What Makes Good Kitchen Design?


I’m sitting in my shed this morning, perusing kitchen designs…. and contemplating what actually does make a good kitchen?

I am no expert, not professing to be an expert…. I only know what has worked for me and my clients in the past.

When you think of kitchen design, what first comes to mind?… to me, before I consider the aesthetics, it’s the old ‘kitchen work triangle’ (stove/fridge/sink, positioned at three sides of a triangle). There’s heaps of opinion out there, about precise measurements of how far your sink, stove and fridge should be from each other. I sort of broke the golden rule of the triangle when I whacked my fridge in the pantry, along with all the other kitchen clutter (plates, glasses, food!)… but it worked for me.

My stove was opposite the sink… and well spaced (1.5m apart)… and the ‘work triangle’ was not a major thoroughfare in the house so that was the most important thing for me, in terms of working design. Trekking from the fridge into ‘the triangle’ was not really a trek and I considered that, when cooking a meal, I only went to the fridge once to get everything and once to put it all back… not a major limitation when it came to deciding to hide the fridge and not make it a feature of the kitchen or an integral part of the work triangle.

I think it is also important to consider, when designing your ‘work triangle’, how open appliance doors affect the flow through the triangle. I know what NOT to do, based on the townhome I am living in at the moment that’s for sure!! When the dishwasher door is open and the slide-out pantry cupboard is fully extended and someone is in the fridge hunting for something… everything comes to a standstill!!! Appliance doors, fridge door openings and entry doors should not interfere with the general flow through the work area.

Wrt  the triangle thing, consider the work flow of how you like to work in your kitchen, where you chop your veges and like to prep your meals. Generally it is desirable to have the sink in the centre of the work triangle as that is generally where all the action is. I think allowing for bench space on either side of the sink and the stove is optimal. You can even plan your work flow right down to how you position large and small sinks wrt which sink is closest to the stove for draining and clean up….. and then consider the flow of clean crockery, from the rinse sink etc back into it’s storage compartments.

This certainly would take centre stage if this was my sink!

You can plan your work flow requirements by thinking about how you prepare a normal meal. Fresh ingredients from the fridge -where do you like to chop and peel them? where do you like to transfer ingredients into cookware? .. near the sink, near the stove? Is the sink close enough to the stove so that the journey with hot pots from the stove to the sink is not too far? Where do you like to plate up? …near the sink? ..near the stove? These are all the things I take into consideration when advising on kitchen design.

Consider also the positioning of the dishwasher. When it’s open for stacking or unstacking,  is there enough standing space in front of the dishwasher for unpacking? Will the open dishwasher door clash with other cupboards you would like to have open at the same time for the ‘putting away’ process? Ugh! There is no space for standing in front of my dishwasher. It has to be a sideways unpack. Who designed my current joint?

In terms of overall streamlining kitchen design, I am a serious fan of cupboards meeting the ceiling or at least flush with a bulkhead. That space between cupboard tops and the ceiling is just a receptacle for dust. Streamlined to the ceiling cupboards so do it for me. I also am a sucker for undermount sinks where you can’t see the edges of the sink. It looks so much more polished and sleek and more upmarket.

A well designed island bench can make a kitchen, creates a central focal point, a central family meeting place and can provide a centred point around which symmetry can be built if that is the overall desired effect one one wants. If you can afford it, I think thick slabs of marble or composite stone or even concrete are the bomb! One of my recent clients incorporated an 80mm thick island bench top  into her kitchen and it looks glorious! Heartstopping! Flaunt those benchtops!

I think choosing a neutral colour scheme overall creates a sense of calm and space and remains timeless. It is great to show off one’s flair with the splashback…. a place to add colour/ texture/ personality…. without dating the kitchen.

Dark tones can make such an impact but can be overwhelming in smaller spaces so they are best used to highlight feature areas… a bank of cabinets, an island bench, a dark floor in a overall neutral kitchen with dark accents to highlight. Bursts of brighter colours are best kept for feature areas… splashbacks, even accessories and furniture.

