The Kitchen and the Dining Room

The Kitchen and the Dining Room

Chapter 4: The Kitchen and the Dining Room


Out of all the rooms you will renovate, your kitchen will probably cost you the most and have the biggest impact on your resale value. So, it should come as no surprise when we scrutinize every detail in the kitchen in order to figure out how we can make the most out of that space.

With this in mind, we will take a look at the possible layouts for your kitchen along with the use of islands and other storage solutions. Afterwards, we will discuss the kind of appliances dining room to complement your kitchen.


The Kitchen Layout

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When it comes to the layout of your kitchen, there are a few things you should take into consideration: figuring out what you need, understanding basic design philosophies, and appreciating different layouts.


Figuring Out What You Need

Before you start choosing cabinets or figuring out where the fridge should go, you need to assess how you use your kitchen and how you want it to accommodate your daily life style. Some of the questions you should ask yourself include the following:

  • Do you and your family use the kitchen for cooking purposes only or for more social purposes as well?
  • If you do cook, are you a professional who will need special appliances, or can common ones do the trick for you?
  • In your current kitchen, what works well and what needs fixing?

The basic point behind all these questions is to better guide all your renovation efforts and to help you tailor your kitchen to your needs. After all, just as you should know why you’re renovating your house before a single nail has been struck, you should be fully clear on why you’re redoing your kitchen. Additionally, these questions help you keep the bigger picture in mind instead of getting lost in the details. This makes even more sense when you realize that during your renovation, you’ll be caught up in so many details that it will be easy for you to see your kitchen as several separate parts rather than a connected whole, which may lead to an end result that is disjointed and doesn’t serve the purposes you need.


Basic Design Philosophies

There are two main concepts with which you should be familiar: the concept of the golden triangle and the concept of zone design.

The Golden Triangle

As anyone who’s spent time in a kitchen will tell you, the three most used appliances are the sink, the fridge, and the stove. Ergo, the closer these three are together, the easier things are for whoever is using the space. It is with this insight in mind that the concept of the golden triangle, also known as the kitchen work triangle, became an integral part of the design of any kitchen.

Understanding the golden triangle is easy. Assuming that each one of the three appliances formed a vertex of a triangle, you should be able to see that drawing an imaginary line from one vertex to the next will form our triangle.

Nevertheless, it is not enough to draw the triangle; you must also make sure that it follows a few rules for it to be functional.

  • Each side of the triangle should be longer than 4 feet yet shorter than 9.
  • When the lengths of all the sides are added together, their sum should be larger than 13 feet but smaller than 26 feet.
  • No traffic should interrupt the triangle; otherwise, the triangle will feel too crowded.
  • You would do well to avoid placing any appliances or cabinetry in a way that cuts one of the triangle’s legs.

Although the ideal situation is to have the golden triangle with all its caveats, this may not always be possible due to modern designers having to contend with plenty of other considerations that might impede setting up a perfect triangle. However, the spirit of the golden triangle is preserved: for example, designers might establish two triangles, one for the adults and one for the kids. Another option is for designers to break up plenty of the appliances that usually come together, such as placing the stove in one place and the oven in another. The main factor that will decide what constraints the designer has to take into consideration is the list of needs and requirements you hand him at the beginning of the project.

Zone Design

Aside from the golden triangle, designers take another consideration when plotting out your kitchen: work zones and activities. In a nutshell, they make sure to plot out specific spaces, or zones, dedicated to the activities that you want to do in your kitchen. Usually, you have your basic zones that have to be present in any kitchen:

  • Food zoneThis zone is for storing groceries and using your fridge.
  • Dishes and other zone This space is used for storing your dishes, cups, cutlery, and anything else of the sort.
  • Cleaning zone - This zone is meant for the garbage bags, the recycling area, and any items used for cleaning.
  • Food preparation zoneThis zone is used for cleaning, cutting, mixing, and preparing the food.
  • Cooking zone -  This zone is where all the pots and pans lie, along with the stove they are used on.

Apart from the basics, your kitchen can accommodate a few extra zones, depending on what you want. Some of the possibilities are as follows:

  • You can entertain guests in your kitchen, especially if you have a bar of some sorts.
  • You can use the kitchen as a dining space as well. This is becoming more and more in demand these days.
  • You can use the kitchen as a work space, or even a study space for your kids. This can come in handy for the busy parent who’s trying to juggle several roles simultaneously.
  • You can use the kitchen for almost any other domestic activity of your choosing.


Basic Kitchen Layouts

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Now that you know what you want and what design principles to look out for, let’s take a quick look at some of the standard kitchen layouts out there.

