Before starting the kitchen design planning process, answer these 9 kitchen design planning questions.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with choices when staring the kitchen design planning process. That’s because there are so many options to consider and details to determine. The best way to ensure that your new kitchen suits your family is to work with a qualified professional remodeler who is well-versed in this unique field. They will come to the table laden with insights and with dashes of new ideas that are certain to spice up your project. But first – you need to do some prep work. Here are some basic questions you’ll want to think about before you meet with these professionals that can help you get a handle on your kitchen project and give them the tools they need to design a kitchen that works with your lifestyle.

1. Do you genuinely like to cook? Or is takeout more your style?

While they look amazing in magazines, gourmet kitchens can be costly. If cooking is not a passion, you can scale back on some of the more expensive items (think 6-burner commercial gas ranges) – and the space that goes along with them – and invest the savings in other areas of your home that mean more to you.

2. How many cooks will be in your kitchen on a typical day?

Designing a space that flows well for the number of bodies that are likely to be in it is critical. Just be certain that you take into account future changes – such as young children who may want to help more as they grow up.

3. Where do you like to gather?

Some folks literally live in their kitchens, with kids doing homework or having snacks at an island while mom and dad cook, and then simply pulling up a barstool to eat alongside the kids once dinner is ready. Others want to close off the area after meals are prepared and gather around the table in an adjoining dining space or even a more formal dining room. Still others grab a plate and head for the couch. No matter how or where your family likes to eat, plan a space that reflects your actual habits.

4. How often (and how) do you entertain?

If entertaining is a priority, you’ll want a space that accommodates it. Graciously sized counters for serving, space to mingle, and an open floor plan are essentials for informal parties. If you entertain formally, you’ll want easy access to formal spaces with enough room there for serving while providing a level of kitchen privacy. If your idea of entertaining is a rambunctious pack of 8-year-olds running through the room, you’ll want a kitchen that offers easy access to outdoor areas or game rooms and ample safe space for kids to make a mess.

5. How messy are you?

Speaking of messes, take an honest look at how you like to cook. Some chefs meticulously clean as they go, placing each dirty utensil directly into a waiting dishwasher; others pile the sink high and get to the stack after the meal and subsequent socializing are done. Why does it matter in kitchen design? Because messy folks might want to visually block sinks or other “stockpile” sites from adjoining serving islands or dining areas. (I have one friend who brilliantly solved this issue by placing a long horizontal planter box filled with tall flowers on her island between her sink and serving area. Her pile of dirty dishes is thus kept out of view of guests even as they serve themselves just inches away. While after-the-fact creative design solutions like this can work, it’s easier to plan for how you really live on the front end rather than fix a layout mistake after you’ve invested in a new kitchen!)

6. How many groceries do you buy?

If you have a large or growing family, you are likely to shop (and thus need to store) groceries much differently than a retired couple. Make certain that pantry and cabinet space is aligned with how you typically shop and what you generally store.

7. What do you like to cook?

If you often cook with fresh fruits and vegetables, ample prep space placed where you need it is important. (Think a prep sink in an island with a garbage disposal.) If you bake often, counter space to roll out dough is a need. If you love to make large, elaborate meals, double ovens that allow you to cook different dishes at varied temperatures might be critical. (We’ll get into more details in a future article where we examine appliance choices, but for now, think about how you cook and how it reflects on the functional spaces in your kitchen.)

8. Who is likely to use your kitchen?

Your space should be designed to safely accommodate all the people who will commonly use it. If you have aging parents who live with you (or who visit frequently) you may not want to put a microwave above the range (where they will have to reach up to access potentially hot, heavy dishes). Granite island overhangs and sharp corners can be dangerous for very young children who might bump their heads on them or run into them.

9. Open or closed?

While most folks crave kitchens that are open to adjoining living areas, think about the rest of your home and how you live before immediately opting for this choice. Some people like the idea of closing off the space because they don’t want to be “on display” as they prepare meals. (Or because they want to close off the cooking smells and the accompanying mess from the rest of their homes.) Others hate being isolated from the rest of the family while they cook and want to bring friends and family into the space.

No matter how you use your kitchen, if you answered the above questions honestly, you’ll give your contractor a great starting point for its spatial design. Next time we’ll consider questions to ask before you select appliances.