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Kitchen Cabinets and Kitchen Remodeling

Planning Process


Make it functional

Your new kitchen or bathroom should be functional and comfortable. First and foremost, make lists of the must-haves and the would-be-nices and don't forget the details like storage options for high function.

Incorporate Accents

The little things give a room that custom feel. Leave some room in your budget for a few extras such as cabinetry accents like crown molding, corbels, or turned feet. And select decorative hardware that coordinates throughout and enhances the room's style.

Add Color and Texture

Color and texture are huge components in a room's overall style. Color will make a room seem larger, warmer, or more intimate. Texture will add depth and character.


Finally, personalize the space for the ultimate custom interior.

The Work Triangle

It is a triangle-albeit an imaginary one-that has always been an important element of a kitchen's design and functionality. The "work triangle" is defined as an imaginary straight line drawn from the center of the sink, to the center of the cooktop, to the center of the refrigerator and finally back to the sink. The NKBA suggests these guidelines for work triangles:

  • The sum of the work triangle's three sides should not exceed 26 feet, and each leg should measure between 4 and 9 feet.
  • The work triangle should not cut through an island or peninsula by more than 12 inches.
  • If the kitchen has only one sink, it should be placed between or across from the cooking surface, preparation area, or refrigerator.
  • No major traffic patterns should cross through the triangle.

Efficiency is the triangle's main goal, as it keeps all the major work stations near the cook, without placing them so close that the kitchen becomes cramped. The work triangle is also designed to minimize traffic within the kitchen so the cook isn't interrupted or interfered with.

Kitchen Islands

Islands are multi-taskers, capable of storing pots and pans, concealing appliances, serving as an anchor of the work triangle and taking the place of the kitchen table. Especially useful in kitchens with open floor plans, islands can open up a dialogue between the kitchen and the living room, the cook and the guests.

Zone Design

The Basics of Kitchen Zones

Think of zone design as an expansion upon the classic work triangle approach to kitchen design and Layout. It's a practical way to group kitchen activities together in appropriately organized spaces, allowing for multiple cooks and work centers.

While the work triangle focuses on the positioning of the range, refrigerator and sink, zone design addresses the full scope of appliances, plumbing fixtures and gadgets available to today's homeowners. It also considers the many activities-entertaining, doing homework, charging cell phones and more-that occur in the kitchen, as well as the fact that kitchen size is growing and floor plans are more open to the rest of the home. Prep, cooking and cleanup areas are the primary zones, and they're mandatory. Prep and cleanup zones combine well, so do baking and cooking zones. Islands can host multiple zones with ease.


Organized around the range or cook top, this is the spot where stir-frys, spaghetti, and sauces sizzle. You may want to keep your microwave and toaster oven here as well. Include deep drawers for pans, shallower drawer for pot lids, spice drawer, microwave cabinet for concealing and saving countertop space, utensil drawer for spatulas and spoons.


Anchored by your sink and dishwasher, include space for an adequate number of cleaning and drying supplies, as well as a convenient way to store clean dishware, pullout rack to neatly tuck dishtowels, plate rack for storing daily or occasional dinnerware, under sink pullout for dishwashing detergent and cleaner, tilt out sink tray for sponges and scrubbers, foil box rack or drawer for aluminum foil, paper, and plastic wrap storage, pullout drawer for Tupperware, divided for lids and containers.

Food Prep

In the food prep zone, you slice and dice your way toward dinner. If your kitchen is spacious enough to accommodate an island, the food prep zone would be well-placed there. It's helpful to include a second sink for rinsing fruits and vegetables, as well as a refrigerator drawer for storing milk and eggs if your main refrigerator isn't easily accessible. Include butcher block pullout (if you aren't working on a butcher block surface), drawer for knives, pullouts for mixing, measuring and serving items, pullout trash center.


The area built for fun, the baking zone is where cookies, breads, and casseroles come to life. Aside from the appropriate countertop space and material (marble slabs work best for rolling dough), you'll need to keep a number of supplies within easy reach. Include: apothecary drawers for storing small items like cookie cutters, bins for flour and sugar, tray divider rollout for baking sheets and pizza pans, pulldown cookbook rack, drawers for rolling pins, measuring cups, and teaspoons, easy-to-reach cabinet space for heavy casserole dishes and mixing bowls, storage for oven mitts, pot holders, and trivets, divided utensil storage for spatulas and wooden spoons, pop-up stand for your mixer.

Kitchen Layout

Deciding on a Layout for a kitchen is probably the most important part of kitchen design. It's the Layout of the kitchen that determines how easy it is to cook, eat and socialize in the kitchen. At the most basic level, the Layout addresses the placement of the appliances, the sink(s), the cabinets, the counters, the windows and doors, and furniture such as a kitchen table and chairs. If you're building a new home or adding on, you have the luxury of choosing the Layout that works best for you and your family. If you're remodeling, the structure of the existing home will limit the options.

