Kitchens are the beating heart of a home. Even if you’re not much of a cook, it’s a gathering place for family and friends—host a party, and see where everyone ends up congregating, right? When our clients envision their custom dream homes, a beautiful kitchen is always part of the plan. Below are some kitchen suggestions you might not even know you needed.
One note: the trend of designing a back kitchen (also called a pantry kitchen, prep kitchen, or spice kitchen) has been gaining popularity among high-end homes. In that type of design/build, there’s the main kitchen, which is largely for show, and a second, more tucked-away kitchen, where actual cooking is done. It’s a nice way to hide the clutter, spills, and smells of a functioning kitchen. The suggestions below can be applied to main kitchens, back kitchens, or both.
Custom cabinets are almost always part of a custom home. They maximize the kitchen’s footprint and can be designed precisely for your needs. The style of the cabinets themselves are almost limitless: type of wood, finish, color, door style, pull, etc.
This isn’t about the style of the cabinets so much as functional design suggestions. For example, deep drawers near the range are incredibly helpful. These large drawers with heavy-duty drawer slides can hold the pots, pans, Dutch ovens, woks, or other cookware, right where you need it. Sometimes a shallow pull-out within that drawer is included to house the lids for the pots and pans.
Be sure to plan a space for trash, recycling, and even compost bins. It’s not glamorous, but it’s necessary and can make so much difference in the day-to-day use of your kitchen. You can even include pet-friendly amenities like storage for pet food, bowls, beds, etc. A built-in feeding/watering station can be opened to allow your pet to join you at mealtimes without its bowls being perpetually underfoot.
Some cabinets just have shelves, others have drawers or a combination of both. If you opt for drawers, especially in a cabinet that will be used to hold dry goods and snacks, be sure the drawers use full extension slides for access, and that they have high enough fronts, sides, and backs to corral their contents and keep that cabinet organized.
Some other custom cabinet ideas include a tall cabinet with lots of dividers for tray storage; a drawer peg system to customize how you arrange items like plates and bowls inside the drawer; and narrow, pull-out drawers near your cooktop for easy access to herbs and spices.
An on-counter appliance garage can be a great place to store a toaster, coffee pot, stand mixer, or other kitchen tools you want to keep handy, but you don’t want on the countertop. Planning for an outlet inside the garage keeps the cords for these appliances contained as well.
In all instances, insist on soft-close drawer slides and cabinet door hinges; they’ll help prevent wear and tear on the cabinetry as well as keeping the noise levels down.
This certainly includes the big four—refrigerator, range, oven(s), and dishwasher—but it’s also so much more. Individual, specific appliances like a wine fridge, steam oven, or dedicated coffee bar can make a big impact. Double ovens can have more than twice the impact, especially if you’re cooking for large groups or holidays.
Here, as with most other aspects of a dream kitchen, the options are almost limitless. Your fridge and dishwasher can be built in and faced with the same cabinet doors as the rest of the kitchen. You’ll need the appliance pulls from the same family as the other cabinet and drawer pulls, but otherwise it’s a very seamless blending of the appliances with the cabinetry.
Modern appliances can be (like everything else) connected to the internet and managed by an app on your phone. There are even apps that will track your refrigerator inventory, reminding you to use fresh fruits and vegetables before they spoil, and letting you know which groceries you need to re-stock.
Don’t forget to plan for a range vent or hood. Modern appliances crank out more heat than they used to, and that’s before you consider installing commercial-style (or actual commercial) appliances. Those put out serious heat and need to be matched with sufficient venting capacity. A built-in range hood that matches surrounding cabinetry can help turn the range area into a visual centerpiece for the kitchen.
It can be easy to overlook (though your designer and electrician likely won’t let you), but lighting is critical in a kitchen. You need to be able to see what you’re looking for and working on. One good way to imagine how to light up a kitchen is to think of the lighting as having layers. Overhead recessed cans put out broad, room-filling light that brightens the entire space—this is ambient lighting, and it’s what makes a kitchen feel bright or gloomy at first glance.
Then there’s task lighting, such as under-cabinet LED strips and other sources, to focus light where you need it (for example, a prep area or over the sink).
Accent lights, such as pendants, sconces, or lights inside of a glass-front cabinet, help set the mood in the kitchen when you don’t need bright lighting. You can even consider under-island lighting if the countertop offers an overhang. Those same LED light strips can be programmed to show almost any color, or even shift through a color spectrum. Toe-kick lighting (that little space underneath cabinets where your toes fit) can create a very cool visual effect as well.
Many of these will be driven by style and personal preference, but there are a lot of considerations. Single-or double-basin? Do you want a separate bar sink? They can be a real asset when you’re having a party, or when you just want to create a separate drinks station. What about a pot filler? If you’re into pasta, it’s very convenient to not have to lug a heavy pot between the sink and the cooktop.
Then there are the fixtures themselves. Almost any shape, style, and finish, of course, but high-end faucets offer features like integrated LED lighting, water dispensed in specific measurements, and touch-sensing that lets you turn the water on or off with just a touch of your finger (or, if you’re holding a big pot with two hands, a nose).
Custom design/build homes are almost always the culmination of someone’s dream. And the kitchen is no different. Just about anything you can dream up, you can have, with style and functionality that will keep you cooking happily for years.