How to Design a Kitchen
How do you design a kitchen? What needs to be considered when your designing a kitchen? Your kitchen is where you entertain, cultivate relationships and friendships as well as nourish their bodies.
In New Zealand, the kitchen has fast become the centre for your home entertainment. So you want it to be as efficient and comfortable possible! But where do you start? The ideas and suggestions below will help you make that perfect new kitchen happen. Otherwise, give us a call and let us help guide you. Call 0800 33 66 77 or request a quote by clicking here
Assessing your kitchens needs
Before any kitchen project can begin, you have to decide what you want, what you can actually have, and what works best for you. Your dream kitchen may not suit your best friend, your mother, or the person next door. So, enjoy your family’s advice and your friends’ interest in your project. But, for guidance, look to professionals who’ll ask you a lot of questions prior to giving you a lot of advice. Before you hire those pros, do some careful thinking about your dream kitchen. What do you like about your current kitchen? What do you dislike?
Have a look at kitchen designs on the internet or start saving photos, product catalogs, and clippings that can help your hired professionals understand your taste and needs. Check out Web sites that offer kitchen and design products, and if there’s a kitchen design center near you, spend time window-shopping. You want to get an idea of what’s available and what it costs. If you arm yourself with this information ahead of time, you’ll have a better relationship with your professionals and a better chance of getting just what you want. How can you get the kitchen that really fits and pleases you? Try these suggestions for starters:
Be smart. Your first wish should be a kitchen that doesn’t break the bank. Yesterday’s “status kitchen” is out, and today’s cleverly designed, modern, personal-style kitchen is in. So start by visiting several kitchen design or manufacture companies and get an idea of what you can afford on your predetermined budget.
Establish the essentials. If you have to decide, you’re better off spending your money on a great design service rather than on upgraded expensive appliances or materials. If you invest up front in a kitchen design that gets the floor plan and essential elements right, you can always upgrade to luxury appliances later. For example, make sure the kitchen island with power outlets is in the right place now. You can change that old cooking hob or oven later, as you can afford it. It is a much costlier challenge to relocate the island and change the wiring later than it is to merely change the oven. At the same time, you should buy the best products your budget can afford, especially if you have no plans for moving in the next 10 years.
Look at how you really live. The best designed kitchen is a functional kitchen. Make sure yours fits how you really live. If you and your partner love to cook and entertain, don’t settle for one oven, one sink, and no place to sit. If “a gourmet chef doesn’t live here” is your motto, don’t bother with two ovens and a six-burner restaurant stove. If your kids are at the do-it-yourself age, go for a roomy, top-of-the-line microwave installed near the fridge. If you come home from work late but still like to cook seriously, you may want to have a microwave installed near the stove for quick defrosting before cooking.
Your architect, kitchen designer, or other professional should ask you tons of questions about how you live as well as what you like. They’ll walk you through your everyday life as it affects your kitchen. Your job is to answer candidly; their job is to translate your lifestyle needs into product and design solutions.
New Kitchen vs Kitchen Renovation/Kitchen Upgrade
Maybe your old kitchen is falling apart and is not inspiring you to cook or be in there any longer. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to tear the whole room apart and start from scratch.
Kitchen design and building fall under 2 major categories – Renovate or Update.
New Kitchen Renovation
“New Kitchen construction” refers to work done on a house that’s being entirely built from the ground up. Normally, the decision to build a new home rests on more than just the need for a new kitchen. But the decision to build from scratch often provides the most leeway for creating the kitchen configuration you want. If, for example, you’d love the formal dining room, kitchen/breakfast room, and family room to all flow into one another, with the kitchen as the hub, new construction can make that happen for you with the stroke of a pen. If you want the dish washer off to the right of the kitchen, you can have it — and a you can build a kitchen pantry too!
Of course, the overall house and property size will affect your kitchen’s size, and your kitchen budget is only one part of your total house-building budget. But in new kitchen construction, you can trade off build costs between the kitchen and other rooms for maximum flexibility.
Updating a Kitchen or Kitchen Re modelling
Many houses in Auckland built in the 1980’s or sooner may only require a basic update such as changing handles, kitchen cabinet doors, new appliances and light fittings.