Last but not least, the lighting… the jewellery of the kitchen… the jewellery of the home for that matter. A mix of feature and well directed task lighting and you can’t go wrong. I’m a sucker for the ‘Rule Of Three’.. and you’ll most likely find me recommending the triplet of 3 decorative lights over an island bench, dimensions permitting. I could go on and on about door/drawer hardware too but my workday beckons and I would like you to have some input into my ponderings. Just for the record, the trend is to do away with door hardware these days, with invisible drawer pulls, etc… but I’m a lover of antique brass and antique silver knobs and pulls. I also think they bring some more ‘jewellery’ into the kitchen.

What do you think makes good kitchen design? What elements do you notice when realestalking that make you love a kitchen? Would love you to share.

A-M xx

All image sources via my ‘Kitchen Love’ Pinterest page


This is where I muse about home design, interiors, life with my boys and other stuff that stops my heart. I own my own Real Estate agency, 'Cape Cod Residential', through which I stage, style and sell beautiful homes all over Brisbane, Australia.

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  • Melissa Mitchell
    October 31, 2012 at 9:41 am

    I’m in lust. Wednesday morning Porn. That is all. I can’t even pick a favourite.

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:37 am

      Ha,ha,ha,ha! xx

  • parisgirl
    October 31, 2012 at 9:51 am

    For me it is a long clear bench. I have my sink on the side under the window leaving the bench free from water splash and clutter. The kitchens I have hated over the years have one thing in common and that is no long stretches of bench space.Neutral or soft colours are important as have longevity and don’t date a house as quickly. I agree with you A-M shiny pretty things dress the kitchen. That said, I have a mirror splashback this time and if there is a next time it will be back to glass. It looks great but so hard to maintain.

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:37 am

      Those long stretches of bench are paramount. I dream of fields of benchtops. xx

  • Kitty
    October 31, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Jeez. Those photos make me want to cry. I’ll be 80 before our house is built at this rate.

    K xx

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:36 am

      It will happen faster than you think and then you’ll forget that you even had to wait! Promise. xx

  • RuthBT
    October 31, 2012 at 10:13 am

    A-M you are so helping me design my next kitchen! We moved into an already renovated house. The kitchen design works for me – all drawers and a great big island bench. The only downsides are the bifold windows from the main bench /sink area which open out to the backyard. They are either open or closed – not good on warm nights when you don’t want air con or to be eaten by bugs. I would love at least one pane closest to the corner to have the sash window/flyscreen in it so I could at least get some fresh air and breeze in without having to open the whole wall. The other thing I dislike is the colour of the stone benchtop. Other than that it works a charm and I also have a walk in pantry which I thought was going to be a hassle but is absolutely fine.
    My top things for my next kitchen:
    – Housekeeping/laptop nook
    – Pot filler tap above the cooktop
    – Cabinets as furniture
    – Scraps bin that you can access from the counter – I remember years ago seeing Jamie Oliver had one and I luff it!

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:35 am

      Yeah those bugs can be a problem!… can you replace the windows for a different assembly or is it too big a job? double hungs with screens? .. and yes, for me too, a laptop nook and a potfiller! Cabinets as furniture are a given! I have found the piece I am going to build my next kitchen around. xx

  • Elements
    October 31, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I know the “triangle” is the big deal in kitchen design and I always emphasize it with my clients but I really think the kitchen should be designed to best suit the space and the way you work in the kitchen. This can sometimes mean the “triangle” isn’t a triangle.
    A bit like Parisgirl, I always add my sink with my cook top so all the workspace is on one side and the island bench is all space no interruptions and no sitting at the bench hovering over a sink.
    Love your images A-M I can see your mind is ticking.

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:32 am

      So true. I almost had guilt pangs when I stashed the fridge away in my last kitchen, wiping the whole triangle rule. I never used to like sinks in island benchtops but after living with one, opposite the stove, I think I would do it again. Hmmm, decisions, decisions.

      • Candy
        September 20, 2015 at 10:33 am

        So the dilemma is always there! We are having a kitchen reno and my husband has decided to put the fridge in the pantry. I was unsure about this breaking the triangle idea until I’ve found your page. Make me feel better that it might work!!

