Statistics reveal that the kitchen is still the heart of the home, with more time spent there than in any other room of the house. It makes sense that the kitchen should reflect our lifestyle and personality, but many of us live in homes that we did not design and have kitchens that do not suit us at all. Even if you can't afford a major remodel, there are some things you can do to create the atmosphere you want. Here are some simple steps you can take to redesign your kitchen.
Decide on a concept. Designers always start with a concept, usually in the form of a word, phrase, or picture that sums up how we want the room to feel. Consider the primary function of your kitchen – do you prepare and eat your meals there, or is it only for cooking? Think about how you want it to feel. Would you like your kitchen to be warm and comfortable, or should it be kept minimal and streamlined? Do you want your kitchen to feel open and spacious, or do you prefer a cozy cottage theme? Pick a word or phrase that describes what you want, and keep it firmly in mind as you proceed.
Take stock. Look at what you have and decide what to keep as part of your new design. Unless your style is “country kitsch” chances are you don't need a lot of the things that are collecting dust or taking up counter space in your kitchen. Feel free to keep a few specialty items that you don't use often, but if you never make your own ice cream, there's no reason to keep the ice cream maker. If you don't eat meals in your kitchen, perhaps you can free up cabinet space by relocating the plates and bowls to the dining room.
Plan it out. Whether you do it on paper or in your mind, visualize the best way to organize your kitchen. Are you tired of having to bend down to retrieve skillets that you use all the time? Plan to move them up in your design. Do you have to make several back-and-forth trips to gather ingredients for cooking? Plan to move the food to one wall and have dishes on the other. We tend to copy the layout that we grew up with, even if it isn't optimal for our current kitchen. Maybe mom's silverware was in the drawer next to the sink – but yours doesn't have to be unless it works best for you.
Give it a face lift. Decorating or “finish selection” is the last phase of design, and it's where your personality shines through. Using your concept as your guide, think about what would work best in terms of color, style, materials, and lighting. Combining earth tones, floral accents, unfinished wood, and incandescent lights will give a warm, cozy feel. Pairing stark white and black with straight lines and corners, metal and stone, and fluorescent lighting will create a more modern, streamlined atmosphere. There are no rights or wrongs in design, as long as it feels comfortable to you.
Pay attention to details. Even if a full-scale remodel isn't possible in your kitchen, there are some little things that can have big effects. If you can't repaint, try taking the doors off your cabinets for a cafe look, or replace the drawer and door pulls with something in a different style. You can always put them back later. Throw down a rug or some commercial carpet tiles if the floor in your kitchen offends you. Remember, time and money are great assets for design if you have them to spare, but all you really need is creativity and a simple plan!
When you take stock of your equipment and have some items to discard, consider donating them to charity or selling them rather than disposing of them at the landfill. Be a “green” designer whenever possible.
If you can't settle on a concept for your kitchen, ask friends or relatives to give you some ideas. Tell them to describe your personality, and see if some of those words don't help you get started. You can also browse magazine photos for inspiration.
If you desperately want to redesign your kitchen but you just don't have the time to do it yourself, consider hiring a designer. Look in the phone book or on line to find a designer in your area. (See Resources below.)
Clutter will destroy any design if it gets out of hand. If your kitchen is home to the household trash, daily junk mail, shoes, backpacks, and pet food bowls, incorporate those things into your design. Give them a home and they won't be an eyesore in your redesigned kitchen.