Planning your kitchen, the hub of your homeRenovations, Tips and Advice, Lifestyle, New Homes
Without a doubt, the main hub of any home is the kitchen. Somewhat surprisingly this is even the case in homes where the occupants tend to eat out, or rarely cooking meals themselves.
This is possibly a throwback to previous generations where home cooked meals were the norm, and often family meals were consumed in the kitchen. Go back quite a few years and commonly the kitchen was the main entertaining room for close friends, where many a cup of tea and biscuits were consumed over the course of a friendly conversation.
So although our lifestyles have changed in the years since then, the connection with the kitchen is still as strong as ever. And for those that enjoy cooking, the layout and design of this room is critical to the overall liveability of the home.
So let’s take a look at a few of the important considerations in planning for the perfect kitchen design.
Blending in with the home
Obviously, the perfect kitchen design visually integrates the kitchen with the rest of the home, but within the boundaries of the obvious, there are still countless possibilities.
The amount of space available will have an influence on the type of kitchen that you will create. Small spaces require clever, well thought out designs, particularly when it comes to storage. If you are looking for an open kitchen plan, one that opens onto the main living areas of the home, then using wall space correctly is important. You need to get a lot of workable bench space along with ample storage out of a confined area.
However, if you have more space available, then further options are open to you. However, it is still important to plan carefully. Using large, high breakfast benches can enable you to prepare food away from prying eyes whilst still being able to maintain a conversation with other people in the home. This is also an ideal place to situate the kitchen sink. Commonly ovens and cooktops will be placed immediately behind this area, requiring you to turn your back on the rest of the home when actually cooking, but this does not need to be the case. If you don’t like the idea of turning your back on people when you’re cooking then you shouldn’t have to.
Who will be using it?
The next consideration is who exactly will be using the kitchen. Will there commonly be more than one person preparing meals? Are those people very tall, very short or of average height? Will children be working in this area or elderly people who are perhaps not as mobile as they once were?
Ideally, the perfect kitchen design should be created for the person or persons who will be spending the most time there. It also needs to allow for the correct number of people.
Keeping in mind that the kitchen is the hub of the home, it’s important to plan for how people will move through this area. Will they need to move through the kitchen itself to get to the main living or dining area? Does the kitchen allow for easy movement through to your outdoor areas? Is the person preparing and potentially delivering the meals to these areas able to move with freedom, or will they find themselves potentially bumping into people with hot plates?
Traffic flow is of course not limited to entertaining. Ideally, people should be able to access the refrigerator to get a drink without getting under your feet. Of course, you need to still be able to access the fridge yourself, so placement of this appliance is an important consideration if your kitchen is to function correctly.
Focus on the triangle
Commonly when people talk about kitchen design they will use the term ‘The Work Triangle’. This simply means the physical placement of the 3 main areas within any kitchen being the refrigerator, the cooktop/oven and the sink.
The positioning of these areas is perhaps the most vital ingredient in designing a functional kitchen. Place them too close together and you will be left feeling cramped and frustrated. Place them too far apart and you will get sick of walking from one area to another.
Of course, these 3 areas do not need to be in a perfect triangle, they can be parallel or even alongside one another, however keeping them close together without being too close is very important.
In and around the 3 main points of your work triangle you will commonly have bench space and/or food preparation areas. Poorly designed kitchens are often classed as such because they make the mistake of not having enough preparation areas, or preparations areas are not located in a convenient spot.
Having ample room to prepare food is important. The proximity of these spaces in relation to the refrigerator (where the food comes from), the oven or cooktop (where hot foods would be cooked) and the sink (where preparation utensils will be cleaned, along with food scraps) is also a major factor in any well-designed kitchen.
If there is one mistake I see in kitchen designs more than any other it is in the type and positioning of cupboards, pantries and other storage areas.
How often have you seen (or lived with) kitchens where commonly used items such as cups, glasses and cutlery have been in high, low or any other hard to get to places, whilst little-used items such as baking trays are placed in prime positions. Storage should be designed to allow you to easily access everyday items without needing to bend or stretch excessively.
Having a spacious well lit pantry should also be high on the list of highly desirable features. The ability to access pantry items without needing to unpack half a shelf will make any kitchen more functional and therefore more enjoyable.
Quality appliances can really make a kitchen, but their placement is just as important.
In the past ovens were quite often at floor level, forcing the cook to bend or crouch to check on meals, and then lift hot meals up to bench height. And whilst some people find this acceptable, the greater trend over the last 15 to 20 years has been to get the oven up to eye level, as this is generally considered to be a safer height.
I have already mentioned the importance of refrigerator placement and that it needs to be easily accessible for not only the cook but anyone moving into the kitchen area in search of food or refreshments. The size of your refrigerator/freezer also needs to be taken into account along with any plumbing that may be required should you select a model with an ice making function.
The placement of blenders, toasters, electric jugs and coffee making machines should also be considered. Ideally, such items are kept in close proximity to both the refrigerator and the sink, as the ingredients that go into each of these items come from these 2 areas. For those wanting to maintain an uncluttered looking kitchen the use of sliding doors with clever hidey holes can keep these items out of sight when not in use, yet still close at hand when required.
Ideally, your kitchen should have a connection with the main living areas of your home, such as a deck, lounge or dining area. The ability to be able to prepare food whilst still being a part of any conversation is highly desirable for almost every homeowner.
This is particularly important if/when you are entertaining. There can be few things more frustrating than being isolated in a secluded kitchen while the party rocks on without you.
One way to ensure that the person working in the kitchen is not isolated from any conversations is to consider the placement of comfortable seating in the area of the kitchen. Stools at a breakfast bar are one common way to do this, but there are other methods that can ensure that the chef is not being treated like a servant.
Creating the perfect kitchen design for your home
The perfect kitchen design will mean different things to different people. The type, style and layout of your home are just as important as your preferred cooking methods, which is why you need to consult with a kitchen design architect to ensure that your kitchen is adding real value to your lifestyle and your home.
Often people will simply allow a draftsperson, builder or cabinet maker to come up with suggestions, but this can be a recipe for disaster. Your kitchen is almost always the hub of the home. It is one space that you definitely need to have designed by a professional.
So if you want to create the perfect kitchen for your home; one that is highly functional and yet aesthetically pleasing, then you simply must call me. At dion seminara architecture we understand the importance of getting this space right.
DION SEMINARA, DION SEMINARA ARCHITECTURE
Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 20 years as well as an environmental sustainable design (ESD) expert. I graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with honours, QLD in 1989. Registered as an architect in 1991 and registered as a builder in 1992, I am also a fellow member of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Having received 12 ArCHdes Residential Architecture Awards, LJ Hooker Flood Free Home Design Award and the 2016 AIA Regional Commendation for Public Architecture, my expertise with both residential renovation (to all types of houses, especially Queenslanders, 50s/60s/80s), new contemporary homes and luxury residences has earned me a reputation as one of Brisbane's architectural specialists in lifestyle design architecture, interior design and landscape design.