6 Kitchen Design Ideas That Really Cook

Six things you might not have considered while fantasizing about your dream kitchen.

Credit: Frank Espich / Indianapolis Star

kitchen design ideas

If your current kitchen design is past its best before date and your cabinets need reshuffling, we’ve got some ideas for how to make your kitchen really cook


Your kitchen should be a cool, clean, welcoming space, right? A space where you can work and feel comfortable. Where the cook can get creative and guests can sit back and relax.

As you contemplate renovating your kitchen space, imagine a kitchen design that inspires you with creative countertop spaces, plenty of storage and islands of food prep possibilities.


From practical details you might not have considered to nice-to-have features you’ll want to add to your wishlist, we spotlight six kitchen design features you might not have thought of.


ergonomic kitchen

(Image: Flickr / John Schilling)  


Kitchen Design Tip #1: Keep everything within reach


The art and science of ergonomics—i.e., keeping stuff where you can easily and comfortably reach it—is particularly important when considering kitchen design. At no point is the phrase “everything in its place” more important than when you’re standing in your apron with golden pancakes sizzling on the griddle and you can’t find your spatula.


For instance, let’s say you’re cooking up the kitchen equivalent of a full-on dj set: the table is your dance floor and you’re working the ingredients like it’s prime time in Ibiza. You’re washing the beans in the sink, chopping carrots on your John Boos designed maple cutting board, bringing the cream sauce to a gentle boil on the stove top and ensuring noodles are perfectly tender in their pot. You’re gonna need a coordinated space to make it all work.


There are two methods for thinking about how to organize your kitchen space:


The Classic Triangle (The Old Way): Sink, stove, fridge at the three points, with your counter space, pantry and utensil storage coordinated within the vicinity. This is a classic “nuclear” method for organizing your kitchen that dates back to the 1950s and works very well for smaller kitchen spaces.


The Work Zones Method (The New Way): This method is more open to interpretation and is a good option for people with more space to work with. You can organize your kitchen into localized areas for specific tasks. For instance, think about your sink and countertop area as the cleaning and food prep area; the stove is your baking/cooking area; the pantry is your ingredients centre; while the sink (again) is your cleaning, composting, recycling and disposal area.


Visualize as many different possibilities as you can for how you plan to use your kitchen. But after you’ve done the creative brainstorming, it’s important to be ruthlessly honest with yourself about how you will actually use your kitchen space. Great kitchen designs are not like New Year’s Resolutions; you’re going to be living with your choices for many years to come, so be honest with yourself and be realistic in the planning stage.


The more you keep things organized and located logically within your space the more functional and enjoyable your kitchen will be.



using reclaimed wood in the kitchen renovation

(Image: Flickr / Jon Wiley)


Kitchen Design Tip #2: The eco-conscious kitchen

You don’t need to be working toward LEED certification to rock the benefits of a clean, efficient and eco-conscious kitchen space. Many Vancouver kitchens already integrate recycled materials into traditional designs.


Reclaimed lumber and driftwood can create amazing tables and chairs that will accent your space with a sense of rugged individualism. I’ve seen tables created from wood that’s been saved from old work sites and found on the forest floor that can help turn a simple kitchen into a warm, natural space. They’re great conversation starters, too.


Incorporating handmade items into your kitchen helps to create a unique living space while supporting a local artisan. Get to know the artisans around town who are doing work with driftwood, adding industrial touches with stainless steel and other metals. Arnt Arntzen in Strathcona, for example, crafts beautiful, architectural pieces made from wood and metal gleaned from the Parks Board and local scrap yards that have a distinct West Coast sensibility.


Discover other artists at artisan markets, farmer markets and various studio shows around town; the annual Eastside Culture Crawl is especially good for this.


And check out Wildwood Designs and Reclaimed Wood Wholesalers, for interesting ideas on how to give your space character using items that are maybe a little rougher around the edges and tell a story.


As well, Vancouver’s many secondhand and antique furniture dealers can help you find interesting pieces—such as sinks, shelving, tables and sideboards—that have history and personality. Check out the shops between East 26th and 29th Avenues on Main Street, where you can find custom pieces that have been crafted from old, salvaged materials.


You can also often save money by installing refurbished fittings. And doing so helps reduce the strain on our landfills.


Eco paint: For a kitchen that’s truly earth-friendly take a look at low-VOC paints. These paints are produced under strict guidelines—tough enough to meet stringent LEED regulations—that ensure they’re the cleanest, least toxic way to give your kitchen some colour.

Vancouver’s preeminent green building resource centre Light House Sustainable Building Centre recommends Pittsburgh Paints, a locally manufactured line of green paint that comes in more than 1,800 hues.


For more ideas on how to create a stylish green kitchen, check out this great video created by the good people at Canadian House and Home.



garbage recycling composting drawer

(Image: Coastal Living / Colleen Duffley)


Kitchen Design Tip #3: Quick and stylish composting solutions

So now that you have the whole green thing under control, what about composting? It can be easy to forget that all those egg shells and carrot ends, coffee grounds and tea bags are a burden on the landfill and are better sent to the compost. But is there a painless, odour-free and stylish way to practice composting?


