Dream Kitchen Must-Haves

Five Dream Kitchen Must-Haves (and Five Passes)

When thinking about a kitchen remodel, I quickly realized that many of the things on remodel lists aren't essential. Here are my FIVE must-have items!


Five Dream Kitchen Must-Haves (and Five Passes)

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For the last eight months or so, Betsy and I have been slowly (SLOWLY) working on a fairly massive renovation for our downtown historic Denver home. I haven’t written much about it because, honestly, there hasn’t been much to write.

Did I mention that it’s going SLOWLY?

At some point I’ll probably share the plans of the full renovation and maybe even do a full blog post series on the project, but today the kitchen is on my mind. We have the opportunity to build a kitchen from scratch. We are adding onto our house and what is currently our kitchen will become a living room and the addition will be a large new kitchen.

As you might imagine, I’m pretty excited about the possibility of building a kitchen from scratch, but it’s a daunting project and one that we eventually hired a designer to help with.

One thing I began to realize though as we worked through the millions of options for a brand new kitchen, is that I have fairly simple tastes. (Which is good because we have a fairly simple budget!)

Sometimes I find myself having to check my expectations and remember what is actually important in my kitchen.

So I thought what better way to go through these then to write about it!

There is some basic stuff that obviously any new modern kitchen should have (fridge, sink, dishwasher, etc.), but I wanted to break out the five things that I’m prioritizing in my “dream” kitchen and five things that, for me, are lower on the list!

Most importantly though, if you have experience with kitchen remodels, please help. ALL ADVICE IS WELCOME IN THE COMMENTS!

Dream Kitchen Must-Haves

Five Things My Dream Kitchen Must Have

Good Work Flow – My kitchen is not a museum. It’s a construction site. It needs to have absolutely optimal workflow for me to be happy there. That means the range, the sink, and the fridge all need to be within reach. This is the kind of thing that, believe it or not, some architects and designers don’t think about. You have to keep bringing it up to make sure it happens.

A Gas Range – This is personal preference, but after having a gas range for many years and then having both an electric range and an induction range at various points in my life, I’m going with gas since I have the choice.

Granted I have had one bad run-in with a gas grill over the last decade, but I still prefer them.

Sturdy Cabinets – Cabinets aren’t important for everybody but ours get banged into by kids and used a lot. I want sturdy ones that fit the space. We will be paying out the wazoo for this part of our kitchen and they won’t necessarily look fancier than a much cheaper version, but there’s nothing more annoying than living in a kitchen for a few years and having cabinets that are falling apart. (Spoiler: I think we are going with Avalon Cabinets – a local cabinet company!)

Proper Storage for Equipment – This again seems like a no brainer, but you have to think about it on the front end. Where are pots going? Where are knives going? Where are small appliances? Right now everything in my kitchen is shoved in drawers and wherever it fits. There must be a better way!

Work-Ready Counters and Island – To continue the theme, I want counters and an island that are work ready. Easy to clean, can take heat, and don’t chip or discolor. We are most likely going with quartz because it seems to check all the boxes.

Five Things I Don’t Need in My Dream Kitchen

I wouldn’t say that any of the things on my list are particularly flashy. That’s not to say that our new kitchen won’t be beautiful. I think it will be very beautiful, but in the eternal trade-off of works well or looks pretty, I’ll always take the works well.

After analyzing SO many kitchen options, here are five things that I’m passing on in our new kitchen.

A Walk-in Pantry – This one is controversial. We could’ve fit a walk-in pantry in our new space, but it would’ve meant sacrificing a few other things. At the end of the day we live in a house in the city. Space is at a premium and it didn’t make the list. We did find a way to rework an area of our basement for a storage pantry, so we have some extra storage outside of the kitchen.

Smart Appliances – I didn’t realize the complete takeover of smart appliances until I went through the appliance showroom. Call me old, but I don’t need a TV in my fridge (or want one) and I don’t need my stove connected to the internet. These things will just break and be one more thing to fix. Hard pass from me!

