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Kitchen Toolbox : Design

Size of available kitchen space

This is the most important information as the available space is the starting point from where the new kitchen is defined. However, the layout of the kitchen space is not the only thing to consider. You should also take into consideration important aspects such as:

  • Connection requirements (electricity, water etc.)
  • Dimensions and sill height of window
  • Alternative storage space in the house
  • Position of table (if applicable)
  • Kitchen area (length, width, height of room)
    As the home opens and each 'room' becomes a multi-purpose space, you'll want to think about how your kitchen is used and how it interacts with the other spaces in your home - will your island serve dual purpose as a breakfast bar? Do your washing machine and dryer need to fit within a kitchen cupboard to allow more space for bedrooms or bathrooms? Do you need a clear line of sight to living or play areas so that you can keep an eye on young children while cooking or cleaning?  All aspects of your lifestyle must be considered to achieve your dream kitchen.


Whether you need a designer to design and draw up plans really depends on the extent of work being done. Major renovations involving moving walls around, adding new rooms or having a new kitchen put in will benefit from the design expertise of an architect, architectural designer or architectural draughtperson. Their ideas can help to maximise floor space, aspect to the sun, and flow. They can also advise on materials and special design features, such as making the best use of natural light, heat and other energy efficiency aspects. More importantly, they'll be able to ensure that what you design fits your needs AND your budget.

With a few exceptions, major work is going to need building consent. The building consent application will require plans and specifications to be attached. A designer can prepare these for you.

Finding a designer

For major renovations and alterations, finding a good designer should be carried out as carefully as if you are having a whole house built. A home designed by an architect often as has perceived value-added factor, especially if the architect is well known and well regarded, and can often add to resale value of the property considerably when compared with other homes of similar size, age and location. However, you should be aware that many architectural designers are equally capable and often without the same price tag!


If you are having a bathroom or kitchen renovated, you can use the specialist services of kitchen and bathroom designers. Some offer a design service only but others can offer a service which includes all or some of the following:

  • A consultation at your home.
  • Bathroom/kitchen design service.
  • Strip out of existing fittings.
  • Installation of new fittings.
  • Plumbing work.
  • Electrical work.
  • Paint and paper finishing.
  • Complete tile services.
  • Payment and finance options.
    Working with a architet, designer and/or builder will help you to ensure that your planned project fits both your needs and your budget. Whoever you choose, you need to be confident that they are well aware of and understand the Building Code Requirements particular to your project. You'll want to chose someone you are comfortable with so ensure that you've met face to face and had a good read through any of their websites or promotional material for case studies of previous jobs completed. 
      We've done some of the hard work here for you - visit our
locator page
    for a list of kitchen designers and manufacturers who are tried and trusted.

Design Considerations

Work triangle

Having a good layout for your kitchen is important, because the kitchen should be an efficient and pleasant area in which to prepare meals and do related tasks. Understanding the kitchen work triangle concept and the basic kitchen layouts is a valuable starting point for having a good kitchen design that you like.

The kitchen work triangle consists of the distance between the sink, refrigerator and oven or cooktop. Each one of these areas becomes a focal point in the kitchen and forms the three points of a triangle. Done correctly, the kitchen work triangle provides the most efficient area layout.

Whether you're remodeling an existing kitchen or building a new one, an efficient design means that your work triangle will save you unnecessary movement and time over the years. The total distance from the sink to the stove to the refrigerator and back to the sink should be not less than 3.6 metres total nor more than 8.5 metres. Each triangle leg should measure between 1.2 metres and 2.7 metres in length. The kitchen aisles should be at least x 1.2 metres wide to allow people to move around easily and for appliances to be opened with ease. While this is the most efficient method of laying out your kitchen, if you'll be sharing kitchen duties, such as cooking with another family member or having one person cleaning while another is prepping lunches for the next day you'll need to consider how this effects your triangle. With each element, remember to think about how you will use the space before making your decisions.

When selecting the floor plan for your kitchen, here are basic kitchen layouts to consider:


Kitchen Layouts

When selecting the floor plan for your kitchen, there are several basic kitchen layouts to consider. If you need a hand visulasing how everything will look in your new kitchen and you're in the Auckland area, head along to the Blum showroom in Avondale. Not only do they have a great range of products to help maximise storage, but they also have a kitchen test drive area where each element is on wheels - allowing you to move each piece around while you plan out your space. 

