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7 Strategies for a Well-Designed Kitchen

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What’s the most important room in your house? For me it’s the kitchen. I love to eat, cook and spend time with family, and the kitchen is where I can do it all. With today’s busy schedules, mealtimes are often the only times families have to spend with one another. So how can you have the perfect kitchen for your lifestyle, stay within your budget and maximize resale value? 

One of the most important steps in any project is starting with a great design. It’s not just about looks, it’s more about function and adding value to your life. More than any other room in the house, a kitchen has to be well thought out, carefully configured and designed to accommodate multiple functions. You probably spend more time in your kitchen than any other room, and that’s exactly why it’s so important to start with a great design. Consider these seven ways to get there. 

1. Avoid isolation. For many of today’s families, the kitchen is the heart of the home and should be a place where people can gather, entertain and relax — not just cook. That’s why an open plan, like in this kitchen, works so well. 

The open plan isn’t your only option, but it isn’t going anywhere yet. Consider your family’s needs carefully before choosing a kitchen plan, and know that if resale is an option for you, most buyers these days are looking for an open kitchen.  

2. Plan a functional layout. If you like to cook and enjoy making meals for family and friends, there is nothing more frustrating than a kitchen that doesn’t function well. Most designs today follow the basic kitchen work triangle of the sink, refrigerator and range to maximize functionality. But take your own needs into account too. Plenty of counter space for prep, especially next to appliances, like in this kitchen, can make your cooking routine go much more smoothly. 

3. Choose a good location. If you plan to make your kitchen the heart of your home, choose a location that connects it with all the other major circulation points. Having your kitchen anchor your home’s great room or provide access to the garage through a mudroom or laundry room is a great way to achieve this.

 

 

 

 

 

4. Include ample storage. There are so many accessories and appliances available for modern kitchens, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and forget about storage. Don’t underestimate how much storage you’ll need for food, flatware and all the little gadgets you’re planning to stock up on. 

 

5. Add an island if there’s room. Let’s face it, people love to hang out in the kitchen — especially when there’s something cooking that smells delicious. For families a kitchen island can help make the kitchen a space where everyone can gather and spend time. Space and kitchen layout will impact your island’s efficiency, so it’s not for everyone. But it’s absolutely worth considering. 

6. Plan outdoor access. Again, this will depend on your home’s layout and spatial considerations, but it’s always great to place your kitchen adjacent to the outdoors. This will give you plenty of natural light (and an enviable kitchen sink window), and can also increase your entertaining space with an outdoor patio or dining area. 

7. Have fun. Above all else, your kitchen should be about you. Don’t be afraid to incorporate personality into your design and material choices. Start simple, but don’t be afraid to choose what you like best. No one else’s opinion really matters in the long run. 

The truth is, great kitchen design is less about looks and more about how it works. Great design translates to a house that functions better, costs less to build, is more efficient to run and maintain, and gets you more for less.

A great meal doesn’t have to cost any more than a regular one. It needs to start with a great recipe, have quality ingredients and be carried out with confidence and execution in the kitchen. The same thing could be said about your next kitchen design. Make sure it’s a great one!

 

 

9 Ways to Avoid Kitchen Traffic Jams

Article By: Jennifer Ott

When it comes to designing your dream kitchen, it’s tempting to try to squeeze in all of the latest and greatest appliances and gadgets — and enough cabinetry to contain them all. But unless you also put some thought into how you, your family and guests will circulate through the space, you could end up with a dysfunctional layout that is no fun to work in — newfangled gadgets and all. I’ve pulled together some tips to keep in mind when designing a kitchen to avoid traffic jams and poor flow. 

1. Optimize the layout. One of my favorite kitchen layouts is an open kitchen with an island and no closed corners. I find having an island that family and guests can easily circulate around, without getting stuck in a corner, greatly reduces kitchen traffic jams. 

