Foolproof Kitchen Decorating Ideas, According to a Design Pro

Designer Gina Gutierrez shares her best advice for a flawless kitchen design.

Considering that the average cost of a kitchen remodel is around $25,000 according to HomeAdvisor, when planning a kitchen update, you'll want to make sure it's a design you'll love and be happy to live with for many years. To ensure that the kitchen design in this year's Real Simple Home balanced modern updates with timeless style, we tapped Gina Gutierrez of Gina Rachelle Design, an interior designer who knows exactly how to give an outdated kitchen a fresh look—without giving in to trends.

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Real Simple Home 2022 Kitchen with blue tiles
Photography by Laurey Glenn / Styling by Zoë Gowen

"We wanted to take the original kitchen and give it some life!" she says. "We are not afraid of playing with color, texture, and metals, so our goal was to marry the coastal theme with a traditional modern aesthetic." The kitchen had a great foundation to start, but Gina's aim was to improve the flow of the space and add much-needed storage. "We also focused on small but impactful details such as taking our tile all the way to the ceiling on all the walls, creating a thoughtful coffee nook, and designing symmetry with the floating shelves and sconces."

If you're ready to upgrade your kitchen, no matter if you're investing in a full remodel or DIY-ing minor updates, follow the pro-approved tips below to create a foolproof design.

real-simple-home-2022-florida-Kitchen-061
Christopher Testani

Prioritize Function First

Gina's first piece of kitchen reno advice: "Focus on function," she says. "Make a list of what works for you and what does not. For the things that do not work, ask yourself how you can change that. What can be implemented to resolve this issue? I like creating a list and prioritizing your functional needs. (I need an island! A pantry is a must!)" she explains.

Once you have your function-focused wishlist, then create a wishlist of finishes (like a single basin sink, waterfall island, or open shelves). "Selecting all of your finishes is so fun, but you want to make sure that your kitchen functions with ease and has optimal storage for not only your day to day but for resale value," Gina says. "When you create these 'priority' lists, you learn what is the most important to you and what doesn't make the cut based on budget or structural issues."

Go Classic

"Always think classic," Gina recommends to anyone considering a kitchen remodel. "You can certainly bring in trendy elements but ask yourself if you think you will enjoy the design five to 10 years down the road." Kitchen design trends will inevitable change, but if you stick with a functional layout that works for your household and introduce subtle on-trend elements, you'll be happy with the space for years to come. Factoring in both the monetary and environmental costs of a remodel, it pays to design for longevity.

Remember That Less Is More

Especially in small-space kitchens, Gina says the most common mistake she sees is trying to squeeze too much into the room and not leaving enough space to easily circulate around the room or gather together. Since the kitchen is typically an entertaining hub in most homes, you'll want to factor in open space for friends and family to hang out. "Our goal is to pack everything in, but at the end of the day, you want to make sure your spacing can fit two cooks or even host small gatherings. Often, less is more and the overall design will feel more spacious and grand," Gina says.

Invest in a Faucet and Hardware

Gina recommends investing in a high-quality faucet and other high-touch metals around the room, including the cabinet and drawer hardware. Especially if you hand-wash dishes often or cook at home every night, a good faucet will drastically improve the functionality of the space. Consider a pull-down faucet that makes washing dishes easier, or a taller commercial-style faucet if you're frequently washing large pots and pans. Then, think about metal finishes that won't show fingerprints or water spots to maintain a clean-looking kitchen; or opt for unlacquered brass if you prefer a design with some patina.

Similarly, cabinet hardware is an oft-overlooked detail in kitchen design, but Gina suggests giving it the attention it deserves. "You will be touching these items everyday, so you want to make sure that they not only look beautiful but feel good too," she says.

Be Thoughtful About Lighting Placement

"Lighting is uber functional and it also creates architectural detail. You want to be thoughtful and intentional with each can, chandelier, pendant, and sconce," Gina advises. Think about the spots where light will be most important—over the sink, above the food-prep counter—and work your lighting design around a functional layout.

READ NEXT: Shop the Kitchen and Every Other Room in the Real Simple Home

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