The most common kitchen Layouts include the one-wall kitchen, the galley kitchen, the U-shaped kitchen, the G-shaped kitchen, and the L-shaped kitchen-some of which can also incorporate an island.

One-Wall Kitchen

The one-wall kitchen works by keeping all appliances, cooking tools and ingredients within easy reach. The sink often sits between the range and refrigerator, a convenient location for cleanup. This design also offers counter space on both sides of the range, which is an important code and safety consideration.  The sink, range and refrigerator still take up a fair amount of counter space, so finding enough work room for food prep can be a challenge.

Galley Kitchen

The galley kitchen is perhaps the most efficient of all kitchens when it comes to cooking. By nature and necessity, these kitchens make use of small, cramped spaces to feed tens of people. Many restaurant and other commercial kitchens are designed in similar fashion, with cooks working in a long, narrow space between appliances and counter space. The galley Layout doesn't have room for a dining area, and it limits interaction with guests and with family.

U-Shaped Kitchen

Like the one-wall and galley floor plans, a U-shaped Layout is an efficient kitchen designed for one primary cook. Basically a wide galley kitchen with one end closed off, it keeps onlookers out of the main work area while remaining open to other rooms of the home and allowing traffic to pass. It doesn't offer room for a kitchen table and chairs. Depending on where the sink is situated, it may be impossible to fit the dishwasher right next to it.

U-Shaped Kitchen with Island

Adding an island to a U-shaped Layout increases the kitchen's functionality as well as its interactivity. Whether the island is used for a work surface, seating, the sink or the cook top, the cook can now get work done while facing out of the kitchen, allowing for conversations and the ability to keep an eye on family activities. In fact, adding an island also makes it much easier for a second cook to help with meal preparation and cleanup. Some people still prefer a more open floor plan that allows for even more people to mingle and work in the kitchen. Others may find it annoying to carry plates and food around the leg of the U rather than having a straight shot to the dining room or the back yard.

G-Shaped Kitchen

The G-shaped kitchen Layout is essentially a pumped-up version of the U-shaped Layout. It's best suited to those who want to pack every square inch of kitchen possible into their space but don't have room for the clearance required around an island. Typically this fourth leg is a peninsula, because having a wall and upper cabinets would nearly close off the kitchen from the rest of the home.

L-Shaped Kitchen

This Layout consists of two adjacent, perpendicular walls. It can range in size from small to large, depending on the length of the legs–but without a dividing wall between the kitchen and living area, the legs could be long indeed. People who like to entertain will appreciate this Layout's ability to incorporate multiple cooks, invite guests into the cooking area and allow for mingling and conversation during a family dinner or a cocktail party. To turn the room into an eat-in kitchen, you'll probably want a good old-fashioned table and chairs.

L-Shaped Kitchen with Island

For maximum flexibility in cooking, entertaining and hanging out, an L-shaped kitchen with an island is the way to go. This set-up lends itself to a zoned approach to kitchen planning rather than the more traditional work triangle approach. Some people prefer to have the cook top on the island.

Kitchen planning guidelines

Good space planning will help you develop the best Layout for your kitchen. Designed to maximize safety and functionality in home kitchens, the guidelines represent ideal Layout solutions to kitchen concerns from storage space to door clearance.