  • I-Shaped Layout - When it comes to small apartments and tight setups, look no further than the I-configuration, also known as the single galley kitchen. This is when the entire kitchen resides on a single wall, taking up as little space as possible. Its simplicity and affordability make it an attractive solution.
  • The Galley Shape (corridor-style) - As the name would suggest, this type of kitchen is comprised of two straight runs with a pathway in the middle. Unfortunately, the main drawback of this configuration is that the traffic passing through it can make it seem a bit crowded. On the other hand, it gives you more space than the I-shaped kitchen. Speaking of which, you can transform an I-shape into a galley shape by adding an island in front of the wall, which is a convenient solution if you need the space.
  • L-Shaped Layout - An L configuration is short hand for describing a kitchen that takes up two perpendicular walls and the corner between them. It affords the user a sense of privacy when cooking as the traffic isn’t as disruptive as it is with the galley-shaped kitchen. Again, you can add an island for good measure.
  • C-Shaped Layout - Should the L-shape provide insufficient space, be it counter or storage, you can always resort to the C-shape, also known as the U-shaped layout. It consists of an L-shape with a peninsula added at either end.
  • G-Shaped Layout - Finally, the most expansive of the bunch is the G-shaped layout, which is the same as the U-shape but with a little leg added at the end. It offers the most space and seclusion for the cook, making it perfect for people who like to cook alone without anyone disrupting their work space.



Islands, Cabinets, and Countertops

The next thing we will look at is the different appendages of you kitchen. Let’s start by talking about islands.


Of all the complaints that people level against their kitchen, insufficient counter space is one of the most common. This is where islands and all of their relatives (including peninsulas and rolling islands) enter stage right.

The beauty of islands is their ability to accommodate different functions: they play the role of a countertop for cooking, a bar for entertaining guests, a workspace for your children to use, and so much more. Additionally, by installing electric sockets beneath the lip of the island counter, you can make it serve even more functions, like charging phones and laptops. None of this is to mention the immense storage capabilities an island can bring to your kitchen.

Besides the versatility of the island, it also serves to delineate your kitchen from the rest of the living space, especially if you have an I-shaped or L-shaped kitchen, while, at the same time, enabling you to interact with others outside of the kitchen.

Having said all that, there are a few considerations you should keep in mind when using an island:

  • An island should be at least 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. Bear in mind that these numbers are the bare minimum.
  • Your island should be surrounded by 3.5 feet of circulation, at least.
  • Given the numbers above, it should come as no surprise that some kitchens are too small to accommodate the installation of an island. As a result, it is best if the kitchen has at least 11 square feet of extra space. Regardless, if your mind is set on having an island installed in your kitchen, make sure that your kitchen dimensions are 8x12 feet at the very least.
  • When it comes to placing the island, be sure to remember that sight lines play an important role. By keeping the sight lines from key views and entrances clear, you can make the space feel open.


The main concern when it comes to countertops is the kind of materials you’ll be using, and since countertops play an enormous role in dictating the tone and feel of your kitchen, you need to be very selective.

  • Having gained plenty of popularity in the past, granite can be bought in all shapes and sizes. Keeping this in mind, a price of a slab of granite can vary greatly, depending on the thickness of the slab, the grade of the granite, and other factors.
  • Engineered stone products These are made mostly of quartz. They are also becoming popular with home owners, thanks to their stain resistance, durability, sleekness, and consistency. As a result, they often provide the perfect solution to give off a unique aesthetic.
  • It can be poured to fit all shapes and sizes, making this type of counter very versatile. Additionally, it is also durable and stain resistant.
  • Stainless steel - For a sleek, modern look, you might want to consider using industrial strength steel. Cleaning it is a cinch, and it can take hot pots and pans on it. Unfortunately, it does scratch and dent, making it difficult to cut on this kind of surface.


Picking your cabinets will probably constitute one of the most important decisions that you’ll have to make when it comes to remodeling your kitchen. Fittingly, they will devour half of the budget you’ve set for your kitchen. Because of all this, it stands to reason that you should be careful come time to select your cabinets.

  • The difference between stock and customWhen purchasing cabinets, there are three main types to choose from: stock, custom, and semi-custom. In a nutshell, stock cabinets are made in bulk by a manufacturer and produced in a set shape and design. You just pick them off the shelf and leave. Conversely, custom cabinets are made from scratch according to your specifications and order; think of them more as a tailored suit as opposed to one you’d pick off the rack. Hence, custom cabinets are considerably more expensive than stock ones. Finally, semi-custom cabinets are made in bulk by a manufacturer, like stock cabinets, but they can be fit and partially customized to your need.
  • The style of the door - What kind of cabinet doors do you want to install? Are you looking for something classic? Or would you prefer something more modern? What about how your door opens: do you want it to flip up or swing outwards? There are a plethora of options to suit every taste and desire. For instance, frameless cabinets can offer you more storage space when compared to rail-style cabinets. It all hinges on what you want and what you’re looking for. An important notion to take into consideration is that you should try to make your door style match the general style of both your kitchen and your house.
  • Regardless of the kind of cabinets you choose to install, the hardware you add can make or break the final look. Consequently, it is important to choose hardware that fits with the style and type of cabinets you’ve chosen. So, the next time you are shopping for cabinet handles and hinges, remember that the devil is in the details.



