Kitchen Layouts Tips

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What do I do if my kitchen space is cut off from the rest of the house?

Reshaping an Old L-Shaped Kitchen

When older homes were built, designers obviously didn't predict current lifestyles. Most modern homeowners want a kitchen space that opens into other family gathering spaces in the home. Those cooks who like to entertain won't be happy in a 'hidden' kitchen layout that doesn't allow them to interact with guests while they prepare food.

Older kitchen designs can be not only isolated from family living areas, they often don't allow anywhere to eat. One way to revamp up a hemmed-in kitchen space is through a U-shaped kitchen layout that opens on both sides to the rest of the house. It may not be big enough to house an island, but with careful planning and cabinet placement it can still be a productive, fun place to cook. On one side of the U, stools or an eat-in area can be installed.

Depending on the home layout, a cut-out can be formed above the work space and sink that opens to a great room and allows natural light from an entrance as well as a nice view of the backyard. Posts and upper cabinets can give the kitchen its own space without cutting it off in a dark area. If you choose this type of kitchen renovation, you may want to consider what type of design elements and decorative items might present a nice flow from the new U-shaped kitchen to other rooms. Keeping a 'decor flow' in these situations is almost as important as keeping a work/lifestyle flow.

   
How should I light my kitchen?

Don't Forget Lighting in Your Kitchen Design Layout

There's nothing more frustrating than trying to do a task without the proper lighting. Improper lighting in the kitchen will not only cause eye strain, it will make the space unattractive for dining and entertaining. Two important items to consider when planning a lighting layout for your kitchen are how much outdoor light is available through windows, and ensuring there is both ambient and task-oriented lighting.

If you have little outdoor light to work with, you may choose to sacrifice cabinets that would otherwise block natural light. Light in a kitchen that comes from several sources is usually more pleasing to both cooks and their guests. Each workspace light should be at least 100 watts of incandescent light or 25 watts of fluorescent light. If you don't like the look of too many ceiling fixtures, proper lighting can be achieved with under-cabinet lighting.

Accent lighting is designed to highlight the best features of the room. In a small kitchen layout, you can use one ceiling-mounted fixture and recessed spotlights around the perimeter. If you have a large kitchen layout, you can have tracks installed that allow you to move workspace lighting as you please. If you want to show off dishes, glassware and other decorative items inside glass-faced cabinetry, consider special lighting mounted on the inside. Other unique lights can be mounted into toe-kicks to show off specially designed flooring.

For a general guideline on lighting a kitchen, offer at least 100 watts of incandescent light or 25 watts of flourescent light for each 50 square feet of floor space.

   
What should I consider before laying out a new kitchen?

Assess Your Cooking Lifestyle

For a big part of the day, a kitchen is as busy as a corporate office. If you have kids, you know that they are constantly in and out, plus there are at least three meals to prepare for most families. Entertaining and gourmet cooking has become a huge part of our culture, sparked by the numerous TV chefs that teach us how to cook restaurant meals at home.

But what good is a gourmet kitchen layout if you eat mostly pre-prepared meals? What good is making space for a commercial oven when it won't be used? That space can be made instead into cabinetry that holds typical after-school snacks. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you complete a kitchen layout.

  • Do you like and often drink fine wine? If so, how many bottles do you typically keep at one time? You may be willing to adjust cabinet space for a wine rack or cooler.
  • How many people cook in your kitchen? If that answer is more than one, are you considering the cooking habits of everyone?
  • Do you typically cook for two to four people, or do you make grand dinners for 6 or more?
  • Do you have any physical ailments that make reaching or bending difficult? If you do, a professional kitchen designer can adjust your cabinet choices to make food preparation easier.
  • Do you purchase in bulk or shop more often?
  • Do you buy more fresh foods or do you tend to stock up on canned and non-perishable items? You may have to give up some of what you want in a kitchen due to space or budget constraints.
Once you answer these lifestyle questions, place your answers in order of priority before you visit a showroom or a kitchen remodeling site. At this particular site, you'll find additional online tools to help you with your kitchen layout.

