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Last Updated on November 9, 2023

Dramatic as it may sound, your kitchen strongly influences your lifestyle – your budget, the type of food you consume, and whether or not you host guests in your home.

I know this from experience.

When my kitchen is a pain to cook in, I get take out. When my fruit and vegetables are not in plain sight, I choose jalapeño chips. When I can’t find a clean dish, I’m unlikely to invite someone over for dinner.

Let’s give fresh food and hospitality a winning chance in our kitchens.

We’re focusing on decor right now, but the efficiency of your kitchen is like baking soda in a cake. You can’t see it, but without it, your cake will be a big fail. Let’s make your kitchen a big, beautiful cake with form and function.

Choose Your Kitchen Style

You willingly spend time in spaces you love. It’s important that you love your kitchen. As in, love at first sight. Like when you’re about to open the Doordash app, but catch your kitchen out of the corner of your eye. She’s so beautiful you must turn on some music, pour some wine and saute loads of veggies.

Choosing a kitchen style that speaks to you yields an excellent return on investment. This is the time to assess what can be changed and what must remain.

Make a list. Create a Pinterest board to hone in on styles that will work well in your kitchen.

Select a Color Palette

There are usually five or more permanent surfaces in a kitchen.

Think flooring, walls, countertops, appliances and cabinetry. This means your color palette is high stakes. Changing the wall color is an affordable project. Flooring, countertops, appliances and cabinetry are bigger budget items.

kitchen color palette

If you have the opportunity to select all new finishes, take time putting samples together. Samples can be purchased from vendors and stores at little to no cost. If certain finishes in your kitchen will not change, start with those and work your color palette around them.

A kitchen color palette is unique because it involves several different materials. Think about the story the materials tell. For example, if you have rustic stone on your floors or countertops, you probably want to avoid shiny metals and go with darker, earth tone metals such as antique bronze or brass.

Not sure what palette to choose? A turquoise kitchen theme is a great option.

Design the Space

Flow is everything in kitchen design. Make your kitchen work for you.

Think through the cooking or baking process while standing in the middle of your kitchen. If you are able to make large changes to your layout, consider which side of the sink you prefer the dishwasher to be on.

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If you have kids or pets running through your kitchen, consider a location for the oven where the door opening/closing won’t be a hazard. Do you use your microwave often? Keep it accessible. Are there bulky appliances that aren’t used daily and crowd the counter? Find cabinet or pantry space for those items. Go through household waste like crazy? Don’t hide the trashcan in a hard to access place.

Make a list of the larger items you use more than three times a week. Find homes for those items in easy to reach places.

Decorate Your Countertops

Your countertop decorations can make your break your kitchen. Make sure to decorate each of these spaces in style.

Kitchen Sink Essentials

Limit the items around your sink to necessities. My favorite items to have near the sink are a nice-smelling dish soap, pretty dish brush and drying rack. I’m linking my trifecta below, plus the speaker that blasts my music, simultaneously canceling out the noise of tired kids and cheering me on as I tackle an insurmountable sink of dirty dishes.

I’ve been using these items for years:


My kitchen utensils are located in three areas- a canister by the stove, a flatware (I grew up calling all of it silverware) drawer, and a drawer for all other utensils and small kitchen tools.

You don’t have to organize your utensils this way, but it works well if you need a system.

Paring down your cooking utensils to a curated collection of pretty favorites is a game changer. It’s a delight to have exactly what you need while you’re cooking. For me, that’s 5-7 items in the canister by the stove.

Cooking Zone

If you are putting minimal time and money into your kitchen, prioritize your range and oven area. This is the perfect space to combine form and function.

If you cook more than twice a week, you know the importance of oil and salt. Transferring my salt to a salt cellar (fancy name for a container with a lid) gave me easy access to just the right amount of salt. It’s easy to grab a pinch or a tablespoon without making a mess. Salt cellars look classy sitting next to a bottle of olive oil and a pepper grinder.

Marry the trio by placing them on a small, circular tray or plate. Keep a nice wood cutting board and a block of knives nearby as beautiful, decorative accents that you will use on a regular basis.

