Add a Desk
"The original space was walled off from the living and dining room areas. It was basically a "J"-shape with a large dance floor in the center, which I opened to create a great room, eliminating the tiring back-and-forth that the client had done for 25+ years. The addition of the island made the space much more functional for the clients.
"The homeowner really wanted to use Corian countertops for its practicality and zero maintenance. Every picture she showed me had dark cabinets and white counters. With two heights that provide an area for a workspace and desk with custom leg, the island makes the kitchen more stylish and functional."
Designer: Susan Lund
San Anselmo, California
Deciding Where to Cook and Clean
Always a hot place to be, the cooking zone is where fire enters the picture. Centered around the range or cooktop, this is the spot where stir-frys, spaghetti, and sauces sizzle. You may want to keep your microwave and toaster oven here as well. Include:
Deep drawers for pans
Shallower drawer for pot lids
Spice drawer (or cleverly hidden racks in pull out corbels that flank the cooktop)
Microwave cabinet for concealing and saving countertop space
Utensil drawer for spatulas and spoons
Anchored by your sink and dishwasher, the cleaning area is the home of water and washing. Be sure to keep "water dependent products" like your coffeemaker and salad spinner nearby. You'll also be emptying the last bits of lasagna and soup into containers here, so keep storage supplies nearby. Include space for an adequate number of cleaning and drying supplies, as well as a convenient way to store clean dishware. Include:
Pullout rack to neatly tuck dishtowels
Plate rack for storing daily or occasional dinnerware
Undersink pullout for dishwashing detergent and cleaner
Tilt out sink tray for sponges and scrubbers
Foil box rack or drawer for aluminum foil, paper, and plastic wrap storage
Pullout drawer for Tupperware, divided for lids and containers
Don't forget about the "dining zone." Though there's a lot more flexibility involved with designing your eating area, consider adding easily accessible storage for tablecloths, placemats, napkins, or infrequently used china.
"This kitchen occupies a large space, and the homeowners wanted the island to become a part of the adjoining family room. The far end of the island is a counter-height eating area that's rounded to make it more sociable. I like eating areas to be rounded, so the family can look at each other rather than eat at a straight snack bar where they sit like frogs on a log. Across from the chairs is a fireplace wall that brightens up the whole space."
Photo: J.H. Peterson
"The opposite end also features a rounded top with radius cabinetry for prep and serving. Between those two is the sink, with a dishwasher and pullout wastebasket for clean up. The raised cabinet provides a backsplash, hides the sink and gives dimension to the island. There are coordinated light fixtures-a larger one over the eating area and pendants above the rest of the island. The chairs coordinate with the chairs that are in their informal dining room, and the radius doors and black countertop of the raised cabinet are repeated in the family room and entertainment center."
Designer: Val Stuessi, CKD
Crystal Kitchen Center
Golden Valley, Minnesota
"This true 'working' island boasts a generous size of 108-inches by 84-inches, and was created out of White Ash hardwood with a complementing two-inch thick planked hard rock maple top. With a very active cook, this custom designed island has fully functioning storage to accommodate all necessary items and utensils. Open cookbook storage on one end, and modern conveniences such as cookie sheet dividers and pots-and-pans drawers, make this a cooks' dream.
Courtesy of Goldenwood Cabinetry, Inc.
"The planked top has a dual purpose: The serving side has ICA Urethane finish, offering ultimate durability while maintaining a 'finished feel' and easy maintenance. The working side has a 'hand rubbed' wax finish to allow the homeowner the benefit of a butcher block top. Dividing the two areas is a curvaceous juice groove allowing the best of both worlds. A real stone island face complements the view of the stone fireplace and the rustic feel of the house. The island placement in this very open layout allows the homeowner to enjoy their kitchen work, as well as the view of the abundant wildlife that frequents their property.
Designer: Jeffrey Landwehr
Goldenwood Cabinetry, Inc.
"This kitchen features two islands. The radius one doubles as a place to sit and have a quick meal, or as a conversation area to chat with the cook as they're preparing the meal. The island features two levels-36 and 42 inches. The 42-inch top has more of a furniture application, with a solid wood top and corbels. With the hutch piece to the right, the radius island transitions from the kitchen proper to the gathering area and breakfast nook.
"The rectangular island is the primary island, with a prep sink, a steamer and warming drawers for food prep and light cooking. A smooth traffic flow and added visual interest are the advantages of the two separate islands. On the wall to the left of the rectangular island are the refrigerator and wall ovens; separating the two gives the cook a smooth transition from prep and cleanup sink to the refrigerator and oven."
Designer: Jerry Hoffsmith
Colonial Craft Kitchens, Inc.
