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Kitchen Must Haves For 2022

Updated: May 9, 2022

The process of designing a kitchen is a LOT of work, but the end result is SO satisfying for me and my clients. The kitchen is the heart of the home and where most people gather during events. Our family's kitchen is a place where my kids come to tell me about their day or ask for help with their homework; it's where we make oven-baked s'mores and deconstructed sushi dishes. These days, kitchen design options are endless, and planning out your "must haves" is the key to your dream kitchen. Here are some of my favorites, along with my PRO TIPS for designing the kitchen of your dreams:

  • Kitchen Storage

  • Kitchen Lighting

  • Where to Splurge/Save in Your Kitchen

  • Kitchen Outlets

  • Creating a Focal Wall in Your Kitchen

  • How to Design Your Kitchen for Optimal Resale Value!

Kitchen design by Margaret Carroll Interiors


"I have too much storage in my kitchen"-- said no one ever. The number one thing clients request these days is more storage. They need storage and lots of it. A real pantry can be a luxury, but if you're starting fresh or renovating a big portion of your home, I'd recommend taking the time to create one. One where you can walk in and feel like you are shopping in a small store. Our little store is full of dried seaweed, pet food, junk cereal, and Chips Ahoy cookies. Also, we added a cute sliding barn door with cool hardware to add visual interest. Most of the time, it stays open, unless we have guests over and the pantry is a mess.

Pantry with barn door

Mimi and Thurgood (may he Rest his adorable crazy head In Peace) enjoying a meal in the pantry

Pro tip #1: Get Yo Self an Appliance Garage!

Appliance garages have been around for decades. Today, they look sleek and are a total game changer if you want to hide clunky appliances and cords. It is important to source cabinets that come with a built-in appliance garage if this is one of your top three must-haves. We installed a cabinet line called Ultracraft and still really love them two years later.

Appliance garage - highly recommend!
Appliance garage by Unique Kitchen and Baths


As much as I'd like to say "EVERYTHING," that wouldn't make much sense to the average bear, and wouldn't make for a very interesting article. One of my splurges that I thought I wouldn't use -is the pot filler. Every day when I do cook, I probably use it twice. I think the most expensive part of getting a pot filler would be getting a water line behind your range. Totally worth it!

Pro Tip #2: Splurge on the Backsplash!

An interior designer's help is really critical in this selecting backsplash tile. You can read all about when to hire an interior designer vs. an architect here. A designer knows what's in as far as trends go, and most importantly, what's on its way out, especially in the kitchen. Choosing a backsplash that fits your style and needs will bring your kitchen to life. The tile was a bit on the expensive side, but every day when I pass by and see the slight glimmer on it, I don't regret it at all.

Over the last decade, there has been a trend of vertically applying countertops (quartz, marble, granite) as backsplashes. This can look dramatic and elegant depending on the material used. Plus, minimal grout lines mean no maintenance! Win and win.

credit: Walker Zanger


Often, you'll see kitchens with expensive floors or cabinets, but if the lighting is poor, it can be a disaster. It can make the difference between a good kitchen and a stunning kitchen if the lighting is ill-proportioned, too dim (useless), or like it was an afterthought and the contractor went to Home Depot the week before the installation. I'm sorry, Home Depot, but you're not my go-to for kitchen lighting. A recessed light beneath your cabinets is the way to go. We installed underside cabinet lighting and open shelving in our new home. The lighting makes me swoon every time I turn it on. Hardwiring was necessary, but it was worth it because it looks great and functions well.

Pro tip #3: Proper Placement of Light Fixtures

How can you ensure the best lighting placement - especially over the island or eat-in kitchen table? To make sure your lighting looks good, you should create a dimensional drawing or elevation and place your light fixtures correctly. Or you can contact me at here and I'll take care of it!

It is also important to determine the amount and exact locations of recessed lighting. At times, contractors will just pop them in and then there are too few, too many, or they are arranged in an odd pattern. So this is another instance where a kitchen designer or interior designer who knows where to put recessed cans is a must.