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Kitchen Islands and Peninsulas

We’re not talking geography here. If you are lucky enough to have one of these, keep it clear of clutter. That is the most hypocritical kitchen demand I will make. Maybe you’ll have more success than me.

These spaces are for food prep and enjoying a quick meal. Your mail, your kid’s field trip form and 6 Yeti cups need to find a home elsewhere. Spend a few minutes each day clearing the clutter.

Remind yourself and everyone else in your home that stuff does not belong on these surfaces. Place a giant vase of flowers or bowl of fruit in the center of the space to truly enjoy it when it is not in use.

Choose Your Kitchen Seating

Some kitchens have an area for a table and chairs or a countertop area with space for stools below it. Two important things to keep in mind- don’t crowd the seating area and make sure seating is the correct height.

kitchen seating

The key to both of these is measurement. Dimensions are your friend. Take the time to figure out the number of chairs or stools you need by measuring the space. Upholstered kitchen and dining seating is beautiful, however, if you have any messy eaters in your home, stick to hard surfaces.

Place Kitchen Rugs and Runners

Where do you stand the most in your kitchen? We all answered- the sink! A

lthough, you will often find me staring aimlessly into the fridge for several minutes at a time. Put a comfortable rug with a little extra cushion in front of the sink. If you select a thin rug, add a rug pad underneath. For extra warmth and style in your kitchen, add an area rug or runner. If you have a large space in the middle of your kitchen, an area rug works well.

Runners look great over long, narrow stretches of flooring between cabinetry.

Need a kitchen rug? Here are a few great options:

Light Your Kitchen

You’re in your friend’s newly renovated kitchen late in the evening and you cannot pinpoint why it feels so amazing. I guarantee they have lighting under their upper cabinets. If there is any lighting to add to your kitchen, it’s LED lighting strips. Place them under your upper cabinets. They are affordable and sometimes don’t even require an electrician.

If you’re not confident installing kitchen lights by yourself, you can hire a qualified electrician to do it. An experienced electrician can also inspect your electrical system to ensure your home’s sockets and wiring are in good condition.

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Two more methods for adding warmth to your kitchen- a small countertop lamp and a pendant light over the sink.

kitchen lighting

Here are my 3 favorite kitchen lighting options:

Optimize Your Cabinets and Pantry

You are the boss of your kitchen storage, not the other way around. Have a small kitchen? Check out our 5 tips for organizing a small kitchen.

Think about organizational flows that work for you. Where do the cutting boards need to live so you can easily grab one during dinner prep? Who needs to access glass cups and plates? Probably not your toddler. Does it make sense to pour all of your cereal into expensive, instagram-worthy containers? If it makes you happy, sure. If you don’t actually have time for all of those dry goods container transfers, don’t waste your money.

Planning and choosing the most suitable cabinet, pantry, and countertop options for your home can optimize your kitchen space. You can opt for concrete, solid wood, or engineered wood. If you’re into DIY projects, you can try creating your own concrete countertops.

Learning how to make your own concrete countertops can save you money. Concrete countertops are gorgeous, heat resistant, durable, and easy to maintain. With proper sealing and regular maintenance, concrete countertops can last a lifetime. 

On the other hand, a solid wood countertop and cabinetry can provide warmth and character to your functional and lovely kitchen. Because wood is timeless, you can create a welcoming natural rustic kitchen ambiance. Solid wood is a good option if you’re aiming for a traditional-style kitchen. 

Additionally, you can also save money by using laminated boards as kitchen cabinets. Recyclable wood pieces are also perfect for outdoor kitchens. Homeowners can easily find engineered wood and recyclables in home improvement stores and business backyards. 

Once you have chosen the materials, you can go ahead and choose a design and layout for your cabinets. 

Whatever your priorities in kitchen storage, an optimized pantry leads to a happy cook. A happy cook leads to a happy kitchen.

Creating a plan to decorate and essentialize your kitchen is worth it!

Take several weeks to work through the categories discussed in this article. Whether you’re doing a complete renovation or just updating your microwave and a few utensils, every bit of forethought goes a long way. A well-planned kitchen refresh that is grounded in your own personal style will benefit your life in endless ways!



Laura is a professional interior designer residing in Columbia, SC with her husband and three kiddos. Learn more about her and her work at Lark Design.

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