In a kitchen renovation, which can often cost between $75 and $250 per square foot, planning for smart, practical updates while avoiding common mistakes is key. While many renovators may not think about features such as sink placement, for instance, making sure the sink is close enough to the stove can be the difference between a kitchen that’s a pleasure to cook in and many a singed finger.
Designer Billy Cotton, of Billy Cotton Studio, has a wealth of experience in kitchen design and renovation after designing homes for famous clients like artist Cindy Sherman. In a conversation with Architectural Digest global features director Sam Cochran, Cotton shared some tips and tricks for ensuring your new kitchen is streamlined, practical, and, of course, visually stunning. Finding the right-sized refrigerator, or considering sightlines between kitchen and dining area, for example, can be the difference between a so-so kitchen renovation and a kitchen update that is both gorgeous and functional.
Think about how you cook when you place your sink and stove
In large kitchens, it’s important to consider efficiency when planning where appliances and fixtures will go. “Make sure that sink and stove are not too far [from each other],” Cotton says. Many people don’t think about the connection between the two, but ensuring your stove is close to your sink will save you seconds from a spill or a scalding pot in prep, cooking, and cleaning up.
The wrong refrigerator can unbalance the room
A big refrigerator is great for storing lots of produce and perishables, but, Cotton says, it can also take over the space visually. Buying a refrigerator that’s too large for your new kitchen can overwhelm a space, but taking steps to conceal it can help to lighten its aesthetic weight. Cotton recommends finding a refrigerator that is flush with the counters, putting it inside a pantry, or even springing for under-the-counter fridge and freezer drawers.
An open layout kitchen means everything is on display
When planning a kitchen with an open layout, Cotton says, think about sightlines between the kitchen and the dining area. Ideally, you can create a layout in which pots, pans, and dishes won’t be visible to guests while dining, so that “if you’re having a dinner party, you don’t see the mess,” Cotton says. In smaller kitchens, dedicating space to store clutter can help keep the mess out of sight, as well.
Low ceilings can feel limiting
If you’re working in a space with low ceilings, Cotton says, you’ll want to avoid installing upper cabinetry—that is, cabinets that hang above your counters. These cabinets can make the kitchen feel smaller, and the ceilings feel even lower than they are.
Make sure a kitchen island is right for you before committing to one
While a kitchen island offers added counter space, Cotton warns of its limitations as well. “No appliances can live on an island with cords dangling,” he says—it just looks permanently cluttered. Items like coffee makers and toasters will have to stay on countertops, where their cords can be hidden. Still, the kitchen island is good for analog kitchen tools like salt and pepper shakers that are frequently used while cooking.
Instead of purely decorative items, find good-looking yet practical ones
Small accents can have a huge impact on the overall look and feel of a renovated kitchen. Instead of buying decorative items that you may rarely use, Cotton recommends that you find appliances and kitchen tools that are as beautiful as they are functional—or “focus on making the everyday perfect.” A spectacularly beautiful olive oil drizzler, for instance, can be the finishing touch for any kitchen.