Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Redesigning kitchens

Installing a new kitchen is a sizable investment that will serve as the epicenter of your home for quite some time. As such, there are a number of things that ought to be considered when designing it in order to maximize its longevity, functionality and aesthetics. 


Orientation and light

Since the kitchen is the meeting place, where the family gathers for breakfast before setting off to work or school, ideally, it ought to face east or southeast so that it can be filled with morning sun. This of course is not always possible, however, there are things you can do to guarantee as much natural light infiltrates the room as possible, including installing skylights and windows. If your kitchen faces west, it is important that you provide some kind of shelter from the hot summer sun, such as trees, awnings, overhangs or even good quality window treatments. It is also best if the sink is located near a window to make washing up a more pleasurable experience.

Open-plan design

As mentioned before, the kitchen serves as the central hub of the home – a place where the family gathers daily to eat together and catch-up on the day's events. It is for this reason that the open-plan layout of the living areas has become such a popular choice in modern homes. In these layouts, the kitchen is connected, either visually or practically or both, to the other living areas – creating seamless access between the spaces. This is a great design, as the person cooking is never separated from other family members or friends in home, but instead is located at the center of it all.

The work triangle

Good kitchen design revolves around the successful geometry determined by the placement of the sink, stove and fridge, which is termed the work triangle. Since most work done in the kitchen is a dance between the three, a superior kitchen design will ensure a comfortable distance linking them. If the distance is too short, the kitchen will be cramped, if they are too long, then the cook will be worn out trotting between them. The general rule of thumb says that the sides of the triangle should measure between 1.5 and 3 meters, depending on the size of the room.

The three layouts

There are three basic layouts for the work triangle: u-shaped, l-shaped and galley:

U-shaped kitchen: Here there is a triangular path from the sink on one wall to the stove on another, to the refrigerator on a third.
L-shaped kitchen: In this design, one element of the work triangle is against one wall, with the other two along another.
The galley: This design is well suited to very small spaces, where all three points are arranged along the same wall, like the cooking facilities on-board ship.

A well designed work triangle will ensure that there is no other traffic passing through the work triangle. If a table or an island is included in the kitchen, it ought to be placed where neither will obstruct the work triangle, nor be positioned too far to make the work surface useful. It is also essential to bear in mind that those not directly involved in cooking will also need access to the kitchen, and in particular, the fridge. Of the three components of the work triangle, the refrigerator should be located at the triangle's outer corner for easy access. The sink should be accessible as well, but the cooking surface ought to be as protected as possible and therefore at the most remote point of the work triangle.

Position, position, position

For optimum functionality, the sink, stove and fridge needs to be surrounded by a certain amount of floor and counter space. In this regard there are a number of considerations that have to be taken into account. For example, the fridge door needs a clear swing and the doors of any neighboring cabinets should not conflict with this door. It is also wise to position some counter space near to the fridge, which will serve as a staging area for foods going in or coming out of it.

As mentioned above, the sink should be placed beneath the window, both to provide light and to give its users a view. For this reason, many kitchen designers first place the sink and then position the other two points of the triangle after. There must also be enough counter space neighboring the sink to accommodate dirty dishes on one side and clean dishes on the other. The advised length is 95cm on one side and 61cm on the other. For those areas that don't boast enough counter space, clever kitchen designers have placed racks to dry clean dishes in bottomless cupboards above the sink. In this way, the wet dishes can be neatly packed away behind closed doors and drip-dry over the sink. Dishwashers should be placed close to the sink, as firstly it will be close to the water access and also because it will inevitably be loaded with dirty dishes from the sink.

The optimum location for the stove is along an exterior wall – this makes it easy to install an extractor fan and ventilation system, essential for expelling grease, smoke and combustion gasses, as well as to feed gas stoves with LP gas that is stored n bottles outside. There needs to be a clearance of between 55cm and 77cm overhead so that the cook has easy access to rear burners, and to guarantee optimum operation of the ventilation system.

A matter of storage

Apart from the work triangle, the next most important thing when it comes to kitchen design is dedicated storage space. Here are a few tips:

• Glassware and dishes should be stored near the sink. Frequently used pots and pans could be stowed between the sink and the stove.
• Consider locating your cutlery drawers near to the drying rack or dishwasher but out of the primary work triangle so that someone can set the table without interrupting the cook.
• Make sure your cooking utensils are within easy reach of the stove.
• Shelves or cabinets near to the stove should store food that isn't affected by warmth, such as pasta, rice, and cereal.
• There should be a small shelf next to the stove to accommodate a handy resting place for timers, spices, cooking supplies and implements.
• A large volume of kitchen goods can be stored in a pantry, an efficient, relatively inexpensive means of storage. Since a pantry is essentially a closet lined with shelves, it's easy on the budget. Also plan to reserve part of the pantry as a utility closet, where mops, brooms and cleaning supplies can also be easily stored. – Antonella Dési


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