9 Designer Tips for Your Dream Kitchen Makeover

From local lighting studios to preferred kitchen appliances, this B.C. design and build company shares its renovation expertise to help you unlock your kitchen’s full potential.

Many of us dream of a showcase kitchen, but not everyone understands all the essential aspects to consider. Whether you’re looking to enhance functionality, update the style, or simply create a more organized space, there are several factors to keep in mind. Designer Jenalee Nordstrom of Schedio Spaces shares her expert tips to help us avoid renovation pitfalls and make informed decisions for our kitchen projects.


1. Know your habits

Before diving into the design details, it’s important to assess your tidiness and organizational habits. Nordstrom advises homeowners to consider how they use their kitchens. 

“You need a real look, an honest look at how they live because the kitchen is often the heart of the home. Some people are super, super tidy. They like to put things away immediately.”

For individuals who are comfortable with maintenance and prefer open shelving, Nordstrom says they can most likely handle using materials like quartzite or marble countertops, which are more porous and require a bit more upkeep.  A helpful tip for maintaining natural stone surfaces is to have them sealed to prevent staining.

Meanwhile, those who are prone to clutter may opt for closed cabinetry for easier storage and use materials like quartz or Dekton over natural stones for less maintenance.


2. Do a kitchen audit

Conducting a kitchen audit can help determine which appliances need to be on the countertop for easy access and which ones can be stored away. 

“How much cooking do you plan on doing with it? What types of utensils and what types of appliances? Which ones do you need on the counter all the time? Which ones can you store away?”

It’s also good to measure the height and depth of your countertop’s clearance and storage to accommodate appliances. For example, if you frequently use a blender, ensure the countertop is high enough to avoid removing its top section every time.

This approach optimizes space, minimizes clutter, and enhances kitchen efficiency without compromising cleanliness.

Schedio Spaces completed all the builds for this renovation, including this appliance garage which Nordstrom notes is going to be a trend in the coming years. (Photo by Janis Nicolay)

Building an “appliance garage” could be another solution for kitchen efficiency. 

“It’s basically like a cabinet where you open it up, kind of like a garage and you can hide your appliances. It’s like a switch. So when it’s open, electricity works, when it’s closed, electricity is off so that it’s safe and that allows you to have less clutter on the countertop but still have the functionality of having appliances readily available without having to pull them out.”


3. Consider your home’s overall style and architecture

Nordstrom aimed to preserve the charming aspects of a 100-year-old home while modernizing it (Photo by Janis Nicolay)

Ensure that the kitchen’s design makes sense with the rest of the home to avoid creating a mismatch. A super modern kitchen can clash with the charm of an old character home.

One tip would be to use a full piece for a backsplash for a sleek and relaxing look while eliminating grout lines which can be harder to clean.

“In a perfect world, I usually like to take the full slab and continue that same material onto the countertop. I can usually save costs as well because depending on the size of the kitchen, it’s basically the same material instead of having to buy a second slab,” though, Nordstrom says it also depends on the chosen material. 

On the other hand, if the rest of the space is already minimalistic, adding a small-scaled tile backsplash with textured elements helps to balance the space.


4. Choosing shelving and cabinetry

The first consideration when it comes to shelving is whether to go for open or closed options. Open shelving can be a great way to add a sense of airiness and lightness to a space, especially if the kitchen has low ceilings or limited natural light.

Photo by Janis Nicolay

Nordstrom doesn’t usually opt for all open shelving because it can become overly cluttered. However, for individuals looking to style their open shelves, she recommends using fewer larger objects. For instance, on the top shelves, one can display a large pottery piece or a wooden bowl without overcrowding the entire shelf with these items.

“It’s also an opportunity where they can style with some of their cookbooks, laying them horizontally and putting items like a decanter or something on top can give some extra height which can give like a nice balance to the space.”

When it comes to cabinetry, there are several factors to consider. One of them is to take full advantage of vertical space. Whenever possible, extend cabinets to the ceiling. This not only creates a taller and more spacious feel but also prevents cabinets from becoming dust collectors.

For cabinet fronts, fingerprint-resistant laminate keeps surfaces looking pristine, especially in high-traffic areas. Touch-release hardware is great for a modern look. However, keep in mind that it may not be suitable for everyone, as accidental activation can occur when leaning against the cabinets.

“If you want that clean, sleek look, but you do have that leaning tendency, you can use an edge pull on the top of the cabinet doors.”

Maximized cabinetry and edge pulls (Photo by Janis Nicolay)

For a more traditional look, hardware mounted on the front of the cabinets gives the eyes something more to look at. In which case, Nordstrom recommends investing in good hardware.


5. Invest in quality lighting and hardware

“Hardware and lighting are the ones you want to invest in because you’re going to be touching it all the time. It’s kind of the jewelry of the whole piece.”

(Photo by Janis Nicolay)

If possible, rather than heading to big hardware franchises, Nordstrom encourages working with smaller artisans and lighting specialists like local studios Matthew McCormick, A-N-D Light in British Columbia. Beyond B.C., there’s Lambert & Fils while In the States she lists Luke Lamp Co and Cedar and Moss.

