How to design your dream kitchen – where to splurge and where to save?

White kitchen with concrete floor

Kitchens are the central hub of modern life where we spend most of our awaken time. Long gone are the days when kitchens used to be small and were used strictly for cooking and washing up. Most house buyers consider kitchens very high on their criteria list when looking for houses. They want to find something that resembles their dream kitchen or at least an option to create one. If you aren’t lucky enough to have your dream kitchen already, it can be difficult to decide how and where to begin.

Starting a big project like redesigning a kitchen can be pretty daunting. I think the best way to approach it is like with any big project or plan – one step at the time.

geometric tiles and wood chopping boards

Kitchen seating corner, with Crittall windows and a log burner. It's compact in size but adds lots to the room.

How to design your dream kitchen – Decide first what you want from your kitchen

This is the most important part, even more important than the style of your kitchen. Sit down and make a list of what you want your kitchen to be. What are the most crucial things, what would be nice to have and what you can live without. Take any restrictions into consideration. Don’t be tempted to squeeze too much stuff in a small space. Your beautiful new kitchen will just end up looking crowded.

Modern and minimalistic kitchen with rustic details

When we moved to our current house, kitchen was probably one of the better rooms in the house style-wise. But after we had lived here for a while we realised it just didn’t work for us at all. We were lucky enough to be able to build an extension to house the new kitchen so were able to make the space exactly how we wanted it. This was my wish list for the dream kitchen design:

  • Direct access to the garden. Our old kitchen was in the middle of the house as back of the house had a conservatory which had no access to from the kitchen. The only way to the garden was through this dusty old storage lean-to shed. It really didn’t encourage eating out as we didn’t want to carry food through that shed.
  • Plenty of worktop space. The old kitchen had very limited working space.
  • Good bins to make recycling as easy as possible.
  • No corner units. I really dislike them so we used the only corner in the kitchen design to make it a sink in the boot room.
  • Better layout. Dishwasher close to crockery drawer. The old kitchen had the crockery storage and the dishwasher on opposite walls.
  • Underfloor heating. The best way to heat a larger space. Also my kids were young at the time and were playing on the icy cold floors all the time. Plus I don’t like wearing shoes in the house.

kitchen seating area

Modern and minimalistic kitchen with rustic details

And then the best part, how should it look?

After you have the functional kitchen stuff covered it’s time to think about looks! What’s your favourite style? Think about coming home after a day out, how do you imagine your kitchen looking? Sleek and modern? Light and Scandi? Cottage chic? Or maybe even a mixture of styles. The main thing is, it should make you happy. Don’t go with magnolia if you would rather have bright red kitchen but are too worried about the future resale value. This is the most important room of the house. Make it work for you and look the way you like.

This is how my dream kitchen wish list looked:

  • minimalistic, matte white, airy and non-kitchen looking
  • no wall units but wooden shelves instead
  • island with nothing on it, no tap and definitely no hob
  • concrete floor, slim black framed windows and french doors (no bifolds for me!)
  • eating at the dining table, not at the breakfast bar
  • seating area with a modern, wall mounted log burner and a window seat
  • space for our statement vintage lights – 3 above the island and 1 in the seating area

large kitchen island with vintage lanterns

No matter how big your dream kitchen budget is. Spend it wisely!

For most of us this is the limiting factor which, in the end makes lots of decisions on our behalf. When you can’t afford everything, prioritising where you want to spend your money is crucial. Obviously this depends what are the most important features for you. If you are an amazing cook you might want to get state of the art hob and oven and have cheaper worktops instead. Or you absolutely love the pricey concrete effect doors but aren’t that fussed about the brand of appliances.

Specialist kitchen designers will be able to help you to cut down on the costs, but as a rough guide – kitchen units usually consists of 50% of the total price of a kitchen and appliances, worktops etc the other 50%. But this obviously depends on lots of factors – how many drawers, how fancy appliances etc you choose.

open plan dining living room

Modern white kitchen with vintage street lanterns, polished concrete floor and midcentury modern cocktail cabinet

My kitchen –  where I splurged and saved:

We spent around 40% of our budget on the cabinets and the rest on worktops and appliances.

