When we begin the design of a kitchen, we strive for beauty and style. But even more importantly, we want the space to function properly. If cabinet doors bang against one another or a drawer won't operate as intended or if there is insufficient counter space, the kitchen - no matter how attractive - isn't going to work as intended.
So we quite often refer to 31 guidelines established by a professional design organization, the National Kitchen + Bath Association, as a way to ensure we are addressing functionality in our design and layout of the kitchen. Here is a condensed version of the 31 "rules" to help guide the design process.
1. Door/Entry: A doorway should be at least 32 inches wide.
2. Door Interference: No entry door should interfere with appliances, nor should appliance doors interfere with one another.
3. Distance Between Work Centers: In a kitchen with three work centers*, the sum of the distances between them should total no more than 26 feet. No leg of the work triangle should measure less than 4 feet nor more than 9 feet. When the kitchen includes additional work centers, each additional distance should measure no less than 4 feet nor more than 9 feet. No work triangle leg should intersect an island or peninsula by more than 12 inches.
* The distances between the three primary work centers (cooking, cleanup/prep and refrigeration) form a work triangle.
4. Separating Work Centers: A full-height, full-depth, tall obstacle [i.e., a pantry cabinet or refrigerator] should not separate two primary work centers.
5. Work Triangle Traffic: No major traffic patterns should cross through the work triangle.
6. Work Aisle: The width of a work aisle should be at least 42 inches for one cook and at least 48 inches for multiple cooks.
7. Walkway: The width of a walkway should be at least 36 inches.
8. Traffic Clearance at Seating: In a seating area where no traffic passes behind a seated diner, allow 32 inches of clearance from the counter/table edge to any wall or other obstruction behind the seating area. If traffic passes behind the seated diner, allow at least 36 inches to edge past or at least 44 inches to walk past.
9. Seating Clearance: Kitchen seating areas should incorporate at least the following clearances: At 30-inch-high tables/counters, allow a 24-inch-wide by 18-inch-deep knee space for each seated diner. At 36-inch-high counters, allow a 24-inch-wide by 15-inch-deep knee space. At 42-inch-high counters, allow a 24-inch-wide by 12-inch-deep knee space.
10. Cleanup/Prep Sink Placement: If a kitchen has only one sink, locate it adjacent to or across from the cooking surface and refrigerator.
11. Cleanup/Prep Sink Landing Area: Include at least a 24-inch-wide landing area to one side of the sink and at least an18-inch-wide landing area on the other side.
12. Preparation/Work Area: Include a section of continuous countertop at least 36 inches wide and 24 inches deep immediately next to a sink.
13. Dishwasher Placement: Locate nearest edge of the primary dishwasher within 36 inches of the nearest edge of a sink. Provide at least 21 inches of standing space between the edge of the dishwasher and countertop frontage, appliances and/or cabinets placed at a right angle to the dishwasher.
14. Waste Receptacles: Include at least two waste receptacles. Locate one near the sink(s) and a second for recycling in the kitchen or nearby.
15. Auxiliary Sink: At least 3 inches of countertop frontage should be provided on one side of the auxiliary sink and 18 inches on the other side.
16. Refrigerator Landing Area: Include at least 15 inches of landing area on the handle side of the refrigerator or 15 inches of landing area on either side of a side-by-side refrigerator or 15 inches of landing area no more than 48 inches across from the front of the refrigerator or 15 inches of landing area above or adjacent to any undercounter refrigeration appliance.
17. Cooking Surface Landing Area: Include a minimum of 12 inches of landing area on one side of a cooking surface and 15 inches on the other side. In an island or peninsula, the countertop should also extended a minimum of 9 inches behind the cooking surface.
18. Cooking Surface Clearance: Allow 24 inches of clearance between the cooking surface and a protected noncombustible surface [e.g., a range hood] above it. At least 30 inches of clearance is required between the cooking surface and an unprotected/combustible surface [e.g., cabinetry] above it. If a microwave hood is used, then the manufacturer's specifications should be followed.
19. Cooking Surface Ventilation: Provide a correctly sized, ducted ventilation system for all cooking surface appliances; the recommended minimum is 150 CFM.
20. Cooking Surface Safety: Do not locate the cooking surface under an operable window. Window treatments above the cooking surface should not use flammable materials. A fire extinguisher should be located near the exit of the kitchen away from cooking equipment.
21. Microwave Oven Placement: The ideal location for the bottom of the microwave is 3 inches below the principle user's shoulder but no more than 54 inches above the floor. If the microwave is below the countertop the bottom must be at least 15 inches off the finished floor.
22. Microwave Landing Area: Provide at least a 15-inch landing area above, below or adjacent to the handle side of a microwave.
23. Oven Landing Area: Include at least a 15-inch landing area next to or above the oven. At least a 15-inch landing area not more than 48 inches across from the oven is acceptable if the appliance does not open into a walkway.
24. Combining Landing Areas: If two landing areas are adjacent, determine a new minimum by taking the longer of the two landing area requirements and adding 12 inches.
25. Countertop Space: A total of 158 inches of countertop frontage, 24 inches deep, with at least 15 inches of clearance above, is needed to accommodate all uses.
26. Countertop Edges: Specify clipped or round corners rather than sharp edges.
27. Storage: The total shelf/drawer frontage is: 1,400 inches for a small kitchen (150 square feet or less); 1,700 inches for a medium kitchen (151 to 350 square feet); and 2,000 inches for a large kitchen (351 square feet or more).
