Our changing lifestyles have been the driving force behind the evolution of kitchen design. The move towards open floor plans has necessitated greater consideration to the layout, function, and finishes to produce a kitchen that is aesthetically pleasing and accommodates all activities. Kitchens have become more than just a room for cooking; they are multi-functional spaces with varying needs to be considered. They have become the central gathering point in our homes, a place where we entertain family and friends, supervise homework, eat, and take care of the bills. Good design enables us to accommodate all this without compromising optimum function.
Design your kitchen to your needs and wants, not just to your floor space
A good kitchen design is focused on the kitchen user. This will determine how the kitchen is organized and how to best utilize available space to perform all tasks in your kitchen successfully.
Optimize your kitchen to your needs
When thinking about your new kitchen design, ask yourself these questions:
- Who cooks? (You, your spouse, both of you, servant, etc.)
- How many cooks? (How many at any one time.)
- What meals are prepared? (Breakfast, lunch, and or dinner)
- How do you cook? (Grilling, pan-frying, baking, etc.)
- How often do you cook? (1, 2, 3, times a day)
- Do you entertain? (How often and how many people at a time)
- What other activities take place in your kitchen? (Homework, laundry, eating, etc.)
- Do you need to accommodate someone with a disability?
The answers will be valuable information for your kitchen designer.
Layout optimization in the kitchen focuses on space available, functionality workflow, and circulation. Planning traffic patterns, circulation, and workflow adjacencies should be one of the first considerations in designing a safe and efficient kitchen. For example, make sure that oven and dishwasher doors do not open into one another so that it is not necessary to close one before being able to open the other.
Think of your kitchen as a series of working areas where different activities take place; understanding the interrelationship of each task in the kitchen and making sure to group and organize them accordingly creates workflow efficiency.
Consider the various areas listed below, and the activities indicated in each.
- Consumable area: food that will be cooked or baked; stored in cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer.
- Non-perishable area: items used daily, utensils, cutlery, dishes, and glasses.
- Cleaning area: sink, garbage bin, dishwasher, and cleaning materials.
- Preparation area: all food is prepared in this area.
Cooking area: cooking/baking is done here with the use of the cook top, oven, microwave, and range hood.
Each of these areas and their respective activities should be well-thought-out when designing a kitchen. Using the concept of the Kitchen Work Triangle and where practical self-contained work zones, designs should blend aesthetics and efficiency in equal amounts. Specifics can change depending on several factors, including client design preferences, layout limitations, or budget.
It really does not matter what the shape of your kitchen is; each area must correctly relate to its neighboring activity area. For example, the dishwasher can be located beside the sink for two reasons. The first is that it will make plumbing much easier and less costly. The second is behavioral. People generally use a “scrape, rinse, load” sequence when cleaning up. This involves scraping leftovers from dishes into the trash (located to one side of, or under, your sink), then giving dishes a quick rinse before loading them into the dishwasher. Consequently, the best placement for the dishwasher is on the other side of the sink from the scraping area. This helps to avoid a mess when cleaning up.
Adequate storage is more than just square footage. It should consider height, ease of access, frequency of use, type of item to be stored, and kitchen workflow.
Consider ergonomics in setting up your storage. Efficient storage is achieved by converting the available space into usable and accessible storage.
Frequently used items should be stored at a convenient height, in the upper levels of base cabinets and the lower levels of overhead wall cabinets. Items used less frequently should be stored either slightly above or below the regularly used items. Those that are used infrequently can be stored on the top shelves of upper cabinets or the lowest level of base cabinets.
Avoid fixed shelves in base cabinets; they make getting items difficult; you often must bend down or stretch to find what you are looking for. For example, base cabinets should have pull-out shelves or drawers, making it easier to see and access items stored below quickly and easily. A pop-up mixer stand allows for convenient access and storage while freeing up valuable counter space.
Generally, there are four broad categories of kitchen cabinets. Within each, there are varying levels of pricing and quality. These are determined by the quality of materials, production process, and the costs associated with each.
- Stock – Stock cabinets are mass-produced in a range of sizes, popular styles, and basic colors at affordable prices with limited available modifications. These are ideal for projects that have time and budget constraints.
- Semi-Custom- Semi-custom cabinets are also mass-produced but offer a greater variety of styles and colors, and modification options.
