Before Getting Started

Choosing kitchen cabinets is probably the biggest if not the most nerve-wracking decision you’ll make for your kitchen. It’s easy to understand since your cabinets have a big impact on your budget as well as how your kitchen looks. Cabinets are one of the first things you see in a kitchen and give the kitchen space it’s “feel”.

Before you run off and start choosing wood grains and door styles, stop and think about your lifestyle, how you use your kitchen and how much storage space you need. Today’s kitchens average 200–300 square feet and are increasingly part of an open-floor plan. Other trends include a move towards simplicity, uncluttered looks, energy efficiency, and natural materials. The best cabinet decisions start with good planning. Pin down exactly what it is you dislike about your current cabinet situation so that you’ll be specific when looking for solutions in your new cabinets. How do you use your kitchen? Do you not have enough space or maybe it’s poorly allocated space? Look at what you currently have on your countertops or in other places that you’d like to have storage space for inside the cabinets. Knowing how much “stuff” you need space for in your cabinets will help you get an understanding of the amount of cabinet space you’ll need. Remember that the fewer items you permanently ‘store’ on your countertops the more working space you’ll have.

Maybe your current kitchen cabinets are just the wrong style or perhaps they don’t have good organizational features. Your existing decor and style of home plays a role in the type of cabinetry to choose. The converse is also true too — the style of cabinets you choose will influence the look and style of your kitchen. Regardless of which way you go, identifying the style you’re looking for will help narrow the focus on cabinet choices. The more specific you can be about what it is you want to have or change, the more focused you’ll be about targeting the right options from the myriad that are available with new kitchen cabinets.

As is often the case in home design, the first place to make the shift is usually the kitchen. Before you start with any new or remodeling project you need to decide on a theme. It could be a color scheme, an era theme, or a certain style of decorating. The kitchen is the work center of the home and it needs to be comfortable and organized. Whatever style you choose, make sure it coordinates with the rest of the house, particularly the rooms that adjoin the kitchen. Your kitchen colors should take into account the size of the kitchen, the colors of the cabinets and countertops, other kitchen furniture and the amount of light that streams through the windows. Here are some kitchen themes to get you started:

Arts and Crafts/Craftsman
Arts and Crafts kitchens are identified by simple lines, rugged construction, and very little excess ornamentation. The arts and crafts movement began in England around 1890 in response to the overly ornate, assembly line furniture of the time. The movement focused on aesthetic simplicity, talented craftsmanship, and impeccable quality. Homes of this period were designed with an open floor plan and a central hearth. Arts and crafts kitchen design relies on straight lines and heavy proportion. Recessed panel doors with thick frames are dominant. Consider letting the doors into the frame by using flush frame cabinetry. The style often features mission or shaker door styles to convey fine detailing, iron or brass hardware, and quartersawn oak cabinets. Other appropriate woods include ash, birch, cherry and maple. The color scheme is typically earthy with dark woods. Arts and crafts cabinets, built properly, feature dovetailed drawer boxes. Other ideas include stained glass windows and lighting fixtures and mullioned/decorative glass doors. The ultimate goal is functional, well-built, and enduring cabinetry, built like an heirloom piece. Today, with the glut of inexpensive and poorly made imported cabinetry, the arts and crafts style kitchen is making a strong resurgence with homeowners who recognize true quality of custom cabinets made by artisans of the trade.

Cottage
If you would like to incorporate a laid-back and breezy atmosphere in your kitchen then you may want to think about going with this style. Cottage style kitchens are similar to country kitchens but tend to be more feminine in appearance. Color scheming is very important. Cottage style kitchens are supposed to exude warmth and vibrancy, which can only be achieved with bright colors. Bold and bright colors work best on the walls with light or natural woods (pine,white oak) in a clear finish for the cabinets. Painted white cabinets are another option. Flat panel or mission style doors work best for the lowers and glass doors in the uppers are a good choice to show off your prized china and other collectibles. Farmhouse and apron-front sinks in white should be fitted.