Galley Kitchen

Taking its name from the kitchen on board a ship, train or aircraft the galley is about maximising the space available and often doesnt include seating. It consists of a walk-through kitchen design, featuring cabinets on two sides. The Galley design or corridor kitchen is common in many apartments where space is limited.

Be careful of your appliance location. You do not want to have your appliances when opened, block any exits or not be able to open fully because of cabinetry. Try and use pull-out wall cabinets to conserve space. Economise space with floor and wall cabinetry and try and plan for overhead microwaves or look for the new models that pull out like drawers. There's a limited amount of benchtop space, so ensure your storage is sufficient to avoid countertop clutter.


G shaped

All benchtop space and appliances are built into a G shape with one entrance and extended benchtop/breakfast bar creating the 'G' shape. The work triangle concept is recommended to create good flow between zones. G-shape kitchens are designed with an opening between rooms. This design is great for open plan spaces where you still want some distinction between each area as it creates a definition between rooms such as the kitchen and dining room. It provides plenty of benchtop space and storage, and as it is still open to the rest of the home, allows the contact between the kitchen and living space - allowing you either to interact with guests or keep an eye on the kids while you cook.


Island Kitchen

Adding an island is the most common way to achieve multiple work centres in a kitchen. An island suits many modern house styles where there is enough space and can provide several small work stations along its perimetre. It is also a great place to present a buffet when entertaining.
The provision of an extra sink in the kitchen is a great way to create an extra work station and greater versatility for two or more people working in the kitchen. If your family often prepare meals together then a kitchen with and island, and an extra sink may work best for you.


L Kitchen

And L kitchen features one line of cabinets placed around a corner making them great designs for small spaces and open-plan rooms.

This kitchen design locates all appliances and benchtop space along two walls in the corner of the kitchen at approximately a 90 degree angle. An L shaped kitchen design allows for a compact workspace while freeing up much needed space for a dining area or storage. This layout works well where the kitchen, living and dining areas are all part of one larger living zone within the home.


Single Line Kitchen

In this layout the sink, cooking range and refrigerator are placed in a single line as per the desired order that fulfills your needs better. You can have your sink placed in the midst of the counter opposite the longest wall of the kitchen and this arrangement will result in increased efficiency while cooking. This layout offers a free workspace that is not overcrowded and on the other hand is not widespread so that you waste your time and energy in going from one place to another. The work triangle is placed in a straight work line along with a wall and all the three major kitchen constituting factors in the same line.

Often extra space is gained by the use of a nearby kitchen table or island, however single line kitchens are most frequently incorporated in very restricted spaces.  

U Kitchen

A U shaped kitchen design usually has one entrance and all counter space and appliances are built into a U shape. The kitchen triangle concept is definitely recommended as to create good flow between appliances. U-shape kitchens are often designed with a view through a wall or opening between rooms. This effect is great for small spaces such as flats or apartments as it will open up your kitchen to the rest of your home. If you are planning a U-shaped kitchen design where an opening exists in a wall, be aware not to sacrifice cupboard space and electrical outlets when taking that wall out. If you are unsure whether this wall is a load bearing wall, refer to your building plans or better yet seek professional advice.


More modern homes may move the refrigerator out of the U to maximise space, placing it on adjacent wall. This still keeps it within the work triangle, but allows for a tall pantry or further benchtop space with cabinetry underneath.



When designing your dream kitchen it is key to consider your storage space, along with ample countertop space. The first place to look for extra storage space is your corners. In small, tight kitchens a blind corner cabinet can be used to get the most use out of the corner. However, to get the most efficient use of the corner space a lazy Susan corner cabinet or easy reach cabinet should be used. These cabinet options maximize the corner space while allowing easy entry to it contents. Or try adding rollout trays in your base kitchen cabinets to help access your pots and pans, or in your pantries in order to reach cans and dry goods more easily.

