Building & Renovating

How to Achieve a Pretty and Efficient Kitchen Design

Designing the kitchen goes beyond picking a nice backsplash and shopping for appliances

Photography: Dairy Darilag (Main Photo)

You’ve heard it before—the kitchen is the heart of the home. Aside from using the space to prep meals, it’s also where friends and family bond over quick treats and new recipes. Given all the action that takes place in the cooking area, it’s a must to have an efficient kitchen design. It’s not enough that you have a homey and inviting space, you need to have a functional nook where you can move around easily, breeze through tasks, and keep food and other essentials.

How can you achieve a hardworking yet picture-perfect kitchen? Opting for the right layout, going for sleek finishes, and investing in the right appliances are just some of the things you can do. To finalize the dream kitchen design you have in mind, begin by gathering pegs and getting inspiration from books, magazines, and websites. Once you have your moodboard ready, set and finalize a budget. How much are you willing to spend? It can be expensive to build or revamp the kitchen so be on the lookout for budget-friendly alternatives you can work on. Lastly, make it yours! Add personal touches, display your favorite cookbooks, and choose colors, accessories, and materials that match your style and personality. Ready to work on your kitchen? Be guided by our kitchen design 101 below:

Familiarizing yourself with the work triangle

There are three work centers in the kitchen that make up the work triangle—the storage center (refrigerator), the cleanup/preparation center (sink), and the cooking center (cooktop/oven). Arranging these work centers in a layout that forms the work triangle can help you save on time and energy moving from one center to the next, making sure you get to finish tasks swiftly.



According to interior designer Adelaida Mayo, “the total sum of the three sides of the triangle should be between 13 to 22 feet, but should not be less than 13 feet according to graphical standards. Each side of the triangle should not measure less than four feet.” Here’s a guide to keep in mind:

  • Between the sink and range (most used): 4 to 6ft.
  • Between the ref to the sink (second most used) 4 to 7ft.
  • Between the range to the ref (third most used) 7 to 9ft.


Taking into consideration heat energy-saving purposes, refrain from putting the refrigerator beside the range. When measuring the distance between the centers, measure from the center front of the appliance/fixture to the center front of the other.

Picking the right layout for your space

When working on your kitchen design, you need to finalize the layout, consider the available space, and factor in your lifestyle. Do you need a big cooking area or is a compact nook enough for your culinary adventures? While condo owners don’t have the luxury of space enjoyed by many homeowners (most condo units follow a one-wall layout), understanding the pros and cons of the different layouts may come in handy. “In choosing a kitchen type, there’s a lot to be considered: keep in mind the number of people who will be using the space, the activities to be done in the area, and the structural limitations of the kitchen,” says interior designer Nadine Dela Cruz.

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U-Shaped Kitchen

As the name suggests, this layout locates the three centers among separate counters to form a “U.” An efficient choice, opt for this layout if you have at least eight feet in room width and length. What makes it a common choice? It follows a logical sequence of work centers with minimum distances between them. This layout gives homeowners a lot of counter and storage spaces, but make sure you have enough space—you don’t want to end up with a cramped cooking area.


L-Shaped Kitchen


This layout highlights two walls in the room forming an “L.” If your space has doors or windows on two walls of the room, this is a go for your kitchen design. Many prefer this option as it gives extra floor space for eating. Love having friends over? It has enough room for entertaining friends. Those who’ll choose the layout need to make sure they can utilize the corner counter space and cabinets.


Galley Kitchen


Perfect for long, narrow, rectangular-shaped areas, the galley kitchen finds the centers on two counters opposite each other as seen in spacious condo units and apartments. Aside from the extra counter space, owners can move around freely and go from one center to the next. Unfortunately, the galley layout is not suitable for kitchens with heavy foot traffic and when planned between two walls, entertaining might be a problem as well.


One-wall Kitchen


A common sight in most condo units, the one-wall layout locates the work centers on one counter, with the sink at the center. When going for this layout, make sure the work centers are not directly beside one another so you can still have countertop space in between. As seen in studio and one-bedroom units, this type of layout looks tight and challenging to work in.


Island Kitchen


A layout preferred by many, it has an additional counter at the center of the room where the sink or range can be placed. In many homes, the island can also function as a breakfast bar. Ideal for spacious condo units and large kitchens in big homes, this layout also offers generous countertop spaces on both sides of the sink and range.


Peninsula Kitchen


If you have enough floor space, you can add an extended counter that’s perpendicular to the existing counter where you can place the sink or range. It can also function as a space-saving dining nook. Thought it may look cramped due to limited point of entry, it can provide enough room for storage and counter space.


Know the materials you can use

 A successful kitchen design doesn’t just have an efficient layout, enough storage, and topnotch appliances—it’s also completed with quality materials that can withstand heavy use. Plastic, wood, or hard surface? Know what each option unique and where you can use it.