Decorative changes, or a kitchen face-lift, involve sprucing up without tearing down. This is cheaper and easier than renovation but won’t address major problems, such as lack of light, space, and connection to other rooms. If your kitchen basically suits you as it is, but you’d like a bit more efficiency or a fresher, more stylish appearance, decorative changes may be what you need. At its most ambitious, a facelift may include replacing some appliances, benchtops, and flooring with stylish upgrades. Or it may include simply be painting the walls and window treatments and adding fresh accessories. A new look can make a well-planned kitchen more enjoyable to work and live in.
Whatever you choose, be sure your expectations are in line with what’s possible, given the scope of the work and your budget. Veteran Auckland homeowners who’ve been through any of these productions agree: Even the ultimate dream kitchen is only a small part of your life, so keep things in perspective.
However you decide to update your kitchen, you will want to keep a firm grasp on the costs. Home projects always end up costing more than you would think, and careful budgeting is the only way to keep the price in check.
Design a Kitchen on a Budget
It’s easy for home projects to spiral out of control. Whenever you are rebuilding or renovating a room there are always hundreds of small expenses you never considered when your were in the planning stage. While these costs are often unavoidable, there are ways to keep the price down.
Take your time at the beginning to make sure each decision reflects your taste and meets your needs. You’ll want to live with and love your kitchen for a long time!
Your budget will have a lot to say about materials used in your new kitchen, but so will common sense. You don’t want your kitchen to be a financial burden, so make sure you really need the high-end solution in each case.
Another way to stay in the black without closing off options too soon: Make a list of everything you’d love to have in your new kitchen. Now, divide this list into A) things you need and B) things you want but could live without for now. This will save time later and ensure you don’t lop off something essential when you fall in love with a “could-live-without” item in the showrooms.
Most costs fall under the broad heading of Labour or Materials.
Save Money on Labour
In building, time is expressed as hourly rates paid to various contractors such as electricians and plumbers on your project. One way to save big is to invest your time instead of theirs. Put in sweat equity wherever you’re competent to do so. If you can steam off wallpaper, remove old moldings, and carry away rubbish yourself, you won’t have to pay someone else to do it.
What kinds of labour can you perform yourself? Use common sense. Be careful about tearing out walls on your own (make sure they are not structural and you know where wiring, pipes, and such are located). And steer clear of removing old insulation that may contain asbestos (Common in older Auckland homes) or old paint that almost certainly contains lead..
When it’s time to put on the finishing touches, you can paint the walls and yes, clean up the rubbish rather than paying someone else to do it. The money you save on labour can pay for some of those luxurious material upgrades you crave! Do you really want to pay your plumber $80 + gst per hour to do jobs you can do yourself?
Save Money on Materials
Marble and granite benchtops; state-of-the-art imported fixtures and appliances; hand-crafted, hand-painted wall and floor tiles; custom cabinetry in high-end, furniture-grade woods…the list of luxury materials is endless. If you can’t afford them, choose the ones that matter most to you — and find artful substitutes for the rest. A few examples:
• Marble and granite countertops. If you make pastry, you’ll want a marble inset in your benchtop, but you don’t need to be rolling in dough to have it. Compare the cost of real marble and granite to look-alike laminates or silestone, and you may decide on the synthetic for the rest of your benchtops. Specify a rolled edge to eliminate the back wall seam. If you must have the real thing, specify marble or granite…..just make sure they can get the stone inside your home. More than once have we encountered someone order a marble benchtop only to find on delivery it cant fit through the front door or access an apartment stairwell.
If natural solid stone is way out of your price range, look for similar solid-surfacing brands that are less expensive. Or choose a plain, matte-finish ivory laminate, and use a rolled edge.
• Handmade, hand painted, imported ceramic wall tiles. Beautiful, artistic, and costly, hand-painted tiles may be too expensive to use throughout but just right as borders and accents. Choose a compatible plain tile for most of the installation, and save the custom pieces for eye-level areas such as the backsplash or a border around a window.
• Luxury flooring. Ceramic tile, oak planking with contrasting wood inset, and marble or granite flooring may be out of reach, but today’s handsome wood laminate or vinyl flooring isn’t. All these looks and more are available at several price points. Vinyl is easy to keep looking new, but you may be surprised by how close to the natural materials these floors look. Choose sheet vinyl for seamless easy care, or, if your pattern includes smaller faux-tile designs, you may opt for elegant black & white tile squares you can install yourself.