2. Provide ample walkways and aisles. Make sure your kitchen walkways are at least 36 inches wide and your work aisles — those spaces in front of sinks, appliances and prep areas — are at least 42 inches wide, or 48 inches to accommodate multiple cooks. 

Those with larger families or who entertain often may want to go as wide as 54 inches for work aisles. This will allow two people to easily pass behind someone working at the countertop, sink or appliance. 

3. Consider sitting room. If you plan to have a seating area at an island or a peninsula, think about where the stools will be. Ideally you want visitors to be facing you while you are working in the kitchen, and you want to keep them out of your main work aisles, too. 

If you anticipate stools in a walkway or an aisle, allow for the extra space they’ll require when occupied. You’ll want at least 36 inches so someone can easily pass behind a stool when it is pulled out. 

4. Pay attention to appliance and cabinetry clearances. While your goal should be to arrange your appliances into efficient work zones, watch for any awkward adjacencies. Avoid placing major appliances directly opposite each other, as this can create a traffic jam if both appliances are being used simultaneously. 

Also, try to keep appliances away from any corners, as corners prevent full access to the appliance, and the adjacent cabinets cannot be opened if the appliance door is also open. 

This applies to your cabinets as well — make sure you can open all of your cabinet doors and drawers without their running into one another. It’s tough to avoid this with corner cabinets, but all other cabinets should open freely without banging into another door or a drawer. 

5. Don’t block kitchen entry points. Leave enough space for someone to enter or exit even if the appliance or cabinet door or drawer is open. 

6. Give your refrigerator ample space. The area around a refrigerator tends to be a high-traffic zone, so don’t crowd it in. Plus, some refrigerator doors are a whopping 36 inches wide — meaning they take up a lot of space when open. If your refrigerator is near a kitchen entry point, add a pantry cabinet to act as a buffer so that the open refrigerator door will be less likely to block someone. 

7. Give your sink some space, too. Have plenty of countertop space on either side of the sink, and don’t cram the sink in between other appliances, with the notable exception of the dishwasher, which is handy to have right next to the sink for cleanup. Avoid corner sinks — they are major culprits of kitchen traffic jams. 

8. Don’t fight with a small space. As much as I love an island in the kitchen, I also value space for moving around. If you have a tight kitchen, keep it as open as possible. You can always add a movable island cart that you can tuck off to the side out of the flow of traffic when it’s not in use. As tempting as it may be to cram as much cabinetry and countertop area in as possible, it’s just not worth it if that makes the space awkward to use. 

9. Consult an expert. The best piece of advice I can offer is to engage the services of a qualified and reputable designer who specializes in kitchens. If your remodeling budget is tight and you are going the DIY route, consider finding a kitchen designer willing to consult for a few hours with you for a flat fee. This investment of a few hundred dollars can help you avoid ending up with a dysfunctional kitchen layout — and will save you time, money and frustration down the road.

Kitchen Design: How to Avoid Standing Room Only


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Photo Credit: Dennis Jourdan Photography via Remodeling Magazine

Room for Two: Alder cabinets, honed granite countertops and a tumbled marble backsplash give this kitchen a rustic feel.

The homeowners of this 1920s house (pictured above) had been planning a kitchen remodel for a long time. They went so far as to work on a design that would enclose the porch to expand the space, then got cold feet during the market downturn, and, worrying about the return on investment for an addition, put the project on hold.

By the time designer Diane Lawson, of Diane Lawson Designs in Nashville, TN; met the couple, they had revisited the project but had opted to stay within the existing footprint. However, they presented her with a long list of desires that included: good traffic flow for two cooks, separate cooking areas, an island, increased storage, and a rustic Italian design and details that would blend with the home’s Italianate style. 

Though most homeowners today want to open up the kitchen to the rest of the house, Lawson says this couple bucked the trend, choosing to maintain the separation from the living and dining rooms.

Fitting in the long list of the client’s wants required some compromise, including a peninsula rather than an island, but Lawson viewed the project as putting a puzzle together to set all the pieces neatly in to the outline. 