A simple elevation like this one will ensure that you get the right lighting height and spacing

3 types of lighting - recessed, pendants and under counter...all strategically placed with the right color temperature (warm, always warm for residential applications)


Having the right kind and number of outlets at the appropriate location is important. Many contractors take the easiest route and just place them wherever without asking the right questions from the homeowner. However, the way you work in your kitchen makes a big difference in how many outlets you need and where to place them.

Every person's situation is different. Do you have a large number of countertop appliances? Would you use your laptop in the kitchen? Do you need plenty of ports for charging phones or devices? If so, you might want to consider a quad port instead of a duplex one. Smart outlets and USB combo sockets are sometimes necessary. In addition to those types of outlets that recess into the wall when not in use, I'm also blown away by round outlets that are flush mounted to a backsplash - they look so sleek.

Pop out / recessed outlet by LeGrand

How GOOD is this outlet by LeGrand??


Recently, I read this article about the Property Brothers and how they dislike open kitchen shelving. Ummm...what?? I adore them and totally disagree. Open shelving is here to stay. I love it when people display their personality or show off their most adorable things.

Dishes DO get dusty and you DO have to do some light cleaning and maintenance, but not as often as you might think. To be honest - I do it about one a month (maybe!).

If you're not organized or you're still working on that collection of white pottery, perhaps open shelving is not for you. Perhaps an open shelf could be installed in a small area of the kitchen. By doing so, you give your eyes a rest from all the closed upper cabinets.


Design by Margaret Carroll Interiors. Photography by Angela Newton Roy Photography

Are white cabinets and kitchens still in style? It really depends on whom you ask. My clients who plan to move to the beach after their kids leave the house should pick something neutral like a soft or off-white color. But, I always recommend to add some pizazz to those white cabinets with a gorgeous backsplash or a colorful floor. It will keep things interesting without looking dated. A lot of my clients don't want to have to redo their kitchens again if they sell their home in 10 years. We aim to create a kitchen that is contemporary, elegant, and neutral but not boring.

The scheme I chose for our current home consists of glossy white upper cabinets and walnut stain base cabinets. When I open the glossy white cabinets, I love the way they feel and I like how they look mixed with wood. I'm secretly obsessed with cabinets with deep or medium-toned hues like the ones you see below. Maybe they will show up in my future beach house. :-)

Credit: DeVol Kitchens
Designer: Zoe Feldman. Photography: Stacy Zarin Goldberg


The creation of a focal wall is one of the most important aesthetic aspects of designing a kitchen. I believe a good kitchen is dependent on how well you integrate a luxe range, some great tile, and the kitchen hood into the design. Range hoods can be done in multiple ways. Until now, exposed hoods have been popular, but I've grown tired of them. I recommend either an enclosed range hood or one that is capped off with drywall.

Pro Tip #4: Microwaves are not good for ventilation

Word to the wise - a microwave is used just to microwave food. It should not be used to ventilate your home of smoke and odors. The microwave manufacturers were trying to sell us on this a couple decades ago...but they don't do anything more than recirculate air. So far, I haven't seen one that does that well (even those that vent to the exterior). Microwaves just don't have the ventilation power that real range hoods have. You should strive for at least 100 CFM for every 10,000 BTUs of your range/stovetop.

Credit: Caitlyn Shoemaker

Exposed flue range hood with Fireclay Tile
Loving this color, shape and pattern from Rebecca Gibbs Design. Oh and also those DOORS!


In a previous blog post I wrote about building a drying "cabinet" that hid pots and pans while they dried so that they didn't need to sit on top of a countertop. was so close to being a reality. The cabinet had already been ordered, and the pan had been custom-sized for drainage. The cabinet we ordered, however, was too wide, so we scrapped the idea. Sadness. As a result, we added a smaller 18" dishwasher (in addition to a 24" dishwasher) and have never looked back. In most cases, the small dishwasher is just for drying big pots and pans, but when we're hosting a pool party, we run both!

Detail of dish drying cabinet

People often ask me if I would consider doing another custom build. Is that something I would recommend to others? The answer is YES! You should do it...but don't do it the way we did. Find a reliable and experienced contractor/builder as well as a competent designer. The important things are worth paying for, such as energy efficient yet lovely windows where your pets can sun themselves and a really well functioning, gorgeous kitchen.

Kitchen design by Margaret Carroll Interiors

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