Case Studies in Kitchen Design: Smart Layouts for Family Kitchens

A trio of case studies sheds light on functional kitchen designs especially for families.

Kitchen Designs


Kitchen designs are increasingly important; these days, the kitchen is the busiest room in most houses. Even where cooking isn’t a top priority, the kitchen is usually a gathering place for after-school snacks and snatches of conversation. Guests at parties seem often to gravitate to the kitchen, whether for the drinks and hors d’oeuvres or to enjoy the warmth of the household. Yet there is no one model for a kitchen space that suits all needs.

Function and Flow
The best kitchen designs focus on function and flow. Layout works together with appliance placement to create a comfortable, workable environment. Good design dictates that the refrigerator be near work space and food preparation counters and sinks be placed next to dishwashers for easy loading. Stoves want workspace and handy storage for cooking accessories, cupboards for pots and pans, and drawers for utensils.

Floor Plan #1: The Jacobsons
The way a family cooks and lives will determine their appliance needs and finishes. Kelli Jacobson loves to cook and entertain, so her layout, appliances, and finishes all enhance how she lives in her Cape Cod-style home. “I like how everything’s open,” Jacobson says. “I love the layout because it goes right from the living room to the dining room to the kitchen.”

In Jacobson’s house, the kitchen is the cook’s domain, so her appliance choices and finishes reflect her love of cooking. “I’m really into cooking, so I chose stainless steel for a more modern, professional look,” she says of the Kenmore refrigerator, stove and dishwasher she selected.

The moveable center island opens to provide extra space for stool seating and storage. The island and counters are grey, while the cabinets are a frosted, light wood with the stainless-steel finish that pulls it all together.

Floor Plan #2: The Thompsons
The Thompsons own a Colonial home, a layout that lets family space flow while keeping public space separate from the mess of busy lives. With small children and lots of toys, it works best for their family to use the dining room as a playroom adjacent to the kitchen while the living room remains a public entry space. “I do like the fact that you have more of a welcome area — no toys — with more of a playroom off to the side,” Ann Thompson says.

She opted for clean, simple lines in the kitchen. The cupboards are maple with a warm, autumn finish. “It’s light; it brightens up the room,” Thompson says of the cabinet color. “They have clean straight lines but aren’t modern,” she says of the design.

Overall, the feeling is warm, neat and clean. The appliances are all white, from the Kenmore side-by-side refrigerator and freezer to the stove and dishwasher. This light, open feeling continues throughout the family spaces, which include the kitchen, dining room, breakfast area, and first-floor laundry. “The layout is good for entertaining,” Thompson says, and the openness gives a big, airy feel to their family space. Having the dining room separated from the living room lets this family put a playroom out of sight while putting their best face forward for company.

Floor Plan #3: The Browns
The beauty of a ranch layout is that it keeps family and public space together. Kimberly Brown, the homeowner and mother of a toddler, also likes the openness of her layout. The 440-square-foot dining room and kitchen area lets Brown keep an eye on her daughter while living and working in the house.

Her finishes are relaxed yet sophisticated, with maple beadboard cupboards and soapstone-colored laminate counters. Her black appliances complement the counters and provide an easy-to-clean, kid-friendly finish. The Kenmore refrigerator, stove and dishwasher unify the design scheme and give a sleek look to this open kitchen.

Task-Centered Thinking
All three home plans feature first-floor laundry rooms that are made modern with a Whirlpool side-by-side, heavy-duty washer-dryer combo. These energy-saving front-loaders are built to handle large loads but work in small spaces like the closeted laundry area in Brown’s ranch-style home. Putting them on the first floor, in the center of family activity, makes the whole process more efficient and family-friendly, according to all of these homeowners. “I’m really looking forward to the first-floor laundry,” says Thompson.

Family-friendly layouts, open space, and good task allocation, along with fluid kitchen designs, make these small homes work.