"We are a big fan of the Milestone concept, which fits perfectly between DIY pine kitchens and costly professional installations."
- Jesse Adams, Gauteng

Tips for planning your free-standing kitchen layout

This page is here to help you design your free-standing kitchen layout. If you are looking for the tutorial on how to use Milestone Kitchens online kitchen planner, please click here

  1. Prioritise practicality. Above all else a kitchen should be functional and practical. Make sure that the layout and design of your kitchen allows for easy movement and efficient use of space. All of Milestone Kitchens units are beautiful so focus on practicality and the beauty part will happen anyway!
  2. Your kitchen is the heart of your home, it’s an investment (in fact, if it’s freestanding you will probably take it with you when you move house), it’s important that you LOVE working in it and that you LOVE the way it looks. Don’t compromise on the heart of your home. 
  3. Before you start planning your layout. Look at our gallery, Instagram, Facebook, and at free-standing kitchens on Pinterest or google images. Take note of what you like and don’t like.


Planning the Layout

1. The Working Triangle

Start with the sink, stove and fridge – not only are these 3 areas vital parts of your kitchen, but they are also often your limiting factor if you have plugs or plumbing you don’t want to move. 

Having said that… Everything is movable! Don’t compromise on your dream kitchen because of plumbing. Pipes can move. Plugs can move too!

The area between the sink, stove, and fridge is known as the working triangle. For a smooth workflow, movement them should not be obstructed. If you have a separate scullery, it is a good idea to have a prep bowl in your cooking area for an improved working triangle. 

We love a stove below the window for 2 reasons; 1 - it saves you the cost of an extractor, all you need to do is open the window. 2 - You get to look outside while you are cooking! 

Sinks are most often placed below a window because this is easiest for plumbing. It also allows for faster drying of dishes and a view when washing dishes.

Island Floor Plan
U shaped floor plan
L shaped floor plan
Working Triangle Examples

2. Working Areas and Storage Planning

Stove Area:

Allocate work top space near the stove for food preparation. 

Allocate space near the stove for storing your oils and spices. Consider a Milestone Kitchens Spice Rack, hung where it’s easy to reach when cooking, or a Spice/Oil Drawer for storing oils and spices. The space either side of the stove is also ideal for pot and cutlery drawers to store pots, wooden spoons, spatulas and wine (whether it goes in the food or in your glass, both ways end in your tummy… just saying).

Items that are used frequently while cooking are best in a wall cabinet near the stove so that you don’t have constantly to bend down to access them, such as breakfast bowls, side plates, or wine glasses.

Fridge Area:

A surface close to the fridge where you can place grocery bags or before you unload them is a good idea. An Island often works well for this. You should be able to load up the pantry/grocery cupboard from here too, so make sure that that is nearby.

Sink Area:

Enough work top space next to the sink to drain washed dishes and to stack dirty ones is essential. If you have a dishwasher, this space doesn’t need to be very big. Place the dishwasher near the sink so that you must plumb to one area only. 

Rubbish bins and cleaning materials are also usually kept close to the sink. If you have a butler sink, consider a utility drawer underneath the sink for storing cleaning materials. 

Remember to recycle! Plan in recycling bins to make it easier to live a more environmentally friendly life.


Opt for drawers not doors: drawers are easier to get into than doors. Note that you will need doors for big appliances. Drawers are more expensive than doors though so if you are on a budget, find a workable balance of doors and drawers.

3. Islands

A centre island is popular in the modern kitchen. If you have space for one, it’s a good idea to have it near the stove and not too far from the dining area so you can use it for serving. Bar Stools around the island provides informal seating for guests or for kids to do their homework while you cook. An island often becomes the hub of the home. 

Be careful not to let your island encroach on your working triangle. Rather let the Island be one or even two of the points of your triangle. For example, you could make your centre island part of your working triangle by placing your hob or prep bowl inside it (remember to plan your plumbing and electrics accordingly).

There should be a minimum of 800mm walking space around your island. 
Free-standing islands are typically a better option than peninsula islands. They are prettier, more symmetrical and allow for a better workflow.

TOP TIP: We recommend wooden tops for your island, wood softens the decor and the "feel" of the room and is warmer and more inviting to sit at than cold, hard stone. 

4. On Choosing and Placing Units

When it comes to choosing units for your kitchen there is no right or wrong! Your kitchen units should be chosen carefully to suit the needs of those living in the house. However, we have included some of our favourites below to whet your appetite.

