Custom Kitchen Design Tips From the Experts

Custom Kitchen Design Options

The TriFection team has custom-designed thousands of kitchens over the years.  We start by carefully listening to our clients.  They describe what they don’t like about their current kitchen and desired features in a dream kitchen.  We cover cooking, storage, entertainment and other preferences.  Then, we ask about their working budget for the project so as to recommend layouts and material choices most likely to fit the budget.  Once a conceptual scope and budget align, we begin the detailed process of picking specific materials, finishes, appliances and fixtures.  In this blog, our experts share tips on how to design the perfect custom kitchen for your family.

Open Concept Kitchen

Kitchens have become the main hub of activity in most households, both in daily family life and when hosting guests.  And, kitchens typically serve as the most valuable room in a home and most important room to many prospective homebuyers.  As such, TriFection receives more requests for an open concept kitchen than perhaps any other remodeling objective.  People want a spacious area that flows into the living room and/or dining room without interior walls that impede sight lines and natural light.

This type of floor plan not only feels much bigger and modern but also eases personal interaction between rooms.   Plus, as our clients commonly cite, you can see the big screen TV in the living room from the kitchen while cooking!….So, when consulting with homeowners for the first time, we ask how well the existing kitchen floor plan satisfies their desired usage.  The most common answer we hear is, “I want it more open.”  We must then assess the existing framing structure and determine the costs involved to remove walls and columns in a sound manner.

Kitchen Appliance Package

To design effectively, we must have a good idea of the client’s preferred appliance package.  Will it include a separate cooktop and oven(s) or a range?  Double ovens plus a microwave or a convection oven & microwave combination?  Built-in refrigerator and freezer?  Wall-mount vent hood, island hood or downdraft?  Warming drawer?  Beverage cooler?…..Once we have this type of information, we can recommend placement to create the ideal cooking and food prep workspace.

Ultimately, custom cabinets will be built to accommodate the exact specifications of the purchased appliances.  Initially, however, we make sizing assumptions to plan the kitchen layout.  So, as you approach a kitchen remodeling project, do a little shopping to identify the appliances you like.  Additionally, make note of the prices and establish a complete project budget with which you will be comfortable.  Depending upon the brand and extent of technology “bells & whistles,” kitchen appliance packages can range from $10,000 to $100,000+!

Kitchen Storage

Arguably, lack of sufficient storage space would be the worst custom kitchen design mistake someone could make.  You must design cabinets so that all food, cooking utensils, plates, bowls, silverware, cleaners, etc. have a home.  Otherwise, you’ll be digging through overloaded cabinets to find something or walking across the house to get an item needed in the kitchen.  As a side note, when homeowners get ready for the demolition of a remodel by emptying the current kitchen, they discover just how much “stuff” they’ve accumulated over the years and no longer need.  That process often leads to a major trash dump, charitable donation and/or garage sale.

In addition to total storage capacity, a good kitchen designer will make items easily accessible.  You don’t want to use a stepladder every day to reach dishes stored in tall upper cabinets, right?….TriFection’s custom pantry cabinets offer a tremendous upgrade over traditional pantry closets.  First, these solid wood cabinets simply look much better than sheetrock and a builder grade, hollow-core interior door.  Second, a pantry cabinet eliminates the wasted space of a framed closet.  With 21″ deep pullout drawers compared to 12-16″ deep fixed shelves, storage capacity increases.  Most importantly, the pullouts with soft-close drawer slides allow you to locate and retrieve what you’re looking for more easily.  Lastly, we customize the number and size of pullouts based each homeowner’s stored goods.

Aside from the pantry area, we design cabinet doors and drawers so all kitchen items, including large pots and pans, can be stored comfortably.  Vertical shelves provide the perfect home for cookie sheets and cutting boards. Instead of Lazy Susans or other gimmicky hardware, we combine bi-fold cabinet doors and recessed shelves in lower corners to make full use of the space.  Angled cabinets in upper corners also eliminate dead space and access difficulty.  Our clients who cook often also love our pullout spice racks.  An extra row of upper cabinets works great for antique/art display or seldomly used items, such as Christmas plates.


Especially if you have a large family or entertain regularly, your kitchen must feature freedom of movement.  Nobody wants a “tight squeeze” while carrying a hot tray of food or holding a glass of wine.  Therefore, the kitchen needs proper clearances between cabinets & countertops and around islands.  All walkways should be at least 36″ wide.   At TriFection, we recommend a minimum of 42″, whenever possible.  For island or bar seating, you should allow for at least 24-30″ of width and 12″ of depth.  Otherwise, folks will be crammed together and/or banging their knees against the cabinet, drywall or paneling in front of them.

You may have heard of the custom kitchen design concept known as the “work triangle.”  This widely accepted concept states that the distance between the sink, cooking surface and refrigerator should be between 4 feet and 9 feet from point-to-point and between 13 feet and 27 feet in total.  Such spacing allows for efficient food preparation, and we are very mindful of it as we design islands and peninsulas.

Kitchen Islands

Speaking of islands, as one component of the high demand for open kitchens, many folks want big islands these days.  Big islands with majestic granite or quartz countertops provide an impressive sense of grandeur and beauty to the kitchen.  They also create significant seating space while cooking and entertaining simultaneously.  For many clients, these type of islands replace the breakfast table for meals.  For others, they even serve as the homework station for their kids.  While preparing dinner, you can keep an eye on them to make sure they’re really doing school work…

If “biggest possible” island is the goal, then two key factors will define the proper limit – 1) minimum 36-42″ clearances on all sides, as previously described, and 2) the size of the chosen countertop slab. To avoid an undesirable seam (even a very well-fabricated one) running through the middle of your island countertop, the size needs to be approximately 8″ less in each direction than the chosen slab.  Granite and quartz slabs generally range in size from 50 to 70 square feet.  However, certain areas around the edges may not be usable material.  Therefore, the biggest possible islands with no seams are usually close to 10 feet by 6 feet.

Choose a Custom Kitchen Design Professional

The single best piece of advice for designing a custom kitchen?  Hire an experienced professional you trust.  Check out pictures of their project portfolio to find your inspiration and ask to speak with satisfied clients.  Professionals can make you aware of often overlooked details that could lead to a bad outcome, if not addressed and coordinated properly.  They can also save you a vast amount of time and frustration trying to figure something out that they likely deal with every day.  At the same time, make sure they have real onsite construction experience or partner with a company that does.

At TriFection, we manage all aspects of the kitchen design and build process.  And, we employ the best project managers and master craftsmen in Greater Houston to make our designs become a reality.  Call us today at 281-KITCHEN to get started on your dream kitchen!

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