Yes there is.

Keeping your compost bin together with the garbage can makes it is just as easy to do one as the other—leaving you with no excuse but to compost. Which is even easier now that the City of Vancouver offers curbside compost pickup for residential houses.


When considering the layout of the kitchen, ensure that your sink, dishwasher and waste facilities (garbage, recycling and compost bins) are all within easy reach of each other. Then create a dedicated space with separate bins for each purpose. Newer kitchen designs hide bins in tall, deep drawers that can be pulled out when needed, then hidden away.


I also like to keep a simple, wide mouthed bowl on the counter to temporarily keep food scraps when I’m chopping up veggies for a stir-fry or curry. This helps make cleanup quick and easy. And also gives me a second to ponder whether this time I’ll actually get around to turning the onion tops and carrot skins into broth.



kitchen island with a chopping block

(Image: Flickr / Emilie Hardman)


Kitchen Design Tip #4: No kitchen is an island but most could use one

No kitchen ever built has had enough countertop space or storage space. Ever. But designing a kitchen to have an island can help.


Combining the functionality of a table and countertop with remote storage below or via hooks, this design idea can help save you space and increase the usability of your kitchen space.


But, of course, there are as many different varieties of kitchen islands as there are islands off our glorious West Coast. But, assuming your kitchen is not as large as the Pacific Ocean, here are a few suggestions:


The permanent kitchen island: If your kitchen has a little more space to play with—or you’re ready to knock out a few walls to make some room—think about the possibilities that a permanent island can provide. Something like this can really expand your countertop space and give you an informal place to cook, prepare a feast and even host quick meals. A permanent island can also solve your storage problems, as shelves, drawers and open space for hanging pots and pans can be incorporated below the workspace.

The kitchen island that moves: These islands come with bracable wheels that allow you to pull them out as needed and serve as a storage unit between uses. They are sold in many different shapes and sizes so you can find one that fits perfectly within your kitchen. Great for wheeling out goodies for your guests, these islands can be a lifesaver for larger meals or appetizers.

The kitchen island that is also a table: This is a perfect solution for people who like to prepare food while entertaining friends and family. This island allows you to be on one side while your friends sit in stools or tall chairs on the other side. It’s big enough to give you room to work while allowing your guests space to enjoy their wine while sampling your next creation before it’s done!

The kitchen island that is also a storage rack: Islands are amazing multi-purpose things. Many kitchen islands come equipped to help you store and organize everything from your butcher’s block to pots and pans. Utilizing the underside of the islands for storage is a brilliant way to give yourself more room. Hanging your most used pans from hooks along the side keeps them always at hand while freeing up vital space in your cabinets. Some islands even come with built-in wine storage.

Many of these kitchen islands are designed to help better organize your space, provide extra counter space and storage, and make for a good spot for informal meals and snacks.



kitchen design outlets near sink

(Image: Flickr / j l t)


Kitchen Design Tip #5: Plugging in

Outlets! It can’t be emphasized enough: Just like counter space, you can never have enough outlets. Be sure to place them in areas where you’ll be using all manner of kitchen appliances, including the hand mixer, toaster, coffee maker, rice cooker, bread maker and so on.


Also, consider dedicating a space and a socket for your laptop so you can browse and follow recipes online without fear of running out of juice in your battery. Note: near the sink is probably not the best spot for this.



wine fridge

(Image: iStock)


Kitchen Design Tip #6: Wine storage and display

For many people, part of the joy of designing their kitchen is creating a space that will showcase and store their impeccable wine collection. Whether it’s a fragrant Australian Gewurztraminer, a tasty Malbec from the fertile vineyards of Chile or a few bottles—er, cases—picked up on your last sun-drenched trip through the Naramata Bench, wine should be properly stored and always at hand.


Wine fridges are all the rage right now. They’re very stylishly designed and powered by sophisticated cooling technology.


Many wine fridges are designed to fit into the cabinetry below your countertops—perhaps even in that space that you’ve made available by moving your pots and pans to the hanging rack beneath your new island!


That’s right, it all fits together.


Richmond’s Wine Cellar Depot has a series of good-looking Sobra Thermoelectric Wine Cabinets that are relatively inexpensive and will keep your Zins and Pinot Gris at the perfect temperature for serving on a moments notice.


Also, for those who love a dusty red wine, there are lots of great options available for storing and displaying your bottles with cool wall-mounted wine racks.


If space is no issue and your wine collection knows no bounds, the Wine Cellar Depot offers a massive 144 bottle metal grid wine rack. That should help you make it through even the longest of weekends. And there’s also the 40 bottle birch wood wine rack that won’t take up quite so much space.


You can also find options for well-designed wood and metal combination wall mounts for more modest collections that will display the bottles and labels nicely.



Sean Cranbury


Sean Cranbury is the executive editor of Books on the Radio and curator of the W2 Real Vancouver Writers and Culture Series. He lives in East Vancouver and freelances in writing, communications and social media. He’s also an events programmer with W2 Community Media Arts Society. Web | Twitter