THE IMPORTANCE OF KITCHEN DESIGN

What are your kitchen design needs? For many busy modern families today, the kitchen is the busiest room in the house. It isn’t only a place to cook and eat, but increasingly it is becoming a place where the family congregates to enjoy a snack or a cup of their favourite beverage. Snacking or having a coffee is used as a convenient break while doing homework, or reading a magazine. The kitchen in modern times can be more social than the living room, without the distractions of the TV. The family will actually get into conversations with one parent chatting while cooking or doing the dishes.

Modern kitchen design and planning often fails to cater to the social nature of a kitchen and instead design a space that is purely a place to cook. While it is important to place the cooker, fridge and sink in the most practical locations for cooking, you still need to think about how the family as a whole will use the kitchen. It is a balancing act between functionality on one side and comfort and convenience on the other side. And this balancing act is different for every family and every kitchen.

So, now comes the problem of how to achieve that balance that works for you. That may be easier or harder to achieve depending on whether you are designing a brand new kitchen or simply remodelling an existing kitchen. Remodelling a kitchen gives you an opportunity to iron out any flaws in the pre-existing kitchen.

After buying a house designing or building a new kitchen is usually the biggest investment you will spend on your house. But be careful of buying kitchen appliances, kitchen units that look great in a catalogue or showroom that may not suit your actual kitchen space or be practical for the way your family will actually use the kitchen.

This guide will advise you on how to avoid these costly mistakes. You don’t want to be stuck with an expensive kitchen that looks nice and shiny but be an uncomfortable place to use. It is better to buy a few good quality items for your kitchen than many cheap items that won’t last or do a good job. That is why you need to be careful about buying units and appliances.

Begin with thinking about how much time you and your family want to spend in the kitchen and base this on past behaviour. Don’t expect drastic changes. Decide if you want the kitchen just for cooking and the occasional meal, for professional cooking or whether the kitchen will be the main family room of the house. Most people these days use the kitchen as a cooking area and an informal dining area. And, if you have children, part of the kitchen will need to be carpeted or have a rug for children to play so that mum can keep an eye on them while cooking.

You may also decide to use the kitchen as a sort of office area where you keep your bills and finances in order and have a house telephone and a computer with an internet connection. Very important these days with many of us doing online grocery shopping, etc.
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KITCHEN DESIGN NEEDS

When design a kitchen from scratch in an empty room you must take the following list into consideration to see if the room is suitable.
6 Tips on kitchen design – choosing a room
1. Is the room big enough to be a kitchen that will cater for all your family’s needs, kitchenwise?
2. Does the room have space for larders or pantries and is it close enough to the dining area?
3. Does the room have a door that leads to a back yard or garden? For outdoor dining in summer.
4. Is the room next to the garage so that shopping can be easily brought into the kitchen?
5. Is the light from the window bright enough? Or can you add a new window if it is an external wall?
6. Are there enough electric sockets and sufficient plumbing in the room?
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To create your dream kitchen design that is ideal suited to you, you need to start with the basics. You can do this by first looking at your kitchen now. List out what you like and dislike about your kitchen as it is now.
Use the kitchen types below to give you inspiration for your ideal kitchen layout. For the avid cook, you need to try and place the fridge near the food preparation area. Storage cupboards need to be easy to reach. Worktops need to be close to the cooker. And, what people forget about is how easy it is to carry shopping in from the car to the kitchen.

Now, once you have decided how you are going to utilise your space, you need to research the essential elements of storage, ovens and sinks. For example if you like to cook with a lot of fresh vegetables and raw meat, you should opt for a bigger fridge more than a pantry cupboard.

Now matter the size, you want to keep you design simple by not including too many elements. Moreover, in small kitchens you may need to use multi-purpose items rather than separate specialised items. For example a fridge freezer rather than a separate fridge and freezer and you may need to avoid altogether items that only have an occasional use.

Another thing, of a less practical nature, is the feel of the kitchen. The ambience of the kitchen is determined by the elements of the kitchen, the colours used and how they are arranged together into a whole. A good kitchen has a set of well thought out elements arranged functionally, but a great kitchen goes the extra mile in blending those elements to create a kitchen’s character. For example stainless steel fridges and freezers give the kitchen a professional appearance, while gold fixtures in a white kitchen can give the kitchen a luxury feel and wooden units and tops can give the kitchen a warm country cottage feel. The main features that influence the feel of the kitchen are the worktops, the units, appliances, floor coverings, wall coverings, lighting. For example you can mix the use of functional task lights with soft ambient spotlights can create that warm kitchen you may desire. You can use glass fronted doors on your units rather than solid doors, which will give you a much different feel to the kitchen.

KITCHEN DESIGN LAYOUT

There are basically 2 types of layout – fitted kitchens versus unfitted kitchens. Unfitted kitchens have a variety of free standing units and appliances, while fitted kitchens have units attached to walls and floors and built in appliances. Fitted kitchens give a more professional look to a kitchen while unfitted kitchens can give a kitchen a warmer feel to it. In an unfitted kitchen, all the cooking and preparation facilities can be brought closer together with fewer fitted units resulting in more space for a table and chairs.

