• Scott Clark

6 Design Tips to Create Your Dream Kitchen


For 27 years we have helped clients plan, design and build their dream home or cottage. With every project we are reminded of how important it is to really take the time to plan out the space. After enjoying the great Muskoka outdoors, the kitchen is where we spend the bulk of our time indoors, and having a functional, well thought out design plan is crucial in order to create a kitchen that works for you and your family.


Here are our top six design tips to help you plan your dream kitchen:


  1. Consider the function the space will serve

Probably THE most important aspect to think about when planning a new kitchen (or any space for that matter) is to determine what function you wish it to serve. You may be thinking "that’s a silly question! I need a kitchen to cook." And yes, you are totally right. Cooking is the main function of a kitchen, however, over the years it has become so much more than that. It has become the heart of the home, a place where we gather and spend most of our time when not enjoying the beautiful Muskoka outdoors. It’s become the single most important room in the house. Besides cooking and eating in the kitchen, many also work, watch tv, read the mail, chat with my kids after a hard day at the beach or playing in the water, hang out with guests, sip on a glass (or two) of wine after a long day. While this may not be what you personally do, the point here is to narrow down exactly what you see yourself doing in this space, and how to make it work for your family.


Here’s a few points to consider when thinking of the function of your kitchen:


  • How do you plan on using it everyday? Is your kitchen a busy place where people hang out most of the time? Or do you prefer it tucked away and only have to use the kitchen when necessary, warming up leftovers or washing out your empty wine glasses?


  • Besides cooking, what other daily activities do you like to do in the kitchen? If you have kids, do they play games or colour while you are prepping dinner? Or do you like to research the hottest recipes on pinterest while sipping your morning coffee? Do you like to catch up on the latest episode of your favourite show while baking cookies? You may want to consider adding a dedicated space for a small desk, tv or dropzone.


  • Do you like to entertain? If you often find yourself hosting friends every weekend during the summer, or hosting an early evening wine gathering with your neighbours, you may want to think about a dedicated place for a beverage center that houses a wine fridge, wine glasses, or a coffee bar.


  • How much seating do you need? Most kitchens nowadays are eat-in kitchens and have an area for an everyday family table, but if you are someone who likes to entertain, or want a more casual place to chat with your kids over an afternoon snack, you may wish to consider adding additional seating around an Island or peninsula.


  1. Consider the work triangle

One thing to consider when planning your kitchen is the flow of your workspace, or what is also know as the work triangle. The work triangle is the distance between your stove, refrigerator and sink. A good triangle will result in an efficient workflow and allows you to move with ease between the 3 most used points. A poor work triangle will cause you to run all over your kitchen to access the most important aspects of your kitchen. Imagine running across the room to empty a steaming pot of boiling noodles after an exhausting day on the water?!


One thing to keep in mind is the distances between each point in your triangle. There's no hard and fast rule, but we recommend keeping each edge of the triangle somewhere between 40" - 60".


  1. Plan for adequate storage

One of the major requests we hear from clients is ensuring there is ample storage in the kitchen. Even the smallest kitchen can maximize your storage by utilizing smart storage solutions.


If you use small appliances regularly, think about where the easiest place would be to access them. Maybe create an appliance garage with doors that retract, or build a large pantry with pull-out drawers to easily lift out the instant-pot.


Other storage solutions that can make your kitchen function with ease could be pots and pans drawers, pantries with pull-out shelves, or walk-in pantries. Think of what items you use quite often and where the most convenient place to house them would be. If you love cooking with lots of herbs & spices, have a pull-out spice drawer installed right next to your cooktop.


Also take advantage of spaces that might not be too easily accessible to house items you don't use everyday, like adding hidden doors under the seating area of the Island to store them. They only come out when needed, so even though the location isn't best for everyday use, it's perfect for accessing every now and again.


