More often than not, clients consider the kitchen to be one of the most important aspects of designing their homes. Some have specific ideas about layouts, others materials and aesthetics. Some are looking for a full butler’s pantry, while others are more interested in a completely open plan, where everything is on full display. The kitchen often ends up being the most unique element of the home, and most reflective of the lifestyle of the owners.

Kitchen design plays an important role in setting the tone for the entire house. It’s not just about aesthetics but also about functionality, ergonomics, and efficiency. A good kitchen design may not ever be immediately noticeable, but a badly designed kitchen will always result in frustration.

I always look to start with a layout that makes movement between tasks easy and comfortable. The classic ‘work triangle’, linking food storage, cooking area and preparation/cleaning area remains a tried-and-true approach, particularly in traditional kitchen layouts. Galley kitchens tend to require more of a zig-zag approach, while some large kitchens with central islands will demand multiple workflow paths that operate at different times. Ergonomic design is key to creating a safe kitchen space. As well as layouts that avoid excess movement (particularly with hot or wet items) choosing the right materials and finishes, appropriate heights for benches and cupboards, and good lighting all contribute to a healthy environment.

The specifics of storage are often under-appreciated when thinking about kitchens. While almost everyone will say they want ‘lots of storage’, the tendency is to just put drawers everywhere resulting in a lot of the same type of storage spaces. However, there are always odd shaped or sized appliances, trays and bowls that can be better housed in cupboards. Details like vertical dividers to hold baking sheets and chopping boards upright, pull-out bins, and built in steps in the kickboards make accessing all items as easy as possible.

Appliances are another area where personal preference is important, but many people don’t consider all options. Gas cooktops were until recently the gold standard, however due to health and environmental concerns there is a concerted move toward induction cooktops (with some governments planning to phase out the sale of gas appliances completely). Rangehoods can be an afterthought, however a noisy, ineffective exhaust will be a constant annoyance. I always recommend that clients spend a bit more on a quality rangehood, preferably one with a remote motor which makes a huge difference to the noise within the kitchen.

The importance of good kitchen design cannot be overstated. It is a critical component of creating a safe, healthy, and functional environment that encourages healthy home cooking and improves the overall appeal of your house. Gadgets and aesthetics can be beguiling, but if the bones of a kitchen aren’t good, no amount of bling will make it an enjoyable place to be. Get the basics right, and a kitchen should be seamless within the operation of a household, whether it’s grabbing a bowl of cereal, or preparing a Christmas dinner while entertaining the whole extended family.


Architect Tomas O’Malley designs buildings that reflect Central Queensland’s climate and lifestyle.