        • A-M
          September 23, 2015 at 10:55 am

          It worked so well for us. I will design my next kitchen to incorporate the fridge in the pantry again. It’s nice to not have the fridge as the main feature in a kitchen. A-M xx

  • Narelle
    October 31, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Love your post A-M and I have modelled my new kitchen on your last house (including your lights <3). We haven't had a lot of benchspace in the last 2 houses and this time I'm loving the space. Also love all the appliances (toaster etc) in the pantry out of sight, undermount sink (to sweep the crumbs into) and a bin drawer located near the chopping block and sink

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:30 am

      Sounds fabulous Narelle. Bench space is such a luxury! xx

  • Renata
    October 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    I have an u shaped kitchen which is not that large, in a large home, I keep looking at ways to make it bigger, its not an easy thing without spending a fortune! I love the idea of the fridge in the pantry , that is something I would like, but there’s not enough space (yet)! Love all the kitchens in the post 🙂

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:29 am

      I hear you Renata. My current kitchen in my current abode is very small. It has aided in the decluttering though! Life is simple when small! xx

  • debra@dustjacket
    October 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I agree with all your points…actually my kitchen looks very much like a collection of your tips 🙂

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:28 am

      oh my, it must be beautiful! xx

  • Katrina
    October 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Ok taking notes. My final kitchen design will be signed off on next week!

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:28 am

      Beyond exciting! xx

  • belleinspirations
    October 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    WOW! What stunning kitchens,thanks for being my inspiration today A-M. Have a Fabulous day xx

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:28 am

      thanks lovely. xx

  • Miss Gingham
    October 31, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    When we first moved to the mountains we rented a house built by Americans in the 1950s. The house faced east and the kitchen was in the front where it got the morning sun. I loved this and it’s what I have now. So for me, requirement no 1 for a kitchen is morning sun.
    No 2: I would not like to be without an island bench although I don’t like it to have a sink. Speaking of sinks, I’ve had double sinks for at least the last 20 years and have never used the second bowl. I don’t know what it’s for except these days a single sink would look odd.
    No 3: Few if any under bench cupboards. I prefer drawers, which I know are more expensive but something I wouldn’t want to compromise.
    No 4: Large pantry, large enough for plates, glassware etc.
    There would of course be other things but after many years of cooking, I’d say the above are the most important to me.
    BTW, the kitchen in the 50s house had a door which looked like a broom cupboard until you opened it and found a little staircase leading down to a basement. How American is that?

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:27 am

      I had a beautiful big single, rectangular under mounted sink, with corner curves, the Oliveri Titan. It worked a treat and it had a grill that sat in the bottom of it for draining. I am going to use the same one in my next project. Oh your 50’s house sounded a dream! xx

      • Pam Wilson
        April 28, 2015 at 7:47 pm

        I have used the Titan in my previous house and loved it! Am building a new house now and I’m putting one in my huge butlers pantry and one in my laundry. Best sink ever designed I think.

  • Beth
    October 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    I so wish I had discovered blogs before my kitchen design….However, in my dream kitchen I would have to say that a butler’s pantry would have to be high up on my list. I would also have a deeper island bench and an oven at waist height not under bench.
    On a positive, the things I would do again would be a corian worktop – it has no joins, some subtle curves and the sink is seamlessly integrated. I love my kitchen tap with a pull out hose, and a glass splashback is so easy to look after.
    If you have some interesting features like beautiful windows, soaring ceilings or a treasure of a freestanding piece of furniture then even the simplest kitchen design can be stunning.
    I’m looking forward to seeing how you incorporate all these wonderful ideas that you have into your next project.

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:24 am

      Beautiful windows, a beautiful piece of furniture, high ceilings.. yes, yes!!

  • KL
    October 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Hi AM! What a serendipitus read! I’ve been trying to ‘lock in’ my kitchen design and have been writing similar posts. I think good kitchen design balances practicality and aesthetics whilst keeping in mind the decor or style of the home in general. Contemporary kitchens don’t look right in heritage listed houses nor would a traditional design look right in a minimalist space. I think any good design will let the space itself dictate the kitchen shape; L. U or galley. Trying to put a galley in an inappropriately shaped are will lead to headaches every time for example.
    I’ve always stuck to the ‘kitchen work triangle’ but am leaning more now towards task zones; prep, cooking, serving, cleaning and like you, I think keeping the cooking zone out of a thoroughfare is safe thinking! Ensuring no doors interupt the ‘flow’ or bump into one another is essential.
    Like in bathrooms, kitchens can utilise a WOW, exy product in small doses and make the remaining cost-effective compromises look the business! Keeping things neutral and adding colour or pattern in accessories can help keep a kitchen looking up-to-date and timeless too. Mind you, all these principals are easier to write than to decide on / do! I’ll be reading all your readers comments with great interest!
    x KL