A Pot Filler or Various Extra Water Sources – This one is one of those would-be-nice features, but when you think about the extra plumbing involved it’s just extra in my opinion. Most restaurants don’t have instant hot water or a dedicated pot filler. They have a sink. That’s all you need.

Farmhouse Sink – Speaking of sinks, farmhouse sinks are the rage! I get it. They look very pretty. But they are expensive and I’m not sure that they are any more functional than a standard sink. This one might just come down to style and it’s something we passed on.

All White Everything – If you look at kitchens in magazines or in showrooms, you might think that they actually don’t make non-white colors for kitchens! I didn’t realize this until we started researching but all that white also equates to LOTS OF GREEN. If you want white cabinets and countertops, it’s going to be expensive. Our kitchen will have colors in it. SHOCK!

Okay. Your turn!

Have you done a kitchen remodel? Any advice? Leave a comment!

22 Responses to “Five Dream Kitchen Must-Haves (and Five Passes)” Leave a comment

  1. I’ve learned I love cooking with gas but I hate baking with it. I now have a gas cooktop with one burner that can simmer very slowly without burning my stews, and an electric, built-in wall oven. I also now have three sources of electricity on my island. I actually didn’t have any electrical outlets on my old island. That was a total pain. I totally agree with you about your passes, except for the pantry. I expanded my laundry area to accommodate laundry and pantry. Now I have a storage place for all of my small appliances and canned goods, etc. The shelves are rather shallow so that I don’t lose stuff in the back. I also put a small stand-up freezer in the pantry. I also opted for a large but counter-depth refrigerator. I think that has made me the happiest as it doesn’t stick out into the kitchen. Certainly makes my kitchen look bigger and more finished. Hope some of this helps.

  2. We recently did a large kitchen renovation. Agree with most of what you said. In retrospect,

    1. Thing we could have definitely done without: a built in warming drawer. We never use it – plus our ovens could have just done the job for us.

    2. My wish: stand alone ice maker. Love these things – especially the ones that make ice cubes that look like the ones at Chick-Fil-a

  3. I renovated my kitchen some years ago. I have a 1938 home in a neighborhood which dates back to the 1920’s,, 1300 sq. ft. so the kitchen footprint was left alone with switching of the stove and refrigerator. Otherwise it was gutted down to the studs. I agree with the comments about a pantry. If I went with a tankless water heater I could have used the closet space for a pantry but couldn’t justify the expense at my age. That is my biggest regret. I planned the electrical outlets and switches carefully. – overhead pot lights, under counter task lighting and ambient lighting so that the kitchen is not totally dark during dinner parties. That has worked really well. I wanted a red and white kitchen like my grandmother had. Surprise, surprise when I had to replace the dishwasher, white is now a special order so I went with stainless steel. Will be looking forward to pictures, Nick.

    1. Wow! Sounds like a great kitchen Gayle! Thanks for the comments and ideas. I’m really interested in planning the lighting also. :)

  4. I would HIGHLY recommend extra outlets in your new kitchen. one can never have too many outlets- and if going with an island, then easy to reach, possibly countertop height outlets are a must- not ever appliance- think grinders- have a terribly long cord.

  5. What are your thoughts on a double oven? There are the kinds that are installed into the wall, or the regular-sized ovens with two compartments. I’ve always lusted after friend’s double ovens, but not sure about the practicality?

    1. I LOVE my Samsung Duo-flex! I can cook an entree and a side dish at different temperatures at the same time. I also can use it like one big oven if I have to cook something large, like a turkey. If it ever dies on me, I’d buy another one in a heartbeat!

  6. We’re working on a kitchen remodel, too. I agree with you on all of your points, except we just found a way to add a walk-in pantry to our space and I’m super excited about it. I also insist on a gas range and double electric ovens (to Emma, we have a double oven now, and I love it, even though I don’t actually use both that often, it’s priceless for when I do need them both). My other must-have is a built-in eating space (breakfast nook).

