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Designing an Efficient Kitchen
When building or remodeling a kitchen, many homeowners tend to focus on the aesthetics - picking out new cabinets, countertops and flooring, for instance, or choosing the color of paint and wallpaper. But when you're beginning any kitchen project, one of your first and foremost decisions should involve the kitchen's floor plan.
As homes - and kitchens - get larger, it's easy to attempt to pack as much as possible into them. But designing a floor plan that fits everything in with enough elbowroom for everyone in the household can be a tall order. An efficient, well-designed floor plan, however, can set the stage for an inviting, stylish and comfortable space that functions smoothly as the hub and heart of the home.
Clarify the Purpose
Before developing a layout, it is important to clarify the purpose of the kitchen. Most professional kitchen planners recommend that the lifestyles of family members - how they will use the kitchen day to day and throughout the day - drive the floor plan, with an emphasis on ease of movement for the cook. Among considerations that can help ensure a happy outcome:
Will the kitchen become a "family central" meeting place, or will it be primarily the cook's turf and a staging area for food served in an adjacent dining room?
Will the kitchen open out to an adjoining room or rooms?
Will there be traffic that must move through the kitchen?
Will the family entertain a lot and therefore need a generous prep area?
Will the primary cook prepare meals from scratch or just prepare quick meals, such as heating frozen dinners and dispensing takeout? (This can affect appliance selection and placement.)
Another important consideration in any layout: It's important to make sure entrance, cabinet and appliance doors all have unimpeded clearance.
Plot the Layout
The first step in creating an efficient floor plan is to define the sizes of the components, such as appliances, cabinetry, islands and furniture that will occupy the space. One way to do this is to plot the kitchen's layout on graph paper. It's common to use a scale of half an inch to represent one foot. Then use cutouts for appliances, cabinets, tables, work areas and other components. You can move them around on the page to help you identify the best layout.
Another option is to use off-the-shelf kitchen design software that includes symbols for all the components likely to populate a typical family kitchen. Or, of course, you can consult with a professional kitchen planner (this is best done early on).
So what's a good layout? For starters, "A good floor plan ensures that the cook working in the kitchen is not disrupted by normal everyday traffic," explains Tim Aden, a certified master kitchen and bath designer and co-owner of Sawhill Custom Kitchens & Design, Inc., a kitchen and bath design/build firm based in Minneapolis, Minn. This is especially true, Aden adds, if the family entertains a lot or uses the kitchen for other activities.
If walls between rooms are slated for removal, it is a good idea to anticipate how the use of the space might change after the renovation. For example, if a wall separating the kitchen from an adjacent breakfast nook is slated to come down in an effort to expand the food-preparation space, family activity in that space might lessen, Aden explains.
There are other considerations as well. "A new eating area connected to an island or a peninsula may make [a dining] table redundant," suggests Ellen Cheever, a certified master kitchen and bath designer, member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and principal of Ellen Cheever & Associates in Wilmington, Del. "And the space formerly serving as the breakfast nook could better be used for a children's computer/homework center or a comfortable reading chair."
Think in Triangles
An efficient, well-laid-out floor plan will be designed around the kitchen's work zones, which commonly form triangles. The primary kitchen work triangle, which centers on the meal preparation process, is composed of the refrigerator, the prep area or sink, and the cooking area (range or cooktop). A good design will ensure that there is no major traffic through this primary work triangle.
Sometimes, the shape of the kitchen helps determine the best floor plan and the best way to position the primary work triangle. The triangle arrangement can be more complex in kitchens with more than one refrigerator and two sinks.
"Some kitchen layouts feature multiple work triangles - one, perhaps, encompassing one refrigerator, a prep sink and a cooktop, and another on the other side of an island that includes a second refrigerator and a cleanup sink, with the same cooktop serving as the focal point where the triangles meet," points out Gail Drury, a certified kitchen designer, certified bath designer and president of Drury Design Kitchen & Bath Studio, a full-service kitchen and bath design studio in Glen Ellyn, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.
The location of the triangles should depend on how many cooks are in the kitchen, how well they work together and how often they cook at the same time, Drury notes. Designing non-intersecting triangles can help prevent conflict between two cooks, she points out.
In creating triangles, it's always a good idea to keep the refrigerator relatively close to the prep sink. The range should stay within the triangle.
However, if there is a separate cooktop and separate oven, the oven (but not the cooktop) can be located outside the work triangle, Aden adds.
Three Kitchen Shapes
Popular traditional kitchen layouts used by professional kitchen planners and homebuilders include U-shaped and L-shaped designs, with or without an island or a peninsula. The galley kitchen is a third design option.
A U-shaped kitchen usually has one entrance, with a workstation on each of three uninterrupted walls. One of its advantages is that there is no intrusion of traffic through the work area, but it also tends to isolate the cook and, if small, can be crowded for more than one person. It generally requires a space at least 8 feet in each direction in order to provide enough elbowroom in the middle. A U-shape can work well if the kitchen opens into a family room or a great room.
An L-shaped kitchen, which is considered the most functional layout by many kitchen designers, offers a lot of flexibility in the placement of workstations. Generally it features two workstations on one wall and the third on an adjacent wall, with counterspace in between.
"[The L-shape with an island] is very convenient because the cook has a captured work area that people aren't walking across," explains Cheever. "And there is always an available third wall that can house an auxiliary center."
Adding an island with a sink, a cooktop, a large prep area and/or an informal eating area into a U-shaped or L-shaped floor plan can work well if the kitchen is large enough to provide ample aisles all around. The cook will appreciate the added workspace and everyone will benefit from the added common workspace.
A galley kitchen is a long space with an entrance at one end. The floor plan features all three workstations on two parallel walls. One good distribution of workstations puts the refrigerator and the cooktop on one wall and the prep counter and the sink on the other.
Sometimes a galley kitchen can be modified into a corridor kitchen, with entrances at both ends and two long runs of cabinets. While this configuration could open up the space to views, more light and perhaps cross-ventilation, it might dramatically change the traffic pattern into one that is disruptive to the cook. If the room is wide enough, a long center island can add workspace almost the length of the kitchen.
If the kitchen flows into a great room or a family room, it might be possible to keep the kitchen completely open, with that space, perhaps, divided by an island, snack bar or pass-through. Alternately, the kitchen floor plan can include a wall that physically separates the kitchen.
One common formula for distances in a work triangle in any kitchen, no matter the shape, keeps every leg between 4 feet and 9 feet long. In each work triangle, appliances can be shared or separate.
Consider the Numbers
According to planning guidelines developed by the National Kitchen Wed, 12 Sep 2007 00:00:00 William West Coast Green Conference Opens to Homeowners on Sept. 22 http://www.smart-homeowner.com/node/8126 http://www.westcoastgreen.com .