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Your Kitchen – Your Space

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Your Kitchen – Your Space

By Pietro Scalise

Kitchens today have become centres of family communication. They can be the hubs of family units where everyone comes together first in the morning and gathers after a hard day’s work. They are the piece de resistance for the single person intent on impressing guests. If the kitchen functions well, the day starts and ends perfectly and the entertained leave in good spirits toasting the host. If it doesn’t, you will begin and end your day stressed and your dinner parties will be void of any huus, haaas and bravos to the chef.

Unless you’re planning to include a new kitchen that is in harmony with the heritage value of your home, where a kitchen should pay homage to the period detail of the rest of the house, rather than seem set within a different time zone, today’s kitchen is an open-plan space that emphasizes the need to cater for a myriad of daily tasks. It is a space where defined zones are blurred; here part of the entertaining takes place just as much as it does at the dinner table, not unlike modern restaurants where diners can see the chef weaving his magic just behind a theatrical benchtop and demands attention with gushing flames that envelope a frying pan.

To tailor-make your kitchen and to make sure that it will accommodate your needs, identify all functions that will be taking place within it, then allocate zones to it; these will entail cooking and non-cooking activities.

Preparing food. The food preparation area needs to reflect your lifestyle and the type of food you prepare. If you’re a busy person and tend to prepare food fast then make sure you include long, easy-to-clean benchtops and have easy access between the work triangle, the imaginary straight lines between the sink, the cooktop and the fridge. More often than not, the busy family or young businessman will also eat dinner within these confines so a long island bench or peninsula that can accommodate up to eight dinner plates and stools is ideal. How many cooks in the household will want to take centre stage? Allow space on the food preparation area for their activities also.

Eating areas. An open plan kitchen entails no clear defining areas between the food preparation and the eating areas. In older type homes, kitchens are often clear-cut from dining rooms by a physical wall that at most may have an archway where food magically appears through to the dining table. In open plan modern homes this clear definition point is blurred. This distinction still needs to be made, whether it is an overhead beam with downlights or hanging cabinetry with storage space for glassware. This will impart a sense that there are two different zones between where food is prepared and where it is enjoyed. Don’t forget to locate the dining table away from the main traffic in the kitchen and well away from the sacred triangle.

The cooking area. This is an area that is definitely influenced by particular tastes and lifestyles. The single person who may not entertain often, for example, may forego altogether the inclusion of an oven and make do with a cooktop and a trusty microwave oven but down the track it will become indispensable and it will be a costly exercise to allow space for it within the new cabinetry. The barrage of gastronomic television programs that target the young and young at heart also prohibit poor decisions when it comes to befitting a kitchen with the latest range of cooking equipment. The everyday chef is now well informed and swayed to include gas burners, electric hotplates or combinations of the two with emphasis on grilling food, wok cooking and barbequing. Right-handed chefs also need to include at least one metre of bench space along the right hand side of the cooktop for depositing pots and pans straight off the heat. Vice versa applies for left-handed people but ideally, to cater for the requirements of the whole family and if space permits, allocate enough space on both sides.

Cleaning. Choose a sink and dishwasher basing your decision on the amount of cleaning that your household requires but keep in mind possible additions to the family in the future. There is on the market a fantastic range of quiet, water and electrical efficient dishwashers that can be incorporated out of sight as part of the kitchen cabinetry. Allow space directly above the dishwasher to deposit glassware and dishes prior to entrusting them within. One feature of a kitchen that hasn’t altered much over the decades is the need to allow underbench space directly below the sink. This is a must for the storage of cleaning necessities and a food scrap bin with container for recycling. Sinks come in a staggering number of shapes and sizes but opt for ones less prone to scratches and stains. You may select one that is seamlessly incorporated to the benchtop and fused as part of it or for a granite sink that is superior in its ability to be scratch and stain proof. Today’s everyday chef has better things to do than waste time polishing a sink and when it comes time to choosing one, remember that simplicity still reigns supreme.

Refrigeration. It goes without saying that the refrigerator is at the heart of a functional kitchen yet there are basic features that are often overlooked. Choose a refrigerator that when opened, it displays its contents towards the food preparation area and site it as near as possible to it. How often do you freeze meals, meat or produce? Choose a refrigerator that has a smaller freezer if not used on a regular basis and one that has this compartment at the bottom may mean a more expedient food preparation process.

Storing. Storage needs to be planned to your individual lifestyle. Whether you prefer to dine in or dine out will determine the size of your storage necessities. Large pantries are indispensable for sizeable families and fresh produce needs to be stored away from the heat of cooktops but doesn’t necessarily require a large pantry. That being said, the range of cupboards, shelves and drawers needs to be carefully planned around the work triangle of sink, cooktop and refrigerator.

Breakfast. The breakfast bar is often where the family comes together and more often than not, where the family and young couple enjoy an informal dinner. An island bench is often perfect for this purpose as is a peninsula that has enough stools to welcome the whole gang. Avoid siting the breakfast area in the path of the main kitchen traffic and ideally place it where there is an abundance of natural lighting.

Entertaining. The entertainment within your kitchen is often assigned to the island or peninsula bench that is not only used as a breakfast bar but also a base for cocktail parties. From here the entertainment flows into the living areas and dining table but the kitchen is where it all starts. Allocate storage for wine in the kitchen, a drinks cabinet and maybe even overhead glass storage not unlike those found in upmarket bars. Cheers!

Contact. Away from the main kitchen traffic there is always an area where a family can leave a set of keys, answer a telephone call in peace whilst still keeping an eye over a boiling pot of water or just exchange a word to another member of the family. This is the place where little postage stamp size notes are left for other family members when they get home from work knowing that they will be found and read. It is a point of contact within the kitchen, away from the work triangle, where communication takes place within your family. Allow for this area in your kitchen, it can just be an elbow length along a benchtop but perhaps the most sacred.

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