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Everything You Need to Know About Modern Kitchen Design in Washington DC

The kitchen is the heart of the home and where many people spend the bulk of their time. We cook, eat, entertain, converse, schedule, and make lasting memories in our kitchens. Kitchens are also one of the most expensive rooms in your house to renovate, so it’s important to spend a lot of time up front to make sure you get it right. It is imperative that your kitchen is beautiful, has a functional layout and is comfortable for your lifestyle. 

An often overlooked step (even by industry professionals!) is to take the time up front understanding how you live and use the space. It can be helpful to ask yourself if you had no budget what would you do. It is easier to come up with your dream kitchen and work backwards, making changes as needed to fit your budget, than it is to try and work within a rigid set of parameters. The results are always better with this approach because it enables you to be more creative. In this post, we’re going to use one of our projects at Lorla Studio as a case study to walk you through the modern kitchen design process from start to finish. 

Renovated modern kitchen with Taj Mahal quartz countertops.
Fully finished kitchen after renovation

Step One: Articulating your dream kitchen interior design for your lifestyle

We ask our clients a lot of questions up front to ensure we really understand their aesthetic and preferences. For this modern and organic kitchen renovation in Bethesda, Maryland, here is a sample of just some of the questions we asked our clients: 

  • How do you describe your style?

  • How many people live in your home and what are their ages?

  • Do you entertain often? If yes, please provide more information (large or small gatherings, weekly, etc).

  • What colors do you like and dislike? 

  • What are key areas you’d like to invest in or areas of importance to you? 

  • What do you like about your current kitchen and what do you dislike about it?

  • What metal finishes do you prefer (brass, polished nickel, oil rubbed bronze, etc)?

  • Do you prefer painted or wood cabinets? 

  • For countertops, what is the most important feature for you, ie durability, natural materials, aesthetic, cost or other? 

  • Do you like under cabinet lighting?

  • Gas cooktop or induction?

  • Do you need a garbage disposal? 

  • Do you need filtered water and if so, do you prefer it is a part of the refrigerator or separate?

  • Do you have kitchen faucet preference (single hole with one hot/cold control, bridge faucet, etc)?

  • Do you want interior drawer organizers and inserts?

  • Are there any examples of kitchens that you love that you can share with us?

  • Anything else you would like us to know or consider as we design your new kitchen?

It is not uncommon for our clients to be unsure of the answers to all of these questions, and we are always ready to walk you through the pros and cons of different options. The main goal is simply to be pinpointing all of the details you desire for your new, modern kitchen design. 

Step Two: Crafting a smart, optimal layout for your modern kitchen

Now, let’s look at the modern yet approachable kitchen renovation we completed in this home in Bethesda, Maryland. 

The client’s main issues with their existing kitchen were both the layout and the aesthetic. Their kitchen was small, dark, and did not function in a way that enabled their entire family of four to cook and eat together in the space. The deck to the back door was awkwardly located between the kitchen cabinets and the island, leading the island to feel afloat between the dining room and kitchen, rather than a part of the kitchen. There was more circulation than needed in the middle of the kitchen, and not enough in key areas like outside of the tiny powder bath, and in front of the poorly located coat closet. The kitchen was just too small and lacked storage space. 

Before floor plan of a home

While the floor plan may not be as fun to develop as the aesthetics, it is essential in the success of your kitchen remodel. For this project we thought outside the box and as you’ll see we ended up reworking a large portion of their first floor to come up with an optimal layout. The kitchen remodel was our clients’ top priority, but they had also expressed their frustration with not having a proper entry to store coats and backpacks, thought the circulation at the tiny powder bath was terrible, and they couldn’t figure out what to do with their long alley-like living room. It turned out that a key to fixing the kitchen was reworking much of the layout on the first floor, which enabled us to fix all of the circulation and space planning problems our clients were struggling with. We moved the door to the deck out of the kitchen and into the dining room, which enabled us to rotate the island so that it was a central part of the kitchen, rather than off to the side.

We borrowed space from the living room to create a foyer, complete with a coat closet, bench seating, and storage cubbies. While the living room became smaller, it is actually a much more functional layout, and feels more like its own space rather than a pass-through room. We moved the tiny powder bath into the foyer, which again allowed us to steal a little more square footage for the kitchen, and improve the overall circulation. The clients loved this new layout, and now it was off to the races with the finishes and fixtures. 