If you want the look of wood flooring, laminate is less costly than timber planking. Wood laminates vary in cost due to thickness, colour and type. There are many types these days that you can chose from. You can visit most DIY stores to see the a basic range or for specialist thick laminates of specific types of woods, there are multiple importers in Auckland. Just do a little research; you may be surprised by the range and costs.
• Custom cabinetry. Many cabinets come in such a wide array of stock sizes and shapes, they assure a virtually custom fit. Use flat pack cabinets wherever you can, and have matching, custom pieces fabricated to fill in odd spaces. If your budget says pine but your heart says mahogany, you may prefer to wood stain the kitchen cabinets to disguise the more prominent grains of the lower-cost woods.
While saving money on labour is central, there are some jobs that you will need a professional to do.
Kitchen design and manufacture professionals
Designing your own kitchen will save you money but the headaches it may cause might not be worth the extra money. A professional kitchen designer who does this for a living can significantly simplify the process.
The most important step in a successful kitchen design project is selecting the right people to work on the job. Because some kitchen work may be structural, it’s essential — for council compliance and insurance reasons — that the work be performed according to the building codes of New Zealand. And to be sure all work is done properly, you’ll want to hire professionals for every aspect of the job in which you are not personally licensed.
For any structural work, you’ll need a licensed architect. You’ll also want to use licensed building practitioner and licensed & registered plumbers & electricians. You may want the specific expertise and creativity of a kitchen designer or an interior designer with a lot of kitchen design experience. Whoever you bring into your kitchen project, you’ll rely on their expertise to guide you through technical issues, and you’ll count on their integrity in working within your budget. Your experts and their teams will be in your home and around your family for the life of the project. So make sure they really deserve your trust!
Check the Basics
When you meet with your prospective professionals, be sure you have an basic affinity with them. Do you believe they’re knowledgeable? Honest? Pleasant and responsive? Reliable? Do they seem interested in your needs, your lifestyle, and your dreams? If anything “just doesn’t feel right,” keep looking. Chemistry counts!
Ask the team to present their relevant licenses. You will want to make sure that the plumbers really are register, the electrician is actually certified and that the LBP builder (If doing restricted work) is not using his mates building number. Ask if they have references you can call or photos of completed jobs. This shouldn’t be a problem for a reputable team.
Finally, make sure the pro gives you a quote fully describing the work, the specific products to be used (by brand name, type, model number, colour, size, etc.), the costs, the starting and completion dates (plus conditions of, and penalties for, non performance), and the terms of payment. You won’t need the same full-blown contract for a $1,500 job that you would for a job worth $30,000 or $150,000, but be sure the basics are covered in writing.
Get detailed drawings of the project to ensure that you, the designer, and the contractor are envisioning the same kitchen. Every aspect of the project should be included — from the location and number of outlets to the size of doorways and windows. Changes down the road can be costly and frustrating. Keep in mind: It’s your home and your money.
Basic tips for Kitchen Renovations
Once you have assessed your kitchen needs and decided how you want to go about doing them, it’s time to put pen to paper and start designing your new kitchen.
Kitchens come in all shapes and sizes, which accounts for a lot of their challenges — and a lot of their appeal. The exact same cabinets, appliances, and surfacing materials can look entirely different in someone else’s home than in yours. Flat pack cabinets can be given a unique look with virtually unlimited specialty finishes and a change of handles and hardware. If your budget can accommodate custom cabinets, your choices are even greater. Benchtop materials already come in a great array of types and choices, but they can be customized even further with special routing or inset bands of another colour or material. The same goes for flooring, walls, and in-kitchen dining furniture. So even if your kitchen is small and conventional, it’s not hopeless!
Manufacturers and designers have seen it all, and the end result is that you can have all the features you want and need, even in a tiny kitchen. Smart, space-saving products are available for the owner of the apartments, units, or townhouses. You’ll find that convenience doesn’t have to come only in the large economy size.