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Photo Credit: Dennis Jourdan Photography via Remodeling Magazine

Window & Wall Upgrade: When the original windows were replaced with low-E units, insulation was also added to the exterior wall.

Puzzle Pieces

To help create a rustic Italian feel, the clients chose knotty alder cabinets. Lawson says that this species has increased in popularity during the last 10 years and that the wood – sometimes referred to as “poor man’s cherry” because of it’s similar grain and reddish tones – can cost 10% to 15% less than cherry.

Since not all manufacturers carry alder, Lawson opted for custom cabinetry. Going with a custom shop also had the advantage of enabling her to maximize storage and create a furniture look with cabinets that fit the age and style of the house. “[The choice] boils down to [the client’s] wish list and what they are looking to achieve,” Lawson explains. “And, of course, budget.”

The clients wanted to use the same finish throughout the kitchen – a rare choice these days, Lawson says. Currently, most of her clients are opting for a contrasting finish for the island. 

Lawson had known remodeler Michael Menn, of Michale Menn Ltd., in Chicago, for almost 20 years and brought him on to help her with the extensive remodel.  The ceiling above the sink had a soffit. Menn removed it to accommodate Lawson’s design, which took the cabinets to the ceiling to provide extra storage. 

One of Lawson’s biggest design challenges was the traffic pattern for the family’s two “heavy-duty chefs” and keeping them out of each other’s way. The original freestanding island really affected the pattern, so Lawson moved the island to abut a wall. “While you don’t have access on all four sides [of the island],” Lawson says, “it gave us more room in the busy aisle-way, which is the main entry into the kitchen and is where we needed as much space as possible” – especially when one of the cooks is standing at the island prep sink. 

The island has a small trash cabinet and a shelf for the client’s heavy stand-mixer.


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Photo Credit: Dennis Jourdan (photo) | Nicole Babcock (floorplan) via Remodeling Magazine

Into the fold: Removing the door and adding upper and lower cabinets makes this former pantry feel like part of the main kitchen.


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Photo Credit: Dennis Jourdan (photo) | Nicole Babcock (floorpan) via Remodeling Magazine

Cook Nook: The second pantry has a microwave and an oven. The existing laundry chute remains – but it has been reframed to match the cabinetry.

Separate Yet Cohesive

The existing 360-square-foot kitchen included two under-utilized pantries. Lawson thought the 18-square-foot closet next to the stove alcove would work better as a butler’s pantry, so Menn removed the door to make it part of the kitchen and replaced the wire-rack shelves with cabinets that match those in the main kitchen. The L-shaped run of cabinets has upper and lower cabinets and a countertop. An undercounter wine refrigerator is the only appliance. 

The other 24-square-foot closet is closer to the dining room. Lawson considered removing the walls to incorporate it into the dining space, but there were two obstacles to doing that: a laundry chute in the closet and a two-story chimney that runs adjacent to that pantry. “We were bound,” Menn says, but the team also thought that retaining the quaint “little pockets” of space matched the style of the 90-year-old home. As they had done with the other closet, the crew removed the door. The existing closet had some shelves, an outlet, and a hanging bulb. The new space contains an oven, counter space, and upper shelves with a microwave. The wife likes to bake, and this area gives her a space to work in while her husband prepares food in the main kitchen area.


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Photo Credit: Dennis Jourdan Photography via Remodeling Magazine

Brick or Treat

The original cooking alcove was outlined with faux brick. The clients liked the idea of a brick alcove and felt that it fit well with the new design’s rustic feel. And, Lawson says, the material ties in with the brick porch outside the kitchen.

Menn and Lawson thought the alcove could be enhanced to make more of a statement, so Menn’s team created a taller, softer arch at the top of the opening and installed real brick – cut ¾-inch thick – on the entire wall, as well as on the wall adjacent to the butler’s pantry.

