The Kitchen Idea Bookby Joanne Kellar Bouknight
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The Kitchen Idea Book is a "fast access" design guide organized to help readers browse through options for all tastes - from quaint kitchens to sleek chrome wonders. The author emphasizes integrating the right features in cabinetry, flooring, lighting, appliances, and fixtures.
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Great Kitchen Designs
Why a new kitchen? For starters, how about the lure of new, state-of-the-art appliances, cabinets, and countertop materials? Creating a completely new look is ample reason to rip out the old and one of the big thrills of owning a home. But even more important than a new six-burner cooktop or the latest solid-surface countertop is space. People want bigger kitchens these days. Big enough for two cooks, for children and homework, big enough for eating, paying bills, and just sitting around. Even if a new kitchen is just big enough for the basics, those basics no doubt include eating, playing, and working. That's what modern kitchens are for.
In this chapter I'll cover the basics of designing that new kitchen, big or small. First, we'll set the style. Does a contemporary kitchen suit the house? Is Shaker style more fitting? Or is a mix of new and traditional the best solution? Next, we'll lay out the kitchen. Then we'll consider how the kitchen connects with the rest of the house. There is a growing nostalgia for the Colonial keeping room: a room for work, play, and cooking, complete with fireplace. On the other hand, a separate kitchen makes it easier to conceal dirty cookware during a dinner party. Finally, think fresh air and sunlight. No matter how it fits in the house, it's a rare kitchen that doesn't benefit from a connection to the outdoors.
Setting the Style
A style can mean a look that's homey, country, comfortable, or spare. Or a style can refer to a specific historical period and the details, colors, materials, and shapes that distinguish it. But such styles aren't cast in stone. For example, a cabinet brochure or kitchen magazine may tout a kitchen as Colonial without meaning that it's a reproduction kitchen like one in Williamsburg, Virginia. A modern house with casement windows can still have a Colonial-style kitchen.
On the following pages you'll find farmhouse kitchens, Shaker-style kitchens, Craftsman-style kitchens, and more. Some designers and homeowners are influenced by details found in vernacular houses, such as pale colors and thick, rounded-edge walls of Mediterranean houses, or the all-wood interior of a New England coastal cottage.
Much of a kitchen's style comes from its cabinetry, particularly the doors. Lighting, flooring, wall covering, and appliances have a lesser effect, but if all the parts match, the style is enhanced. It's up to the homeowner whether a kitchen has a style that prevails down to the very last hinge. Function, technology, comfort, and the budget also play major roles, and, more often than not, kitchens are eclectic. Style mixes with style, material with material. A hand-rubbed wood cabinet stands next to a gleaming stainless-steel dishwasher. Even though Gustav Stickley, father of the American Craftsman style, called dark oak the flooring of choice, a Craftsman-style kitchen can have a tile floor or concrete floor. Some homeowners choose to disguise modern devices, but most accept the new beside the old. After all, our ancestors took advantage of new technology when it came their way.
Does style have an influence on a kitchen's layout? It can. The major players in the kitchen (refrigerator, sink, dishwasher, and cooking appliances) can still take the same positions from kitchen to kitchen, but they may be housed differently, depending on the style. A Craftsman-style kitchen might have built-in seating and cabinetry, or it may simply boast Craftsman-style doors. A contemporary kitchen often has banks of streamlined cabinets, with clean lines, minimal fuss, and high-tech materials.
Up-to-date Kitchen Plans
No matter how great a kitchen looks, it's not much good if it doesn't work well. Good kitchens incorporate all the activities that their users require. Some people prefer a minimum of space so that they can prepare dinner efficiently and save money on kitchen finishes (kitchens cost more per square foot than any other room in the house). Others use the kitchen as a common room, with space for cooking, eating, laundry, homework, reading, and surfing the Net. The first step in planning a working kitchen is to list all activities. Then determine who will use the kitchen: One cook obviously requires less space than two, and sometimes whole families prepare meals together.
For the cook who always goes solo, a galley kitchen (two rows of cabinetry and appliances) with a 38-in.-wide aisle is ideal. Two cooks require more room. A wide galley kitchen with an island or an L-shaped or U-shaped kitchen with an island provides more space for food preparation and more complex traffic patterns. Here, aisles should be 42 in. to 60 in. wide, depending on whether the island is also used for eating.
For families and serious cooking duos, two sinks are a blessing, if not already a necessity. Locate trash and recycling receptacles away from the main work areas so that one cook doesn't have to move each time vegetable scraps go in the compost bin. Consider tucking a sink and dishwasher into a corner to make a mini-scullery.
Provide two workspaces, two cutting boards, access to each side of the cooktop and two ways out of the kitchen. If just one cook is extra-tall, consider adding an 18-in. wide, 48-in. high counter along the edge of an island or peninsula.
For help with a kitchen layout, consult Resources in the back of this book. An experienced architect or kitchen designer can help you come up with work polygons that would impress even Euclid.