To create a unique space, your first move is to look at your kitchen with an eye to what might serve as a focal point. A large window, alcove, or long wall can be the start. Take advantage of beautiful windows with an eye-catching benchtop that runs the length of the window wall. If you love to entertain and are lucky enough to have plenty of space, consider setting your room up to include two large kitchen areas; one with a full-size range, a double fridge, 2 ovens, and a double sink, and the other with an ice-maker, a wine chiller, a second sink, a mini-fridge, and a microwave, plus a pantry and storage. Pretty much anything you dream up can be executed with the help of a brilliant design team. It’s up to you!
Whether your space is large or small, and whatever the end result you want is appealing or dramatic, you’ll do best if you stick close to the following basic recommendations.
• Try to keep the straight-line distance between the sink, fridge, and cooktop between.
• Position the sink between the other two appliances such as oven and dishwasher, since it’s used most often. (The sink’s location may depend on pre-existing plumbing lines but these can be moved to accommodate.)
• Allow for 3 feet of bench space to the left & right of the sink if at all possible.
• It’s tempting to place a tall fridge and built-in wall oven next to each other, but try not to; each needs its own opening space on both sides of the appliance for safety.
• Utilize lazy Susans to make potentially wasted corner cabinets fully functional.
• Use pull-out drawers rather than reach-in, conventional cabinets for greatest convenience. If you’re retro-fitting existing cabinets, have pull-out trays installed.
The biggest factor influencing what type of kitchen you come up with will be the shape of the room itself
Considerations for Kitchen Sizes
Even though the picture of the dream kitchen you have in your head is a certain size, the actual space you have in your house might not be compatible with your ideal. As with any home project, you have to balance practicality with your desires.
Picking out clever new appliances and stylish new cabinets is fun, but first you and your kitchen professional will need to figure out where those new items will be located. Unless your new kitchen is part of a brand-new house, you’ll need to decide how much change to make in the “footprint” of your existing kitchen. For effective savings, experts say working within existing structural walls and plumbing lines. And remember that whatever the shape of the kitchen itself, there’s bound to be a configuration that gives you an efficient work triangle.
Whether it’s mini, midsize, or massive, your kitchen can be designed to meet your needs and look beautiful, too.
Small, Medium, or Large
• Small: Cozy and Carefully crafted. If your kitchen is tiny, try to take some space from an connecting pantry or closet, or even a few feet from the next room. If there’s just no way to steal extra square footage, see if you can visually open up the space: Add or enlarge a window, install a skylight, break through an interior wall into an adjacent lounge or dining room, or even break through the ceiling to create a cathedral that will dramatically create visual expansion.
To maximize bench space, consider an island on casters or a kitchen counter with hinged, drop-down sections. To make the maximum use of storage space, run cabinets all the way up to the ceiling. Fit out drawers and cupboards with clever interior fittings — dividers, lazy Susans, and so on — to keep physical clutter at bay, and avoid visual clutter by using solid, light colours that blend into one another. For an eat-in kitchen alternative, include a slender breakfast bar with overhanging counters that allow the stools to be tucked out of the way.
• Midsize: Useful and Comfortable. Most Auckland homes have midsize kitchens, which, with a small amount of clever kitchen design, can function like large ones. In both old & new homes, opening the kitchen up to an adjoining room creates an effect that gives the spacious feeling of an expanded kitchen. Other design strategies can make your midsize kitchen seem even bigger and better is to try to have maximum-length unbroken runs of bench space.
By taking advantage of smart, in-drawer storage solutions recommended for small kitchens, you may be able to save enough space for a big-kitchen option like a second sink or a pantry. If a kitchen island takes up too much space, consider a practical snack bar/serving counter on the lounge/dining room side. When decorating, keep colours light and patterns simple to maximize visual spaciousness, but if the kitchen opens into an adjoining room, repeat some elements in both rooms for continuity.
• Large: Impressive and Entertaining Kitchen. More than ever, today’s kitchens are rooms for entertaining. Space for entertaining whilst cooking, doing homework, enjoying hobbies, watching TV, and more are all part of many people’s wish lists, and that translates into larger rooms. Following that trend, today’s new homes typically sport generously sized kitchens. In older Auckland homes, space for a big kitchen often comes from building an addition or building an extension. More space allows homeowners to indulge in more work surfaces and more kinds of them (butcher block for cutting, marble for pastry-making, granite for everyday good looks, and so on).
