June 20, 2024


Moving Forward

9 Tips for Redesigning an Awkward Kitchen Layout

Kitchen layouts can make or break the functionality and flow of your most-used household space. If your current kitchen feels cramped, cluttered, or just plain awkward to cook and socialize in, it may be time to consider a redesign. Remodeling a kitchen is a major undertaking, but worth it to transform an uncomfortable layout into a highly functional and inviting environment.

Follow these 9 tips to help guide your kitchen renovation planning and kitchen design:

1. Carefully Evaluate How You Use the Space

Take time to observe how you and other members of your household currently use the kitchen. What activities take place there on a daily or frequent basis? Do multiple people cook together at once? Is it mostly a space for quick weeknight meals or more elaborate cooking projects and baking? How is the kitchen used aside from cooking, such as for homework, social gatherings, office work, etc? Identify the core kitchen zones based on your functional needs, such as food prep, cooking, clean-up, dining, and storage. Understanding the kitchen’s true purposes will provide insights on the most important elements to optimize in your home remodeling.

2. Rethink Existing Features and Fixtures

With fresh eyes, look critically at any oversized, outdated, or unnecessary features taking up precious space in your kitchen’s current layout. This may include extra-large islands, decorative banquettes or full-height backsplashes, rarely-used specialty appliances like wine fridges, double wall ovens when one is sufficient, and more. Make a list of elements that fail to support your kitchen’s functional needs or contribute to wasted space. These are prime features to consider removing or downsizing in your kitchen design.

3. Improve Traffic Flow and Workspace Organization

Carefully analyze the kitchen’s traffic patterns and look for points of blockage, clutter, or people colliding into one another. A kitchen should function something like a triangle, with the main sink, refrigerator/fridge drawers, and stovetop or cooktop forming the three most accessed points. Take time to map out traffic patterns and then rework the layout to improve flow. This may involve relocating appliances, widening walkways, creating alternative routes around workstations, and establishing better organization for high-use, everyday items.

4. Flood the Space with Natural Light

Dark, enclosed kitchens can feel uninspiring and cramped. A key priority in any kitchen redesign is maximizing natural light through strategic placement of windows, skylights, and lighting fixtures. If adding new windows or skylights isn’t possible, consider making existing ones larger or less obstructed. Stylistic choices like glass-front cabinetry, mirrored backsplashes, and reflective surfaces also brighten up kitchens by bouncing light around. Opening sightlines to living areas creates a more open, airier ambiance as well.

5. Use Kitchen Design Illusions to Feel More Spacious

Even when square footage is limited, there are many spatial design tricks to make a small kitchen feel more expansive. Hang mirrors strategically to double visual space. Paint walls, cabinetry, and flooring in lighter, neutral hues to recede and prevent a closed-in feeling. Opt for glass-front versus solid cabinetry to maintain open sightlines. Design open shelving nooks rather than vast swaths of heavy cabinetry to reduce visual weight. Every detail presents an opportunity to enhance the illusion of space.

6. Get Creative with Multifunctional Features

Since small kitchens are challenged by space constraints, look for ways existing features or new additions can pull double or triple duty to serve multiple needs. Kitchen islands are the quintessential example, offering a mix of extra seating, storage, and expanded countertop prep area in one space-saving package. Even small islands in compact kitchens can house appliances like microwave drawers to get them off counters. Deep kitchen windowsills can do triple time as ledges to display decor, extended counters when open, and hidden storage spots when closed. Repurpose awkward nooks or corners for specialty storage solutions. With some creativity, every area in your new kitchen layout can be optimized for peak functionality.

7. Overhaul Storage with Custom Solutions

Lack of smart storage is one of the most common pain points in awkward kitchens. Take time to fully evaluate how you use and organize all of your cookware, appliances, pantry goods, utensils, baking items, cleaning supplies and more. Then strategize new built-in storage additions tailored to these specific needs. Solutions may include slide-out drawers for pots and pans, roll-out shelves for stand mixers and bulky appliances, specialty pull-out spice racks, tiered shelving for large platters and bakeware, and more. Well-designed and accessible storage ensures everything has a designated home.

8. Select Space-Saving Appliances

Appliances are centerpieces of any kitchen, yet bulky full-size models eat up valuable real estate. When planning your kitchen redesign, look for opportunities to swap out range hoods, refrigerators, dishwashers, and other essential appliances for slimmer and smaller options with the same modern functions. Slimline or telescopic range hoods hug walls versus jutting out. Low-profile microwave-range hood combos integrate two devices in one. Cabinet-depth refrigerators, freezer and wine columns, and drawer dishwasher models all extend flush with cabinetry faces rather than protruding into pathways. Every inch saved with right-sized appliances leads to bigger layout gains.

9. Consider Knocking Down Walls for an Open Concept

If your kitchen feels closed off or disconnected from living and dining spaces, knocking down some dividing walls may be wise. Creating an open concept kitchen not only visually expands the space, but unifies your cooking, dining, and living areas for easier entertaining and socialization. Just be mindful of potential noise transfer when walls are removed. Strategic overhangs, change in ceiling heights, and flooring transitions can help delineate functional zones in one open space.

Redesigning an awkard kitchen is a major project, but worth the effort and investment. Focus your design plan and choices on improving workflow, organization, storage, and ambiance. Refer back to these tips when planning the layout and features to take your frustrating kitchen from confining to open and inviting. With some strategic renovations guided by how you cook and live, even the most problematic kitchen can be transformed into a highly functional and social showpiece space.