  1. Walkways at least 36" wide.
  2. Work aisles at least 42" wide for one-cook, at least 48" wide in multi-cook kitchens.
  3. No major traffic patterns should cross through the work triangle.
  4. No entry, appliance or cabinet doors should interfere with one another.
  5. Clear floor space of 30" x 48" should be provided at the sink, dishwasher, cooktop, oven and refrigerator.
  6. At least 24" clearance between cooking surface and a protected surface above; or 30" clearance between cooking surface and an unprotected surface above.
  7. At least 24" counter frontage to one side of the primary sink and 18" on the other side. The 24" must be at the same height as the sink.
  8. Open-ended kitchen: at least 9" counter space on one side of cooking surface and 15" on the other, at the same height as the appliance.
  9. Open counter corners should be clipped or radiused; eliminate sharp corners.
  10. Ground fault circuit interrupters specified on all receptacles within the kitchen.
  11. Door/Entry: A doorway should be at least 32 inches wide.
  12. Door Interference: No entry door should interfere with appliances, nor should appliance doors interfere with one another.
  13. Distance Between Work Centers: In a kitchen with three work centers*, the sum of the distances between them should total no more than 26 feet. No leg of the work triangle should measure less than 4 feet nor more than 9 feet. When the kitchen includes additional work centers, each additional distance should measure no less than 4 feet nor more than 9 feet. No work triangle leg should intersect an island or peninsula by more than 12 inches.
  14. Separating Work Centers: A full-height, full-depth, tall obstacle [i.e. a pantry cabinet or refrigerator] should not separate two primary work centers.
  15. Work Triangle Traffic: No major traffic patterns should cross through the work triangle.
  16. Work Aisle: The width of a work aisle should be at least 42 inches for one cook and at least 48 inches for multiple cooks.
  17. Walkway: The width of a walkway should be at least 36 inches.
  18. Traffic Clearance at Seating: In a seating area where no traffic passes behind a seated diner, allow 32 inches of clearance from the counter/table edge to any wall or other obstruction behind the seating area. If traffic passes behind the seated diner, allow at least 36 inches to edge past or at least 44 inches to walk past.
  19. Seating Clearance: Kitchen seating areas should incorporate at least the following clearances: At 30-inch-high tables/counters, allow a 24-inch-wide by 18-inch-deep knee space for each seated diner. At 36-inch-high counters, allow a 24-inch-wide by 15-inch-deep knee space. At 42-inch-high counters, allow a 24-inch-wide by 12-inch-deep knee space.
  20. Cleanup/Prep Sink Placement: If a kitchen has only one sink, locate it adjacent to or across from the cooking surface  and refrigerator.
  21. Cleanup/Prep Sink Landing Area: Include at least a 24-inch-wide landing area to one side of the sink and at least an18-inch-wide landing area on the other side.
  22. Preparation/Work Area: Include a section of continuous countertop at least 36 inches wide and 24 inches deep immediately next to a sink.
  23. Dishwasher Placement: Locate nearest edge of the primary dishwasher within 36 inches of the nearest edge of a sink. Provide at least 21 inches of standing space between the edge of the dishwasher and countertop frontage, appliances and/or cabinets placed at a right angle to the dishwasher.
  24. Waste Receptacles: Include at least two waste receptacles. Locate one near the sink(s) and a second for recycling in the kitchen or nearby.
  25. Auxiliary Sink: At least 3 inches of countertop frontage should be provided on one side of the auxiliary sink and 18 inches on the other side.
  26. Refrigerator Landing Area: Include at least 15 inches of landing area on the handle side of the refrigerator or 15 inches of landing area on either side of a side-by-side refrigerator or 15 inches of landing area no more than 48 inches across from the front of the refrigerator or 15 inches of landing area above or adjacent to any undercounter refrigeration appliance.
  27. Cooking Surface Landing Area: Include a minimum of 12 inches of landing area on one side of a cooking surface and 15 inches on the other side. In an island or peninsula, the countertop should also extended a minimum of 9 inches behind the cooking surface.
  28. Cooking Surface Clearance: Allow 24 inches of clearance between the cooking surface and a protected noncombustible surface [ex: a range hood] above it. At least 30 inches of clearance is required between the cooking surface and an unprotected/combustible surface [ex: cabinetry] above it. If a microwave hood is used, then the manufacturer's specifications should be followed.
  29. Cooking Surface Ventilation: Provide a correctly sized, ducted ventilation system for all cooking surface appliances; the recommended minimum is 150 CFM.
  30. Cooking Surface Safety: Do not locate the cooking surface under an operable window. Window treatments above the cooking surface should not use flammable materials. A fire extinguisher should be located near the exit of the kitchen away from cooking equipment.
  31. Microwave Oven Placement: The ideal location for the bottom of the microwave is 3 inches below the principle user's shoulder but no more than 54 inches above the floor. If the microwave is below the countertop the bottom must be at least 15 inches off the finished floor.
  32. Microwave Landing Area: Provide at least a 15-inch landing area above, below or adjacent to the handle side of a microwave.
  33. Oven Landing Area: Include at least a 15-inch landing area next to or above the oven. At least a 15-inch landing area not more than 48 inches across from the oven is acceptable if the appliance does not open into a walkway.
  34. Combining Landing Areas: If two landing areas are adjacent, determine a new minimum by taking the longer of the two landing area requirements and adding 12 inches.
  35. Countertop Space: A total of 158 inches of countertop frontage, 24 inches deep, with at least 15 inches of clearance above, is needed to accommodate all uses.
  36. Countertop Edges: Specify clipped or round corners rather than sharp edges.
  37. Storage: The total shelf/drawer frontage is: 1,400 inches for a small kitchen (150 square feet or less); 1,700 inches for a medium kitchen (151 to 350 square feet); and 2,000 inches for a large kitchen (351 square feet or more).
  38. Storage at Cleanup/Prep Sink: Of the total recommended shelf/drawer frontage, the following should be located within 72 inches of the centerline of the main cleanup/prep sink: at least 400 inches for a small kitchen; at least 480 inches for a medium kitchen; and at least 560 inches for a large kitchen.
  39. Corner Cabinet Storage: At least one corner cabinet should include a functional storage device. This does not apply if there are no corner cabinets.
  40. Electrical Receptacles: GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) protection is required on all receptacles servicing countertop surfaces.
  41. Lighting: Every work surface should be well-illuminated by appropriate task lighting.