Our 7 Best Kitchen Planning Tips – Illustrated and Explained
I know what you’re thinking. “Argh!” Not another *Best Kitchen Planning Tips* post!”
But perhaps you’ve never seen an actual case study that shows you how an interior designer actually applies those tips to one of their own projects? If that’s the case, read on, while I illustrate each of the 7 best kitchen planning tips in this post with a kitchen we designed that was recently published in the March/April 2017 issue of Design New England magazine.
By way of background, the home owners were empty nesters who felt they could finally have their dream kitchen, now that their children were launched. They wanted a soft warm aesthetic using colors and materials that reminded them of where they had traveled with their children.
They wrote in our Kitchen Planning Questionnaire that they wanted their kitchen to say, “You will find good food, conversation and company here.”
So, are you ready for our 7 Best Kitchen Planning Tips? Let’s begin!
1. THE PLAN: Make sure the Cook’s Area works! Minimize the size of the Work Triangle. Plan landing zones next to Work Centers.
The existing kitchen plan/work triangle worked reasonably well. Appliances needed replacing, landing zones by work zones needed improvement, no double sink we were told, just a big deep single sink, more storage (pantry?), better island seating and fix the corner cabinet, where things “go to die” (translation, if something is put in that cabinet, it is never seen again…).
We improved the plan by addressing the above issues with new appliances, sink and custom cabinet/drawer accessories, moving the fridge/pantry and creating landing zones for groceries, etc. where you enter the kitchen.
2. THE ISLAND: Keep island seating out of The Cook’s Area!!!
The island was extended and a round table was added at it’s end.
In the image below, you can see the consolidated fridge/pantry with landing zones at each end, perfect for when you enter or leave the kitchen.
By stretching the island and making the seating area round, we accomplished two important design considerations. We keep guests seated at the island out of the cook’s area, yet both cook and guests can be part of the same conversation! The round table is more conducive to conversation and a creates sense off intimacy.3. THE LIGHTING: Lighting is the most critical aspect of a successful kitchen design and typically poorly done. There should be three lighting zones in a kitchen – task lighting (where you work), ambient lighting (general lighting) and decorative lighting (eye candy).
I will preface this by saying Sally and I overlight a kitchen. We put the lighting on dimmers, giving the home owner the ability to control the level of lighting they desire in the kitchen, depending on task, mood, etc.
In this before image, you can see the lighting is generic and not task specific. Even though the kitchen is white, it feels dark.
In the renovated kitchen, you can see how I have placed down lights over the kitchen counters and island. These lights function as both task and ambient lighting, while the pendant over the round glass table is both functional and decorative.
Typically I locate down lights about 12″ away from the face of the upper cabinets. I like to use lights that have adjustable heads, because experience tells me that in a renovation you will never get every light precisely where you want them to be. The adjustable head allows you to point the lamp toward its desired location.
The decorative pendant fixture over the round table at the end of the island helps anchor the island and provides a softer level of lighting than down lights. If you look carefully, you will see a diffuser in the bottom of this fixture.
Additional task lighting was added under the upper cabinets.
4. THE CABINETRY: There are two major considerations. Aesthetics and quality. If you want complete control over the look of your kitchen you will need to have your cabinets custom designed so you get precisely the look and finish you desire. Custom enables you to maximize every square inch of useable space in your kitchen.
Cabinet boxes should be made of plywood (ideally ¾” thick sides, ½” thick backs). Drawer boxes should be made of solid maple with dovetail joints. Drawer glide hardware should be metal with no plastic parts. You can find more useful information regarding cabinetry construction and quality at this weblink. Aesthetics come into play when you select your cabinet door style. Currently, door styles with simple, more modern profiles seem to be the norm in New England.
After looking at and considering several manufactured “custom” cabinet products, our client decided to have their cabinets designed and fabricated from scratch. Their reasons were:
- To maximize storage.
- They could get exactly the cabinet door detail, wood and finish they wanted, which in this case was limed rift cut white oak in a matte finish with a quarter round still rail detail on the cabinet door.
- The local cabinet shop selected was able to deliver the cabinets in a shorter time frame. YES!!!
5. THE APPLIANCES: Like cabinets, the quality and price points of kitchen appliances are all over the map. Based on our experience, buy the best you can afford. Note that some appliance manufacturers such as Bosch and Gaggenau use the metric system of measuring. If you have to replace one of their appliances, appliances whose dimensions are based on inches will probably not fit the existing opening.
