7 Things Designers Immediately Notice When They Enter Your Kitchen

We can all relate to #3.

The kitchen is truly the heart of the home—and when the heart is off, nothing else can thrive. Interior designers know this better than anyone else because it’s literally their job to create spaces that balance form and function in a way that makes the most sense for the people using them.

Whether you’re about to gut your kitchen or you’re simply hoping to give it a refresh, keep these elements in mind because they’re the ones designers notice first.

Ngoc Minh Ngo; Styling: Ed Gallagher
Ngoc Minh Ngo; Styling: Ed Gallagher


Lighting impacts the way you look at everything, so it’s no surprise that this was one of the most popular responses. “Kitchen lighting should not be harsh,” says Liz Williams, founder of her namesake interior design firm in Atlanta, Georgia. Instead, it’s recommended by Laura Williams, founder of ATX Interior Design in Austin, Texas, that you employ a mix of oversized pendants, sconces, recessed lighting, and countertop lamps.

A tip from Bailey Ward, founder of her namesake interior design firm in Atlanta, Georgia: “Put all kitchen lighting on dimmers so you can adjust lighting throughout the day as natural lighting comes and goes.”


Interior designers wouldn’t do what they do if they didn’t notice the finishes in your kitchen. Williams notes it’s less about personal taste and more about how the elements complement each other. For example, “Are the perimeter and island cabinet colors working with the countertops, backsplash, and wall colors?”


We’ve all fallen victim to countertop clutter at one point or another. Whether it’s because of small appliances, piles of mail, or (most likely) a mix of the two and more, almost every designer called this visual eyesore and subconscious stressor.

Small appliances are often a necessary evil for the counters, and if this is the case for you, Williams recommends you “consider their color and style so they blend in nicely in your kitchen.” Bethany Adams, founder of her namesake interior design firm in Louisville, Kentucky, encourages a European approach to food shopping (more corner market than Costco) to trim down storage needs.

If all else fails, it’s time to hire an organizer, because as Ward says: “Clear counters allow for the best kind of messes to be made, like baking cupcakes with your children.”


Cabinets make up a majority of any kitchen, meaning they’re bound to get some attention from anyone, and designers even more so. Lauren Sullivan, founder of Well x Design in Kingsport, Tennessee “always notices when kitchen cabinetry doesn’t extend all the way to the ceiling.”  This wastes valuable space and makes them dust magnets.

In the midst of a reno? Katharine Rhudy, founder of Reed & Acanthus in New Orleans, Louisiana, recommends working with kitchen cabinet designers to come up with creative and convenient ways to maximize storage and appliances.

Vent Hoods

Shelby Van Daley, co-founder of Daley Home in Austin, Texas, has an eagle eye for undersized vent hoods. “Your vent hood is a great focal point, but when the hood is undersized, it can really be a missed opportunity,” she says. Her rule of thumb is that your hood should extend past your range or cooktop by 4-6 inches or 2-3 inches on each side.


“My eye immediately goes to the ease of navigation in a space,” shares Amber Guyton, founder of Blessed Little Bungalow in Atlanta, Georgia. Questions that automatically cross her mind include: Where are the refrigerator, sink, and stove positioned? Does each location make sense? What changes can make the space feel more functional, clean, and organized, for both the daily occupants and guests?

“Something as simple as a Rev-A-Shelf utensil pullout in the cabinet or the position of outlets hidden under the island can make all the difference in a kitchen’s beauty,” she continues.


Regardless of whether your kitchen is nice and shiny or has some wear and tear, designers say it’s not meant to stay a blank slate. “I am all for a classic white kitchen, but each space should have its own character,” explains Ward. Her favorite ways to dress up a kitchen include art, fun cookbooks, a pretty spoon rest, unique fruit bowls, and decorative tea towels.

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