Our Complete Guide to Your Kitchen Renovation

Our Complete Guide to Your Kitchen Renovation

Our Complete Guide to Your Kitchen Renovation

From floorplans to fridges, our designers are sharing the ultimate how-to for wrapping your head around the kitchen renovation process.

If renovating a kitchen was a recipe, it’d be coq au vin.Difficult, but totally worth it.

Thankfully, our designers have crafted a guide on how to make a space worthy of a top chef. And like dishes made by someone who fluently reads from the Modernist Cuisine cookbook, it tends to be a job best left to the professionals (not that you couldn’t use liquid nitrogen on your own, but should you?). But here are the basics so you can wrap your head around executing a chef’s kitchen (even if you’re just using the space to pour water).

Do Your Prep Work

As with anything you’d do in the kitchen—it’s best to start with a plan. Don’t get too attached to ideas and materials just yet, but instead take a step back and think about the functionality that will work best for you and your family. How do you use your kitchen? Is it the central room in the house, where people tend to gather, cook, eat, and carouse? Or do you like to operate in chefy secrecy. Figure out the a floor plan that works for your need—whether it’s hosting a crowd or a minimalistic footprint that’s just for making cocktails.

As Homepolish designer Shannon Tate says, “Once you identify the changes in the kitchen that will help you better function on a day-to-day basis, then you are ready to identify who you are stylistically.”

Think about kitchens you love—what functionalities can you steal from spaces from friend’s homes, restaurants, and the like?

One concept to consider with your floor plan is the “working triangle rule.” This design axiom divides your space by primary tasks and the appliances they require: refrigerator (food storage), sink (food prep), and cooktop (recipe execution). Each should be accessible through an equilateral (and close proximity) triangle. The concept dates back to the 1940s, but the utilitarian (and efficient) nature still holds. If space isn’t on your side, the classic galley kitchen layout can work. Our own Tina Rich’s abode offers an excellent example.

Started From the Bottom

Once you get your layout set, move on to your flooring. You’ll want to balance ability to clean easily with something that’s easy on your feet. Stone, tile, and cement flooring offer great durability (look at any restaurant-grade space) but can be misery on your back if you’re standing for long periods. Wood is a little easier on a budding “barefoot contessa.” But you can always balance the hardness of the former options with rugs and runners to add plushness (and another hint of pattern and color). If you’re opting for tile, larger tiles with thin grout lines create less traps for scraps.


When choosing flooring, comfort is key. Chances are that you’ll be on your feet most of the time you’re in the kitchen.

Get Lit

There are three main types of lighting—ambient, task, and accent—and the kitchen necessitates a unique blend of all three. Ambient lighting is your overhead or recessed lighting, and when it’s evenly spaced, it’ll ensure that you can see each nook and cranny of the kitchen.

Task lights aren’t just great for ambient glow—they also can keep you from accidentally nicking yourself when cutting the carrots. LA-based designer Jennifer Wallenstein recommends adding under-cabinet lighting to amp up the wattage

“Upper cabinetry will often block most of the overhead lighting from reaching your countertops,” Wallenstein recommends. “This is easiest to do when you are installing new cabinets, so you can hardwire them or install an outlet hidden in the cabinetry. That said, you can also find battery-operated LED versions that can be installed after the cabinets.”

Accent light, like single pendants or chandeliers, are especially useful if you have areas in the kitchen that you would like to designate, say a peninsula bar, an island, or a dinette space. And don’t forget lamps! A well placed table lamp can add a rustic, and unexpectedly cozy vibe to your space.

Fill Your Cabinet

The biggest conundrum you’ll face when it comes to cabinets: open shelving or traditional closed. The key, according to Jennifer is being honest with yourself. “I love open shelving, but you have to weigh how organized you are. Stacks of beautiful dinnerware, vases, and accent pieces are attractive. Half-empty boxes of Cheerios and mismatched coffee mugs…not so much. If you love open shelving but know it isn’t realistic for your lifestyle, try identifying one wall for it while the rest of the cabinetry can hide less display-worthy items.”

Open shelving also allows for easy access to your most used pieces—meaning that those pieces will now inform your color scheme. If you opt for closed cabinets, the color scheme will determine your kitchen’s look for years to come (you can always paint, but you might not change your cabinets all that often). A neutral tone will give you more flexibility if you want to change the design of your kitchen over the years.

Counter Point

Since this is where most food prep happens, consider how the materials you use will age over time. Jennifer advises, “If you know that you’re the type of person who tends to be a sloppy cooker (I literally can’t see the countertops when I’m done making a meal), you probably want to consider options that are non-porous and durable.”

That might mean marble is out. Though luxurious it also stains very easily (wine, citrus, and tomato are its worst offenders). To some, that patina is what makes marble so perfect, some people find beauty in quite literally seeing the reflection of meals passed. If you dig the French bistro vibe, go forth.

To achieve that stone look without using marble, slate, granite, or a quartz composite such as Caesarstone balance durability and resilience. Butcher block is an equally rustic option that’s growing in popularity. Keep in mind that wood requires careful maintenance, either regular varnish or a monthly application of mineral oil.

There are other options—plastic laminate is super resilient but not very attractive. Tile can add a worldly vibe, but consider that it stains easily, and leaves you open to grout lines and uneven surfaces.

Pro tip: counters should be at minimum 24-inches deep for plenty of workspace and provide at least an inch of overhang. This will ensure that spills go on the floor and not into your drawers or on your cabinets.

Apply Yourself

Now for the fun stuff: the major appliances. When people refer to major appliances, they mean your refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, and range (potentially, matching hood).

Our designers agree that these are your most splurge-worthy items. Swoon-inducing appliances listed by our team include La Cornue ranges, Hammacher espresso machines, Meneghini Arredamenti ranges, Traulsen fridges, Viking ranges and on the lower end, Smeg appliances.

If you really splurge on an item, let it stand out.

As Shannon says, “A pop of color in an unexpected place, brings a bit of fun into the kitchen.” Plus, it’ll highlight the artistry and beauty of its function.

But that look isn’t for everyone, On the flipside, appliances that seamlessly blend into the cabinetry and countertops lend a custom look to the kitchen. (We all know how cool is it when what you thought was a wall is actually a refrigerator.)

Once everything is in place and ready for a spontaneous rendition of Be Our Guest, check out our designer Ariel Okin’s tips on how to put the finishing touches on your kitchen. And if you are afraid that you simply can’t do a whole renovation, we still got you covered! See our 9 tips for a simple kitchen revamp.

Then, it’s time to get cooking!

Can’t stand the heat? Book a designer to help you create your perfect kitchen.

Need more inspo?

—Browse kitchens fit for every taste.

—Or flip through our most popular kitchens from Instagram.

—Read our secrets to crafting a timeless design.

—Find out how a designer’s selects the perfect cabinet hardware.

—Need a paint color? Our experts have you covered.