Curve The Perimeter
"This kitchen offered an amazing wooded view and a high vaulted ceiling with exposed beams; however, its white cabinetry and traditional style didn't fit in with the otherwise contemporary home. In addition, the homeowners' needs had changed over time. As busy parents, they desired a more functional space that would accommodate two active teenagers who also love to entertain."
Photo: J.H. Peterson
"A highlight of the new space is a unique center island featuring a curvaceous perimeter to give it a softer shape. It provides a conversation-friendly seating area and the perfect gathering spot to take in the wooded view. In addition to a place to gather and dine, the island provides increased counter space and a large double sink for food prep and clean up. Like the rest of the space, the island features cherry cabinetry with a rich, deep stain that offsets the cork flooring, along with stainless steel pulls."
Designer: Serena Rebechini-Hilton, CKD
Crystal Kitchen Center
Golden Valley, Minnesota
Areas for Slicing and Dicing, and Kneading and Baking
This is where it all begins: in the food prep zone, you slice and dice your way toward dinner. If your kitchen is spacious enough to accommodate an island, the food prep zone would be well-placed there. It's helpful to include a second sink for rinsing fruits and vegetables, as well as a refrigerator drawer for storing milk and eggs if your main refrigerator isn't easily accessible. Include:
Butcher block pullout (if you aren't working on a butcher block surface)
Drawer for knives
Pullouts for mixing, measuring and serving items
Pullout trash center
The area built for fun, the baking zone is where cookies, breads, and casseroles come to life. Aside from the appropriate countertop space and material (marble slabs work best for rolling dough), you'll need to keep a number of supplies within easy reach. Include:
Apothecary drawers for storing small items like cookie cutters
Bins for flour and sugar
Tray divider rollout for baking sheets and pizza pans
Pulldown cookbook rack
Drawers for rolling pins, measuring cups and teaspoons
Easy-to-reach cabinet space for heavy casserole dishes and mixing bowls
Storage for oven mitts, pot holders and trivets
Divided utensil storage for spatulas and wooden spoons
Pop-up stand for your mixer
Breaking Down A Standard Kitchen Design Rule
Your lifestyle should determine the functionality of your kitchen, not the other way around. The work triangle is not a law, merely a suggestion for good space planning.
The dominant geometric shapes in most kitchens are the four-sided variety, from rectangular cabinetry to square appliances. But it is a triangle — albeit an imaginary one — that has always been an important element of a kitchen's design and functionality.
The "work triangle" is defined by the National Kitchen and Bath Association as an imaginary straight line drawn from the center of the sink, to the center of the cooktop, to the center of the refrigerator and finally back to the sink. The NKBA suggests these guidelines for work triangles:
The sum of the work triangle's three sides should not exceed 26 feet, and each leg should measure between 4 and 9 feet.
The work triangle should not cut through an island or peninsula by more than 12 inches.
If the kitchen has only one sink, it should be placed between or across from the cooking surface, preparation area, or refrigerator.
No major traffic patterns should cross through the triangle.
Efficiency is the triangle's main goal, as it keeps all the major work stations near the cook, without placing them so close that the kitchen becomes cramped. The work triangle is also designed to minimize traffic within the kitchen so the cook isn't interrupted or interfered with.
Here are some examples of standard kitchen layouts with their work triangle:
The work triangle isn't without its flaws though. The layouts above illustrate one of its problems: It assumes that a kitchen will only have three major work stations and one person cooking. As kitchens grow in size, and feature more than three workspaces, the regular work triangle isn't always practical. And in many households today, two or more people share cooking duties. Because of these issues, designers do not always play by the triangle's rules when it comes to drafting kitchen plans.
"We haven't thrown the idea of the standard work triangle out the window, but creating a triangle just for the sake of having one isn't always the best thing to do when designing a kitchen," says Linda Larisch, CKD, CBD, a designer who works with Smartrooms in Chicago. "With many of the kitchens we design, we'll have more than one work triangle in it. If you can't configure the standard triangle, you have to make do by creating the most functional kitchen possible."
Remember, your lifestyle should determine the functionality of your kitchen, not the other way around. The work triangle is not a law, merely a suggestion. Although it can be a helpful tool, don't let it inhibit you from thinking outside the triangle when it comes to designing your kitchen.
The Ever-Changing Kitchen Table
Courtesy of Westborough Design Center
Be creative with your kitchen dining area. Mix banquet style seating with chairs to create a warm and relaxed area to share meals with family and friends.
As kitchens evolve into powerful, professional cooking centers and festive spots for entertaining, the notion of the traditional kitchen table is evolving as well. Innovative seating options are slowly becoming more the norm, making it entirely acceptable to lose the kitchen table all together. But what to put in its place?