   
What types of kitchen cabinets should I have installed?

Typical Cabinet Choices for the Kitchen

Although newer cabinet options are being introduced all the time, some standard ideas still apply when picking out the right cabinets for the space you have. Most often the bottom of a wall cabinet is placed 18 inches higher than the counter top and a total of 54 inches above the floor. While many types of storage accessory cabinets can be chosen depending on your cooking and entertaining lifestyle, you have to ensure that all cabinet doors have enough room to swing easily without hitting other cabinets or your island. If they don't, you are asking for trouble and routine nick accidents.

Base kitchen cabinets usually have spaces about 4 inches deep and 3 inches wide so you can stand comfortably next to all counters. This does take away from some cabinet space but is essential so you are not always kicking these floor cabinets. You might be able to save money buying fewer, large cabinets versus smaller ones, but keep in mind that you need to have shelving designed into those cabinets so that you waste as little room as possible and yet still have immediate access to all stored items.

Tall wall cabinets offer more space for your money, but consider if you really want them. If you have to use a step ladder to reach these items, is it worth that inconvenience? Some people obtain significantly more cabinet space in their kitchen by taking cabinets up to the ceiling. To obtain maximum storage, opt for a pantry-style cabinet where you do not require a countertop.

   
What is a kitchen work triangle?

The Kitchen Work Triangle

When you hire a kitchen designer to help you remodel your kitchen layout, you might hear him or her talk about the work triangle. This is one way to organize your thoughts as you look at kitchen layout options.

The kitchen work triangle is a path between the refrigerator, stove, sink and dishwasher. Considering the location of the trash compactor is also key in creating a good work flow. As much as possible, this triangle should be located away from traffic patterns in the kitchen. Ideally, the total distance around this triangle you create should be no more than 27 square feet. Each leg should be no bigger than nine feet. That way you will be able to move about the triangle, going from the fridge to the sink and stove without much effort.

After a meal is served, you can work from the sink, trash compactor and dishwasher easily and without traffic causing unnecessary accidents. Newer islands, which are large blocks of counter space, seating and cabinets placed in the middle of your kitchen, make creating a triangle fairly easy. However, make sure any seating designed at the island is well away from the triangle and will not interfere with it. If you entertain a lot, make sure this island offers space to serve guests that is outside of the triangle. If you have a galley kitchen (described as one long rectangular space) creating this work triangle will be a little more challenging but it can still be done. The same is true of a U-shaped kitchen. The result of your planning may not be a triangle per se, but a kitchen designer can help you adjust this concept to the space you have.

   
How do I utilize space and custom cabinetry to improve my kitchen?

Re-Design a Non-Productive Work Space

When you begin to shop for cabinets, you'll find they often come in standard sizes. For example, base cabinets are usually 22 inches deep and about 34 inches tall. Counter tops tend to be 36 inches high and 24 inches deep so cabinets directly underneath them will need to fit to these dimensions. Wall cabinets can be as high as 42 inches tall and are often 12 inches deep.

But what if these sizes don't work for your particular space? What if you move into a new condo after getting used to a house-sized kitchen and find yourself cramped? What if you buy an older home that does not conform to more standard cabinet sizes? Fortunately, you can retrofit existing cabinets with custom-made spaces that work better. If you don't have room to expand your kitchen, this may be your best option for creating a new kitchen design layout. Did you realize that narrowing a doorway by just a few inches can allow for a foot more counter space? Or that buying a smaller refrigerator can allow room for a pantry cabinet directly next to it? Or that a ceramic glass cook top saves inches when compared to an old electric-coil one?