Spend a little more:
  • Our kitchen is fairly big and we have a big island so the quartz worktops from silestone took a fair chuck of our budget. I love the look of quartz worktops and the low maintenance requirements. There are cheaper ways to get quartz worktops but we chose the convenience.
  • Our cabinets are from a reputable German kitchen company, but we used their cheaper range to keep the costs down.
  • Open shelves have hidden led-lighting so it sits flush underneath the shelves. This makes a big difference in the light levels in the corner furthest away from the kitchen doors.
  • I wanted a big, rectangular sink with single bowl and a substantial but simple tap – we got these cheaper as they were customer returns
  • Insinkerator food waste disposer. I  l o v e  this, it is one of my favourite kitchen gadgets ever!!
  • Wide induction hob

Modern white kitchen with vintage street lanterns, polished concrete floor and midcentury modern cocktail cabinet

Saved a bit:
  • We had some cabinets too, not just drawers
  • The drawers we had were wide so we needed less of them
  • We don’t have a built-in  microwave, our normal microwave sits in a cupboard instead
  • No fancy build-in coffee makers either, just freshly ground coffee from a French press cafetiere 🙂
  • Our kitchen is really plain and simple, fuss-free, minimalistic design seems to be a more economical choice!
  • Not sure if this goes to the splurge or save department, but our kitchen appliances are from Neff, which are mid-price.
  • We have two ovens, one for everyday use and another is mainly if I’m cooking for more people. The second oven had less features so it was cheaper too.
  • Our two built-in fridges are from Neff too but quite low range.

Kitchen diner with a table for 10 people. Black metal cabinet for crockery

Dine in kitchen with a large kitchen island

What I’m planning to do next

I have two unfinished projects in the kitchen. The first one is to find a small and slim sideboard, chest of drawers or similar for the seating area, below the lamp. I haven’t had any luck with this unfortunately… search continues.

The second one is to have curtains or blinds for the kitchen french doors and window. Our garden is South-West facing so we get plenty of evening sun – during hotter days too much! So some kind of shade would be lovely to have. I want the blinds to be well fitting, sleek and minimalistic in design.

Modern white kitchen with vintage street lanterns, polished concrete floor and midcentury modern cocktail cabinet Long bank of kitchen units but no wall units makes the kitchen look modern

If I had my time again – what would I do differently?

I am, overall happy with my kitchen, it’s beautiful, light and works really well. The only regret I have is not having more freezer space. It turns out I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to freezing food and although I have two 50/50 fridge-freezers, the freezer parts are always full. So I could have used another freezer, maybe just a half a one to go under the worktop somewhere. My next kitchen will have a row of freezers!

Kitchen seating corner, with Crittall windows and a log burner. It's compact in size but adds lots to the room.

If I had my time again – what would I do again?

If we were to move and I had to design another kitchen for myself and my family, I would still love to have these three:

  • Underfloor heating
  • Food waste disposer
  • Build in bins that have compartments for different recycling

I might repeat some of the other things too from my current kitchen, but these 3 really are on my essentials list now.

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Great kitchen for dinner parties

white kitchen with polished concrete floors

Practical help for how to design your dream kitchen dream kitchen design guide

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how to design a kitchen

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I'm Susanna, the editor of SHnordic. I post about interiors, style picks & beauty finds, and I hope you will find something that you'll love on my shop my style page! Please note that my blog also features some affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage per click at no extra cost to you.

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  1. 9.13.18
    Steffen said:

    Hello! We really like the tiling! Where you bought it?
    Thanks in advance.
    Steffen

    • 9.17.18
      SHnordic said:

      Hi Steffen, unfortunately they were from a shop that is no more in business. But the tiles were called ‘the cube’ if that helps.

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