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  • Writer's pictureErin Hackett

10 Secrets Designers Use to Create Dreamy, Elevated Kitchens - Part 1

Kitchen design by And Studio (source) | One of my favorite kitchens of all time, and a reminder that simple and minimal is often best.

Ahhhh kitchens. Everyone loves 'em! They are the heart of the home and, for most people, the place they spend the majority of their time. In the design world, kitchens get more airtime in magazines or on social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram than any other room in the house. And for good reason! A well-designed kitchen can be so much fun to look at and ogle over. There's just something so tasty about a beautifully designed kitchen!

A poorly designed kitchen, on the other hand, gets almost just as much attention but for very, very different reasons. Once you learn the secrets of well-designed kitchen, you can't help but cringe excessively when you see certain mistakes being made. But have no fear, friends, that's why we are here today. I want to keep from making mistakes with your kitchen that are going to take it from drab to fab. Small mistakes tend to add up BIG TIME when it comes to kitchens, so it's best to avoid from them from the start.

This post is for you if want a kitchen that is:

  • Elevated

  • Custom

  • Detailed to the max

  • Functional AND beautiful

This post is not for you if you want a kitchen that is:

  • Plain

  • Unintentional

  • Builder-grade

  • Lacking in character

  • Filled with flaws and irregularities

While not definitive, here are my top 5 DO's I believe all well-designed kitchens have. Next week, I'll be covering 5 DON'TS to round out these 10 tips!




Leave partial-overlay cabinets on the shelves at the big box stores where they belong.

The type of cabinetry you select is going to have a major impact on your kitchen. While inset cabinetry is the gold standard, it's also the most expensive. Therefore, I do think that you can achieve a similarly elevated look with prefabricated cabinetry boxes and full overlay cabinet doors and drawers (like the ones from Semihandmade ) that are designed to be used with Ikea cabinet bases.

See below for examples of the two:

Left: Inset Cabinetry, Devol Kitchens (source)
Right: Full-overlay cabinets, Moore House Design via Semi-Handmade (source)

The diagram below shows the difference between the three main types of cabinets. Nothing makes me more sad than when I see a clearly very expensive kitchen with partial-overlay cabinets. Partial overlay cabinet doors have a way of feeling messy and cluttered, and they are also the most prone to chipping and damage. Opt for either full overlay or inset cabinets doors to keep your kitchen cabinetry feeling clean and custom.



Your drawers and doors do not have to match!

Kitchen design by Whitney Parkinson (source) | Whitney expertly combines slab drawer fronts with shaker-style cabinet doors

Possibly one of my favorite details of a well-designed kitchen is when a slab drawer front is paired with a more a decorative style door, like a shaker or reeded cabinet door. A hallmark of traditional English kitchens, this mix and matching of different cabinetry styles can be a great little detail to add in small kitchens that can't pack a large punch with other features.

This look is clean, elevated, and, most importantly, timeless. While it can easily be used on kitchens of all sizes, I tend to think it's best to keep your drawers and doors matching if your kitchen is loaded with other details. For example, if your island is a different color than your cabinets, and if your cabinets are two-toned (i.e. different color uppers and lowers), or if you have a lot of large decorative lighting or if you are using a statement slab for a countertops, then I think this little detail is optional, but ultimately unnecessary.



If you do one thing from this list, do THIS.

Above: Kitchen by Amber Interior Design (source) | Notice how the bottom shelf of the open bookshelf lines up with the lower edge of the uppers. The shelf above the range is, similarly, the exact width of the range itself, and the island appears to line up with the edge of the range as well)

Of all of the items on this list, this one is easily the most important and, unfortunately, the hardest one for a kitchen-design-novice to achieve. While kitchens are a lot of things, they really just come down to a series of lines, corners, right angles, and transition points. And if you overlook even one of these small areas in your kitchen, the whole thing can look thrown off.

There a few key places you want to make sure to "line up the lines" in your kitchen. Consider the following:

  • Typically, your backsplash should not protrude past the outside plane of your cabinetry. I.e., if there is a wall or corner of your kitchen that doesn't have a natural ending place against a perpendicular wall or set of windows, etc., make sure that the ending edges of the lower cabinets, the countertop, the backsplash, and the upper cabinets are all lined up and situated on one vertical plane.

  • Individual upper cabinets should be the same width as the lowers directly below them, to create one vertical sightline.

  • Lower cabinets should embrace symmetry whenever possible. If you are doing a trash pull out on one side of the sink, don't do drawers on the other side of the sink. Although asymmetry in some form is going to be inevitable in just about every kitchen, if you include a handful of intentionally symmetric features the overall result will feel much more calming and elevated.

