Kitchen design is an art form, one where function and beauty harmoniously co-exist. Achieving that balance, however, isn't always easy. When renovating a kitchen, homeowners can find themselves facing challenging design dilemmas - They are not alone.
"When redesigning or refreshing a kitchen, the goal is to create a space that is hard-working, yet beautiful," says Nate Berkus, renowned designer and artistic advisor to LG Studio. "Look for items that really represent who you are and your design personality, and you'll create an area that you and your family will love both now and 10 years from now."
Berkus points to six common kitchen design dilemmas and offers suggestions on how homeowners can remedy those issues:
1. Space Challenges
When you don't have enough room for the large table that your family needs, get creative. Consider building a L-shaped bench around a farm table and adding extra chairs. It's a clever use of space and will create a cozy nook where your family can gather for meals, or where kids can do homework. Plus, the bench can double as storage space.
2. Last Year's (or Last Decade's) Cabinets
Cabinets are one of the first things you notice in any kitchen, and they're also one of the most important in terms of functionality. If your cabinets provide ample space but look dated, Berkus suggests giving them a facelift with varying materials and finishes, like a wood or paint color that's different from the rest of the kitchen.
"I always appreciate a simple, clean style, but with cabinets, I tell my clients they shouldn't be afraid to mix it up," Berkus says. “I recommend sticking with a neutral palette for cabinets, whether you're installing brand new ones or painting your existing cabinets. White, charcoal and gray will always be elegant, and you can't go wrong with black - it's absolutely one of my favorites. It makes a dramatic statement and looks fantastic paired with stainless steel appliances."
3. Small Budgets, Big Taste
When you long for that sleek, built-in look but don't want to break the bank, counter-depth appliances are a great design choice. They seamlessly integrate with cabinetry no matter what the material, supporting that clean look you ultimately want your kitchen to reflect.
4. Unattractive, Inefficient Lighting
Lighting is one of the most important design elements in any room, and it's the one thing people often overlook when re-designing their kitchens. "Lighting can instantly change the whole feel of a space," Berkus says. "I believe it is one of the most important decisions you can make in any room, especially the kitchen, which, let's be honest, is usually the hardest working room in your home."
To create lighting that is both useful and beautiful, remember to light the room in layers - from above, under cabinets to illuminate work areas and all-around accent lighting to create ambiance.
5. Counter Space Confusion
Figuring out how much counter space you'll need is always tricky. Start by considering all the ways you'll be using your counters. You'll need food prep areas, of course, but will you also want a breakfast bar where your family can sit for meals and snacks? Will you need extra room for countertop appliances?
"My rule of thumb is, to always double the amount of counter space you think you'll need," Berkus says. "You can never have too much, especially if you like to cook and entertain."
6. A Too-Clean Slate
A large, open-concept kitchen can seem appealing, but it can also be daunting to design and decorate.
"Don't be afraid to do something unexpected in the kitchen to break up the space," Berkus says. "I love the idea of creating an unexpected seating area in your kitchen. Shop your weekend flea markets or online stores for a vintage sofa, coffee table and rug to set up an area for your family to relax in."
Ultimately, Berkus says, keep in mind that the kitchen truly is the heart of the home. "Kitchen design is about creating a space in your home that brings the whole family together, and is the best place to reflect your sense of personal style."