Planning your kitchen
If you’re remodeling or reorganising your kitchen, it’s very tempting to design it yourself. After all, you know your kitchen and the habits of your household better than anyone else.
You want your kitchen to be gorgeous, you know that the more attractive the room is, the more time you and your family will spend there creating delicious meals … and memories.
For many years I was a kitchen designer and I agree that creating a warm, welcoming room that is easy and efficient to work in is a definite priority. But I have also found that it’s possible to get carried away with the excitement of how your new kitchen will look – so much so that other considerations can get overlooked.
The kitchen is the heart of the home, certainly, but it is also the most dangerous room in the house. At the planning stage, many accidents can be avoided but by making note of a few simple factors.
Even if you are having a professional designer who will be planning your kitchen for you, it’s a good idea before you start to jot down a few notes about the kitchen that will be right for you.
Assess your needs
I devised a simple questionnaire for my clients and its amazing how the answers to these questions can make a difference to your kitchen design. For example:
- How many people are in the household? Are there young children? Is anyone in the household infirm or elderly? These factors will help you or your designer create a safe kitchen for you
- Are the man users of the kitchen right-handed or left-handed? This will make a difference to the workflow in the room. If the answer is ‘both’ then it’s important to know if the left-hander has adapted to a right-handed world.(Most have). In our household, we are both left-handed and our kitchen is designed for our needs
- Are there pets in the home? Wonderful cabinets with wooden doors are fabulous to look at but if you have cats that scratch, your kitchen can look dishevelled in no time. Should you or your designer make provision for pets to be fed in the kitchen or the storage of large bags of pet food?
- How many small appliances do you have that you use regularly? Most of my clients had too few electrical outlets in their kitchens. When you’re remodeling, it’s easy for your contractor to add more
- Although cooking is the main function of the room, what else is it used for? Homework? Crafts? Entertaining? Dining? Do you bake often or are you like me and prefer quick and easy meal preparation?
- Think about any special requirements you might have. Perhaps you bottle fruits every year. Maybe you use your kitchen as your home office. What sort of meals do you prepare? Does anyone in the household use a wheelchair or is partially-sighted? Your designer or contractor will need to know
- Which of your appliances will stay and which need replacing?
To ensure that your kitchen is safe and efficient, be sure that you have countertop space on each side of your stove and both sides of your sink. I know it seems obvious but I often see kitchen where there is absolutely nowhere to place a hot casserole dish that has just been taken out of the oven. The more steps you have to take when holding something hot or sharp, the more likelihood there is of an accident.
For this reason, be sure that your cooking utensils are where you need them. For example, if you need to grab a wooden spoon to stir a sauce on the stovetop, you don’t want to cross the room to get one.
Many of my clients must have thought I was secretly bonkers because I would act out a simple cooking task in the kitchen – but it works. Here’s what to do:
- When you have your kitchen planned, pin pieces of paper to cabinets, appliances and soon to indicate what this will be in the new layout.
- Now,once you have familiarised yourself with it, imagine you’re going to make a simple meal – an omelet for example
- You reach to the refrigerator to get the eggs and oh no! The door hinges are on the wrong side and you don’t have easy access. Does that model allow you to change the door-opening from one side to the other? If not, you might need to rethink your plan or consider a new appliance
- Now you need a small frying pan in which to cook your omelet. Are you storing them nearby? What about the mixing bowl to beat the eggs – is that handy?
- Act our making a few simple meals.Here’s another example.In your fake kitchen, you’ve just cooked a large pot of pasta and you need to drain it. Is a strainer or colander at hand? Can you simply turn to get to the sink or do you have to cross the kitchen with that hot pan in your hand? If the latter and there’s a toddler or pet in the way … it doesn’t bear thinking about
- You might feel somewhat silly acting our domestic chores but it can save expensive mistakes – and nasty accidents – in the future
Some common kitchen planning mistakes
By carefully accessing your needs and play-acting in your imaginary kitchen, you can largely avoid expensive or dangerous errors. But do watch out for these:
- Unless you want to spend a long time cleaning, avoid fancy cabinets that have carved surfaces, features such as finials on tall appliances and – one of the worst – glass doors on wall cabinets. Try to plan your kitchen so that everything can be put away behind doors – anything that hangs or sits on open shelves will need frequent cleaning if you cook often
- Consider having your wall cabinets reaching to the ceiling. It’s true that the extra storage space can only be used for items you don’t use every day but it also avoids cleaning the tops – which get very dusty and grimy
- Be careful if you’re choosing pull-out, slide-out interior fittings in your cabinets. They re great when they are new but when they stop pulling or sliding out, they are a complete nuisance. And cheaper versions of these will stop working efficiently in a busy kitchen
- Avoid relocating your kitchen sink, if you can. A few inches one way or the other is fine but moving the plumbing from one side of the room to another can be ruinously expensive
- Also avoid setting cookers diagonally in corners. Some designers still love this look but it is a terrible waste of space
- Don’t be unrealistic. If you have a busy kitchen with young children and pets choose surfaces that are easy to wipe clean. Who wants to spend time polishing the kitchen?
- At planning stage, determine your lighting needs. It is more efficient to do this t planning stage than to add lighting later
This article has only scratched the surface of the huge subject of kitchen design. It’s worth studying the subject and reading further to be sure that you have the kitchen that suits your needs exactly.
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