28. Storage at Cleanup/Prep Sink: Of the total recommended shelf/drawer frontage, the following should be located within 72 inches of the centerline of the main cleanup/prep sink: at least 400 inches for a small kitchen; at least 480 inches for a medium kitchen; and at least 560 inches for a large kitchen.
29. Corner Cabinet Storage: At least one corner cabinet should include a functional storage device. This does not apply if there are no corner cabinets.
30. Electrical Receptacles: GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) protection is required on all receptacles servicing countertop surfaces.
31. Lighting: Every work surface should be well-illuminated by appropriate task lighting.
In these days it is hard for consumers to differentiate one business from another. One promises personalized services, while another offers an amazing sale. And then again, yet another one says they can have it product delivered with free shipping. It can be confusing to make the choice with whom to do business.
And when it comes to figuring out what design firm to hire or even if you need or want an interior designer, it just isn't always easy. And we get that.
Take for instance, Hilton and Marriott Hotels. Both strive to offer their guests a quality experience and expectation. Same thing with Delta and American Airlines. What often sets these businesses apart is often a the choice of “location, location, location”.
Consider Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
Both grocers say their unique selection and quality goods keeps customers coming back. Each has created a strong brand and a loyal following. It may be hard to compare them in the marketplace, though Trader Joe’s is now whopping Whole Foods butt with very competitive pricing. So consumer choice could be about price.
What about the difference between Ford and Toyota? Both produce equally reliable vehicles with lots of price points. Making a choice of one SUV over the other is often about the style and design.
Recently we were invited to freshen up a New Jersey project in a high rise building overlooking Manhattan, a residence that we had fully renovated for a the client in 2002. And it got us to thinking about what motivated the client to return to us for this work.
In contemplating those thoughts, we concluded it was a choice,… that this client believes their interior design experience would again be rewarding and successful as it had in the past. Sure, it is the expectation of good service and quality design and competitive price, but beyond that, what factors sets set us apart from the pack? We put pencil to paper and came up with these five things that set us apart.
1. We Are Practical In Our Design And Organized In Our Projects
The design of an interior is first and foremost about function. If a space doesn’t do what is intended, then no matter how good it may look, it will at some point be a failure. So we work hard to make sure that the design we offer has practicality built into its DNA. And for a project to be successful, ordered, checked on, delivered and installed, it has to be organized and managed well.
We spend a lot of time documenting, communicating, explaining, cajoling and it shows at the time of installation. Nothing ever works like clockwork in this profession. It is how you handle the unexpected that can determine the success of the project and one has to be organized to manage those challenging times.
2. We Do Not Follow The Trends; We Follow The Clients
Trends in design are deadly because if you get caught up in a certain style and it falls out of favor, the interior will appear dated in a short period of time. Think about past designs like harvest gold appliances, lava lamps and paisley-printed recliners covered in Herculon fabric. OK… perhaps I am showing my age as a mid-century modern baby boomer. But the best design, the one that is timeless, is the one that reflects the good taste of the client. And if the client doesn’t have good taste, then there is always the interior designer. One comment we hear regularly is that our projects just don’t look like one another. We LIKE to hear that because it means we’ve been following the desires of the client and interpreting those desires into a well designed space.
3. The Three “E’s” Top It All : Expertise, Education and Experience
Effective design does not happen because someone has a good flair for placing pillows. Effective design happens because it is built on a certain expertise, ongoing education and years of experience. Those three “e’s” give the design professional the ability to handle difficult issues when if they arise or if something goes sideways. And difficulties do arise and things do go sideways.
But being engaged with the client and the project means handling the challenges quickly and finding solutions to those challenges. It is also important to know when just the right design is working and when to edit and delete. We see many interiors where the space is so busy, the eye doesn't have a chance at absorbing what the design statement is about. That takes skill and patience. (And by the way, we are quite adept in placing pillows with the appropriate karate chop in the middle. )
4. We Are Very Hands On And Some Times Our Hands Get Dirty.
We know some designers who infrequently get out of their office and inspect their job sites. You can’t be a designer by sitting in front of a computer and drawing cabinets and creating specifications. We believe that the designer needs to be checking out the progress of the work from time to time and in nearly all cases, is on the job site during deliveries and installations. After all, you can’t write a specification on how to toss a pillow so it lands just perfect in the corner of that tuxedo sofa sectional. You have to be there to toss the pillow, check the wall paint color, help with the delivery of the kitchen cabinets, place the rug on the floor just right, install the light bulbs in the lamps and hang the art. And that’s why sometimes our hands get dirty.
5. We Build Relationships That Endure With Clients and Colleagues.
Finally, we have clients that we have done and continue to do business with for nearly thirty years. And we have accounts with our vendors such as Palecek Furniture that go back an equal amount of time. It is about building relationships that become meaningful assets in the long term.
And just like the New Jersey client that is having us back this summer, we are comfortable with one another and our expectations are high. That comes from not just doing the job right but being right with the client.
Interior design is about creating spaces that impact the human experience. And great design when created with care and experience creates an opportunity for the client to enjoy their life with family and friends over time.
Michael is an award winning interior designer based in Palm Desert, CA. He is a Professional Member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a member of the ASID College of Fellows.
As a Certified Aging In Place Specialist, he creates smart looking spaces that are safe and secure and create homes for a lifetime.
And with thirty plus years in the profession, he has honed his humor, elevated his passion for design and sharpened his wit to not take anything too seriously except his design work.