  7. I agree with everything but walk in pantry. we did a remodel, gutted kitchen about 5 years ago and to this day my kitchen is one of my favorite things. Before remodel I had a lazy susan cabinet for all my canned goods and some random cabinets things like flour , sugar etc went in and I was always losing things since the cabinets were like 2 feet deep. I have no idea how I maintained a kitchen without my walk in pantry, seriously. We took a breakfast room (where all of the kids computers were )that was never used and used about 1/3 for a walk in pantry and 2/3 for a bar. My husband loves his bar and I never knew how much I would love a walk in pantry. I keep all of my big kitchen things like mixer, blender etc on floor or bottom shelf so counter tops are clear. my can shelves are only deep enough for one can so I can see exactly what I have. My kitchen cleans up so easily, everything has a place. I do have the ‘noodle pipe’ over the stove and use it but if it wasn’t there it would be fine. I wish more of my lower cabinets had pull outs so things didn’t get lost. I have a drawer just for spices and an overflow pull out spice rack. LOVE!!! at 5′ I can actually see what spices I have. Big sink with two big sections, I love, contractor told me I would never find but I did. I wish my second oven was fullsize . Love my 6 burners and griddle. Overall my only regret is not having the pull out drawers in lower cabinet.Oh our fridge has a tiny freezer , we have an extra fridge with regular freezer in garage and I would absolutely put a stand alone freezer in there too and hopefully will once garage is cleaned out. Here in Texas people send smoked turkeys that go into freezer until we need it and one will take up a whole freezer…

  8. Make sure you add pull out shelves in your bottom cabinets. You will never regret it and will love it as you get older, saves your back. And no open shelving. Just think about the cleaning & upkeep that open shelving presents.
    Regarding the fridge, do not get a side by side, or ice/water in the door, or french doors. Get the most simple design you can find, with freezer on the bottom with ice bin. I have had many fridges over the years (yes I’m quite a bit older than you) and my advise with all appliances is keep it simple. Less repair problems.
    And flow is so important. If you can keep the working space on one side of the island, and the gathering space on the other. Put the sink in the island if you don’t have a window above the sink. I put in a large single sink, not a farmhouse but a composite single deep sink. I grew up with a single sink and I still love them. You can place a sheet pan in the sink flat, large fry pans with handles, even wash the babies in the sink!
    Good luck. Don’t spend too much money, but don’t scrimp on things either.

  9. We renovated our kitchen a few years ago and we have drawers instead of cupboards which are great. You can see everything easily without the need to move everything. I also agree with Gayle about the task lighting, works well. We also put a strip of led lights under the bottom of the drawers to light up the kick boards so you don’t need all the overhead lights on when you are not actually working in the kitchen but there is enough light to see if you need to pop in for something. We have a high gloss finish on the cabinets which is really easy to clean after the grandchildren visit. Good luck with your renovations and I look forward to seeing photos of the finished kitchen.

  10. Drawers, where are your drawers? My previous kitchen had a whole 4 drawers. That’s not enough. I now have loads. Cabinets up on the wall, drawers below, Including double pan drawers<<<< just deep drawers.
    I have a huge kitchen and I designed it myself, so if you learn anything from my mistakes, keep the sink close to the cooking area. I hate walking 15 steps to the sink with pans full of boiling water and food.
    You can not have enough electrical outlets. When you think of the obvious things needing power, then add two phones and two iPads and the work phone and iPad, then the camera and some odd items needing charging. Suddenly 15 outlets are in use and nowhere to plug in the waffle toaster.
    High gloss is lovely, it's easy to clean, but will need constant cleaning, every fingerprint shows.

  11. When we remodeled, my husband put in a one-basin, dedicated vegetable sink (in addition to the regular, two-basin sink). It has become my favorite feature in our kitchen. Plug the sink, throw in your kale bunch or whatever, and fill with cold water. I swish it around a few times with tongs and then release the plug (leaving the strainer). Repeat as needed depending on how dirty the veggies are. It’s an low-oversight process that you can do while doing other meal prep in order to save time. It makes healthy eating that much easier.