Milestone Kitchens Coffee Dressers are popular. It’s a good idea to place your Coffee Dresser close to the fridge for easy access to milk, with a toaster, because coffee and toast go together (actually we’ve found coffee goes with everything, similar to wine…). Another popular option is to have the Coffee Dresser near the dining or living room for serving guests. 

The Recipe Book Stand is versatile. It can be used as a display unit, for extra storage or a book shelf – it’s height often finishes off a row of units nicely. Speaking of display… the Display Cabinets are particularly lovely eye candy in the French Flair range. 

The Utensils Wall Unit is great for storing oils and vinegar as well as hanging utensils. These are usually placed near the stove.

The Corner Wall Unit can only fit in a space that is straight and square.

All of our “Deluxe” units are called Deluxe for a reason. They will absolutely elevate your kitchen – if you can include one of them, do it! Or leave a space and save up until you can!

Deluxe Grocery Cupboard
Deluxe Grocery Cupboard Interior
Deluxe Grocery Cupboard
Deluxe Coffee Dresser

We always recommend a Corner Unit without doors over a Corner Unit with doors because corner doors are finicky and irritating to use. Corner Units without doors also open up the corner making the space look bigger.  

We suggest choosing wall units a little smaller than the floor unit below it, the cornices are not included in the dimensions of the unit so if you choose wall units exactly the same size as floor units, they can look top heavy. More information on our cornices can be found here.

Symmetry is always pleasing to the eye. If you can, try to create symmetry in your kitchen layout. This can be done using shape, colour or space. For example; you could balance your tall units (like the Grocery Cupboard and fridge) on either side of your space, or put the stove in the centre of the wall.

5. Appliances and Sinks

NB! Don't buy cheap, bad quality appliances! Appliances can make or break the look of a kitchen. Save up for beautiful appliances that you'll love to use and that will last a long time.

Fridges are often eyesores, so we usually recommend a Fridge House if a pretty fridge is not in the budget, because our Fridge Houses are pretty! A Fridge House also draws the eye up emphasizing high ceilings, if you are lucky enough to have them. Fridge Houses are not necessities so you can add these on a later stage. You will need to leave ±70mm either side of your fridge for this eventuality. Sometimes you get a fridge that's mostly nice aside form the handles - watch out for those handles!

Microwaves are rarely attractive and for reasons unknown to us often end up a focal point in your kitchen. If possible, put it in the scullery or in a cabinet out of sight. Having said that, you do get pretty microwaves, The most important thing to remember for your microwave is not to put it on the counter where it takes up valuable work space. Use a Microwave Shelf or Microwave Wall Unit.

Vintage Appliances: Incorporating vintage appliances into your kitchen can add a unique and charming touch. Not only do they look great, but they can also be eco-friendly, as they are usually built to last and may be repaired or restored rather than replaced. SO don't be scared to keep that hand-me-down from your granny as long as you can.

Make sure to have plenty of electrical outlets to power all your kitchen appliances. 

There are LOADS of good appliance brands and you definitely don't need to stick to the ones mentioned here, but we get asked about these a lot so we have included a few brands in this section for you.

Miele appliances can’t be beaten. But Miele prices are not for the faint of heart so following are some other options.

SMEG, Elba and La Germania make beautiful appliances that are considered medium to high end. Milestone Kitchens has a special relationship with SMEG and we can probably get you the best possible price on SMEG appliances, please let us know if you are interested.

If SMEG is not what you are looking for…

  • We are fans of Elba and La Germania freestanding stoves.
  • Defy provides good value for money, generally long-lasting products, if not particularly great looking appliances
    KitchenAid makes cute small appliances like kettles and toasters. 
  • We love Franke and SA Sinks sinks (#supportlocal!). 

Click here for more info on sink options.

Stove with Mixed units
Kitchen with beautiful stove

Choosing Design Details

1. Tops

It is often an attractive to feature to have different surfaces in your kitchen. With free-standing kitchens, you can mix and match a variety of tops depending on what that they will be servicing. For example, you could have a stone top around your sink area, a wooden top on your island and a pastry table with a stainless steel top. You do not need meters of continuous stone work surfaces, and these will take away from the freestanding aesthetic.

The table below details the main advantages and disadvantages of our typical top type offerings.