Country/Farmhouse
When I think of this style, the image of a big family laughing merrily sitting around a huge table piled with food passes in my mind. A big house, with a big kitchen, with sprawling spaces is what I associate a country-style kitchen with. They are cheery and welcoming with light and/or bright colors, stained woods (both light and dark work well, as well as rustic woods), woven baskets and decorative shelving and moldings. Gray and black should never be used with this style. Antique and flea market finds add to the handmade, hand-forged, homespun look. Raised or recessed panel doors look great but you don’t want to overdo it with too much excessive detail. Beadboard wainscoting and paneling along with wooden door knobs are other great options. A handcrafted wooden table will never look out-of-place and will never fail to add a certain charisma to your kitchen. Choose a long, wide and deep kitchen sink. French country kitchen designs celebrate culinary equipment. Cooking utensils,pots and pans are often displayed for visual appeal and easy access. Look best hung on a rack over the island or the hearth. In lieu of glossy polished countertops, consider using honed granite, soapstone, or marble which has a more earthy satin appearance.

Gourmet
For professional and aspiring chefs alike, and for all who desire luxury cooking environments, you’ve come to the right place! Deluxe appliances, large working islands, and food prep zones are expertly arranged in these amazing gourmet kitchens. A gourmet kitchen is usually situated around the cooking surface, be it a full range or a range top. The range ought to be at least 36″ wide, if not 48″ or 60″ wide. An oversized hood with plenty of air flow is important for most cooks. You will never see a microwave hood combo in a true chef’s kitchen! Finally, the refrigerator should be on the large side (either deep or wide), and you might consider a large professional sink and faucet as well. The layout is critical in gourmet kitchen designs. You might consider an island or peninsula with an integrated eating area illuminated by pendant lights. If you have the space, add in a second working sink near the cooktop. A trash pull-out near the main sink is useful, along with a pull-out cutting board or rattan baskets for storing potatoes, fruit or vegetables. Specific drawers can be designated for knives, flatware, cooking utensils, and spices. Measurements are key. The distances between the refrigerator, sink, and cooktop, known as the work triangle, should be ideally spaced four to nine feet apart. Aisles and walkways should be 36-48 inches wide, and no less than 42″ wide where a work zone will be. Stainless steel countertops along with granite look best.

Mediterranean
Various elements can go into a Mediterranean kitchen, but that doesn’t mean it’s complicated. In fact, the best thing about it is its diversity: since there are so many themes and cultures involved, you have a vast range of design choices.
Colors play an important role in Mediterranean design. Since kitchens in these areas often double as dining rooms, you want colors that make the room more inviting rather than just a place to prepare food. The ideal color palette is relaxing and conducive to kitchen work at the same time. For the most part, this would be a personal choice. Mediterranean colors are inspired by three main regions: Africa, Greece, and Provence. Greek colors are all about contrast, such as white-washed walls and blue borders. Provence is more about floral themes with sunflower, lavender, olive, and dark greens dominating the kitchen. An African theme focuses on earth tones such as terra-cotta and sienna, inspired by the mountains and desert, and accented by sunset colors like purple, orange and red. Open space is a key element in Mediterranean kitchen design. Early Mediterranean houses were built around courtyards or gardens, so emphasize any access to the outdoors. If you have limited access to the outdoors, a good alternative is to keep the layout open. Wood and stone make up most of the fixtures, including counters, floors, furniture, walls and ceilings. Clay and ceramics are also widely used. It’s easy to go overboard when you’re working with stone and ceramics. Often, people end up with a cold, unwelcoming kitchen that’s all hard surfaces. That’s why it’s important to accessorize. It softens the look of your kitchen while allowing you to use sturdy natural materials. One way to do that is with kitchen fabrics: curtains, tablecloths, rugs, and wall spreads, whatever fits. Kitchen rugs are especially ideal. Dark woods usually go well with the soft shades of the Provence palette, while a lighter wood will fit in perfectly with high-contrast Greek decor. Make sure your appliances don’t detract from the Mediterranean appeal. It’s best to use black or stainless steel appliances. Ceilings are usually quite high while the floors are usually wooden or natural stone slabs. Polished granite or soapstone in earthy tones look best. Raised panel doors for the lowers and arched and/or glass doors for the uppers look best.

