitch Goldstein, president of Oak Park Bath and Kitchen.

Those pictures of an ornate traditional kitchen or a sleek, contemporary cabinet design can go a long way in helping a builder or kitchen designer understand your goals. Do you like solid wood cabinetry or an easy to clean laminate? Do you want arched door panels or Shaker-inspired recessed door panels?

Those style and design discussions also should include a realistic view of your budget. If you are tearing out magazine pictures of $100,000 kitchens, but have a $30,000 budget, then it's time to adjust your expectations. "If we have a true budget, it saves everyone time and money," Goldstein said. "That way we don't have a client falling in love with a cabinet that just isn't going to work for their budget."

When working with a builder, find out what is included in the base price of the home. The builder should be able to show you samples of cabinet woods, door styles and countertop materials and explain the various pricing options.

Depending on the price range of the home, you may find that granite countertops are standard, along with oak cabinets and a tile floor. If you have your heart set on fancier cherry cabinets and solid oak floors, find out the cost and determine whether it fits with your budget.

Another important factor when designing a kitchen is the floor plan. Most builders have at least three or four plans with varying layouts. Before deciding, think about your current kitchen.

"What do you hate about your kitchen and what do you love about your kitchen now?" said Gulio Giometti, president of Catalina Kitchens in Orland Park.

Someone who loves to entertain, but has been constrained by a small kitchen should look for a layout that is not just larger, but has a good traffic flow. The space should allow for ease of movement around the room and the creation of different conversation areas. Will guests gather around an island or sit in the adjoining family room?

Someone who loves to cook should think about the food preparation areas and the size and capacity of the appliances. If you plan to do some food preparation at an island, then consider adding a second sink in that location. If you want space for large pots and pans, then a farm style sink might work as your main sink.

The types of appliances and their level of power and customization also are important. "If you're a big cook, do you want a large range and two or three ovens?" Giometti said. "Look at your objectives and form and function will follow."

If you are not focused on cooking, however, you might have different priorities for the kitchen layout. You may want a smaller kitchen and larger family room, for example. "If they don't cook, then don't do a 48-inch range, do a cooktop instead," said Maureen O'Neill, a senior kitchen designer with Abruzzo Kitchens in Schaumburg.

As you review the kitchen floor plan on paper or by walking through a new home model, think about your daily routine. Is the kitchen layout function and efficient? Is there plenty of room for all the family members to walk through the kitchen without bumping into each other?

This is particularly important in kitchens with children or where there are two cooks in the house. If more than one person will be cooking at the same time, the layout should be conducive to two traffic patterns.

"You want someone to be able to access the sink and refrigerator for prep work and someone to be able to access the range to cook and the biggest thing is to make sure they do not cross," O'Neill said.

The way you store foods also should play into your decision-making. If you buy groceries in bulk or store many large containers of foods, you may want extra pantry space, for example. Those who cook with lots of spices might want to add a built-in spice rack in the cabinetry layout.

Take some time to think about your likes, dislikes, lifestyle and budget. Hopefully, all those questions will help fine-tune the kitchen design into a space tailored to the way you live, cook and socialize.

— Special to the Tribune