  1. Let there be light!

It seems simple, but having the right amount of light in your kitchen is so important, yet it’s often a very overlooked design element! We love including large windows for natural light and to allow you to enjoy the beautiful Muskoka scenery. Plus, we recommend creating electrical layouts to accompany the kitchen drawings and use the following three types of lighting in a kitchen:


  • General Lighting. This is what lights up the entire space. We recommend recessed pot lights for general lighting as it's the best way to evenly disperse light throughout the room. Add dimmer switches and they can be easily dimmed for parties, or if you just want to set the mood for that romantic dinner *wink wink*. Pendant lights over islands, or chandeliers over tables are also an example of general lighting, but we tend to recommend more statement pieces here that lend a decorative touch.


  • Task Lighting. Just as it sounds. Lighting that helps perform certain tasks. Under-cabinet lighting is an example of task lighting that a lot of people tend to skip, and it's so important! Shadows from overhead lighting can often be cast underneath the cabinets, making prep work on the counters difficult, even dangerous if your finger didn't see the blade of the knife coming—ouch! Integrating your lighting within your cabinet design will lead to a seamless look. Another place that task lighting is often overlooked is over the sink.


  • Accent lighting. This is the lighting that's not really necessary for function, but highlights the wonderful design of your kitchen, which you are going to want to show off! Uplighting, or lighting in glass cabinets are a great example of accent lights. Under cabinet lighting is necessary for tasks, but can also accent your upper cabinets and countertops beautifully.


  1. Select your appliances ahead of time

Until you know what kind of appliances you want to put in your kitchen, you won't be able to properly determine your layout. If you love to cook, you may want to opt for a 6 burner stove or cooktop. Do you prefer gas or electric? When choosing your range or cooktop, there are stand alone options that usually have the controls at the back, or slide in options with the controls at the front. What kind of range hood do you prefer? An insert or a chimney hood? If you are a baker, double wall ovens may be the way to go. Refrigerators also widely vary in size and depth. You can get counter-depth options for a more built-in look, standard depth, or built-in appliances that can be covered with door fronts that match your cabinetry for a seamless look. Do you use your microwave a lot? You may want to invest in a built-in option. As you can see there are so many options available for appliances that factor into the overall design of your kitchen. Your designer can help you make the choice as to which type of appliances are the best fit for you and your lifestyle.


  1. Select the highest quality materials your budget will allow

This is the fun part! The materials and finishes you select for your kitchen will ultimately dictate the look and feel of the room, but more importantly will determine the longevity of the space. You will want your new space to not only look good, but stand the test of time. Try to put in as many high quality materials as your budget allows. Really research the construction of your cabinets and the quality of materials your cabinet builder uses.


The vertical surfaces, or countertops, get the most wear and tear. We recommend splurging on stone or quartz countertops as they are the most durable option. If you are confused about the different options for stone & solid surfaces, here's a quick rundown:


  • Quartz: A combination of minerals, color & resin, quartz is the most durable surface available. It has the beauty of natural stone, but is non-porous so it stands up to scratches and stains really well, and is fairly heat resistant.


  • Granite: Unique in that each slab you choose has variations in color and veining, granite is a great option for a unique countertop. It also brings the Muskoka outdoors in with this being a natural material. It’s heat resistant and extremely durable but does require annual sealant in order to keep the stains at bay.


  • Marble & Soapstone: These natural stones are simply gorgeous and offer beautiful veining, but they are softer than granite and definitely more susceptible to staining, so wine and coffee drinkers beware! A lot of quartz products are made now that mimic the look of natural marble and soapstone, but offer more durability.


  • Solid Surfaces: A mix of acrylic and polyester resins, solid surfacing (widely known as Corian) comes in many different colors and can be molded in many shapes and sizes. It lacks the natural beauty of quartz or stone, but is stain resistant. Scratches are easily buffed out, but it's not heat resistant so you will not be able to place hot pots on the surface.


As you can see there are many factors involved in planning out your dream kitchen for your dream home or cottage. We hope you found these 6 tips useful.


If you’re looking for more tips on building and planning your dream home or cottage, download our new 7-Step Guide to Building Your Dream Home or Cottage. GET IT HERE >>


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