Custom Kitchen Design Steps


The kitchen is the heart of the home. So there’s extra pressure when it comes to designing one! No doubt you’ve walked into a house before and noticed that the kitchen looks beautiful and updated, but there’s something off. Maybe it’s a busy backsplash and countertop fighting each other. Maybe it’s a paint color looking too cool for the warm floors. Or maybe it’s just the layout and flow of the place.

Even when working with a professional interior designer, custom home builder, or kitchen designer, it’s important for you to understand the right design steps. This helps prevent any major mistakes happening that will result in you not loving your custom home kitchen.


Step 1: Planning and Layout

A lot of people are going to say, “duh, who wouldn’t plan the layout of the kitchen first?” Well, you’d be surprised. Sometimes people get so caught up in the fun design elements they order materials before sitting down and planning how everything will layout.

Everything should be planned, from appliance locations to cabinets. Before you even start ordering materials you need to make sure you know where you need electrical outlets, lights, light switches, plumbing hook ups, and gas lines. Make sure all of this is carefully laid out ahead of time. Think about things like the work triangle, lighting layout, and how you live and work in your kitchen space. If you need more tips on designing the layout of a kitchen read out tips here.


*We’re going to pause here and emphasize that the entire look of the kitchen should be planned and thought about ahead of time. This will ensure that you are going the right direction and that materials will work well together. However, sometimes items look different in a space than in a show room. Some kitchen items, like countertops, are a lot harder to change down the time than a backsplash. Bigger, more expensive and limited items, should always be installed first so that if a smaller item, like paint color, doesn’t end up looking good it is easier to swap. *


Step 2: Select Appliances

There is a very simple reason why appliances should be selected first- they need to be accounted for in terms of design. Knowing how big your stove is will impact the cabinets and knowing the sink size will impact the countertops. The locations of these should be determined in the planning stage, but the actual products you will be buying don’t necessarily have to be known then.

It’s not just size that matters when it comes to appliances. The look will impact a lot of design decisions. Do you want black, white, or stainless steel? Some people even opt for colored! It’s important to know the look of the appliances, as this will affect what other materials you choose. For example, if you pick white appliances and you want white cabinets, you want to make sure the whites don’t clash.


Step 3: Select Countertops

For most people, the countertops are one of the most expensive items in the kitchen. They are also usually the most prominent feature. Whether or not you want them to be the star of the show or blend in effortlessly, it’s best to select it before any other finish.

Natural stone countertops, a favorite in design, can vary in color, pattern, and design even when they’re the same type of stone. Make sure you look at the exact slab you are buying. A huge reason people end up hating their kitchens is that they didn’t look at their exact slab and it ended up looking different than the one in the show room. Have them show you where each piece will be cut and placed too so that you understand exactly how it will look.


Step 4: Select Cabinets

Cabinets are probably the biggest and most important feature in a kitchen. They impact not only how a custom kitchen looks but also how it functions. A custom home builder or a professional kitchen designer should be there to help you determine the best layout and design choices for cabinets. Open shelving, glass doors, ceiling height, soft close drawers, wine racks- all of the choices and decisions can be overwhelming.

The look also matters. It’s important to make sure they look great with the appliances and countertops you have already chosen. We usually recommend actually that you choose the countertops, cabinets, and flooring (step 5!), all together. If your stone is dark you may want to go lighter with the cabinets. If your stone has warmer tones but you want white cabinets, you may have to go for a softer-creamier white.


Step 5: Select Flooring

We already mentioned flooring should be picked around the same time as cabinets and countertops. Flooring is a big deal to a kitchen. It’s also an expensive item; so make sure you make the right choice. There are tons of materials you can select for kitchen flooring from tile, vinyl, and wood. The key thing to remember when picking a kitchen flooring material is that you want it to be slip and moisture resistant.

Often people leave flooring last, which ends up causing them a huge headache. If you already ordered dark wood cabinets but are running dark wood through your entire home you may find your cabinets getting lost. That’s why we always recommend keeping flooring in mind, especially if you’re running it into multiple spaces. Often it comes down to flooring to tie the space altogether.

*The order for selecting cabinets, flooring, and countertops can be rearranged. If one element is more important, expensive, or difficult to match, then that should be the item chosen first. Selecting all of the elements at the same time is the best way to ensure they all work together in a space*


Step 6: Select Backsplash

By far one of the most common mistakes people make when designing their kitchens is selecting a backsplash too early. A backsplash can make or break a kitchen. It can tie it all together or it can make it look disjointed. Even if you fall in love with a certain backsplash, don’t force it into a space if it doesn’t work.

A big mistake people make it picking a backsplash that competes for attention with other elements. If you want your backsplash to be the star, then the other elements should be more subtle. A busy countertop should never be placed with a busy backsplash. Think about other elements of the backsplash as well, such as will it make the space look darker or lighter? Or is this backsplash too warm in tone compared to the other elements?

If you just can’t find a backsplash you like, consider living without one for a while. See how you use the space and what it is lacking. That will help you with your final decision.


Step 7: Select Paint

Paint should always be selected last, simply because it is the easiest to change. Picking the right paint color can be hard due to the endless choices you have. We’ve mentioned “tones” a lot, but they really matter in design. A common design error is picking a paint that has opposite tones of the rest of the kitchen. Think of it like this, if you’re wearing brown shoes you’d never put on a black belt. The same goes for a kitchen. If your other elements were full of cooler grays, whites, and blacks, you would never put warmer browns and tans on the walls.

Make sure you try out swatches and see how they work against different elements at different times of the day. This will help you make the right decision. If you need more tips on picking a paint color, read here.


Step 8: Select Finishes

The last things to pick in a kitchen design are the finishes. Finishes is a design term that refers to items like light fixtures, knobs and pulls, and plumbing fixtures. Finishes are called that because they really do finish the look of a room. They can add character and charm. A lot of kitchens may have similar flooring, cabinets, countertops, or backsplashes. It’s the finishes that set it apart. These elements can make a kitchen feel modern or bring in a more rustic style. Don’t be afraid to have fun with these. Out of everything in a custom kitchen, they are the easiest to switch out in they don’t work or if they go out of style in a few years.


Contact us to get started on building and designing your new custom home kitchen!