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Today’s kitchens are often the heart of the home. When you’re planning a kitchen, of course it’s important to get the flow of the space, and the position of appliances and work surfaces just right, and to make sure that everything is in the most convenient location for how you want to use the kitchen. Therefore, careful planning is required to ensure a kitchen that’s both beautiful and highly functional.

Here are some of our top tips to consider when designing your kitchen:

Direct traffic

For kid-friendly kitchen designs, keep the cooktop out of traffic areas so children don’t catch handles and cause spills when running through. Also, make the refrigerator accessible to both passersby and people working in cooking and cleanup areas.

Eliminate wasted steps

Think about how and where you use items. Store breakfast foods and bowls near the breakfast table. Keep wraps and plastic containers in one handy spot near a work surface for wrapping leftovers. Locate dishware and flatware near the dishwasher to ease the process of unloading.

Stay clear of corners

To make cabinet and appliance doors fully functional, plan space for the door’s clearance and swing direction in your kitchen design. Keep appliances away from corners, and make sure doors won’t bang into each other if open at the same time.

Design wide walkways

Paths throughout a kitchen should be at least 36 inches wide. Paths within the cooking zone should be 42 inches wide for a one-cook kitchen and 48 inches wide for a two-cook configuration. When planning, adjust kitchen islands and peninsulas accordingly.

Find the right height for the microwave

The correct height and location for a microwave oven may vary depending on the chef or the kid-friendly character of the kitchen. For adults, 15 inches above countertop level is a good microwave height. For kids, a below-countertop setup may be safer and more suitable.

Consider the countertops

Chefs who like to cook require more counter space — ideally between the range and sink — than those who cook infrequently or who prepare simple meals. In addition, incorporating two countertop heights makes baking easier and helps kids who are involved in meal preparations.

Determine the island’s function

When it comes to kitchen islands, form follows function. If you want to cook and eat on kitchen islands, plan enough space so the cooktop is safely separated from the dining area.

Cut cleaning time

Careful design decisions make cleaning easier. Glass refrigerator shelves catch spills that wire shelves let through. Flush-set or undermount sinks don’t have a crumb-catching rim to worry about. Matte finishes don’t show dirt as much as glossy ones do.