How to Approach a Kitchen Renovation

Beginning a kitchen renovation can be a daunting task. From the layout, to the tile, to the appliances, to the lighting, and a million other details in between, there are a lot of decisions to be made. Making those decisions in the right order can help make sense of the overall space, and keep the process moving. Here's how I approach such a formidable assignment.


kitchen with grasscloth wallpaper

Design by Courtney Zanelli | Photo by John Bessler


The first thing I select with my clients is the appliance suite. Not only is this a significant portion of the budget, but it gives me an idea about the level of function that they are hoping to achieve in their space. Serious cooks will want serious appliances, and this is definitely a time to go big or go home. A kitchen is not a space that you will want to refresh or update in just a few years, so the time is now to invest in a space that will stand the test of time.


Next, we start to think about the look and feel of the space, beginning with the flooring. Will we extend the hardwoods that are in the rest of the home, go bold with a funky tile, or choose something simple and timeless? We want to choose enduring materials that make sense for the home, but make a design statement, too.


kitchen with wood cabinetry and handmade tile

Design by Toledo Geller | Photo by Jacob Snavely


After the flooring is chosen, we can select a countertop and backsplash material. Many of my clients are hesitant about the upkeep of natural stone -- and for good reason! -- so I tend to steer them toward a light-colored granite or manufactured material like Caesarstone for the elevated look, but with much less maintenance. I like a pretty classic material for the backsplash, as a glass or too-small mosaic can look dated pretty quickly.


Next, it's time to design the cabinetry. Depending on the ceiling height, I like to take the cabinets all the way to the ceiling -- it's a cleaner look and why not utilize the vertical space for storage? Below, I prefer drawers or cabinets with roll-outs inside to cabinets with shelves because the storage is so much more efficient and easily accessed. This is the time to literally sit with a pen and paper and take inventory of everything that will need to be stored in the kitchen. We want to account for everything you use and do in the kitchen to truly customize it to the way you operate.


kitchen with gray cabinetry

Design by S.R. Gambrel | Photo by Eric Piasecki


As for cabinetry design, I like a clean profile with inset drawers and doors, or, if the space is more modern, it may call for full overlay. Cabinetry is a place to have fun and be a bit bold with color, which can tie the kitchen into the design plan of the rest of the home. Color is also one of the easiest things to change if it no longer suits you down the road, so don't be afraid to think a little outside the box and do something that you will really love.


The importance of lighting in a kitchen cannot be overstated, but I think filling the ceiling with can lights is a cop-out (but choose square cans if you must). This is a chance to do something experimental that will be amazing with statement pendants or a series of semi-flushmount fixtures. I love Urban Electric for the opportunity to choose something custom or even one-of-a-kind. I feel the same way about plumbing fixtures and hardware -- don't miss the chance to have some fun with it! You'll be touching these pieces every day, so they should be durable and special. The French company THG makes some truly stunning fixtures and the craftsmanship is top notch.

The final layer of the kitchen is what really brings it to life. Kitchens are inherently slick, so they need some texture and pattern to feel warm. I love to add wallpaper, an interesting backsplash, rugs under tables, textural chairs or barstools, and more. Right now I'm loving taking a utilitarian space like a pantry and using a bold wall paper or paint color to make it WOW. In my own kitchen, I'm wrapping the butler's pantry in faux ostrich-skin wallcovering and having a custom banquette made for a cozy seating nook.


If you'd like to collaborate on your own kitchen renovation, please get in touch by filling out a design inquiry.