Here are some additional kitchen layout tips to get you thinking about how best to use this space in your home:

  • Consider a curved table as it may also 'buy' you more space for custom cabinets.
  • 'Cluster' your appliances on one wall to save space. By simply adjusting the placement of your cook top, wall oven and microwave oven, you may open up space elsewhere for custom cabinetry.
  • Look for wasted wall space, including the eat-in area. You can also purchase specially made cabinetry for these areas.
  • Consider visiting online resources.

   
What should I consider when planning a kitchen design layout?

Tips for Kitchen Layout

When you are designing a new kitchen and choosing cabinets that suit your tastes and lifestyle, there are a lot of things to consider: how you like to cook, what types of appliances you prefer, the shape of your kitchen and more. You'll want to be as efficient in how you use space as possible. That's why spending some time with a kitchen expert is a good idea. Here are some tips to get you started thinking about kitchen layout options:

  • Do you want a planning desk? Many homeowners like to download recipes from the Internet or pay bills while they cook a pot of soup on the stove.
  • Do you want room for decor items? You may want to allocate some unique space for a plate rack or shelving for your favorite vases or decorative bowls.
  • Do you want to utilize over-hanging space such as a pot rack? Some people don't like this look but it can allow for more cabinet space elsewhere, especially in a small kitchen layout.
When you work on a kitchen design layout, think horizontally as well as vertically. Specially designed features and cabinets can be purchased that offer spaces to store bake ware, cutting boards, knives and other flat items. Keep your cooking and cabinet priorities in mind as this will save you time designing your new kitchen.

   
Do I have to store everything in my kitchen?

Consider Open Shelving in Your Kitchen

Some people prefer a kitchen cabinet layout that features a closed space for everything -- glassware, dishes, utensils, pots and pans, and bake ware. With today's unique cabinet options, this is certainly possible and even relatively easy.

Because people are so busy, they like coming home to a non-cluttered kitchen that still allows for easy cooking and clean-up. But if you cook and run your dishwasher everyday -- and if you like authentic, restaurant-style decor -- open shelving can be used in lieu of an array of closed cabinets. This choice screams "I love to cook!"

Some people simply like the look of having cooking items out in the open. It has the feel of a real, working kitchen like that of a restaurant. For example, stacking dishes and attractive glassware on a stainless steel shelf above the sink and dishwasher not only looks unique but offers convenience. However, if you don't wash and sanitize your dishes daily, you might choose glass-faced cabinets instead. Additionally, you can open up the space below your island and use it to stack mixing bowls, bakeware and other useful food prep items. You might also have open space to store lemons, potatoes and similar foods that you use often.

In this way, food becomes part of your kitchen style statement and decor. Some people also use the space behind their stove for hanging utensils and pots they use more often. This type of kitchen organizing style may work best if you have a large kitchen layout but it is always an option if it fits your personal style.

   
What do I do if I prefer my guests to gather outside the kitchen?

Choosing Kitchen Layouts that Flow Outward

Let's face it. No matter how nice your family room, living room or dining room are, guests seem to always gather in the kitchen. Some kitchen layout designs are now accommodating this trend by offering large seating areas, counter stools, additional counter space for serving and other layout strategies. But, for many reasons -- including having a small kitchen layout -- you may want to discourage this trend without seeming to be offensive to guests.

For example, if you change an open U-shaped kitchen layout or an I-shaped kitchen layout into a closed-C shaped kitchen, you will encourage traffic flow away from the kitchen and into adjoining rooms. But, by allowing a pass-through space, you won't close off guests from the cook and you can quickly carry food to them. In other words, with careful planning, you can re-design kitchen space to keep guests out of the cooking space but not too far away.

Many homeowners who choose this design option can still have an everyday dining table or banquette space just outside the kitchen. If you decide to keep your kitchen space relatively small to allow for these design ideas, you can pick cabinetry that maximizes your cooking space such as custom cabinets that go all the way to the floor, or a pantry-style cabinet next to the stove for convenient food preparation.

   
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Guru Spotlight
Jerry Mayo