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Secrets To Designing Your Kitchen Like A Pro

Written by: Remya Warrior, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Initially, I started my business to survive. You see, I’m a first-generation migrant who came to America for a better life at the age of 23. Looking back, it seems scary, but at that age, we were just full of hope & excitement for the adventure of life! We left everything that we knew & landed in the US in the middle of winter. It’s been a long journey with many winters. I got work in different companies until I was brave enough to venture into entrepreneurship. I now own my kitchen design store and though entrepreneurship comes with lots of highs and lows, it’s my dream come true and I love it!

When I think about it, having to start from scratch as a new immigrant taught me the skill of self-reliance. Initially, since we didn't have much, it taught me to be creative with my own home as I had luxurious taste but a beer budget.

My first interior design project was our master bedroom. That renovation started changing my life because of the way I started seeing myself. During this time, I also realized how important it is, especially for women to be in a nurturing and beautiful environment that reflects who they are. Now I want to help more people with transforming their environment so that they can also make their dreams into a reality.

All this brings me to share the secret to remodeling your kitchen, creatively, economically, and with your heart. Whether you are just starting to think about remodeling or if you have been dreaming about that dream kitchen, here are the secrets to designing your kitchen like a PRO.

By following these tips, you'll be able to create a space that is both functional, beautiful, and totally for you and your family. Here's my insider advice on how to get started!

When I get a kitchen remodeling job, I divide it into 3 parts.

  1. Planning stage

  2. Design phase

  3. Installation stage

Planning Stage

Lots of homeowners skip this stage and jump to the design phase. However, this stage is crucial for finding the direction you want to go. This is a good time to reflect on how you grew up, and what your home was like. Did it have special smells or visuals that you’d like to add? what you can take from that time? Generally, this helps to create a feeling of “coming home” for you, your family, and yes, even your guests. So, think about your childhood & explore how you grew up, and what you’d like to keep.

At this stage, I always look to recreate that warm cozy, heart of the home feeling using the materials available. So, we use the colors and textures from different materials to recreate that feeling. This is a phase where you are exploring who you are in terms of your design style, which colors speak to you & what textures you’d want to be included in your space.

By the end of this stage, you’ll be able to set your design direction with a clear idea of what you like and also know how much you’d like to spend on your renovation.

Design Stage

Kitchen design is very detailed oriented and can be overwhelming due to the numerous decisions you have to make. However, this renovation will increase your home value and provide you with other benefits that are going to come with it. My clients have told me that since their renovation, they get together with friends & family more and they tend to prepare healthier home-cooked meals a lot more often. It’s a win, win for all!

In the design phase for kitchens, I start with color 3d renderings which help my clients visualize what their kitchen could look like. You may not be able to do this step, but you can start creating mood boards to get started.

You could use Canva which is a free app where you can download pictures and start playing with them to see how they all look together.

Here is an example of a mood board in a kitchen. With this visual, it’s easy to start tweaking your design.

Note: Sometimes it’s better to get professional advice to avoid making any mistakes and pay more to fix them. It's worth it to buy a few consultations with a professional designer.

My design stage is then broken down into what I call the 9 Layers of Kitchen Design where you look at each layer separately as well as a whole. See the images below of kitchen renovations made using the 9 layers.

These kitchens tell the unique story of the people who live in their homes rather than just going with what’s popular.

So, what are the 9 Layers of Kitchen Design?

  1. Space planning

  2. Cabinets

  3. Flooring

  4. Counters

  5. Appliances

  6. Plumbing, sink, faucet,

  7. Lighting

  8. Wall finishes, paint, Tiles, Backsplash

  9. Accessories, knobs & handles, window treatment

Here's a small synopsis of each layer:

1. Space planning

This is the foundation of design. Look at your kitchen, and identify all the things you wish could be corrected. “Lack of storage space and counter space,” is the 2 most common problems I hear. I then analyze and see if there are ways to maximize the space that’s already there. Can we possibly take some space from an adjoining room? Is it possible to add an island to the kitchen? Many times, we take down walls to give the kitchen a more open feel and make it into a more central space for the family. Before you take down walls, please consult a professional.

2. Cabinets

What kind of cabinetry is the right one for you? If you are price-conscious, there are readily available stock cabinets. You can get these cabinets within 4 weeks. These are usually manufactured in China and assembled in a local warehouse.

For a better-quality product, consider using semi-custom & custom lines that are manufactured in the US and Canada. With our semi-custom lines, we can do a whole lot more with design. You also have a lot more options for the look as well as function with pull-outs of your kitchen. When we get into custom cabinets, the sky is the limit for what can be done & we usually use them in our luxury projects.

3. Flooring

I’m sure you’ve seen lots of hardwood or porcelain tile flooring in many kitchens. But are there other options? Of course, there are! I have seen a lot of granite and marble tiles used, and the effect will knock your socks off! Painted or stained concrete can also be a lovely choice. Cork flooring is great for someone with a lot of back pain. Laminate flooring has also gained popularity because it's easy to maintain.