The alcove also has contermporary features, including a sleek stainless steel hood, a Wolf cooktop, and a stainless steel storage drawer custom-made by the cabinet shop. The hood is actually made for an above-island installation that the clients had considered for the addition version of the project. They liked the shape, so Menn installed it here. He made custom ductwork to meet local code and vented the hood through an exterior wall. Narrow base pull-out cabinets flank the stove and hold spices. 

(You’re reading Standing Room Only originally posted on Remodeling)

How to Work With a Kitchen Designer

Whether your kitchen needs a minor face lift or a complete gut job, soliciting help from a certified kitchen designer can be well worth the investment. The rule of thumb: if a kitchen project costs more than a few hundred dollars, it may be time to call a pro.

Not only do kitchen designers have access to planning tools and technology that most homeowners don’t, but they have the inside scoop on trends, new materials, building codes and technical quirks. And their kitchen remodel expertise can save you a lot of time, money and frustration. Use our tips to help the process flow smoothly from start to finish. 


Kitchen Island

Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring | Designer: Randy Wilson

Know the different types of kitchen designers

If you’re ordering cabinetry and more through a national chain or other retailer, there likely will be designers on staff who can help you plan. The main advantage: often, there’s no additional cost for their services, although some charge a percentage of the total sale or work under another fee structure. Other designers work independently at an hourly or per-project rate. Because they’re not affiliated with a particular store or brand, they can sometimes be more objective about materials. 

If you choose an independent professional, ask for recommendations from friends an others in your community, and browse the Houzz professionals directory or the National Kitchen and Bath Association website for reputable designers in your area.

In any case, request to see examples of the designer’s previous work and ask for client references in order to ensure that he or she is a good match for your needs.

Note the ups and downs of your existing space

Perhaps your kitchen operates just fine, but the finishes are long past their prime. Or maybe you’re planning a soup-to-nuts renovation and have no idea how to retool the space. Be prepared to share with the kitchen designer what you like and what you hope to change to give a firm place to start.

Do your research…

Your initial meeting with the designer will go more smoothly if you have a general idea of the look, flow and equipment you want. Browse decorating websites and magazines for kitchen design photos that speak to you, and how them to your designer. A picture can communicate clearly what you may struggle to capture in words. 

…but stay flexible

The kitchen designer may spot holes in your wish list or mix materials that won’t work for you no matter how much you love them. Conversely, he or she may introduce you to options you’d never considered. And he or she will keep you from sacrificing function for beauty, which is a recipe for misery down the road. Be open to suggestions – after all, expertise is why you recuirted a designer. 

Know your budget

Have a firm idea of what you want to, and are able to, spend to avoid a disconnect between plans and reality. If you have the means for pro-grade appliances and high-end finished, your kitchen designer can work those into the scheme from the beginning. If you don’t, make it known upfront. Although miracles mau not happen on a shoestring, a designer has the experience and the know-how to stretch your dollars as far as they’ll possible go. 

Settle on a time line and a number of draft plans

Kitchen designers don’t expect to nail it on the first try – some back and forth is usually built into the process. Agree upon how many drafts of the plan you’ll see before you sing a contract and part with any cash. you should also confirm a time line for the work, though circumstances beyond anyone’s control can throw even the best-orchestrated jobs off schedule.

Keep changes minimal

Depending on how far along in the process you are, change orders can be anything from a mild nuisance to a major issue. Not only will they hold up progress, but they’ll also put a dent in your wallet. That said, if there’s a change that must be made for you to enjoy and use your revamped kitchen the way you intend, it’s better to speak up than to end up dealin with the flaw on a daily basis.

Be patient

A good kitchen plan takes time to create, and so does bringing it to life. Putting in effort on the front end, from choosing finishes to thinking through the work zone, will pay off in the long run. And the last thing you want is a rushed construction job, so don’t hurry the contractors – no matter how anxious you are to put your new kitchen to work.