  • If your ceilings are 11 feet or under, it almost always looks best to take your cabinets all the way to the ceiling. The looming dead space that occurs above cabinets that stop short of the ceiling makes the kitchen look smaller and less refined.



Learn what this word means and then use it everywhere you can.

Jenni Kayne Kitchen (Source) | The integrated fridge/freeze on the far back left corner of this kitchen practically disappears beause it is so well incorporated.

We're starting to get a little technical with this one, but once you learn the power and impact of integrated appliances you will never go back. It's important to note: integrated appliances are similar to panel-ready appliances but they take the look one step further for an even more elevated look.

An integrated appliance will sit flush with your cabinetry while a standard, panel ready appliance will likely sit an inch or two proud of your cabinetry. A small detail, this can make a huge difference in controlling the sight lines and level-of-detail in your kitchen.

Integrated appliances are supplied with a special hinge that allows the door to swing open even when a cabinet or wall is plum with the door's front. For the technical nerds (like me) out there, see the diagram below:

Shockingly, an integrated appliance does not vary much in cost compared to their panel-ready counterparts and yet they can provide a level of detail that makes the kitchen look that much more custom.



Three words: just do it.

Design by Disc Interiors (source)

Nothing messes up a beautiful kitchen like a bunch of plastic utilities on your brand spankin' new countertops.

This is probably the most straight-forward tip of this bunch, and I really only have one thing to stay about it: just do it. Unless you have a large, walk-in pantry close by, this one is a nonnegotiable. Nothing ruins a well designed kitchen like countertops that are cluttered with free-standing appliances. Incorporating an appliance shed is as easy as bringing a portion of the uppers down to the countertops to sit on top of them, which is typically referred to as a hutch cabinet, and installing an electrical or outlet or two inside the cabinet for the appliances to plug into.



Especially one that's a member of the NKBA, like Hackett House Studio.

What, you thought I would get through this whole post without a gratuitous, shameless plug? Silly you... ;)

Hiring an interior designer for your kitchen renovation is one of the best things you can do. While many builders and contractors provide "design" as a part of their services offering, the unfortunate truth is that their business model is not set up to support the creation of individualized, high-detailed, and elevated kitchens. Only a full-service interior designer is going to have the resources and motivation to create a kitchen that is well-thought-out and unique to you.

Typically, builders who employ designers (or a design team) still have an selfish financial interest in completing your project as quickly and as easily as possible. This means offering you a minimal, finite set of options for finish materials, plumbing, lighting and more... all while speeding through the planning process and making decisions on the fly once construction has started. All too often, I get calls from potential clients who want to me to come in at the last second to save their kitchen design because they thought they were getting a more personalized service from their contractor, only to find themselves with limited options and costly mistakes racking up when they don't just "go with the flow" of what their contractor wants to do.

On the flip side, at Hackett House Studio we look at every new project as an opportunity to create something new, unique and special. Unless an exact finish material is specifically requested by our client, we are more than happy to never use the same material twice! There are hundreds of thousands of tile, paint and material options out there, all which have endless usage and installation possibilities. So while we might favor natural materials like marble or quartzite for countertops, for example, we know that each stone is going to have it's own unique features that will get even more unique when we combine them with other bespoke materials and apply them to your project in new and fresh ways. We meticulously plan every inch of your kitchen before construction even starts: from the general layout, to every single elevation needed to ensure that the kitchen is going to shine from every vantage point.

The end result: a kitchen that is unique, elevated and, most importantly, a reflection of you.

Getting the kitchen of your dreams starts with a conversation. Hackett House Studio is based in Columbus, Ohio, but we work on projects nationwide.

Click HERE to be taken to Calendly, where you can instantly book a complimentary 30 minute kick-off call to have a conversation about your dream kitchen today.

I look forward to hearing from you!

All my best,




Curated furnishings and decor finds from Hackett House Studio


Hackett House Studio is a full-service residential interior design studio. Using a combination of your exquisite taste and our creative know-how, we bring your vision of a beautiful and balanced home to life. Here at HHS, we use science-backed research to design carefully-styled spaces that have a positive influence on your health and wellbeing.Our processes have been carefully refined so that we can fully appreciate our clients' personalities and aspirations from the outset. After gaining an understanding of your goals and wishes, we get to work creating functional interiors that enhance our clients' quality of life. HHS designs are timeless, elevated, approachable and, most importantly, a reflection of the beauty and opportunity you desire to bring into your life.Click HERE to read about our services and submit your information in our project inquiry form.


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