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Having likely spent more time than ever in your kitchen over the past few months, you may be ready to make some updates. Whether it’s a full renovation, new appliances, or simply adding new hardware fixtures, you may be wondering where to begin or what you need. We consulted with kitchen design expert Cyndy Cantley of Cantley & Company, an award-winning, nationally published cabinet and design firm in Birmingham. Here she shares five key features every kitchen should have.

Cantley & Co. Kitchen Design

We looked to the talented team at Cantley & Co. to get some guidance on the most important features every kitchen should have. Image: Jerrod Brown Studios

5 Key Features Every Kitchen Should Have

Professional Assistance

Before you begin the process of renovating one of the most well-loved rooms in your home, Cyndy Cantley suggests hiring a professional. “With so many things to consider when designing a kitchen — from layout, lighting, appliances, hardware and so on — of course, my first recommendation is going to be to hire a professional,” she says. “Typically, a kitchen is the most expensive room in your home. Always remember that if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.” Starting the design process with a professional ensures quality work you and your family will love for years to come.

RELATED: Read This Before You Rearrange Your Home

A Statement Island

If your space allows for it, Cyndy suggests having an island at the top of your kitchen design priority list. “People live in their kitchens, and this creates a place to not only prep meals but a place to hang out. From homework and casual meals to sitting with friends and having a glass of wine, the island is where it all happens,” Cyndy says. “It also creates a barrier to keep family and friends out of the cook’s work area. In a perfect world, there would also be a table for family meals, and if not, I try to encourage clients to use their dining rooms more than three times a year. It is usually one of the prettiest rooms in your house, so use it for a Sunday supper or anything else just because.” It’s important to create a separation between the kitchen, where food is prepped and people mingle, and the dining room, where we eat and relax.

SB Birmingham Key Features of A Kitchen — Dining Space

Cyndy shares an image of her own dining room. She expresses the importance of having a separate dining space, which she encourages clients to use more than three times a year. Image: Provided

Creative Storage

Times are changing, and so are our needs in the kitchen. Cyndy encourages you to think outside of the box when it comes to the essential space used in the kitchen. “I love floor-to-ceiling cabinets that serve as dish cabinets. Typically you can only reach the first two shelves in a wall cabinet, so this not only allows you more access, but you can also see everything at one time. The same is true for appliance cabinets — make them big with pocket doors, a countertop inside and several electrical outlets for all the small appliances we use today,” says Cyndy. “Another change is with refrigeration options today. So many people [go to the] market several times a week, shop local farmers’ markets, or pick up a CSA weekly that large freezers are no longer needed with this healthy trend for fresh local foods. We are designing kitchens with all refrigerators and freezer drawers tucked under cabinets for ice and a few frozen necessities.” Try to sit down and write out what your priority list includes — from necessary appliances to cabinet space. The results may surprise you.

RELATED: 4 Amazing White Kitchens

Prep Areas

Cyndy also encourages you to visualize your kitchen in segments. “Every kitchen should have several work zones,” she says. “If possible, create areas for prep and cooking, and a separate area for clean up. This is especially helpful if there is more than one cook.” More workspace in the kitchen will lead to faster prep and cleaning time, and we know that’s something we all strive for.

SB Birmingham Key Kitchen Features — Prep Area

Having different areas to prep, cook, and clean make for a well-designed kitchen. Image: Cantley & Co.

A Gathering Space

Overall, just remember that while the kitchen is an important part of your home, it’s the people and memories that truly make it beautiful. “If we have learned nothing else during these last few months, remember people just want to be together,” Cyndy tells us. “Don’t wait until your house is perfect to have a dinner party because it will never be perfect. Your friends will not remember what you served them at a dinner party, but they will remember you invited them to your home and the friendship and fun they had.”

Thank you, Cyndy, for sharing your professional insight and advice. Learn more about Cyndy and Cantley & Co. by visiting


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