Don’t let this scare you off. When Sally and I renovated our kitchen in the early 1990’s, we purchased a Gaggenau oven, cooktop, grille and exhaust vent. We are just now considering replacement and will be contacting our rep at Yale Appliance in Boston for assistance in properly placing our order. BTW, Yale offers a number of FAB appliance “bundles” if you are currently planning a new kitchen.
Our client wanted a simple, clean modern aesthetic. We worked closely with Yale Appliance, creating the ideal combination of stainless steel appliances using a Miele cook top, exhaust hood and wall ovens, a Sub-Zero side by side fridge/freezer and two Bosch dishwashers.
We considered a custom wood enclosure around an exhaust hood, and felt such a solution would “close down” the kitchen and push the aesthetic closer to a colonial /transitional look. The chimney style exhaust is much more in keeping with the kitchen’s vibe. (LOVE the penny hexagonal tile behind the cook top!)6. THE COUNTERTOP: Stone, wood or metal are the three basic choices. Regardless of what anyone tells you, there are NO lifetime stone sealers! So if you are installing granite, marble or quartz, it MUST be sealed/resealed on a regular basis. We’re seeing more wood countertops, although I do not recommend wood be used around the sink or range top. Sooner or later it will begin to rot around a sink. Grease stains and pan burns are inevitable by your stove. (Some would call this patina.) We do use wood (typically a hard maple) in kitchen islands or in very specific food prep areas. (We did this in our kitchen.) Stainless steel is super easy to maintain and clean, but it will show scratches and is expensive to fabricate.
Stone is our preferred material. It turned out that the stone selection process for this project was an eventful one. Working with Cumar Marble, we first selected a beautiful buttery golden brown quartzite. Quartzite is extremely strong and dense and does not stain easily. Interestingly, it can also be brittle. Because of these characteristics, Cumar recommended we stick with a simple straight edge profile with eased edges.
We needed two slabs, one for the island and another for the countertops.
But, when Cumar’s fabrication department began cutting and polishing the stone, it began fissuring and cracking. YIKES!!!
Cumar pulled the slabs from production and credited the money toward selection of new slabs. (What happened was highly unusual, but it illustrates the point that stone is a natural material and anything can happen.)
This time we selected a granite. It, too, is hard and durable. Not quite as stain resistant. But it is more predictable… And it had a lovely sand swirl character our client fell in love with.
The final product and installation was beautiful!!! Oui?
7. The Floor: While we have done a few wood floors in kitchens, our preferred material is stone or porcelain tile. Why? Maintenance! A stone or tile floor is so much more durable and easier to keep clean. We often will help a home owner select an inexpensive runner for in front of the sink or oven, if they want a softer feel underfoot.
Although our preference was to specify a stone or porcelain tile floor in their kitchen because of its increased durability and ease of maintenance, in this case, our client weighed the pro’s and con’s and made an informed decision to keep the existing wood floor in the kitchen. Their reasoning was that they liked the aesthetic of wood and were willing to be more diligent in maintaining the floor. Another design factor in play was also that the wood floor connected the kitchen with the adjacent sitting area, making the entire space feel larger.
Our solution was to sand, bleach and seal the existing oak, then, using stain, apply a grid, creating a look mimicking a Jerusalem Gold limestone terrace.
I’ve covered a lot of ground in this post . Let’s take a moment and re-cap those 7 Best Kitchen Planning Tips.
Best Kitchen Planning Tip #1: The Plan: Make sure the cook’s area works! Take into consideration the work triangle. Plan for landing zones next to work centers.
Best Kitchen Planning Tip #2: The Island: Keep island seating out of the cook’s area.
Best Kitchen Planning Tip #3: The Lighting: Three lighting zones – task (where you work), ambient (general lighting) and decorative (eye candy).
Best Kitchen Planning Tip #4: The Cabinetry: Aesthetics and quality. For complete control, go bespoke
Best Kitchen Planning Tip #5: The Appliances: Buy the best you can afford. Bundle them for best pricing. Avoid fad colors and styles
Best Kitchen Planning Tip #6: The Countertop: Stone, wood or metal (stainless steel). Stone = durability and variety. Use wood selectively
Best Kitchen Planning Tip # 7: The Floor: Stone/tile floor is durable & easy to maintain. Wood if you are willing to maintain and refinish.
Relying on these kitchen planning tips, whether you are doing a DIY kitchen with IKEA or working with your interior designer to create a fully custom kitchen, you can feel confidant that the final result will meet or exceed your expectations
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