The aim of a good kitchen layout is to design a practical kitchen, where the owner feels comfortable and everything is in a convenient place making it easier to do cooking and preparation and the other kitchen related activities. A secondary consideration is how to make the kitchen look wonderful. For some this will be the first consideration.

ASSESS YOUR KITCHEN DESIGN NEEDS

Your kitchen needs can be divided into sections: Storage, Food preparation, Cooking, Eating and Cleaning and Waste disposal

STORAGE

You need to look at how many people will the kitchen be cooking for and how many times per day. You need to look at whether fresh or frozen ingredients will be used. Is it a family that eats a lot of meat or one that is mostly vegetarian or even vegan? Will there be any home grown vegetables or even eggs or poultry? Does the family eat a lot of tinned foods or dried foods. Will bread be bought or home baked?

FOOD STORAGE

Do you cook from a range of types of food such as tinned, dried, frozen, chilled, fresh foods? Or mainly just one type of food?
Do you have enough refrigeration and cupboard space for your cooking ingredients?
If you cook with mainly fresh foods then you will need cool and ventilated cupboard for your vegetables.
If you cook lots of food and freeze them to be eaten later then you will need large freezer space.
Do you less time for shopping trips or are shops far away? Then, you will need extra storage space to store a larger shopping haul.
Do you shop economically by buying cheap items in bulk? Then, you will also need extra space for your tins, packets, jars and bottles.
Are you a wine buff and need an area with a steady temperature?
Are your larder and fridge next to the food prep area to save constantly moving around the kitchen to get ingredients?
Are your larder, fridge, cupboards well laid out making things easy to find?
Are your most frequently used items stored at a convenient height to allow you to effortlessly access your ingredients?
Do you have safe storage such as high cupboards to keep dangerous items or sweets out of the reach of young children?

EQUIPMENT

Do you have a large amount of kitchen equipment? Do some items get only rare use and where will you store them?
You will need a convenient location to store your every day use equipment near to food prep areas.
Is there enough space for heavy kitchen appliances, toasters, microwaves, blenders and the like which will need sufficient electric sockets.
Cooking equipment should ideally need to be stored next to the cooker.
Cutting boards and knives need to be stored as close to the chopping area as possible.
Pans and baking trays need to be stored near the oven.
Your every day plates, cups, glasses and cutlery should ideally be placed between the meal preparation area and your eating area.
Your dishwasher or sink needs to be not too far from the eating area.
Cleaning and other non food equipment needs to have some kitchen space too.

FOOD PREPARATION

Having an effective food preparation area takes planning. You need to consider where the food will be obtained and where you will take the prepared food. You need to consider the type of food you prepare and who will be involved in food preparation, whether the work is shared or not.
If your food preparation worktops are used daily then you will need hard wearing surfaces.
Does your spouse, children or other family member get involved in the food preparation. If so a lower workspace would b useful if children help out. A wider workspace would be helpful if a family member helps in food prep.
If food preparation involves fresh produce then more space is needed while ready made meals need little work space.
You also need to decide if you want a single multi-purpose material for the food prep area for the different cooking activities. Or would you prefer to have separate materials for different activities?

COOKING

You have to think about how you like to cook. Are you a lone cook? Or do you have company while cooking? This will determine the location and type of cooker you will buy.
Do you want to face other people as you cook? If so you will want a centrally located cooking area.
Do you have access to a gas outlet or are you stuck with electric?
An easy to wipe clean ceramic hob will make cleaning easier for you if you do a lot of cooking.
Are you a gourmet cook? Then extra cooking features might me needed such as a barbecue grill.
Do you need an extraction canopy to remove unwanted cooking smells? Then the choice is whether the hood should be fixed or retractable.
If you regularly cook for a large family or friends then perhaps a double oven or a more professional heavy-duty oven could be used.
Do you have space for a microwave? Do you need one?

EATING

You need to consider what types of meals you will eat in the kitchen and who with. Is it breakfasts, Midnight snacks, full blown dining? You also need to consider how often you will entertain guests. Then decide the size and location of the kitchen dining area. Or will you be eating in a separate dining room or even in the living room? Some meals, such as breakfast might be eaten in the kitchen, while evening meals in a separate dining room. You need to consider the location of the table so that it gets enough natural light and away from draughty doorways. The table should ideally be away from the main kitchen cooking activities. If space is limited you might be better off with a fold-up table or a kitchen island with stools.

WASHING UP

You will need a dishwasher if you wash a lot of dishes every day. Check the noise level of the dishwasher. A loud dishwasher will be a distraction if it is cleaning while you are cooking or at night. If your cooking involves a lot of large pots and pans then you need to buy a big enough sink to clean them in. Lastly consider the position of the sink. Do you need it to be by a window so that you can get a view of the garden. Or would you rather face into the kitchen?
Are you a recycler? Then you will need space to store tins, bottles, cardboard and paper items. Food waste will need to be stored sensibly too.

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