Kitchen Design 101

Coulters Living Kitchen Design
As a designer, my days are spent planning, organizing, and, learning about the latest and greatest products and new and trending materials, layouts, details, etc.

One of my specialties is Kitchens and Custom Millwork. I love helping my clients build their dream kitchens. A kitchen is one of the focal points in any home; the all-important nucleus where events of the day get discussed and major decisions that impact the household are settled in a timely manner. A kitchen has to do more than satisfy the basic functional requirements for meal prep. It has to cater to the individual diversities and multi-purposes of those who dwell there. So, getting things done right the first time is essential. Because great kitchen design will serve and satisfy your lifestyle for decades yet to come. Changing up a kitchen is not a seasonal or yearly endeavor. It’s a major upgrade: the result of a well-laid plan of action, executed by experts in their respective fields.

The kitchen: we start our days and finish our evenings there.

We reveal and celebrate some of our greatest triumphs and special occasions around the kitchen table. We have our say on matters that count, share a laugh, muddle through our tears, voice a concern on both the trivialities and more involving events of the day, and, ultimately nourish our bodies as well as our souls through great conversation with our family and friends. Point blank: the kitchen is the central artery in our home lives.

There are a few things one should consider when planning a kitchen or kitchen renovation. For starters: hire a professional.

Q: How to I find the right professional?

A: It’s always best to rely on referrals. Our internet age has made ‘immediate feedback’ available at our fingertips. But word of mouth is still the very best way to get advice. A happy client will sing a company’s praises to the rafters. A disgruntled one…not so much.

Q: Where do I even begin when planning a kitchen?

A: There are certain steps you should take to ensure success in your research.

  1. Evaluate your current kitchen. Take stock of your needs. What needs improving? What elements about your current kitchen design (if any) would you like to reincorporate into your revamp? What absolutely has to go?
  2. Catalogue all your ideas and inspirations. We all forget things. But if everything is well-documented  it’s always at arm’s length to refresh our memory.
  3. Fix a budget. Find a contractor who can work within this budget. Be flexible. Some minor increases/adjustments to your original budget are inevitable.
  4. Work with a kitchen design professional. Amateurs need not apply here.
  5. Plan and design your space together. Don’t be bullied into accepting a layout that doesn’t meet with your own approval simply because someone else – who won’t be using your kitchen after it is installed – tells you ‘this’ is the ‘only’ layout you should be considering. Again, be open to ideas as much as in possession of the ones you own. Planning is an ebb and flow process. Learn from the masters. But have a good sense of what can and will work best for you. Then find the common ground between these two and work from there.
  6. Install: ah yes, the messiest and most noisy part of the design process. Expect some minor inconveniences here – but ultimately, be prepared for a smooth and timely approach to achieving the minor miracle about to become your kitchen!
  7. Relax: yes – at the end of it all you can take comfort in knowing you have achieved what you set out to do. So enjoy the fruits of your labors. Take a deep breath. Cook something. And feast in regal surroundings. You’ve earned the luxury.

Q: Are there any questions I should be asking when hiring a design professional?

A: Yes! Many.

  1. Do you provide full kitchen design services? Very important. Some professionals are specialists in only piece work in the design process. While, this can work out in the end as craftsmen are decidedly not a dime a dozen, the onus is more on you to organize and manage all the variables. If you get someone who handles it all, it takes a huge load off from the start.
  2. What are the terms of payment? Iron out this wrinkle before you sign on the dotted line. You will alleviate much undue stress if you do
  3. Is the professional insured? Extremely important!
  4. Will they be coordinating/collaborating with other professionals?
  5. Do they make their own cabinets/doors?
  6. What economy are you supporting?
  7. Who is the installer and finisher of these cabinets?
  8. What will the cabinets be built from? Material construction is very important!


Many people have bought into the idea ‘big box’ stores are a more economically efficient way to go; far less expensive than hiring a custom cabinet dealer. This is a myth. In reality, the only advantage big box does offer is availability. You can walk out with your cabinet in a box or have the box delivered to you home for assembly by you thereafter. But let’s be reasonable here.

Who has the time?

Who has the skill set?

Who wants the hassle?

If the answer to the aforementioned is ‘not me’ and ‘no’ then take heed and plan ahead. Kitchen renos are not your everyday project to tackle. So taking the time to plan ahead definitely makes sense as well as ‘cents’. No one has ever regretted a well-laid plan.


Consider the following as pros and cons in going ‘custom’.
Criteria Big Box Custom
Cabinets sized to fit your space No Yes
Cabinets measured by a professional No Yes
Cabinets installed by a professional No  Yes
Soft close doors/drawers are standard No Yes
Solid wood drawers/doors. No particle board No Yes
Custom color and stain matches No Yes
Design services provided No Yes


But what about trends? Ah yes, trends. What was hot last year, even last month is old hat today or worse, ‘dated’!

So, what can you do to ensure your kitchen stays relevant with the changing times? Plenty.

Kitchen Grey Colour Trend Coulter's Living Blog

This year’s color is ‘grey’.

It’s the new white and offers certain advantages to the ever-popular white. For starters, grey doesn’t show the dirt quite so readily.

Other ‘new’ trends to consider: the kitchen sink. Remember when stainless steal silver was the only option?

Well, get ready to see a lot more color here: also, farm house finishes. Also, appliances are bigger than ever!

Commercial grade is the catch phrase here, in all types from microwaves to beverage fridges and built-in everything.

Finally, say goodbye to granite and hello to quartz: the new haute couteur in counter-top finishes.

Don’t be afraid to mix surface materials: laminate with wood, butcher blocks with stone tops. Your choice of combos is endless. Hardware is the jewelry of your kitchen project. Gold is back with a vengeance: shiny and/or soft in handles, knobs, lighting and faucets. It’s the bling that counts.

Q: When is the best time to take on a kitchen reno?

A: This is a query most clients fail to ask themselves, diving headlong into the fray without a solid plan to back them up. First on the agenda: know what you are getting into before you start. A kitchen reno is neither cheap nor easy. Cabinets, counter-tops, lighting, mechanical, electrical etc. et al. It comes at a cost, both to your wallet and your patience. Prepare for the deluge, but on your own terms. This should actually be the very first question you answer.

The answer will depend on your circumstances. But most people turn toward summer for the undertaking. The reason: simple. No stove. No problem. A barbeque takes its place and outdoor living takes the place of gathering around the kitchen table, presently under a tarp in the work area. If you happen to have the luxury of a second kitchen, then your window of opportunity has just expanded into infinity as you can simply shift your base of operations from one to the other until the renovation is done.

Finally, consider the results. Kitchen renovations can be a hassle. But by following these few simple steps you will lighten your burdens considerably. In the end you will have a sleek, stylish oasis where the business of living can not only get on, but thrive best in the space you call the hub of your home.

If you are planning a new kitchen or millwork, contact me today.  Laura Nicole Design does it all!  Bon appetite.



Laura N. Blair

Principal Interior Design Consultant

Laura Nicole Design

Downstairs at Coulter’s Furniture

1324 Windsor, Avenue

Windsor, Ontario, N8X 3L9


Phone: 519.253.7422 Ext. 239

Cell:  519.996.5650


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