- Custom – Custom cabinets are made to order specifically for each kitchen project. They offer the ability to have custom sizes to match design and or space requirements. These are considered furniture-grade cabinets and usually incorporate many accessory options.
- Millwork Cabinetry: – Millwork cabinetry is just like custom but offers the ability of more sophistication, grain, and color matching throughout the kitchen, even in areas completely separated from cabinetry.
Stock cabinets are the least expensive, with pricing increasing at each level up to Millwork cabinetry. Depending on your budget, there are good value options available at each level; it just depends on what tradeoffs you are willing to make.
The style of your kitchen will be determined by the style of doors and drawer fronts chosen. These visible elements determine the design style of the kitchen. Various options are available within each style, such as glass and louvered doors, stains, and finishes, including melamine, laminated surfaces, natural wood, and special veneers. A good designer will choose and combine finishes and materials to create a truly custom look.
Cabinet styles fall into three main groups
- Traditional – traditional styled cabinet designs tend to have more details such as raised or recessed panels, beading, and molding details.
- Contemporary – contemporary styled cabinetry falls into the gap between traditional and modern with cleaner lines and less ornamentation. Shaker cabinets are the most popular style of contemporary styled cabinets.
Modern – modern styled cabinets feature flat slab doors with no ornamentation.
Many add-on accessories can be included in your kitchen to increase convenience and utility. Below is a quick rundown of some of the more popular.
- Pull out cabinet shelving is one of the highest impact options to consider. These range from rollout shelves and trays for lower cabinets and pantries; also available are swing out shelving for corner cabinets. There are specialty options available for pots and pans, spice racks, and as well as items for under the sink.
- Under counter trash and recycling bins are very popular; again, several options and sizes are available.
- Pulldown shelves for upper cabinets are both a convenience and a safety option.
- Drawer inserts for cutlery, utensils, and spices are always a hit.
- Tilt panel sink fronts conveniently store cleaning supplies.
- Lazy-Susan’s make efficient use of corners or “dead space.”
- Appliance garages are a great way to keep small appliances out of sight.
One of the most requested items from our clients is appliance custom panels for refrigerator and dishwasher doors. Many appliance companies have models designed to have cabinet matching panels fitted. When added to semi-custom cabinets, they create a custom look kitchen at a substantially lower price point.
There are a variety of countertop materials to choose from:
Granite and quartz are durable and can withstand anything, from hot pots to chopping, but can be costly. Granite needs periodic sealing, while quartz does not.
Marble and limestone are extremely beautiful, but porous, making them vulnerable to stains and spills. They should be sealed regularly, which can be a bother. Choosing darker colors will help to hide some stains.
Stainless steel is virtually indestructible and hygienic, but it can feel cold and sterile if overused.
Wood countertops, conversely, warm up a kitchen. Make sure that they are sealed properly. I recommend using a sealer designed for marine applications.
Laminate countertops have a lot of variety but are not as long-lasting and durable as solid surfaces or stone. However, they are a budget-friendly option. There are also laminates that mimic granite, marble, limestone, and quartz.
Lighting can make or break your space. When properly positioned, lighting can make your cabinets glow and your stainless appliances sparkle. Replace that ugly single central light fixture with track lighting. Make sure to get one with five to six bulbs so you can cast light around the room. If it is in your budget, consider recessed lighting. Positioning the lights 12 inches from your cabinets and centered on the doors will illuminate the counter below and the interior of your cabinets. Include under mount cabinet lighting for your perimeter cabinets, as they add ambiance and can help when working in the kitchen. Pendant lights can be positioned over islands and sinks and are a great way to add color and personality to your kitchen. Small lights placed in your cabinet toe kicks will give your kitchen an interesting glow and double as night-lights. Remember to add dimmers to your lighting, enabling you to adjust the mood and focal points of your kitchen as desired.
You can quite easily spend a fortune on your appliances. Before you begin your kitchen plan, visit an appliance showroom and review what is available and at what price. Many desirable features can be had at even relatively affordable price points, so prioritize what is important to you. It is critical to know what size appliances you will be including before designing the kitchen layout.
Thoughtful planning and attention to details are essential for arriving at a successful outcome. You can easily make changes to your wall coverings, accessories, and hardware to reflect the latest trends. Think carefully when choosing cabinetry, appliances, and countertops because you will be living with them for a long time.