"Everybody wants an island," says Gregg Buzzelli of CKC Kitchen and Bath Design Center in Morris Plains, New Jersey. "Everyone wants to congregate in the kitchen." As the island becomes the centerpiece of the kitchen, it also becomes the social center as well. In addition to housing the cooktop, second sinks and additional storage, most islands incorporate some sort of seating area, from a bar-like row on a single-level island to an upper level dedicated to dining.
Val Stuessi, CKD, a designer with Crystal Kitchen Center of Golden Valley, Minnesota, often includes circular areas in her islands: "I like eating areas to be rounded, so the family can look at each other rather than eat at a straight snack bar where they sit like frogs on a log."
The eating area will often feature a hardwood top to give it a more dining-like air. The choice of height can affect its purpose as well: a high top with stool-like seating often creates a more casual, grab-a-seat-and-munch feel, while a lower level closer to table height mimics the kitchen-table experience. Note: parents with young children should keep seating closer to the ground.
Tweaking The Typical Table
If you do opt for the tried-and-true route, don't feel restricted to the same-old, same-old. Swap chairs for long benches (great for country kitchens), making seating closer and more casual.
Fans of vintage wares should scour antique fairs for weathered tables or purchase a hodge-podge of chairs-stain them all the same color to infuse a little unity.
Or, should the kitchen open into an adjacent living room, consider making the table more furniture-like (or something more befitting a dining room) with furniture feet and upholstered chairs.
Additional Sitting Areas
Some homeowners aren't concerned with eating at all, considering the social, not dining, aspect of seating. "Homeowners are still very interested in the open concept," says Joey Wilinski, who has been incorporating hearth-like sitting rooms into the kitchen. "A cozy little spot with a couple of Lazy Boys; it's more of an intimate seating area for people."
She continues, "I'm seeing people going large with the island and then not having an actual table in the kitchen area." So long as the island has adequate seating for your family, and a separate area (like a dining room table) can handle Thanksgiving dinners with the in-laws, booting a table from the kitchen entirely isn't as crazy as it sounds.
Now let's get clever. Want a comfortable-size table but hate the thought of sacrificing storage space? Kathie Maughan of Maughan Design of Portland, Oregon, built a nook with bench seating that opens to reveal deep storage for linens and less-used items. To make access a snap, she included a drop-leaf table, making it easy to fold down the sides for extra clearance.
Are you eager to include extra seating but just don't have the space? Maughan has another solution for homeowners dealing with cramped quarters. "I've done fold-down panels that sit in a wall and lift and click into place to become a small seating niche," a perfect seat to install near a telephone.
If you're going to have a breakfast nook, don't ignore it. Make it an inviting space your family will want to dine at (especially if you have island seating, which often steals all the thunder when the kids select a spot to have breakfast).
Light or stained wood wainscoting can separate the nook as its own special area, making it a warm and inviting space. Make sure there's a strong light source overhead for adequate lighting, and, if possible, place near windows with cheery drapery for extra sunlight.
Padding, cushions or pillows (placed along bench seating) make for more comfortable seating-a good thing when you haven't had that morning coffee yet! And, while rich cherry and hunter greens certainly create an elegant kitchen, sunny yellows and bright blues or a farm-fresh red-and-white check bring extra cheer.
Regardless of where and how your seating takes shape, there are several rules of thumb in terms of seat and table heights to keep things comfortable and ergonomic:
Your typical chair should have a seat height of about 17 inches, and is suitable for tables or lowered countertops at 28 inches in height.
Breakfast barstools are great for islands, but make sure it's an island of the right size-a countertop at 35 inches is a good rule of thumb to follow.
High barstools with a 30-inch, versus 24-inch, seat base, fit the bill for raised, approximately 42-inch, worktops. These stools, however, aren't ideal for very young children who could take a tumble.
And, when deciding how large your table can be, be sure to allot space for the table fully extended with its leaves; it's no good having a table that seats eight if you can't open it.
"This huge, 14- by 6-foot island includes a sink, wine rack and refrigerator at one end that serves as a wet bar for entertaining. The rest is just all surface with cabinet storage, allowing for ample space for food prep and multiple cooks, like when the homeowner gets together with all of her sisters to make Christmas cookies. With seating for four, the homeowners, who are empty nesters, eat 99 percent of their meals there.
"The island's Crystal cabinets are an alder wood. They coordinate well with the India Mahogany granite countertops and with the L-shape perimeter's painted cabinetry, which features brown highlights and distressing. The alder wood was continued elsewhere, in a back entry bench and the home's entertainment center and desk."
Designer: JoLynn Johnson, CMKBD
Crystal Kitchen Center
Golden Valley, Minnesota