Old world/Tuscan
Are you drawn to bright colors and cheerful patterns, but can’t seem to find themes that suit your taste? You’re not alone. With sleek, straight designs dominating the shelves, it’s hard to put together a colorful theme that brings back the relaxing mood of older days. With natural materials and earthy colors, and old world kitchen combines heavy proportions with luxurious attributes that gives that timeless and natural appearance. Kitchens have an antique look, made to resemble furniture. Woods, stone, and color are important elements. Natural stone walls are left natural. Stuccoed walls are colored to give a worn, well-loved look. True old world style rooms can have low ceilings and can be small and dark. But today’s rooms use wooden beams, plastered ceilings, and can have an open, airy feeling. Windows are left uncovered to take advantage of natural light. Wooden surfaces such as door and window frames, shutters or ceiling beams are often left with a natural patina, while the cabinets are done using richly stained woods, such as cherry or walnut in a raised panel style. Colors in this style decorating come from the earth. Terracotta, brick, ochre, greens, and golden-yellow are seen everywhere. Homes incorporating this style decor often use flooring of wide wood planks, timber boards, rough stone, unevenly colored terracotta bricks, or clay tiles. Antique rugs add warmth and color. Open cupboards and armoires are found in almost every kitchen. Open shelves and free-standing cupboards provide storage and a place to display ceramics and pottery. A kitchen sink is made of natural stone or porcelain. Install a copper range hood surrounded by tumbled marble tiles at the stove area. Like a french country kitchen, utensils, pots and pans are put on display for visual appeal and convenience. Marble and glossy granite work well for countertops but if you’re looking for something with a more rustic look, soapstone and honed granite is the way to go.

Rustic
Rustic kitchen designs embrace the rural lifestyle with robust cabinetry (wide rails and stiles), warm colors, and hearty wood with plenty of character. They often have a regional american flair about them including southwestern styles, farm and country styles, desert/adobe styles, and lodge/mountain motifs. Many fancy kitchens are made to be admired at a distance; rustic kitchens are made to be used. Their down-to-earth style and lived-in looks make rustic kitchens among the most comfortable and inviting rooms to be in. Antique looking kitchen cabinets, apron sinks, wooden beams and stonework are trademarks of great rustic kitchen designs. Sometimes rugged, but often cozy, rustic kitchens have a timeless and natural appearance. Wide-planked wood floors, antique brass hardware, hammered copper and knotty wood cabinets in alder, hickory or pine all contribute to the earthy atmosphere of the rural lifestyle. If you have the space, be sure to include an old rustic kitchen table and chairs. You’ll want to hang out a while in your cozy new kitchen. Butcher block countertops look fantastic on rustic kitchen islands. If you’re feeling adventurous, soapstone or honed/flamed granite also make great rustic countertops. Best to go with a raised panel door if you’re looking for a knotty look. Can get more knots in a raised panel door and more knots equals more character. If your just looking for a rustic look that is slightly knotty a flat panel door or mission style door also looks good.

Traditional
Today’s finest homes most often rely on traditional, tried and true designs. Traditional kitchen cabinets rarely go out of fashion, as they encompass a variety of historic styles from European and American architecture over the last three centuries. Traditional kitchens thrive on time-tested designs that harken back to earlier times. Whether an authentic restoration or a fresh remodel, the familiar character of traditional kitchen design brings a feeling of beauty and maturity to any home. With an elegant and formal appearance, traditional kitchen design often features detailed molding, period styling and rich wood cabinetry in cherry, walnut or mahogany. Cabinets are often times stacked tot he ceiling. Traditional kitchen islands are often designed to resemble antique furniture to convey a sense of history in the room. Traditional kitchen designs often include ornamental wood hoods and decorative wood door panels to conceal the cold steel of modern appliances. Antique fixtures and appliances along with granite/marble countertops round out the look.

There are countless other themes out there to choose from. Plenty of times you see a combination of two or three or whatever your budget allows you to do. The options are limitless, so use your creativity. Whatever style you decide to go with for your kitchen, remember the most important thing to keep in mind are the functionality and organization of the room. This is a very busy and active room and needs to be well planned to avoid bottlenecks and traffic jams.

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