Large kitchens have ample space for amenities such as strategically placed islands; more than one wall oven and sink; a second sinkr; and/or a full-size, side-by-side fridge plus state-of-the-art dish washing drawers located within cabinets anywhere in the room. A comfortable breakfast bar, an informal dining area, and a small lounging area are other options. A big kitchen also allows more latitude in decoration and design, including contrasting cabinet and wall colours, dramatic decorative effects, so you can have it your way.
Kitchen shape considerations
Smart Kitchen Design
Apart from the size, the shape of your kitchen space is possibly your biggest design headache.
In kitchen geometry, the work triangle is the shape that connects the sink, cooktop/oven, and refrigerator. The work triangle is the functional center of every kitchen.
Studies have shown that in the most efficient kitchens, the areas of most use focus on a work triangle that add up to at least 3 meters but no more than 5 meters. Ultimately, your kitchen’s basic shape and size will influence the type of work triangle that fits best. Regardless of the shape of the room, most kitchens are organized around one of several basic kitchen layouts, each with its own type of triangle. One’s right for you!
• U-Shape: This shape puts the stove, fridge, and sink each on a different wall and offers a very compact triangle that lets you prepare a meal while walking the shortest distance. It works best with the sink (the most-used item) in the center of the “U” and the fridge at one end of a run of the kitchen to avoid breaking up a work surface. This shape works well in a kitchen that’s nearly square or in a kitchen where you want to tightly define one end of a larger space as the basic work area, with an island set in the open end of the “U,” perhaps fronting onto the lounge or dining room.
• L-Shape: The most common in Auckland houses, this shape uses two walls of the kitchen for the three points of the work triangle. Often, the fridge is at one end of the long leg of the “L,” the sink is toward the center of the same wall, and the stove is perpendicular, on the short leg of the “L.” In contrast to the U-shape kitchen, the “L” has a long, rather than a short, wall facing into the rest of the room. Room traffic does not cross into the triangle, and, since this design uses only two walls, the triangle is long and fairly narrow, allowing for a more open layout. This design is well-suited to a large room where the kitchen shares space with a lounge. Additional benchspace may further lengthen one leg of the “L.”
• G-Shape: This shape features one appliance on each of two walls and a serving area/breakfast bar that separates the work area from an adjoining lounge or dining area.
Whatever your plan, the sink should take central position if at all possible, as it’s used more often than either the refrigerator or the stove. If you locate the sink on the same wall as the stove, with the main work area in the middle, you won’t drip water on the floor when you go from the sink to the cooktop. When placing the fridge, make sure the single-door model, when open, faces into the work triangle, not out of it. Most appliances these days have doors that can easily be changed to left or right opening.
Be sure you’ve allotted ample counterspace right next to any appliance: You’ll want to set down heavy grocery bags near the fridge and slippery wet crystal next to the sink. It’s especially important to have enough space (an absolute minimum width of 18 inches, and preferably 24 to 36 inches) right next to the cooktop, range, and oven, and on at least the opening side of the microwave and fridge. If you’re using laminate countertops elsewhere in the kitchen, use heat-resistant mate-rial, such as ceramic tile, to create “landing space” near cooking appliances.
Great kitchen designs in small apartments
Kitchens that work in small or narrow spaces deserve mention because they’re able to fit the same essentials — stove, sink, fridge, work surfaces, and cabinets–into what are often pretty snug situations.
• Corridor. This shape puts two points of the triangle on one wall and the third point on the opposite wall (most often the sink and the stove are placed on the same wall, with the fridge opposite). The length of the room will determine how much space there will be for cabinets and work surfaces.
Corridor kitchens are often used where there is no other pathway to the next room and the traffic flows right through the work triangle. While this configuration is a step-saving solution, for safety as well as efficiency this setup should be avoided if at all possible, as should any design that allows household traffic to break into the triangle.
