Selecting modern appliances and beautiful new cabinets can be just as exciting as frustrating. Unless your kitchen is built from scratch, you will need to decide how many changes to make in the existing footprint of your kitchen. For big savings, work within the existing load-bearing walls and plumbing lines, keeping you from the painful decision of choosing between great looks and pinching pennies.
In kitchen geometry, the work triangle is the shape that connects the sink, cook top, and refrigerator. The work triangle is the functional center of every kitchen. Of course, your kitchen’s basic shape and size will influence the type of work triangle that fits best. Just like cars, kitchens typically come in three sizes; compact, economy, and luxury. So if it is mini, midsize, or massive, your kitchen can be designed to meet your needs and look beautiful too.
Compact: If your kitchen is tiny, try to steal some space from an adjoining pantry or closet, or even borrow a few feet from the next room. If there is just no extra square footage, see if you can visually open up the space by adding or enlarging an existing window, installing a skylight, or breaking through an interior wall into an adjacent dining or family room.
To maximize work space, consider an island on casters or a peninsula with hinged sections. To make the most of storage space, run cabinets all the way up to the ceiling, and use pot racks overhead to make use of ceiling space. Outfit drawers and cupboards with clever interior fittings — dividers, a Lazy Susan, extra shelves — to keep physical clutter at bay. For an eat-in option, include a thin bar with overhanging counters that allow the stools to be tucked out of the way when not in use.
Economy: Most homes have midsize kitchens and with a modest amount of intelligent improvement, can function similar to a larger one. Opening the kitchen to an adjoining family room creates the effect of a great room, giving the spacious feeling of an expanded kitchen. Strive for long unbroken runs of work space by locating the range at the end of a counter, not in the middle.
By taking advantage of clever, in-drawer storage solutions recommended for small kitchens, you may be able to save enough space for a big kitchen style option, like a second sink or a desk nook. If an island takes up too much space, consider a practical, tiered peninsula with work space on the kitchen side and a snack bar on the family room side.
Luxury: Today, more than ever, luxury kitchens have become rooms for living, communal cooking, homework, hobbies, and are part of many people’s dream home wish lists. Following that trend, today’s homes typically sport generously sized kitchens. In older residences, space for a big kitchen often comes about by building an addition. This new space allows homeowners to indulge in additional and varied work surfaces such as butcher block, stainless steel, and granite.
Large kitchens have ample space for amenities such as prep islands, more than one wall oven or sink, and even a second dishwasher or refrigerator. A comfortable snack bar or breakfast bar, an informal dining area, and a built-in desk or computer workstation are other viable options when space does not come at a premium.
Whatever your plan, the sink should take a central position whenever possible, as it is used more often than either the refrigerator or the stove. If you locate a sink on the same wall as the stove, with the main work area in the middle, you will not drip water on the floor when you go from the sink to the cook top. When placing the refrigerator, make sure the single-door model, when open, faces into the work triangle, not out of it.
Also be certain you’ve allotted ample counter space next to any appliance: You’ll want to set down heavy grocery bags near the fridge and slippery wet dishes next to the sink. It is especially important to have enough space right next to the cook top, range, and oven, and on at least the opening side of the microwave and fridge.
The kitchen is not only a room that you use every single day, it also takes more abuse that any of the other rooms in your house beyond the bathroom. As a result, every kitchen needs a little work eventually — whether it is a simple face-lift or a complete overhaul. Armed with this knowledge, you now know how to create the perfect kitchen for you and your family’s needs.