“These are companies where it’s at the slightly higher end of the middle category. So it’s not your entry-level-priced lighting but it makes the entire space feel much more elevated”.

And in the age-old debate of single vs. double sinks, consider the practicality of a single sink. A larger sink can accommodate your cookie sheets and roasting pans without the hindrance of a divider. Choosing sinks with rounded edges instead of sharp corners is also easier to clean. 

“For people who are a little bit careful, I would suggest doing a stainless steel sink or a cast iron sink. For people who are a little bit more delicate then doing a ceramic sink like a farmhouse sink in white tends to be really beautiful. And for the very daring, myself included, continuing your countertop material into your sink, like a marble sink.”


6. Integrate kitchen appliances with the overall design

Integrating appliances such as stove top, fridge and dishwashers with the rest of the kitchen can create a relaxed feeling because it makes the space look bigger, especially in open-concept spaces. 

Counter-depth refrigerators work well in smaller kitchens. These fridges won’t protrude beyond the counter, reducing the need for extra maneuvering, and making the space feel less cramped.

The hood fan is integrated into the cabinetry. Hiding the hood fan and using repeating materials works well in smaller kitchens to create a large and inviting feeling. (Photo by Janis Nicolay)

When it comes to ovens and cooktops, Nordstrom prefers using a separate wall oven and cooktop instead of a range in most projects. Choosing a separate wall oven and cooktop can showcase each appliance as a standout feature in the kitchen. Ranges often have a crack on the side between counters which can be difficult to clean and maintain. This setup eliminates the pesky crack issue and makes it more convenient to use both appliances at the same time.

“You can safely pull things in and out of it. It’s much more efficient because you can check what’s going on there and you don’t have to get out of the way of your cooktop. Someone can be checking the oven while someone else’s stirring the pot.”

Having the oven at eye level or slightly raised can also be more practical, especially for aging individuals or those with mobility issues, as it reduces the need to bend down. 

The separation also provides more functional storage options. You can place shallow drawers or cabinets underneath the cooktop for easy access to utensils and other cooking essentials. It also allows you to mix and match different types of cooktops, such as gas and induction, based on your preferences and cooking needs.

Nordstrom points out that while induction cooktops are excellent for safety, especially around kids, they can produce a slight humming sound that may be noticeable to those with sensitive hearing. 

“My favourite is what’s called a gas cooktop that comes straight out of the countertop with  no top plate on it.”


7. Embrace character

For natural materials like hardwood, stone, and raw brass, embracing the patina that develops over time can add character and beauty to your home. Minor scratches and spots on these materials contribute to their unique charm, showcasing a lived-in and authentic look. 

“I don’t think we should be so careful, especially brass, about keeping it completely pristine. I think there’s something really beautiful about it”

Similarly, natural stone changes when exposed to elements like water and acids. Over time, these changes create a beautiful worn-in patina– a natural aging process that adds an elevated and attractive quality to the stone, showcasing durability and history.


8. Express your individuality and personality through colours and textures

Don’t be afraid to infuse your personality into your kitchen design. Nordstrom says that two-toned cabinetry can be a good introduction to colour while maintaining a slightly more traditional and classic look. When selecting materials such as stone for countertops or backsplashes, explore options beyond traditional black, white, or gray. Introducing a coloured stone or a unique patterned slab, can act as a focal point and add an artistic touch to your kitchen.

Nordstrom mixed different wood colours and used a wheat-coloured tone and complimented it with white oak. (Photo by Janis Nicolay)

“I would also encourage people to not base all of their decisions based on resale. I know in Vancouver specifically, it’s an expensive city and people are often stepping their way up the real estate game. Yes, that’s important, but if you don’t do anything too weird, people are going to like it as long as it’s modern and it’s clean. I feel like having a space that suits the lifestyle and the preferences of the people who live there so that they love it, is more valuable than a few thousand dollars extra when they sell the place. Having a home that you love that reflects their style is so valuable.“

Whether it’s incorporating bold colours, unique materials, or unconventional elements, prioritize what makes you happy and suits your lifestyle over conforming to market trends.


9. Consider professional assistance

If you’re unsure about how to translate your vision into reality, consider consulting a designer.  A designer can help you make informed decisions suggest cost-effective solutions, and guide you through the decision-making process, helping you avoid common pitfalls and achieve your design goals.

A before and after comparison

If you’re unable to hire a designer for the entire project, Nordstrom suggests consulting with one for specific aspects. Designers such as herself offer hourly sessions either in person or virtually.

“For example, metal is going to be having a moment in the next few years as a material for kitchens like door fronts, and things of that nature. And that’s not something that your everyday person would be able to implement effectively.”

A professional designer can advise on the right finishes and how to use them for maximum impact, making the process smoother and the results more impressive for anyone undertaking a kitchen renovation.

More before and after photos


More before and after photos