Cheapest     Most Expensive

  Cost Advantages Disadvantages
Pine Cheapest Soft wood Warps and cracks relatively easily
Easy to refurbish Knotty
Warm and inviting to sit at Porous if not sealed correctly
Sustainable Can release resin and become patchy
Black Ofram Price in between Ash and Pine Softer than Ash and harder than Pine Fairly porous if not sealed correctly.
Easy to refurbish Can warp or crack
Warm and inviting to sit at Varies in colour
Unique with striking dark highlights.  
More sustainable than Ash - grown in Africa.  
Ash Expensive
(± 35% more than pine)
Hard (handles the heat of pots taken off stove top) Pricey
Rarely warps or cracks Can warp or crack
Beautiful grain with few knots  
Not porous  
Warm and inviting to sit at  
Lasts a lifetime  
Granite (pure stone)   Cheapest stone top to purchase Cold and uninviting to sit at
Heat Resistant Only comes in darker colours 
Does not stain Can crack
Marble (pure stone)   Heat Resistant Cold and uninviting to sit at
Easy to shape because of softness Can stain - it is the softest stone option
Expensive appearance  
Quartz (composite))   Heat Resistant Cold and uninviting to sit at
Resistant to cracks and stains Pricey
Expensive appearance  
Caeserstone (composite   Heat Resistant Cold and uninviting to sit at
Resistant to cracks and stains Pricey
Expensive appearance  
Other options
Terrazo (cement + concrete mix)   Funky and trendy Very brittle
Cute custom colours Breaks during transportation (install on site)
Heat Resistant  
Stainless Steel Most expensive Very practical Pricey
Does not stain Cold and uninviting to sit at
Sleek, modern appearance Can dent and scratch relatively easy

Click here for detailed information about our top options.

However, we will arrange any top you like. Just let us know if you have something extra special in mind not shown above. 

2. Colour

Your kitchen can be any colour you want it to be. Things you want people to see put in bold colours. Things you don’t want people to see put in colours that blend in.

If you don’t have a lot of light in your kitchen, stay away from darker colours. Go for a light and cheerful look with a white, cream or grey finish to make your kitchen a friendly and inviting place to spend time in rather than a heavy look with dark finishes and colours.

Again, remember that your units don’t all have to be the same colour! Some people like to have darker floor units and lighter wall units, their island in a different colour, or their “hero-item” in a bold colour. Some like to have different colours on everything. Your units can be repainted if your style changes. Your units can be moved around so your walls can easily be repainted without any mess.  Freestanding kitchens give you creative freedom with colour!

Colourful Kitchen
Swedish Style Colourful Kitchen
Raw Range Kitchen
Swedish Style Baby Island is the Hero-Item
Raw Range Kitchen
Stove and French Flair Coffee Dresser are Hero-Items

Yes, you can choose any colour you want, but remember custom colours do come at a 10% surcharge. Our standard paint colours and paint finishes are as shown below. All the colours are interchangeable between the ranges at no extra cost. This does not apply to the Raw Range as the Raw Range is only sealed and not painted.

African Allure:

These units are not smooth; the wood has a rough sawn textured finish. The African Allure look is achieved by using two different colours. The paint is dry brushed onto the units. This results in a colour that is not uniform or flat. The colour is stoney grey.

French Flair:

These units have a smooth satin finish. The colour is creamy/grey rather than off-white but definitely not yellow. The edges are sanded back a little to reveal a dark stain.

Swedish Style:

These units are a smooth matt finish. The colour is more stark white than a soft white but without being harsh on the eye. The edges are sanded back a little to reveal a dark stain.

While we can paint any your units in Stoney Grey, however, this is not a recommended colour for Swedish Style and French Flair units. This colour has a different effect on African Allure units because the African Allure range is manufactured with a much rougher texture compared to the other two ranges. Please refer to the photo below of Swedish Style units in Stoney Grey.

African Allure in Stoney Grey
African Allure Unit in Stoney Grey
French Flair in Aged Cream
French Flair Unit in Aged Cream
Swedish Style Pot Drawers in Ice White
Swedish Style Unit in Ice White
Swedish Style Pot Drawers in Stoney Grey
Swedish Style Unit in Stoney Grey


Distressed (standard): Units are stained on the edges, painted over and then lightly sanded back to reveal the stain. We recommend the standard distressed paint finish – it’s our forte! It is also maintainable in the sense that a little wear and tear adds to the look rather than takes away from it. 

