How many steps do you take to make a cup of coffee in your own kitchen?
The answer depends on the efficiency of your kitchen layout and the usefulness; in terms your daily needs, of all its component parts.
Whether building a new kitchen from scratch or renovating an existing room with its own set of assets and drawbacks, the goal is to end up with a workplace that allows for meal planning, preparation, and serving with minimum fuss -- the place for aerobic workouts is the gym or dance studio, not the kitchen.
At the same time, that workplace should be a pleasure to be in on its own terms, one designed with flair and personality and bearing an appropriate and organic relationship to neighboring spaces in the house.
The layout of the kitchen, and the resulting patterns, are the designers’ first consideration. Small kitchens should take advantage of compact appliances such as apartment-size dishwashers and cooktops; the installation of microwave ovens at eye level frees up valuable countertop workspace for food preparation. Full-size refrigerators are designed to fit flush with cabinets.
Large kitchens must also be designed to work smoothly, in many cases by allocating zones to specific tasks, including menu planning, food preparation, serving, and cleanup.
Beyond the work triangle
The work triangle was the invention of a group of researchers at Cornell University in the 1950s. Although it is a simplified approach to understanding kitchen design, the concept still has some value in planning today’s more ambitious and versatile kitchens.
The triangle refers to the path formed by the arrangement of the sink, range, and refrigerator, the sum of whose sides, say the experts, should measure 12 to 22 feet.
Today’s ideal work triangle is more complex than that. For one thing, in many households, the kitchen often doubles as a family social center or home office. For another, there is often more that one cook to watch the pot.
Finally, the work island, whether an antique chopping block or fancy new creation, is now as important to incorporate in a plan as the sink, range, and refrigerator.
The flexibility of the work triangle may be seen in the wide variety of today’s successful kitchen layouts. Galley kitchens, cozy cottage kitchens, spacious open-plan kitchens, and kitchens with peninsulas or islands – all can be made to function smoothly if the major elements of the room are properly deployed.
Other elements also contribute to the efficiency of a new or remodeled room. Lighting is often one of the cook’s most neglected tools.
Not only should it be brought to bear on every working surface, it should be exploited for the warmth it brings to a room. This includes overhead fixtures for ambience and under-cabinet strips to serve as task lighting.
Island workstations can be customized to suit any size room and fitted with cooktops, sinks, specialized surfaces, and storage to satisfy the most demanding cook.
Range hoods, providing important ventilation in a busy kitchen, are available in styles and materials that make them handsome architectural additions to the décor as well.
And a new generation of built-in and compact appliances can be installed without intruding on the floor plan or calling undue attention to themselves. Custom cooktops and sinks bring both function and fashion to the kitchen.
With all these ingredients, today’s kitchen performs more tasks than before, and does them better than ever.