  12. I have lived with many kitchens not of my choosing (military family) a little of what I have loved and hated. Work flow is critical as you know, some of the smallest kitchens I have had were the best even if they were what my Mother calls “One Butt Kitchens.” More space is great but if the layout is such that you have to walk around an island regularly between stove, sink and fridge it will be a pain. One very uncommon, but my favorite sink was a double with a small 1/3rd side with disposal and a 2/3rd size side. This fit a standard double sink space but the smaller side was fabulous for veg washing and prep. and the larger side was actually big enough to soak and wash larger baking dishes. Drawers in lower cabinets for pots, baking dishes and other stuff, my favorite thing ever! Cabinet over oven with tall narrow sections for cookie sheets is nice. Smallest kitchen I ever had was a galley with a with a corner walk in pantry at one end which probably made it the most functional kitchen I ever had. The pantry was entered at a corner and was smaller than a porta-potty with shallow shelves one one side and deeper on the other – not huge but invaluable. As others have noted you can keep appliances not used daily but still frequently there and keep more counter space clear for working. I currently have a nice pantry in another room that is a deep cabinet of mainly pull out drawers, it works very well but having to go to another room for flour, canned goods etc., is tedious. My extra storage for larger items is currently in my basement and going downstairs for the pressure cooker or waffle iron is really a pain. Pot filler was the silliest thing I ever had, if you can’t lift a pot full of cold water what are you going to do when it is boiling hot and you need to drain it? I also hate microwaves over the stove, largely because I am short but I think they can be very unsafe if you are trying to use both. I do love my wall oven with microwave over it. Gas stove top if you have the option, but electric oven. Lots of outlets on MORE than one circuit so you don’t have to fear using a crock pot or two and a coffee maker at the same time (been there). I have never had an appliance garage but some seem to love them which could be another way to go without a pantry. Stainless looks nice though there is the fingerprint issue but black appliances are way worse, particularly if you have pets – the fur even shows up there…Your priority of work flow and good solid cabinets is certainly the best place to start. I wish you joy in you new kitchen and calm through the process of getting there.

    1. Haha Kjill!!! I had a microwave above the stove, which I removed and replaced with a hood.
      I am tall and always felt I had to open the microwave and stick my head in to see the back burners!

      1. Oh Pattiann that is funny. People just don’t come in standardized sizes. I can imagine banging your head on the microwave when trying to see the back burners would awful. That does remind me that a real vent hood that actually leads to a vent stack and out is a must if possible. If you like to sear stuff just passing the smoke thru a filter and back into your kitchen won’t keep the smoke alarms from going off.

  13. We haven’t remodeled (yet), and your list of necessities mirrors ours. A few things I’d keep from my current kitchen:
    1. Pot rack for hanging pots and lids
    2. Metals rods for hanging up most commonly used tools, and thus avoiding the jumbled drawer of tools
    3. 5-burner gas range, and electric oven with side-by-side dual ovens
    4. Wall dispenser for paper towels, foil, and plastic wrap. If they made one that also contained parchment, that’d be a bonus!

    Good luck to you! Do post pictures as you go along so the rest of us can dream along with you!

  14. Are farmhouse sinks supposed to function better than regular undermounted ones? I’m curious of their marketing spiel, if so :). I thought they were just for decorative flair. If you are worried about kids banging into your cupboards, you will be thankful for non-white ones!

    I hope to have enough money one day to live in a place with a walk-in closet – let alone a walk-in pantry ;). But, one thing I’ve found helpful with more cupboards vs pantry is to think carefully about what built-in organizers/shelves/etc you install inside the cupboards. Someone mentioned the pull out drawers for the bottom cabinets – yes! But also, for example, those narrow spice racks that slide in and out are much easier for me to see what I have than using the traditional tiered lazy susan. And the shallow drawer near the stove that has my spatulas and wooden spoons. You can Marie Kondo your kitchen!

    Love this blog!

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