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:23 am

      Yes! ‘task zones’… times are changing… and I so agree… a wow product, like a beautiful freestanding stove or an elegant bath in a bathroom can set the tone and allow for more cost effective choices to finish off the story. xx

  • engineerMum
    October 31, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    I can’t believe how long it just took me to read this post because I deconstructed each picture! Some fantastic ideas there! I too wish I had discovered more blogs prior to renovating my kitchen. And a decent budget too!

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:16 am

      Oh me too. I wish I had studied more kitchens on blogs before my last one. I have some great plans for the next but in the meantime, I encourage my clients to try some of my ideas! xx

  • Jodie aka Mummaducka
    November 1, 2012 at 6:03 am

    I am truly blessed to have the biggest kitchen I have ever seen in a real life house! seriously! it has 4 double door pantries and I have 2 fridges and a freezer in it plus 2 ovens and a huge stovetop. when I replaced the handles on the white(yay) cupboards and drawers I had to buy over 45! I have a totally clear centre Island (fantastic for fabric cutting out too) which has all drawers under it. there are 8 huge deep ones and 8 cutlery drawers in one end near the sink/dishwasher. I. just. love. it. all around 2 sides there are normal under bench cupboards and another set of shallow cutlery drawers. My only complaint -and I will change it with new benchtops- is that the stove top was tucked into one corner. this is a huge pain in the bum as you have to lean over one pot to get to another. At the moment there are laminex benchtops and I am lusting after some material that I can put hot pots or trays straight from the oven onto without a board underneath- does anyone actually do that anyway??? cos I was thinking it would scratch the surface??

    • A-M
      November 1, 2012 at 9:15 am

      Jodie, a friend of mine has installed stainless steel benches in her beautiful new kitchen. Her holiday home has stainless steel benchtops too. She would not have it any other way. Pots straight from stove to bench. They scratch but that just makes them even more beautiful. Her kitchens are stunning and used and loved. xx

  • Priya
    November 1, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    I can’t look beyond that tiled sink …. Gorgeous !!… Now I have to have that and those pendant lights in my new home .

  • Janet Purcell
    November 2, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Love, love my new kitchen including gorgeous Cape Cod lights. Best thing is having the crockery drawers in the island directly opposite the dishwasher – clean dishes go straight in. Next, tall, thin cupboards beside the stove for oven slides and chopping boards, spice drawer for all those spices, appliance cupboard to hide the toaster and huge island with marble top. Thanks for the inspiration A-M.

  • Amanda
    November 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    I love those undermount sinks – so much more streamlined and pleasing on the eye and definitely something I’ll consider for future renovations 🙂 I like the idea of those pull of cupboards on either side of the stove for frequently used cooking items and spices and so on… clever! For me, I am definitely going to install big deep pull out drawers one day. While we have these underneath our stove, I would love them all underneath our bench too – so much easier getting things out from the back.

  • Alan
    May 2, 2013 at 1:52 am

    I personally think that you need just 3 things to design a perfect kitchen and that is the kitchen worktop, the type of flooring and finally the cupboard and draws. Match all these to your liking then I think that is what makes your perfect. What do you think guys?

Comments are closed here.

About ‘A-M’

This is where I muse about home design, real estate, interiors and life with my boys. I am starting my next house build, 'The Next House That A-M Built', and hope to have some action on site in January 2018. While I am building I will continue to run my Real Estate agency, 'Cape Cod Residential', through which I stage, style and sell beautiful homes all over Brisbane, Australia. I have an unrivalled staging inventory which enables me to present all manner of homes in their absolute best light for sale. It brings me such joy to be able to do Real Estate so differently and achieve great results for my clients. I am so grateful to be living such a creative and exciting life ... that I have created through blood, sweat, tears and physio appointments!
A-M xx

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