• One-Wall. This shape lines up the fridge, sink, and stove on one wall. It foregoes the step-saving convenience the triangle affords, as the user needs to walk farther from one end of the kitchen to the other, especially if there is to be adequate countertop space. A popular solution is to station one or more islands opposite the wall of appliances. If wiring can be added in the floor, the island can be stationed near the refrigerator and can hold the microwave and other small appliances.
A tiered island allows for some simple types of food prep on the lower, kitchen side and a snack counter on the higher side, facing into the adjoining room. A one-wall kitchen is a practical choice for tiny spaces. It also can be tucked conveniently behind closed doors in a wall alcove, so it’s great for second kitchens in recreation rooms, studios, or even master suites.
Eat In Kitchen design
Many New Zealanders prefer the informal, casual style of an eat-in kitchen. There are several styles of kitchen dinning. First there is counter dining, which would naturally require a counter top. Next there is a breakfast nook, which requires a small space or alcove. Finally, there is the traditional table in or next to the kitchen.
The formal, separate dining room has passed in and out of fashion for years, but the option of eating in the kitchen has always held appeal. The informal, efficient design of an eat-in kitchen is ideal for today’s casual, fast-paced kiwi lifestyle. At the same time, today’s tastes are distinctly more lavish than they were a couple of decades ago.
Fortunately, unless you desire for an authentic period Ponsonby villa, there’s no reason why you can’t have a kitchen dining setup that’s both comfy and luxurious. Depending on the size of your kitchen, you have a number of choices for creating an eat-in kitchen. Today’s smart design solutions and products that ensure any option you choose will fit right in and look great.
• Counter top Dining. Where space is slim or where the users have no special needs, a breakfast bar looks great. A breakfast bar’s informality and slim profile lends itself naturally to a casual, contemporary scheme, but if your kitchen is traditional, using the same materials for the counter and bar will tie it in perfectly. Stylish counter stools can be great decorating effects. Make sure the counter overhang is deep enough to accommodate knees comfortably, and, if your stools don’t have footrests, make sure your breakfast bar has a footrest ledge or rail.
A two-tiered breakfast bar or island can house a sink or cooktop on the lower, kitchen side with room for two to four diners opposite. If the breakfast bar or island houses only a small sink, there’s usually plenty of room to seat a number of diners on the same level as the work surface. (A cooktop requires more space and, if possible, the barrier of a different level for safety’s sake.) Ideally, allow at least 4 feet from the open end to the opposite wall, and don’t locate the fridge or wall oven opposite, where an open door would block traffic. Allow a bit of elbow room for each diner.
• Lounge and Breakfast Nooks. If you have a bit more available space or want a more traditional, cozy look, you might consider adding a lounging or breakfast area with built-in seating. A bay window alcove, with a serving area with pull-up chairs on the other side of the table, is charming if you can manage it. You can create a welcoming air with plump bench or stool cushions that carry your colour scheme. Its also a great area to relax while your reducing sauces, or want to keep an eye on the kids while they are doing homework.
No matter how small your kitchen is or how rushed your schedule, there is almost always a way to work a little lounging into the equation. The breakfast/lounge nook with fitted bench or banquette seating is a cozy solution that works well in ethnic or country/cottage kitchen design schemes. It’s also a cute solution in retro settings inspired by a ’50s booth seating. The table may be freestanding or may be an extension, with one end anchored to the wall or to a run of cabinets. The coziest breakfast nook setup features benches that are parallel, with the table between.
For a more relaxed, open layout, the benches may be placed perpendicular to one another, with the table spanning the open side. A breakfast nook can be a comfortable solution where space is scant, because benches require much less floor space than chairs. If your family includes a mix of young and not-so-young, a breakfast nook may be a perfect — and practical — alternative. Benches are safer than counter stools for young children, and, because the table is a conventional height, it is accessible to wheelchair users.
For large kitchens, or those that feature a natural alcove, dining tables that seat anywhere from four to 12 people are a good option. You can have fun picking out chairs that complement your own personal taste, from traditional wood farmhouse types to classic modern glass-and-metal. Another option you may consider is having an island or table made of the same material as your cabinets or countertops.
A round table is a friendly choice and is safer for an active family or in a smaller space. In the dining area of your kitchen, away from the stove, you can define a welcoming space with more elaborate curtains or draperies than you would use at a window in the work area. For continuity’s sake, match or coordinate your eating-area window treatments with those in the work area. Coordinate window treatments and tabletop textile colours with seating cushions for an inviting, total look.