If you like a wood-like finish, consider the high-quality vinyl flooring that looks like wood. When you buy the higher-end versions, the materials last a long time with manufacturers giving up to 25-years warranty on these products.

So why are hardwood & porcelain top choices? With the popularity of open floorplans in homes, these floor types give the kitchen a seamless flow into the rest of the house.

4. Counters

Have you seen some of the countertop options that are currently available? Today’s laminate counters are not your grandma’s! They can mimic all the higher-end versions of marble and granite as well as exotic stones. The most popular type right now is Quartz. While marble is more common in Europe, the majority of what sells in the US is either granite or quartz that mimics marble.

Another trend that’s happening now is the porcelain large slabs where you can have induction mounted underneath. With porcelain, you don't have to worry about stains or the heat impacting the surface.

Want something stronger? The Dekton is an indestructible countertop material that is manufactured by Cosentino.

Ultimately, your choice of the countertop should be based on your budget and your style.

5. Appliances

Sometimes homeowners design an entire kitchen around their appliances. I’ve seen some clients who buy an appliance package for $3000-$4000, others will purchase a single appliance for $10,000 or more. Every decision must be made based on your lifestyle and there is no wrong way or right way to go.

Are you a chef or want to feel like one? Then splurge on your cooking appliances, your range/ cooktop/oven.

If you don't use the oven, get a range instead, as I did. I know clients who are particular about being able to put a large turkey in the oven. Others love to bake a lot of cookies, so a large cookie sheet should fit the oven, dictating the size of it.

Finally, consider the ventilation of your kitchen. If you have an older home, you might not have too many windows, so consider this in your renovation.

6. Plumbing

Sinks. Should you get one or two? In large kitchens, it's common to do more than one sink. Positioning the sink is also important as its part of your work triangle.

Besides stainless-steel sinks, there are those made of fireclay, granite, cast iron, quartz, copper, and more. Besides type, you should also choose if it’s to be overmounted, under-mount, integrated, or a farm sink.

Finally, consider the accessories of your sink.

The pot filler has become pretty popular these days. There are lots of different kinds of faucets available based on your preference & style. In some projects, we have incorporated water filtration.

7. Lighting

Lighting is everything! An OK kitchen can look great if the lighting is designed well. It’s very important to consider proper lighting in a kitchen. Thankfully, overall lighting, task lighting & ambiance lighting can be done without breaking the bank.

What’s popular in lighting these days? Recessed lighting is hot right now and can provide the overall lighting. But just having this alone isn’t enough. If you ask me we seem to be overusing recessed lights in every room. I have also seen just a flush mount in the kitchens, especially in rental apartments & homes.

If you add some task lighting, maybe in the form of pendant lights, in an active prep area, it would work very well. A light by the sink area can also be useful. Additionally, undercabinet lighting creates a warm ambiance as it gives that extra light where you need it. If you have glass cabinets, lighting inside them using either strip lights or puck lights also helps create a warm inviting ambiance in your kitchen.

8. Wall Finishes

Paint ties your whole design together so this is a critical decision.

I have seen clients start looking for colors before they consider the functional aspects.

Besides selecting your paint color, the backsplash for your kitchen should also be considered under this layer. And the choices are infinite! From marble, mixed mosaics, and subway tiles to glass mosaics and so much more, you’ll be lost with choices.

One way to create a unique look is to add color or texture and create visual interest in your kitchen with the backsplash you select.

9. Accessories

The icing on the cake is your kitchen accessories. Different designs, materials & finishes in accessories are available. Accessories include the knobs & handles and window treatments, all of which help to create your cozy kitchen.

Window treatment is key because we usually see only one window in the kitchen. Sometimes there is an adjacent French door that leads to a patio. Therefore, simple window treatments, like a Roman shade or a top treatment, help to bring some color, texture, softness, and warmth to a kitchen that has straight lines and hard objects.

Once we have figured out exactly what we need for the whole renovation, we move on to the next stage.

Project Management & Installation

The fun part begins by ordering all the materials. We usually start with cabinets because they take the most amount of time to get done. Post covid appliances have also been extremely difficult to find. If you are looking for high-end appliances, you might have to wait for 6 months sometimes. Managing all the follow-ups & deliveries itself takes a big chunk of my time.

Meanwhile, you also have to find the right contractor to partner with in this renovation process. We have a very detailed process of working with contractors & checking out references.

If all the steps are done correctly, I can guarantee that you will get your Dream Kitchen. I hope these tips have helped you get some ideas on how to get started.

If you have any questions or want to share your own kitchen remodeling experiences, please leave us a comment below. We would love to hear from you! Thanks for reading!

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Remya Warrior, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Remya is a space planning expert with over 15 years of experience & a master's degree in design. She is the owner and lead designer of Kitchen Designers NJ, a brick-and-mortar store located in Red Bank, NJ. She believes in collaborations where everyone wins. She has specialized in kitchen design for over a decade & helped many homeowners think big and achieve their dream home. Recently she was included in the one of NYC Journal's 50 under 50 entrepreneurs making a difference in their respective fields.



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