Kitchen Design


  • Kitchens are usually the most complicated and the most expensive rooms in homes. They tend to contain more cabinetry, more electrical wiring, more appliances, and more expensive surfaces than almost any other space in the house. Along with bathrooms, kitchens surfaces must withstand water and moisture, but unlike bathrooms, kitchen surfaces must also withstand sharp knives, fire...

    The primary purposes of most kitchens includes the preparation and storage of food. In addition, many kitchens are used as: social areas, dining spaces, a home's primary entry point, phone center, family room, laundry, home office, bar, display space, radio and TV area, homework preparation area, circulation space, plant and pet area, paper goods storage area, recycling area, and the list goes on.

    Kitchens From: A traditional Kitchen on the Main Coast by Abbey Laukka, Courtesy of Fine Homebuilding Magazine

    Many North American kitchens tend to be part a relatively open "great room" which includes dining, living, family room and the kitchen. In rural Brazil, I saw many kitchens which were partially indoors and partially a part of the back yard and/or a covered outdoor laundry areas (an adaptation of that idea works well in a summer cabin!).

    Some friends from Japan and Europe were very surprised to see our open kitchen, the traditional kitchen in their homes were quite separate from the "guest areas" of their homes and "off limits" to their guests (it took a second bottle of wine for one older German guest to admit that he had never seen the inside of the kitchen in his own brother's home).

    The "standard kitchen", the kind found in many stock home designs, will most likely "do" for most of us. However when given the choice, we are likely to pick the model with the kitchen design which best fits "our" life style. When designing a new kitchen, we need to identify our needs and wants.

    Such a planning process is required in any construction or remodeling project, but even more important with the complexity of a kitchen project. This process should be written, and can be a simple list. It is best started before an architect, designer or contractor is called in: new ideas are great, but don't loose track of your needs and wants.

    A very helpful guide to a kitchen planning process comes from an equally helpful book:">Kitchens that Work: The Practical Guide to Creating a Great Kitchen by Martin Edic and Richard Edic published by the Taunton Press.

  • "These questions are designed to help you start thinking creatively about how you use your existing kitchen and how you'd like to use your new kitchen. The answers will help you set some guidelines for many of the decisions you'll make as you go through the design process. Be realistic while answering the questions, and be sure to get input from everyone in your household who uses the kitchen." (from">Kitchens that Work)

    Questions George's Tips
    What is the primary use of your kitchen? In our home, the kitchen is the center of the house. That works great for us, but it may not be your idea of a kitchen.
    What major change would you make to the space in your kitchen (larger, smaller, shape, traffic flow, etc.)? Since the kitchen is the center of our house, it needed to be open to many other areas and be one of the lightest rooms in the house. This design makes our kitchen the primary circulation space, not a good idea if you like people to stay out of your kitchen.
    What percentage of each day do you and/or your family spend in the kitchen? The actual percentage may be small, the importance of that time to you and your family might be great.
    How often do you cook? Be honest! habits are very hard to break.
    How many people will be cooking and/or working in the kitchen at the same time? I like to cook by myself or with the help of one or two people, I love to have a bunch of friends in the kitchen (on the other side of the counter/peninsula) munching on food and drinking wine.
    How many people do you typically entertain at one time? Also, what kind of entertainment do you like? formal/informal? sit-down/buffet?
    What is the most elaborate meal that you've ever cooked? How did that work out? Are you likely to try that again? How often?
    What is the most elaborate meal you can imagine yourself cooking? Would that be fun? or just something you have to do? (if it's the latter, remember that restaurants are not as expensive as a rarely used new kitchen).
    What is the single worst thing about your present kitchen? I hated my old "primary" work area, it was too small, I added one foot of counter space, it's great now - I don't need more.
    What would you change about each of the following:
    Floor? The 1965 Vinyl was in great shape, but it was ugly!
    Lighting? I love those under cabinet lights. By lighting up the whole counter they add useful work room.
    Storage? Full extension drawer glides add about 40% to the useful space in the drawer. Very deep cabinet tend hide the items at the back of the shelves Avoid storing stuff on the counter top
    Appliances? If you like to cook, don't skimp on the stove. I did, I wish it would break and then I would have the excuse to get a good one.
    Traffic flow? My cooking area is out of the traffic, the rest of the kitchen is open to all!
    How hard are you and your family on your kitchen (wear and tear)? For example: if you have always wanted hardwood floors in your kitchen, wait until the kids have learned not to spill juice on the floor.
    What would you like to show off in the new kitchen? And, if it's art work or an antique, how will you protect it?
    How much money can you spend? If you are on a tight budget, make sure that you take this planning process very seriously! The better the plan the easier it will be to keep costs under control.
    If you had to pick a single luxury item for the kitchen, what would it be? This could be an appliance, a surface material selection, a window or skylight or even the employment of an interior decorator to help select colors and surfaces.

  • Are we talking about: A new kitchen? A remodel? In an existing space? How big? Are you keeping some of the cabinets? Appliances? A $500 stove or a $5,000 stove...?

    I have seen some very nice partial kitchen remodels which cost less than $10,000. Most full kitchens in an existing space cost a minimum of $20,000. And I have also seen kitchens in which the cabinet work alone cost $50,000+, and that didn't include the labor for installation, the counter tops...

    The biggest difference between the $10,000 project and the much more expensive ones is in the hundreds of details which make up a kitchen:

    • the $40.00 faucet vs. the $400.00;
    • the re-use of the existing window vs. new and/or additional windows at a cost of many thousands of dollars;
    • the soap dispenser (about $19.00); and/or,
    • the boiling water dispenser (about $160.00 + labor).

    The best place to save is in the planning process and in the careful selection of design and construction professionals.

    Bon Apetit!