Approximately 8% of the money you’ve set for your kitchen renovation will go into purchasing appliances. Nevertheless, there is still room for you to save money through keeping the major appliances, particularly the ones that connect to the utilities, and working around them. Alternatively, you can start by planning out the layout of your kitchen, after which you can pick the appliances that suit this set-up. It all depends on what your budget is and how willing you are to haggle. Assuming that you intend to buy a few new appliances, let’s take a look at your options.

  • Cooktops There are three main types of cooktops: gas, electric, and induction. Each person has their own preference, but on an efficiency basis, induction cooktops lose the least amount of heat. Additionally, you can explore the option of having a cooktop that is separate from your oven, especially if you enjoy wall ovens.
  • Ovens - How you use your oven and how experienced of a cook you are will dictate the kind of oven you can buy. You can either buy a convection oven or a conventional one. A convection oven draws more energy than its alternative but gives you a more even distribution of heat while cooking your meal faster. Naturally, choosing a more modular setup where the cooktop and oven are separated means that you can have more than one oven, depending on your needs.
  • Ventilation systemPlenty of people redoing their kitchen tend to forget about their ventilation system. Nevertheless, they are extremely important, particularly for those of us who rely on their cooktops a lot. Something to keep in mind is that your ventilation hood ought to be larger than the surface of your cooktop should you want to get rid of that exhaust effectively.
  • Refrigerators and freezers - Picking out a refrigerator entails figuring out how much food you want to store, the amount of space available for the refrigerator, and its shape and design among other things. When judging a refrigerator and its efficacy, the most important component to scrutinize is the compressor. How many compressors does your refrigerator have? How strong is each one? Furthermore, some refrigerators offer extra amenities, such as water or ice from the door, yet these types of units typically require more maintenance than their simpler counterparts.
  • Microwaves - The power of a microwave is calculated in wattage. In simple terms, the bigger the wattage number, the more cooking power you can expect your unit to have. There are also convection microwaves, which function as quick oven.
  • Dishwasher - Contingent upon your family’s lifestyle, you will eventually have to decide the kind of dishwasher that is most suitable for you. There are numerous options out there that range from the overly simplistic to the extremely advanced. For instance, you can choose a dishwasher that has an internal water heating system, hence reducing the load on your water heater.
  • Sinks Sinks literally come in all shapes and sizes. Over and above, the materials that they are made from can vary widely. Consequently, be sure to pick a sink that complements the rest of your kitchen while remaining functional. Speaking of functionality, a sink’s depth plays a big role in how it is used, so try to go for something that is at least 8 inches deep.
  • Warming drawers - For those of us who enjoy entertaining guests, warming drawers can come in handy. They can be used to warm up your plates before being served to guests, or they can be used to prepare food and help it keep its moisture.


The Dining Room

Dining rooms are well on their way to being obsolete and being replaced by a spacious kitchen with an island.

Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Nevertheless, whether you have a large family or you host plenty of guests, a dining room setup may be right for you. Ergo, let’s end this chapter by looking at some of the tenets surrounding dining room design.

The Basics

Rather than getting ahead of ourselves and discussing the kind of table you should be installing, we need to decide on a few key things first.

  • Color palette - Knowing that natural light will probably not be the chief illuminator of your dining room - after all, most families dine after the sun sets - should help make this decision for you.
  • Lighting - Be it through a chandelier or any other means, the lighting of your dining room is imperative for creating the right ambience. And let’s be honest, a big part of the dining experience is all about the ambience.
  • Style You need to decide beforehand the kind of style you want to design your dining room in. Just remember that whatever style you choose, it must mesh well with the remaining parts of the house.


The dining room layout is comprised of several different elements as well as their relation to one another.

  • Table - Some of the questions you should answer when choosing a table are: How big is your dining room? How many guests do you normally host? What kind of parties/events do you host in the first place? Answering these questions will help you figure out whether a rectangular table or an elongated oval one would better suit your needs. Be careful though because the dining room table tends to be the centerpiece of that entire space.
  • Table placement - Don’t let your table get in the way of the natural traffic of the space. It should be placed so as to maintain adequate to the wall.
  • Chairs - The main things to look out for when picking chairs are style, clearance beneath table, and elbow room. Don’t be afraid to mix and match different styles if you want to, as long as they don’t clash with one another.
  • Rug - Rugs can be the perfect tool to help define a room. They can add warmth along with accentuating your style. Be sure to use a rug that is a bit larger than the table plus the chairs; otherwise, the chairs will keep getting caught on the rug’s edge.


To conclude, having thoroughly discussed the kitchen and its details, we will now move on to the bathroom. In the next chapter, we will explore different trends and scrutinize different bathroom elements.

For a full list of chapters, click here. 

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Next article The Groundwork
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