Hard surface materials include natural granite, stainless steel, ceramic tiles, and synthetic stone. Less porous, durable, low-maintenance, and heat and water-resistant, natural granite is a good substitute to marble. Good to be used for countertops and backsplashes, natural granite is expensive and available in limited sizes. As an alternative, you can use synthetic granite.



Fancy stainless steel kitchens seen in restaurants? The metal sheet can be rolled over edges of countertops and up backsplashes for a smooth surface. Though it’s low-maintenance and durable, it may cause burns since it’s a heat conductor and it can get noisy once you start pounding ingredients.

Meanwhile, ceramic tiles are versatile materials that can be used for countertops, backsplashes, walls, and floors. Inexpensive and heat-resistant, these tiles are available in various sizes, shapes, colors, patterns, and glazes. Make sure you clean tiles regular as grout can accumulate dirt and bacteria over time. Curious about synthetic stone? It’s cultured stone made by embedding finely ground natural stone chips in plastic. You can use it as countertop or backsplash as it’s easy to clean. Be careful when working with this material as it’s expensive and prone to dents and discoloration.

Aside from hard surface materials, you can also look into working with plastic like plastic laminates and solid acrylic. Plastic laminates come in sheets with a wide range of colors and designs simulating other surface materials. It’s a good choice for the countertop, the backsplash, and for cabinet doors. Though it’s easy to clean, plastic laminates may peel off after heavy use. As an alternative, you can work with solid acrylic as it simulates natural stone like marble and granite. Commonly used for countertops and backsplashes, solid acrylic is easy to clean, but it cannot be subjected to high heat and it be chipped, scratched, and wear thin from use.



Those who dream of having a country-inspired or farmhouse kitchen design may want to explore the possibilities of working with wood. The butcher block is a solid wood surface that’s good for island countertops. Since hard wood lasts a lifetime, it can withstand hard blows and sharp knives. Though it’s resistant to heat and moisture, it absorbs the odor of meat, easily stains and can be expensive. Aside from butcher block, you can also consider wood planks. These solid wood planks are either from new or secondhand wood and are ideal for flooring. Wood planks last a lifetime, but it’s expensive, not heat- and moisture-resistant, and can be prone to scratches.


Lighting is a key element in kitchen design

Proper lighting allows you to check on the status of what you’re cooking and help you chop ingredients while avoiding accidents. According to architect Richelle Baria, there should be ample general and task lighting in kitchens. “A minimum of 30 to 40 footcandles is required for kitchen areas for general preparation, while 70 to 80 footcandles for areas above the stove and sink. This can be achieved by placing windows at strategic areas for natural lighting. You may also use CFLs or LED lights in areas that receive minimal to low lighting,” she explains.

Don’t forget the flooring

 “Since kitchen floors are prone to spills, it is best to use non-porous materials like polished granite tile or polished or non-skid ceramic or homogenous tiles,” suggests Richelle.

Given the things we store and tasks we do in the cooking area, it’s a must to keep clutter at bay with storage options


 It’s not enough that you complete your kitchen with cabinets and drawers. Be guided by the famous Benjamin Franklin quote, “a place for everything, everything in its place.” Maximize your cooking area by having a mix of storage solutions. Open shelves are perfect for storing condiments and spices, especially when installed beside the range. To make it easier for you to find what you need when cooking, label them properly and arrange them according to frequency of use. Hanging cabinets, on the other hand, are ideal for storing glassware, dinnerware, serving dishes, small cooking appliances, and other items you don’t use on a daily basis. Maximize the space and keep dust from gathering on top by installing them up to the ceiling. Got a ton of utensils? Drawers are here to save the day. Group your kitchen utensils according to use and store them in separate lined drawers. Metal drawer glides can be mounted on both sides for easy and smooth sliding. Finally, you need to maximize your bottom cabinets. These are storage spots meant for pots and pans. You can also keep your garbage bin and cleaning must-haves in the under-the-sink cabinet.



Aside from these trusty storage spots, you can get creative with the available space in the kitchen, too. Maximize vertical space and unused nooks by installing rods for towels and utensils, hooks for small pots, and corner shelves for décor and accessories.

Invest in the right appliances


 Now that you’ve finalized the layout, sourced and picked the materials, and made sure you have enough storage, what’s next on your kitchen design checklist? You may want to allot enough time and resources shopping for appliances. Basic appliances and extra essentials can make it easier for you to finish tasks. Before you schedule a visit to the store, remember that you’re sourcing and shopping for your kitchen. Choose wisely, take note of your budget, and review the features of each. Before rushing to the cashier, don’t forget to:

  • Measure the space available for the appliance you’re buying to make sure it can fit in the area. Always bring a tape measure with you so you can measure the actual appliance, too.
  • To save on cash and space, pick those with multiple functions—especially if you’re working on a small kitchen.
  • Given the options available in the market today, it’s easy to fall in love with pastel-colored appliances. As much as possible, pick one type of surface finish—stainless or matte steel? White or black? Decide and achieve a cohesive look.
  • Don’t forget to maintain your appliances. Keeping them in good condition ensures longevity, kitchen safety, and savings. Unplug the appliances when they’re not in use and clean them regularly.


