8 simple rules to master kitchen design

Good kitchen design doesn’t have to be confusing.
A modern farmhouse kitchen with greige cabinetry.Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green

The secret to good kitchen design lies in finding the balance between form and function. Both a practical workspace and a social hub in the home, the kitchen is where we prepare and share, where families connect and friends gather. As such, every detail should elevate the aesthetic as well as the experience.

To help, Kate Walker of KWD cracks open her rule book and reveals eight clever must-haves for a successful kitchen design. “It’s about playing with scale and priority,” she reassures us. And best of all, these guidelines apply to kitchens of all sizes, regardless of whether you have a petite spot for food prep and cooking or are blessed with bigger proportions.

A Dutch-inspired kitchen with a quartzite splashback and travertine floors.
This Danish-inspired kitchen was designed by KWD with family connection in mind. (Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green)

Kitchen design tips

1. Track your daily habits

“Our kitchen design generally begins with spatial planning,” says Kate. “Our focus is on movement. We consider how our client wants to use their kitchen and their daily habits.” After all, the perfect kitchen design for a seasoned cook, budding baker and keen entertainer will all be drastically different. And that’s before you take into account how many people the room needs to serve. “Considered spatial planning ensures every square inch is utilised effectively, minimising wasted space and maximising storage.”

2. Go for custom kitchen cabinetry

Kate suggests engaging a joinery designer to create custom cabinetry and storage solutions that suit your space and lifestyle. “They understand how a kitchen works,” she explains. “Spatial awareness, heights of benchtops, the latest technology inside drawers, hidden storage, space-saving devices, and circulation – a joinery designer ensures each of these elements are considered and function effectively.”

A Dutch-inspired kitchen with a quartzite island and turquoise cabinets.
The island and splashback are swathed with striking (and practical) quartzite, while the floor is tiled with silver travertine. There’s also plenty of storage concealed behind the cabinetry and island. (Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green)

3. Just add colour

Colour plays a crucial role in setting the mood and defining the style of a kitchen. “Vibrant or moody blues and greens, or deep pinks and reds, can inject a sense of calmness, energy and vitality into what is a functional space,” explains Kate. “When it comes to colour, dive in headfirst.” But before you paint any walls, think about lighting. Natural light affects how different hues appear in the kitchen, so consider the orientation of windows and the amount of sunlight the room receives. Lighter colours help reflect natural light and make the space feel brighter and more open, while darker colours absorb light and create a more intimate atmosphere.

A modern farmhouse kitchen with greige cabinetry.
The timber grain on the two-pack polyurethane joinery doors, manufactured by Gravina, shines through the Dulux Currency Creek finish. (Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green)

4. Opt for natural materials

Kate loves natural stone for island benches, benchtops and splashbacks, and natural materials such as oak for flooring. “I adore the individuality and uniqueness of natural stone, where no two pieces are ever exactly the same,” she tells us. “When treated with respect, it patinas beautifully over time.” Natural materials imbue your space with organic beauty, blurring the boundary between interior and exterior. They also tend to have a longevity and timelessness when maintained correctly. “I love the softness of European oak flooring underfoot and positioning a rug on the floor in front of an oven,” adds Kate. “Such understated luxury.”

A modern farmhouse style kitchen with greige cabinetry and drawers.
For Kate’s own kitchen, she wanted to create a modern farmhouse feel, so emphasised organic details and materials. (Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green)

5. Layer texture and colour

For visual interest and tactile allure, deftly blend various textures, colours and finishes. Think natural stone layered with handwoven rugs, timber veneer and hand-painted finishes; a juxtaposition of sleek metals with matte surfaces; and neutral tones highlighted with accent hues. This not only looks good, it also serves practical benefits, such as ease of maintenance and durability. “In embracing the art of mixed materiality, you can infuse every corner of your kitchen with a harmonious balance of beauty and functionality,” explains Kate.

6. Be thoughtful with kitchen lighting

Strategic lighting solutions enhance the ambience and functionality of any kitchen. “Consider where you position windows, skylights and glass doors to flood your space with natural light,” suggests Kate. “Task lighting for cooking and cleaning is important, as is lighting inside cupboards.” Wall sconces and table lamps are often multi-functional, providing softer lighting for the room in general, while also creating good task lighting for specific jobs. And why not finish it off with a beautiful pendant above your dining table or kitchen island? This can make a stunning statement and emphasise the mood you want to create.

A white luxury kitchen with gold accent fixtures.
Here, Kate made use of KWD custom joinery with ‘Kew’ handles from Hepburn Hardware. Kelly Wearstler ‘Cleo’ pendant lights from The Montauk Lighting Co add to the luxe look and tie in with the scheme. (Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green)

7. Customise your rangehood

A custom rangehood adds a touch of elegance to any kitchen design, while also playing a vital role in ventilation. Opting for a bespoke rangehood tailored to the dimensions and style of your kitchen can turn this functional piece – which ensures efficient smoke and odour extraction – into the focal point of your space.

8. Choose kitchen appliances early

“We always suggest selecting your appliances early in the design process as they dictate the layout and functionality of the kitchen,” explains Kate. Prioritise high-quality, energy-efficient appliances that align with your cooking routines, entertaining habits and lifestyle so they integrate seamlessly into the overall design scheme. Your selection of kitchen appliances will depend on how you like to cook – be it with induction, gas or electric, wall ovens or cookers – for small dinner parties or large family gatherings.

A marble-topped sink with gold tapware beneath double windows.
The hard finishes, fixtures and fittings in a kitchen are the most difficult to replace, so focusing on quality is essential. Tapware from The English Tapware Company. (Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green)

Kate’s ‘3 Cs’ kitchen design principle debunks the antiquated triangle myth. By zoning your consumables, cooking and cleaning areas you enhance functionality and efficiency, helping maintain order during food preparation and avoiding potential hazards.

  1. Consumables: Consider smart solutions for preserving your consumables in the pantry and fridge.
  2. Cooking: Meticulously plan the layout of your food prep and cooking zones to suit your lifestyle and family.
  3. Cleaning: Cut down on maintenance time by constructing your kitchen with optimal workflow and easy cleaning in mind.
The ‘3 Cs’ of kitchen design

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