After the kitchen basics are in place, consider those non-cooking activities. A space for planning meals, paying bills, and working on a computer can make it easier to do two things at once. For a look at laundry in the kitchen, see sidebar. In a family with children, a kitchen table for homework, crafts, and informal eating is almost a necessity unless the kitchen is open to a family room. Even a small kitchen benefits from an out-of-traffic place to sit and read the paper or converse with the cook. And don't forget to find a niche so that animals can eat in peace without their bowls being accidentally booted across the floor. Keep pet-food storage nearby.
Fitting the Kitchen to the House
A kitchen contains more gear than any room in the house, and it sees the most action. The North American kitchen hasn't always been the center of attention in the house (see sidebar), but today's kitchen is in the spotlight as never before. In new construction, it's a rare kitchen that is in a room of its own without at least an eating space and a few visual connections to other spaces. In older houses, space and budget constraints and aesthetics may keep the kitchen in a room to itself, and professional cooks and serious amateurs may prefer that a kitchen not be part of a larger space. But even those who prefer keeping folks out of their kitchens welcome an audience on the other side of a peninsula or at least far enough so that they can't trip up the cook's choreography.
Not too long ago, kitchens were always in the back of the house. But a kitchen that's on view from the front door has its advantages: both visitors and the kitchen are clearly visible. Other tactics are to offer a narrow slice of kitchen life from the entryway or living space, or a far-off view, or no view at all.
There's no shortage of ways to visually and physically connect a kitchen to the living or main dining areas yet keep the rooms separate. Opening the kitchen to the second floor allows the smell of breakfast cooking to waft up and the light from the rising sun to bounce down. For same-level connections, try the age-old pass-through, first used by servants and now a conduit for conversation, appetizers, whole meals, and dirty dishes. The size, shape, and detailing of the pass-through can range, depending on the style of the house, the amount of stuff going back and forth, and the size of the budget.
Floor and wall cabinets, whether opaque or transparent, make fine buffers, as do open shelves. All provide convenient storage for dishes, especially if doors open from both the kitchen and dining room. The cabinets or shelves can be loaded directly from the dishwasher and unloaded directly from shelf to the table, without the table setter having to cause friction in the kitchen itself.
A wide, framed opening with no doors or doors that are always open can distinguish the kitchen from surrounding spaces without impeding traffic and conversation. A kitchen can be set off from other spaces merely by trim and a floor pattern.
At the open-plan end of the spectrum, the kitchen takes its place in a larger space, sometimes called the great room. You can shield the kitchen with an island or peninsula or bare the cabinets and countertops to anyone with a yen to chop onions. Even a kitchen that bares its counters can veil its baser aspects--namely the dishwashing area. For cooks who love to entertain but don't want help, make the kitchen walls at countertop height for conversation but keep the openings at a minimum.
Even if the ideal kitchen has no wall to speak of between the kitchen and the rest of the house, it is hard for a kitchen to fade into the woodwork. The lighting is stronger, there's more bulk--cabinets, appliances, range hoods, dishes, pots and pans--and materials, colors and textures will be different from the rest of the house.
Connect to the Outdoors
Most kitchens benefit from a connection to the outdoors, whether by windows, doors, or both. Kitchens need light, views, ventilation, comfort, and proximity to the front or back door for bringing in groceries and, for a lucky few, taking lunch to eat al fresco. Along with controlling the amount and type of sunlight that comes into a kitchen (look for this information in Chapter 7), think about seasonal changes and wind direction. In climates with severe winter cold, such as Wyoming, a north-facing bank of storage rooms and other non-living spaces can make a good buffer against the wind. Plan outdoor eating spaces to take advantage of breezes and to avoid strong winds.
And what cook doesn't appreciate a view? Balance the close-up view--where the kids play, where the birds feed, the kitchen garden--with distant views, of treetops, mountains, a skyscraper, water. A kitchen doesn't even require an outside wall to get the view, as long as part of the kitchen faces toward a nearby window.
A direct route to the outside is a must for the family kitchen, with its constant stream of kids, dogs, guests, dishes, food, garbage, compost, maybe laundry. Then take note that a lot more stuff comes in through that same door: garden produce, flowers, dirt, snow, sand, flies. Does a mudroom appended to the kitchen sound good? If possible, keep all this traffic outside of the kitchen work triangle--not always an easy design task. Groceries, the chief raw material of kitchen work, may travel through the backyard door, a door into the garage, or the front door. Locate a suitable loading dock near this door. For vertical transport from car to kitchen, or from kitchen to an outside or inside eating area on a different level, see the sidebar on dumbwaiters
A terrace or other outdoor space next to the kitchen is a bonus. There's no need for a roof if the space is shaded by a canopy of trees, and consider backing an end-wall fireplace with an outdoor version for deck campers. In hot, sunny climates, shelter from the sun is a necessary element of outdoor eating. In fact, eating outdoors can in be almost a requirement in resort communities, not just a bonus of good weather. If the kitchen is next to a screened porch, chances are it will be used almost constantly for meals at all times of the day.
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Meet the Author
Bouknight is a former editor for Fine Homebuilding magazine. She is a licensed architect.
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