When shopping for your kitchen, you need to differentiate the basics you need from the add-ons you can buy later on. The essentials you need to have to be able to achieve a working kitchen includes the refrigerator, the cooktop/stove, and the range hood.


It’s not enough that you choose a sleek refrigerator with the latest features. You need to check its energy consumption, its size, and how it can fit into your lifestyle. According to interior designer Meigan Tan, you need to check a refrigerator’s size, cooling capacity, and energy-efficiency. Think about who’ll use the unit. Will it be for a big family or for just two people? Can the shelves and baskets hold your cartons of milk and juice?


“As the main function of the unit is to lengthen and keep food fresh, be on the lookout for the most accurate temperature controls possible,” says Meigan. We all want to have a refrigerator that doesn’t add up to our skyrocketing electric bill. A, A+, and energy star-rated units are your best options. “All things equal, it boils down to choosing what’s important for you. Once you’ve purchased the right unit, make sure that you can trust your local deal to get you the proper warranties and quality of service,” adds Meigan.

After settling on a refrigerator, think about the stove you’ll buy. Will you go for a gas stove with burner, an electric induction stove, a high pressure burner, a combination stove, or an electric stove? Each option has its pros and cons. When shopping for a stove, you need to take into consideration temperature control, cleanup and maintenance, your safety, and how fast it can help you prep your food. Narrow down your choices by taking the price into account, how it will fit into your kitchen design, and your lifestyle. Do you cook often? Would you be able to maximize it?



Lastly, do your research on the range hood. Can you do without a range hood in the kitchen? According to interior designer Vera Villarosa-Orila, investing in one can be beneficial. Range hoods come in different forms and sizes, making it a staple in big and small cooking areas. Vera shares that having a range hood can be beneficial as it ensures proper ventilation in the kitchen, it can make cleaning easier, and it adds to your cooking nook’s overall look. “Keep in mind that the range hood should be at least twice as wide as your stove. Get the kind with ducting that leads outside your house or unit and choose one with a double motor as well,” suggests Vera.


Aside from the big three, you can also allot funds for small appliances like the microwave oven, toaster oven, coffeemaker, blender, and food processor, to name a few.

Give your kitchen design a personal touch

 What makes a cooking area unique is how you can turn an ordinary kitchen design into something personal. Depending on your personality and the things you love, you can turn the kitchen into a unique hang out.

For the coffee lover



If you love visiting coffee shops, you can turn your kitchen into a cozy escape. Work on a rustic-industrial aesthetic and turn a corner of your cooking space into a coffee bar. Group together your brewing paraphernalia and assemble it in a nook near the toaster. Keep your essentials on a tray and make sure you have enough space where you can mix concoctions.

For the budding baker



Are you more into whipping up delectable pastries? To achieve the kitchen of your dreams, make sure you invest in the basic tools for measuring and mixing. Since baking involves step-by-step procedures, it’s important to have enough countertop space that can serve as prep area. Since most kitchens are dominated by neutral tones and metallic hues, you may want to incorporate a bold accent color into the kitchen design to match the sweet treats you’re baking. If bold colors aren’t your cup of tea, you can always bring in pastel touches for a dainty setup. Don’t forget to have a corner for your baking tools and another spot for pans, small pitchers, and measuring cups.

For the home cook



Prepping food can be easier with the right appliances, but to be able to successfully cook your favorite meals and experiment with recipes, it’s a must that you get to work in an efficient and safe kitchen. Go back to the work triangle and see if your kitchen follows it. A working kitchen need not be boring. Achieve a modern kitchen where you can feel inspired to cook by bringing in natural elements like different stone and wood finishes. Polish the look with copper touches that will surely add pizzazz to the kitchen design. In any space, organization is key. Keep the condiments and ingredients within reach, plus prep the utensils on the countertop. Achieve a neat cooking area by storing items in small jars and cylindrical containers in different heights to create a simple vignette.

With these points as guide, gather as much pegs and kitchen design ideas you can find. If you’re unsure about an element, make sure you consult with a design professional. He or she can help execute the kitchen design you have in mind while keeping with a budget. Once you’ve finally realized your dream kitchen, remember that maintenance is key. Clean it regularly and be on the lookout for little problems that can balloon into huge damages. A successful kitchen design isn’t just about the materials you chose or the appliances you bought—it’s important that you can move around the space freely and perform tasks without a hitch. It would be fun if your final kitchen design can accommodate quick snacks and entertaining friends within the area, too.



With article inputs from interior designer Adelaida V. Mayo, interior designer Meigan Tan, Issa Villar, Paula de Guzman, Dagny Madamba, and Katherine Lopez.

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