A kitchen island can be a cheap and attractive way to expand your counter space. An island can also help you add a second sink, dishwasher, or oven to your kitchen. They are also great for entertaining serveries.
A kitchen island can vastly expand the design potential and convenience of just about any kitchen. Among the earliest islands were farm tables that gave cooks extra work surfaces and doubled as informal dining stations. Today, a homeowner has the option of islands made of the same materials as the base cabinets and countertop for an integral look.
In this scenario, any freestanding piece of furniture with at least one part standing at about counter height can function as an island. Most homeowners prefer a piece that offers hidden cabinets, open shelves, or a combination of the two in addition to another work surface. In a more high-tech kitchen, lower storage may also include a host of refinements such as wine racks and refrigerated drawers.
In many kitchens, the island is used as an extra workstation, adding to the usefulness of the work triangle or corridor kitchen. In others, it’s used as a low, casual divider defining the perimeter of the kitchen where it meets the lounge or dining area. In either case, if you add in-floor wiring, plumbing, and gas lines, the possibilities for an island’s usefulness are endless. Just about any appliance can be located in an island if the plumbing and electrical wiring are planned in. A wine rack, a gourmet wine chiller, an under-cabinet refrigerator, and an ice-maker on the lounge side are very nice options.
On the kitchen side, add a second dishwasher, a microwave, or even an under-cabinet wall oven. In a small or medium-size kitchen, one of the most popular uses of an island is as a place to house the sink. The option of facing toward the family room is so attractive that a kitchen island sink has replaced the classic under-the-window sink in many homes. In a larger kitchen, the island may house a second sink. When combined with easy access to the microwave and the fridge, this setup creates a secondary work triangle.
Your needs and tastes will help govern what kind of island you should have. In a smaller space, you’ll get maximum storage, convenience, and a neat appearance if you specify cabinets on both sides of the kitchen island so that dishes can be stashed or removed from either side. For a stylish, freestanding look that’s especially at home in traditional settings, specify an island with table legs and a low shelf for open display and storage. The common kitchen principle of extending every countertop at least an inch beyond the cabinets to prevent dribbling spills down cabinet fronts especially applies to islands. Obviously, you’ll need significantly more overhang for knee room (at least 150mm) if your island is used as a snack table or as a higher snack counter with stools (300mm).
One of the most dramatic kitchen island designs is a Japanese Teppanyaki inspired two-tiered, with food prep on the kitchen side and counter seating on the other. A sink can be stationed either on the same level as the eating counter or on a waist-high work counter with the dining surface on a higher plane. When the appliance you want to house in the island is a cooktop, however, safety dictates that the cooktop be on a lower plane, with the snack counter at least 60mm higher. Specify heat-resistant material for the countertops adjoining the cooktop and at least 2 feet of counter for landing space on both sides, and provide for at least 100mm of heat-resistant backsplash.
An island opposite the fridge is a logical place for the microwave. It’s still within the work triangle, which makes sense because most of what goes in the microwave comes from the fridge. Alternatively, if your microwave gets more use by the kids as a snack-fixer, you may prefer to locate it outside the triangle but still near the fridge, in a combination work island/snack bar. Wall ovens are often located outside the work triangle since they’re not used as much as a cooktop, and anything you bake or roast will stay in the oven for at least 15 minutes. An island may prove the most convenient landing spot for hot foods out of the oven.
In generously sized kitchens, it might be best to think along the lines of “if one island is good, two are better.” A primary island may be stationed within the work triangle, housing extra storage, a mini-fridge or refrigerator drawers, a prep sink, a drop-in cooktop, and so on. Another island might serve solely as a snack bar, perhaps with a small TV perched at one end on a swivel bracket. If this island defines the perimeter of the kitchen, choose your island base, top, and counter stools to coordinate with the decorative scheme of the adjoining room.
The kitchen is not only a room that you use every single day, it also takes much more abuse that most of the other rooms in your house. As a result, every kitchen needs a little work eventually — whether it’s a simple face-lift or a complete overhaul. Hopefully now you know how to make the kitchen that is right for you.
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