Kitchen Layout Extras

There are a number of other secondary considerations that can vastly affect how you enjoy your final kitchen that should be considered once the basics have been decided upon:

Kitchen windows

Traditionally the sink goes beneath the kitchen window and the wall around the window is left bare, missing some vital space that could be used for cabinetry or shelving. If you have the open, ensure your main window is north-facing to make the most of daytime sun; a slight bay window with an oversized sill could be a great spot to grow herbs or small veggies. A nice view always make chores such as chopping spuds or rinsing dishes more appealing, so if you can orient your sink and windows towards a natural outlook you may have happier family members for years to come!

How about using any space that’s left above your windows for some small wall cabinets or shelving? This works particularly well for rooms with high ceilings. Make sure you’ve got a strategy (i.e. a nice fold out ladder or kitchen step) for getting things down from the cupboards. It’s a great place for those kitchen oriented gifts you might not use every day.


Kitchen pantry

A kitchen pantry is not only a great spot to store all your canned and dry goods, but if you have the space, the kitchen pantry can be a great place to store small appliances that aren't used everyday or to hide some extra bench space that could come in handy when entertaining.  These days a pantry can be squeezed into the smallest of spaces thanks to storage solutions that allow you reach even the very furthest back items. Visit our hardware section for more ideas.


Second kitchen sink

Don’t underestimate the power of a second sink in your kitchen. When installed in just the right spot, a secondary sink can be just as useful as a primary sink. The perfect sink location allows two users to cook and clean simultaneously, making everyday meals and special occasions easier to prep for and clean up after. Whether your kitchen is large or on the smaller side, the right extra sink in the right spot might make your life better.


8 good places for a second kitchen sink:


Island - Most designers put second sinks on kitchen islands, where they’re easy to use and access but out of the way of main prep areas. This sink makes cooking easier with two chefs.


Workstation – Create an out-of-the-way workstation in your kitchen by adding a niche for your second sink. The layout of this kitchen allows for a second person in the kitchen to have water access while staying out of the chef’s way.


Baking centre – If you are an avid baker, having a baking centre with its own sink can help you confine your mess. This tidy benchtop area keeps the mess contained, and it’s easy to wash the dishes and clean up once everything’s in the oven.


Butler’s pantry – A sink immediately upgrades the functionality of a butler’s pantry. Nothing’s easier than blending, mixing and stirring right near where ingredients are stored; you can prep appetizers and drinks for guests without traveling back and forth into the kitchen.


Wet bar – for those who love to host, a wet bar can make entertaining easier. A small sink is great for adding water to cocktails and doing light clean up.


Right next to the main sink – Your secondary sink doesn’t have to be a smaller version of your primary sink – it can be the same size and even the exact same model. Just like double dishwashers, double sinks translate into a quicker clean up.

Special cabinet designs for specific storage items

Pantry Units

A new kitchen should create more storage space, improve workflow, as well as look good. Make sure you use quality fittings in your kitchen,some of the following storage solutions are great options:

Soft close hinges

Hinges that are designed with a mechanism that prevents a kitchen cabinet door from slamming!

Push Release Cupboards

'Push to open' cabinet hinges are used where the design calls for a clean line, without the need for handles.

Under the bench rubbish bins

A practical solution to help cope with kitchen waste while keeping your bin hidden.

Sliding Doors and Blind and Retractable Pantries

These pantry systems eliminate wasted space.

Butlers pantry

Used as an out of the way preparation space, a spot to hide Used as an out of the way preparation space, a spot to hide the ready, or for extra storage, the butler's pantry is an asset to any home plan.

Concealed fridges and dishwashers

Appliances fitted behind cabinetry, create a more streamlined effect.

Utensil trays and wine racks

Appliances fitted behind cabinetry, create a more streamlined effect.


See our hardware section for more information.

Key actions or questions to answer

  • Plan the projects, room by room
  • Collect pictures of designs you like through magazines, brochures and websites
  • Discuss your requirements a kitchen retailer or designer depending on your budget and requirements.
  • Ask your selected kitchen retailer or designer for examples of their previous work
  • Research different product options for cabinetry and benchtops to make sure that you have the right one for your requirements and lifestyle
  • Do you have a clear idea of what changes you want to make
  • Do you want to consider issues such as energy saving and environmentally features in your renovations?
  • Have you got professional advice on what changes would genuinely add value to your home?
  • Have you considered the future and how your needs will change over time?
  • Settle on a final design
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