After floor plan of a home with an interior designer touch

STEP 3: Prioritizing function and beauty in your kitchen interior design

On to the fun part of selecting the materials, finishes, plumbing fixtures, appliances, hardware, and lighting. The two biggest factors that guide this phase are timeline and budget. Appliances can have incredibly long lead times (oftentimes over a year) and are often one of the largest investments in the kitchen, so it is best to start with these. Next up is cabinets, which are often equally or more expensive than the appliances, but tend to have shorter lead times of between six and twenty weeks. There are a lot of different cabinet styles and materials, which is where your dream kitchen ideas and inspiration comes in handy. Price out your favorite style, and if the price comes in too high there is always a good option for less.

At Lorla Studio, we work exclusively with Plain & Fancy who crafts handmade cabinets in Pennsylvania. Plumbing fixtures can also have extended lead times, and we usually tackle these as we are sourcing the cabinets. Countertops usually come much later, once the cabinets are in, as the stone fabricator will need to template them after the cabinets are installed. That said, you can be thinking about your ideal countertop material throughout the process. Do you just love the natural beauty found in marble, so much so that you are okay with the inevitable staining and etching that will happen over time? Alternatively, are you more practical, and would you prefer a quartz or quartzite countertop that are less susceptible to staining and etching? Maybe you love the look of butcher block countertops, which are actually more affordable than stone.

There are so many options to consider as you think about your own modern kitchen design. Look around as much as you can to get a sense of what you like. Look at friends’ kitchens, restaurants, bar tops, or go to stone yards. Once you install a countertop this is not an easy thing to change later, and it is a key element in how your completed kitchen looks and feels. Hardware and decorative lighting are to a kitchen what jewelry and accessories are to an outfit. They can propel it to the next level or really miss the mark. These items usually have the shortest lead time. 

In our warm and modern update to this Bethesda, Maryland, kitchen, we opted for timeless and neutral painted cabinets, paired with Taj Mahal quartz countertops. The countertops are incredibly durable and beautiful, bringing an organic warmth and movement to the space. The cabinets are simple but not plain, understated yet modern. We added a beadboard detail on the cabinet end and island to keep things interesting. We sourced a 36” gas range and oven from Wolf, and a french door, panel-ready refrigerator from Dacor. The contemporary faucet is Brizo, and the aged brass knobs and pulls are by Top Knob. Installing a wall of windows from Pella was a total game changer, flooding the space with natural light and connecting it to the deck outside. The windows are flanked by floating reclaimed wood shelving made by our GC, and simple wall sconces from Rejuvenation. The accessories and barstools are vintage, sourced from our studio inventory. 

STEP 4: Managing logistics, drawings, bids and budget

This step actually happens in the background throughout the duration of any modern kitchen design project, and is an essential part of our job that directly impacts the success of a project. We don’t wait until everything is designed to a T, drawings are completed and everything is sourced to get bids, as the process of getting contractor bids can take eight weeks or more. Imagine if we spent a couple of months designing and selecting everything, and then another couple of months getting contractor bids only to discover the design was double your budget! No one would be happy with this scenario. 

Once we have an approved floor plan, we provide preliminary drawings and specifications in what we call a pricing set, and issue this to contractors for bids. Once we get a bid that we all like, we lock in the contractor, all while we are finalizing the design, ordering materials, developing the timeline with the contractor, and preparing the interior drawing set for construction. In any renovation, there are a lot of logistics and timelines to navigate, which is why it pays to hire a professional. It is a lot to juggle, especially if you’re not familiar with the process. 

You’re making a large investment in your home with or without a designer, and hiring a designer gives you much better odds of ending up with a space you absolutely love. We are experts in reimagining spaces and creating beautiful homes that work for how you live, and as you can see from this case study there is a lot of work happening to ensure our shared vision becomes reality. 

Renovated modern kitchen with Taj Mahal quartz countertops.
Fully finished kitchen after renovation


  • Start the process early: Good designers often have waitlists, as do good general contractors. It is never too early to start looking for your team. 

  • Prepare for the commitment: Wondering how long it takes to design a modern kitchen? As outlined above, design will take anywhere from six to eight weeks up front, contractor bids may take eight weeks, appliances might take twelve months. This is not a quick process!

  • Hire a Designer: If one wanted to buy a dental cleaning kit online and skip the trip to the dentist to save a little money, they could. Would you do this? You could end up with pretty clean teeth, and no big mistakes, but more likely, you could damage your teeth and end up needing to pay to go to the dentist anyway. The same goes for your kitchen remodeling project. Just hire a pro

  • Reflect: Do some reflecting on your aesthetic, features that are important to you, and how you live. For example, you might love the look of marble, but won’t be able to handle stains over time. 

  • Enjoy: Most people will only ever renovate a kitchen once, maybe twice, so enjoy this experience, and let us lead you through it!


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