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Kitchen Design

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Kitchen Design

by Pietro Scalise

Glossy magazines that showcase completed kitchens with photos of homeowners caught in blurred mid-flight poses between appliances are a dime-a-dozen. They explain with much fanfare exactly what has been included right down to the serial numbers of the appliances but always leave a reader asking for more - the kitchen basics. What are the principles behind a well-designed kitchen? What are the rules, rules-of-thumb and regulations one must observe? Unlike in the glossy magazines, kitchens do not simply appear before us without a little homework and planning.

A checklist

Whether a kitchen renovation or one that you are including in your brand new home you need to ask a few questions. Time for a family meeting!

Ask yourself why you need a new kitchen and what other members of your family would want from a new kitchen. Note also what you do and don’t like about your current kitchen. Draw a rough sketch of your kitchen floor space including window and door openings and inclusive of existing electrical, gas and water supply; this will facilitate experimenting with and ideal location of work areas and appliances. Give some thought to the style of kitchen that will be in harmony with your family and the architectural style of your home. Note any appealing styles, colours and features seen in kitchen showrooms or those of friends and family.

Think about your kitchen storage needs and what it lacks currently. Study how your kitchen is re-stocked with groceries on a weekly and daily basis. Where do you store bulk non-perishables items?

Don’t forget to reflect on who will be using the kitchen; the number of people who will use it, whether young or old, and their special requirements. Will there be a requirement for a breakfast area, a laundry area and an area where the bills can be paid or a secondary television or computer is set.

Note all the appliances required in your new kitchen, special task lighting requirements, cabinetry, and storage plus working areas.

Consider how your family entertains guests, how often, the usual number of guests and whether it tends to be a formal or informal event. Is the food prepared in the kitchen or is it usually catered? Study the dynamics of your gatherings and determine whether the guests congregate in the kitchen.

Note the primary cooking style of the household. Who is the main cook of the family and are they left or right-handed? Be as specific as noting the height of the primary cook; it will make a difference. How does the household cook? Does the main cook allow other members of the family to take part?

Indeed, compile a folder full of collected ideas that will become invaluable when the time comes to sit down with a kitchen consultant or designer so you won’t have to just settle for their word.

The work triangle

It is relatively simple to determine whether a kitchen has been well designed and the central principle is the work triangle, that is, the total distance between the cook top, refrigerator and sink should be between five and ten metres but ideally no more than seven metres and should be in the shape of a triangle.

Kitchen shapes

Some of the most important factors that will determine your kitchens shape are obvious structural constraints, lifestyle and the amount of storage area required. But your choice of shape should never be dictated by the location of current services such as plumbing or wiring. The cost of delivering these services to new locations is relatively minor in the overall budget. It is more important to design a kitchen that works for you. There are five basic kitchen shapes.

The U-shape is the most versatile of kitchen shapes that makes efficient use of storage area and prohibits dangerous traffic into the path of the work triangle. This shape is suitable for large or smaller kitchen areas and ideal where one of the ends of the “U” is turned into a breakfast/peninsula table.

The L-shape kitchen is ideal in long narrow or large rooms that will be integrated into other living areas.

The Galley is also an efficient shape for kitchens where access can be gained from two open sides in smaller rooms but here the work triangle is exposed to other traffic.

Single-line kitchens are suitable for apartments or studios where space is scarce. Here a minimum length of 3 metres should be observed with storage stretching the full height overhead and appliances located under-bench.

The Island kitchen shape combines any shape with a separate stand-alone workbench that is perfect for a second cook and allows entry from both ends.

Whichever design you may deem appropriate for your home, to avoid a hazardous situation, the kitchen should not double up as a passageway to get to another part of the house.

Where to place appliances

The refrigerator, being the most used kitchen appliance, needs to be situated where it can easily be accessed from other parts of the home such as the family or dining area without traffic clashing with the cook and the work triangle. To this end, place the refrigerator and the pantry at the end of the kitchen nearer its entrance. The freezer is accessed less frequently so opt for a model that has this feature at the bottom else buy a separate freezer that is operated as a drawer and blends in with the cabinetry.

Did you know that a refrigerator can be accountable for 20% of your energy bill and that inadequate ventilation can increase its power use by another 15%? For this reason, locate this appliance in the coolest part of the kitchen away from direct sunlight.

The sink should be placed near the main bench top working area and not too far from the cook top.

Ovens should be set with space nearby to set hot food down. A wall-mounted oven should ideally be placed at a height so that its middle shelf is at the same height as the cook’s elbow.

Cook tops may be placed along the same length of bench top so as to facilitate disposal of boiling liquids without having to cross to an opposite side of the working triangle. The range hoods above will have to discharged to the outside of the home, vertically, to the rear or sideways but bear in mind that each change of direction of the flue with diminish its efficiency by 15% to 20%

Most microwave ovens have hinges on their left hand side therefore locate a microwave on a left-hand side cabinet to avoid having to unload food dishes around the microwave’s door. Ideally, the maximum height to place a microwave oven is around 1300mm from the floor to its base.

A dishwasher needs to be placed so that access to it is available for the three sides and near the sink for rinsing of plates. Consider also placing it off the floor, if manufacturer’s instructions allow, easing the strain on people with back difficulties.


If you’re opting for a tiled floor in your kitchen, insist the tiling be placed first to the entire kitchen floor area then the kitchen installed over the tiles. The tiles will outlast the life of the kitchen and will therefore be accommodating of any future design changes.

Invest in durable hardwearing bench surfaces that are heat and stain resistant and will be easy to clean thus maintaining your food hygienic.

Consider fitting handles to below bench height vertically since long handles fitted horizontally may encourage small children to climb the cabinetry.

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