Lisa Mende’s Top Five Kitchen Design Tips

Anyone can look on Pinterest and find a kitchen design to mimic, but a custom designed kitchen which meets the homeowner’s needs doesn’t happen by merely looking at another kitchen. A well-designed kitchen involves expertise, research, and a great deal of planning. The design must function to the homeowner’s needs, as well as be aesthetically pleasing to be successful.

Beautiful French Country Kitchen Designed by Marie Flanigan

Beautiful French Country Kitchen Designed by Marie Flanigan

I am excited to share my top five most essential design elements in the kitchen. Let’s start with the most critical considerations and work our way up from there.

Well designed Kitchen work zones

The traditional work triangle that separates the sink, range, and refrigerator has evolved into a more practical “work zone” concept. Work zones are instrumental in creating a floor plan that limits the number of steps taken to complete tasks in the kitchen which saves time and effort. Today’s kitchen requires several work zones that often overlap. Depending on the needs of the homeowner dictates what type of zones are created in the space. Examples include baking, cooking, food storage, and even zones specific to meals, i.e. breakfast or snack zone.


Thermador 60-inch kitchen range

Image via Thermador

Great Kitchen appliances

Do your homework!  Today’s kitchen is custom designed for how the homeowner likes to cook.  After the floor plan considerations, the appliances are the next piece of the puzzle and one of the most important.  If you are working with a designer, meet with them to discuss your needs and how you cook in the space.   Your designer can offer suggestions and direct you to a local appliance specialist in a local showroom, who can show you options and address your requirements further.

Your designer can be an excellent resource for helping to narrow down the look and finishes, but the actual type of appliances ultimately must fall on the homeowner to decide.   Do your research.  Only you know how you live in your kitchen and how you like to cook, prepare, and store your foods.


Proper Kitchen Lighting

Proper lighting is critical in a kitchen and is a complicated decision.  A well-lit kitchen will have ambient, task, and accent lighting.

Ambient light is the basis for choosing the other types of illumination because ambient lighting provides a room with the overall illumination.  Chandeliers, wall mount fixtures, ceiling lights, as well as recessed lighting are all examples of ambient lighting.

Task lighting helps to add another layer to the lighting in a kitchen and helps to prevent eye strain or add brightness to an area of activity.  Examples of task lighting in a kitchen are under counter lighting.

The third type of illumination that is important in a kitchen lighting plan is accent lighting.  Accent lighting is brighter lighting or directional lighting which is used to highlight features or objects such as a range hood or a piece of art.  Examples include pendants, track lighting, or wall sconces.

All three types of lighting work together to ensure the kitchen with the proper amount of light.  Lighting can be tricky, so it is essential to work with your designer or lighting specialist to make sure you have exactly what your kitchen needs for the space.


ROHL wall-mount kitchen faucet

Image credit via ROHL

A Quality Water Appliance – Part 1 – Faucets

Did you know that the kitchen faucet and sink are the most used “appliance” in the kitchen?  It is imperative to invest in the best quality faucet you can afford.  Over time the faucet will pay for itself.  The difference in a well-made, quality faucet or “water appliance” versus a less expensive brand is monumental.

Your kitchen sink and faucet are often the focal point of the kitchen so choosing the right kitchen faucet should be a top priority.  The old saying, “you get what you pay for” should be burned in a consumer’s mind while shopping for the right kitchen faucet. The choice of materials, finishes, and the way it is constructed should all be taken into consideration and questions you can ask your designer or showroom consultant when choosing between brands.


A Quality Water Appliance – Part 2 – Sinks 

Sinks come in all shapes and sizes. In smaller kitchens or in a space that doesn’t have a lot of counter space, I like a single bowl sink. But in a large kitchen, I prefer a large divided sink. I especially like the new Stainless Steel Culinario Sink from ROHL, which makes quite a statement in the kitchen. Not only is the sink made from commercial grade stainless steel, but its unique design frees up valuable storage space underneath the sink. You would almost think it was designed by a kitchen designer for kitchen designers and guess what, it was!

The number of kitchen sink options available are endless and can be confusing.  The budget can often dictate where to begin, but I don’t recommend using budget alone to determine your sink.  This is an area where you don’t want to skimp.

For the sake of limiting the discussion, I’ll only mention the two types of sinks I prefer in kitchens which are made from fireclay or stainless steel.

Fireclay Kitchen Sinks

What do you look for in a fireclay sink? The essential qualities of true fireclay sinks include:

  • Unique clay found in limited regions of the world – heavy ball clay
  • Clay is fused with glaze
  • Fired at 2,264°F, twice the firing temperature of cast iron products
  • Scratch and chip resistant
  • Acid and alkali resistant

Lisa’s Fireclay Sink Test – Not all fireclay is created equal so my tip when shopping for a fireclay sink is to look for the blue diamond with the Shaws logo on it. It’s usually on the side or back wall of the sink. When you see this, you’ll know the sink has been made from heavy ball fireclay. Shaws is the originator of the farmhouse sink design and has been handcrafting these sinks in England since 1897.

Stainless Steel Sinks

The essential qualities of high quality or pro-quality stainless steel sink are:

  • low gauge stainless steel – the lower the gauge, the thicker the stainless steel
  • high ratio of nickel to stainless
  • sound insulation for sound deadening
  • proper design for draining and cleanability.

I like the line of stainless steel sinks from ROHL because not only are they made in Italy, but they are all commercial grade, fully insulated using “quiet coat” sound deadening technology, and have zero-edge side walls on three sides with tangent edges which means the sink drains better and is easier to clean.

Lisa’s Sink Test – if you want to see how well a sink will drain, take a marble with you to the showroom when shopping for sinks.   See how loud the marble sounds when dropped in the sink and where it rolls.  If the marble dropping sound is loud and the marble doesn’t roll well, that means the sink isn’t adequately insulated, and it won’t drain well.  The marble test will vet out the imposters every time. 

Is all this talk about design aspects for the kitchens exciting or daunting?    New products are continually introduced daily.  The most important thing to remember when designing a kitchen is that the kitchen is the essential room in the house when it comes to design consideration.  Hiring a professional can make all the difference in creating the kitchen of your dreams.

This article was written by ROHL Auth Lux member Lisa Mende of Lisa Mende Design.  To learn more about Lisa Mende visit or follow her blog The Design Connector by clicking here.

As the principal of Lisa Mende Design for over two decades, Lisa is known for her luxury interiors which are modern enough to be livable, yet traditional enough to have a sense of performance.  Vintage pieces and antiques, mixed with modern classics and original art, are hallmarks of her design aesthetic.  Lisa harkens back to her southern roots to create custom interiors centered around family life, tradition, and heritage.  Her portfolio includes a vast range of projects that include everything from historic preservation to new construction, as well as commercial design. Her work can be found in the country’s most recognized national shelter magazines as well as showhouses from east to west coast. As a sought-after speaker, tastemaker and trend forecaster, Lisa often is asked to serve as a brand ambassador for luxury product lines, companies, and events across the country and internationally. Travel to global markets allows her a worldly perspective which she employs in her projects thru cutting-edge technology and furnishings. Lisa is a member of NKBA and is an Allied Member of ASID.