Bluewater Interiors Designs by Roxanne

bluewater interiors blog

the functional plan

There are two parts of a Renovation Design Plan – the Functional Plan is the first part and is the key to a successful renovation.

Real conversation with a client:

Client: I want white shaker cabinets and modern stools.

Me: Umm, ok. But let’s talk about the function of your kitchen first.

Client: Well I put some masking tape on the floor where I want the island to go. See?

Me: Yep, I saw that.

Client: Do you think we should do the island in a different colour??

Me: At this point, I’m more concerned about the size of the island you’ve mapped out here.

Client: Why? I want a really big island. Like big, big!

Me: I can design the largest island for your kitchen, but this size is not going to make your kitchen functional.

Client: I don’t understand.

Me: Let’s talk about functionality of an island this large…

Your kitchen can be the snazziest kitchen in the universe, but if it is not functional, you’re going to end up hating it. 

In the above case, the island left very little room for those stools she desired, and the size narrowed the walkway into and around the kitchen.

Both of which would become very annoying!



For a kitchen or bathroom renovation, there are guidelines in design that ensure the space works in general. There are guidelines for space needed for seating, walkways, cooking, prepping, etc. These are in place to ensure the space is functional at it’s most basic. Needless to say, the island size that she wanted in the above scenario was not meeting even these basic guidelines.

What is Functionality?

Functionality is more than just the floor plan. It is about how you use the space. It is about how you want to use the space. It is about your needs when using the space. Make sense?

Let me give you an example. I was engaged by a couple who were renovating their cottage. Besides being outdated and worn (it was from the 60s after all), it just didn’t function for them and their children and grandchildren.

This couple was very family-oriented, and family was the most important factor in this renovation. Having better sleeping arrangements, dining space for 10 (!), and an extra bathroom were what was needed to make their cottage work better for everyone.  

The functional plan that I created addressed those needs. And you can see how the plan had to go beyond the basic functional requirements to meet their needs.

the functional plan floor plan space plan
Before renovation (L) After renovation (R)

Basic Functional Guidelines

There are the basic functional guidelines that need to be met all the while addressing your particular needs. I tackle them in tandem because to do otherwise doesn’t make sense to me.

Let me give you a few examples of the basic requirements in functional layout for a kitchen:

Prep area: minimum requirement is 36” of counter space.

Sink area: Sink is flanked by 24” on one side (usually the dishwasher is placed here) and 18” minimum on the other side.

Stove area: Minimum countertop is 12” on one side and 15” on the other.

Spacing: Between an island and a base cabinet, the minimum is 36”. Between an island and a base cabinet that houses an appliance (stove, dishwasher, fridge), the minimum is 42” with the best scenario being 48”.

Seating at an island: minimum space per person is 24”.

Seating at a table: 28” per person is most comfortable.

Clearance behind chairs/stools is minimum is 36” as measured from counter edge.

Walkway behind chairs/stools is minimum 44” as measured from counter edge.

If your design doesn’t meet the minimum guidelines, then using your space will be uncomfortable.  The challenge is in meeting these minimums while addressing your needs.

Your Functional Needs

What are functional needs? It’s actually not complicated at all. You just have to ask yourself, what do you really need? It could be as simple as having…

  • dedicated storage space for your baking pans
  • a pullout that holds your stand mixer, so you do not have to lift it
  • dining space for your extended family when they visit
  • adapting the design for your height (tall or…not so tall)
  • a place to store liquor that can be secure from little hands
  • a bathroom with linen storage

These are your “must have” needs but there are also things you really, really want that may or may not add to the functionality of your space. Things like…

  • a warming drawer
  • two sinks in your bathroom
  • a coffee bar
  • a walk-in closet

Unfortunately, these are the items that get sacrificed in the name of functionality.

The Whole Plan

There is so much more that goes into the Functional Plan. It is a comprehensive document that will aid your contractor in estimating your job and then undertaking your renovation.

the functional plan Lighting plan
Lighting Plan
the functional plan electrical plan
Electrical Plan
the functional plan Kitchen elevation
Kitchen Elevation
the functional plan builtin entertainment unit elevation
Entertainment Unit Elevation

If you are curious about the entire Renovation Design Plan have a peek at one here (just scroll to the bottom of the page). Stay tuned for my next blog which will focus on the second part of the Renovation Design Plan.

Do you need help with a renovation? Set up a 20 minute discovery call with me or contact me directly at 519-484-8965.

Until next time, stay safe.


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Hi, I am Roxanne

Interior Decorator + Designer

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