Extra distressed: For a more worn look you can ask for extra distressing of your units. This look is particularly striking in African Allure in white. 

Flat-painted: You can also ask us to paint your units flat and not sand edges.

If there is another paint finish you like please speak to us about it – perhaps our painting team can make it happen!

Distressing (Standard)
Extra Distressed
Extra Distressed
Extra Distressed
Distressing (Standard)
Distressed (Standard)
Flat Painted
Flat Painted

3. Lighting

Good lighting is very important in a kitchen, particularly above the stove and any other area where you spend a lot of time. 

If you can add more windows, do it!

If you are building a kitchen from the ground up we suggest you consider the following:
  • Place a large window above the sink area.
  • If your stove is not below a window. Place an electrical point above the stove for an extractor, this always comes with a light.
  • It’s a good idea to have a light above your center island, the center island is generally a space of high activity.
  • All work surfaces should have good lighting - fingers are useful so you want to be able to see the things you’re chopping.
  • We also find a good white wine helps to lighten the mood.
Lighting in the kitchen
Example of Good Lighting

3. Décor

When it comes to decorating your kitchen, it can be easy to get caught up in the latest trends and fads. It’s best to do choose decorative items that you think will always work for you. It is FUN to choose trendy items so if you choose trendy items make them less expensive ones than can be easily changed. However, there are some timeless design elements that should not be overlooked. Here are a few that you should consider incorporating into your kitchen plan:
  • Art in the kitchen is always a nice touch.
  • Mats/Rugs: Adding a rug or mat can add a touch of personality and warmth to your kitchen. They can be a great way to add colour, texture, and character to the space.
  • Plants: Adding plants to your kitchen can not only improve air quality and add a natural touch to the space, but also make the space feel more inviting and comfortable. Not to mention that plants are healthy for the environment.
  • A book shelf in your kitchen especially for recipe books. 
  • Vintage appliances or statement pieces
  • Wood accents: Whether this is wooden décor items, wooden floors or wooden tops, wooden accents in your kitchen are timeless. 
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: Making sustainable choices – buying local, or environmentally friendly décor items will be “in” for the next 100 years. Make the effort to source sustainably. 
Styled Kitchen
Example of a Styled Kitchen

Common Mistakes

Avoid these Mistakes

Keep in mind that your contractor or builder is not a professional kitchen designer. Often they have been building fitted kitchens for years and have not thought about the advantages of having a freestanding kitchen. If you need reminding of these advantages, watch the below video.

  • Open shelves are lovely but be careful of where you place them as items placed on these shelves are susceptible to dirt and dust! For example, open shelves near the stove can become dirty and difficult to clean.

  • The kitchen is the busiest room in the house – make sure you have sturdy and hard-wearing floors that can handle the action!
  • Do not be afraid of gaps, freestanding units are designed to have gaps between them.

  • Be careful not to squish too many stools into a small island. 

  • Be careful not to insist on an island when your space is too small. Make sure there's enough space for people to walk around the island and for stools to be pushed in and out. We recommend at least 800mm walking space but this can go down to 650mm in a very small kitchen.

  • Avoid the following details that can date your kitchen:
    • Round or beveled edges on stone tops. If you want a more modern look, consider straight edges.
    • Speckled brown granite. If you love the look of granite, consider choosing a more modern color or pattern. If you love the idea of brown or cream stone then consider, Quartz or Caesarstone tops.
    • Tiled counter tops are impractical and super old school.
    • Big, over-bearing wall units. 
    • Cluttered counter tops – make sure you have space for all your stuff. 

  • A microwave on the counter – lift it into your shelf or your coffee dresser.

  • Avoid overbearing wall units – you DO NOT need wall units that go all the way to the ceiling, they will make your kitchen look cramped

To Conclude…

Remember, all of the above are guidelines to make designing your kitchen easy for you. But this is YOUR kitchen and YOU have to live with it. If your design decision is made with intent, it's NOT a design mistake.

Most importantly - have fun planning your new kitchen layout! And don't forget to follow us on Instagram or Facebook for inspiration.

If you are still unsure please don’t hesitate to contact us here or it may help to read through our FAQs.
"I want to extend my gratitude to you for the service received. From the moment we walked into you showroom until we received our cabinets was a journey with two-way communication all the way. Thank you for my beautiful cabinets. A very special thank you to the carpenter responsible for crafting the cabinets - this was a job well done!"
- Nellie Prinsloo, Centurion