A Little Friendly Advice: Bigger Isn't Always Better In Kitchen Design: Just Make It Efficient.
By Michael A. Thomas, FASID, CAPS
When a potential client called to discuss how we design kitchens (and bathrooms, and provide the cabinets thru DuraSupreme) I was amazed by their desire for a new kitchen to be in their words "the size of a football field." Don't get me wrong. Large family style kitchens where everyone is around can be both a culinary and a social space. But setting aside acres of floorspace for a kitchen that may be frequently used to make "reservations" at a favorite bistro instead of making mom's baked apple pie would seem to be a waste of space and dollars too.
The longer we spoke it became apparent that what they really wanted was an efficient kitchen space and they had determined that by making the kitchen larger, they would achieve their goal.
As a designer of many such spaces and as the primary cook in my household, I am certainly qualified to give them advice about how best to make a kitchen that works efficiently as well as effectively. And while additional space is always a luxury, it does not necessarily make a kitchen work any better. So after being the chef of the house for some 30 years, here are three brief suggestions for designing a fabulous kitchen that works just as hard as the cook does.
(1) Be Realistic.
Pare down to the basics. The old saying "Keep It Simple" applies here. Do you really need a waffle iron, an electric skillet, a food processor and a George Forman's Burger Grill up on the counter at the same time? And what about those 7 packets of taco seasoning that somehow get pushed deep into the pantry closet?
Establish your kitchen's "design core" around only the most frequently used appliances and food stuff. And if you are given the latest and greatest kitchen gadget but only use it on special occasions, find a location so they don't get in the way of what you need to use on a regular and daily basis. And get rid of all the outdated taco seasoning packets and use fresh salsa instead. Spices should NOT be purchased in bulk unless you are a restaurant because they loose their potency in as little as 30 days.
(2) Think Zones:
As you contemplate a new layout, think about the main activities that occur or what can be called “zones.” Cooking, • Baking and • Cleaning. (Some would also suggest "eating" should be considered as a kitchen activity but perhaps it should be someplace other than over the kitchen sink.)
--COOKING: When it comes to cooking, arrange all the required tools around the cooktop. Pans, pots and utensils should be stored so that they can be pulled out easily during the cooking process. Organize all the drawer and door cabinets with as many dividers, rollouts and racks as possible. This helps keep the storage efficient and provides a somewhat defined location for each pot and pan, spatula and spoon after they are washed up. And besides, you will spend less time in the kitchen if you can find the items you need as quickly as you need them.
--BAKING: The process of creating something hot from the oven is for many a lost art in the era of microwaves. Some would say they just don't have the time. But with even a small space devoted to baking with all the necessary tools and supplies at hand, one can quickly appreciate the fine art of baking. Think warm bread or cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven. YUM. Plan on devoting even a small amount of counterspace that can be used just for baking such as stirring together food and rolling out pie crusts. Another tip is to keep everything else cleared away from the landing pads nearest the oven so there is a space to sit a hot dish down when it has been in the oven at 375 degrees for one hour. Keep mixers, ladles, containers, cake and pie pans separate from all other items since you wouldn't necessarily use them in the cooking zone.
--CLEANING: Whether in a small or large kitchen, clean up should occur as an ongoing process. When finished with the vessels, pans and utensils, place them near or in the sink to free up other zones. I am a proponent of a large single compartment sink as it provides a singular space to accumulate all the things that will eventually be washed or placed in the dishwasher. And include a hefty, well built garbage disposer to that sink. Also I am not fond of those very tiny veggie sinks. But if you do, add a garbage disposer to it as well to add to the functionality. You might choose drawer style dishwashers that provide certain benefits like quick loading times, shorter wash cycles plus generally use less water and energy.
(3) Go Tech.
These days technology has changed the way we do many of the routine tasks. As an example, cookbooks that can clutter counters and shelves can be replaced by an access to the Internet. Set aside a small clean, clear space for the laptop, tablet or even cell phone to browse and discover the best apple pie recipes. And all those favorite recipes that have been collected over time can be scanned, saved to a computer and referred to in a matter of minutes. In my household, a fully wireless tiny flat panel TV sits on one counter and provides access to the news, checking my emails and the latest recipes on the Net. Because it connects without a wire (other than the electrical cord when charging the battery) it can easily move out of the way when I need the space.
So there you have it. Three quick concepts for making a kitchen a place to come back to, not just for making reservations, but a truly home cooked meal with all the trimmings.
12/5/2013 06:37:37 am
Thanks for this info, Michael. Very helpful information. What brand of cabinetry do you carry? Really like those in the second picture with the big island - Barbara S.
Michael Thomas, FASID, CAPS
12/5/2013 12:00:08 pm
Thanks Barbara… We've partnered with DuraSupreme Cabinets for nearly two decades and as designers, we appreciate their ability to fabricate great cabinets, available in many finishes, delivery to our job sites on their own trucks and at a price that is competitive. And during December, we are offering special discounts on DuraSupreme like no charge upgrades on many of the wood species. - Michael T.
12/5/2013 11:16:18 pm
Good job, Mr. Thomas. I have a new way of looking at my kitchen and will be ready to dump these old cabinets after the holidays are over. I can't believe that I have lived without rolling out shelves and the dividers in the drawers for this long. ---CR
Michael Thomas, FASID, CAPS
12/6/2013 05:15:23 am
Thanks, Cindy… I'm glad this information was of value to you.
6/7/2016 06:43:37 am
Wow... great information. I'm ready to start the process of remodeling the kitchen and was thinking of just making it a part of the family room. But from what I have read recently, those great rooms with kitchens are falling out of favor. What say you, Michael?
Michael A Thomas
6/7/2016 08:28:26 am
Sandy, ... In the last half of 2015, I began to observe a shift away from the "great room and kitchen combo space" to a kitchen isolated from family living spaces.... mostly in houses being remodeled. While still a popular trend especially in newly built houses, keeping the kitchen away from the activities and I assume TV watching is probably a good thing, ... to say nothing of the noise ( and smells ) coming from the kitchen during clean up.
James Rosenberg ( and Judy )
6/8/2016 09:21:38 pm
So what you do think about kitchen cabinets that have have the shrink-wrapped vinyl finish vs wood? We've been researching the options and really like some of the patterns offered over the wood or wood veneer doors and drawers. Like to know what you think and if it is just a trend. Thank you.
6/11/2016 07:13:34 pm
James... I think what you describe is a "thermofoil door," which is a synthetic printed plastic material that is heat-sealed over a preshaped door, drawer and trim. Originally a lower priced option to wood for kitchen and bath cabinets, thermofoil finishes are much more sophisticated than two decades ago when all you might find was white, almond and a really bad printed oak. • Today, there are dozens of patterns including one of my favorites, a straight grained walnut that will fool most people in thinking that it is real. Definitely not a trend, we've used TF panels for covering walls, making beams for ceilings and fabricating furniture.
4/2/2021 01:35:25 pm
Hi thanks for posting this.
3/25/2023 03:38:48 am
I just fell in love with your blog, especially your title of the post. You said it exceptionally well that Bigger Isn't Always Better In Kitchen Design: Just Make It Efficient. One of the core principles of kitchen design is that while bigger may not always be better, increasing efficiency is paramount. This concept acknowledges that when designing a kitchen, one should focus on the functionality of the space and the user experience instead of simply amplifying its size. This is a very informative blog. I really appreciated that you have presented information on Kitchen and bathroom design. All images you have shared are amazing.
5/31/2023 05:14:40 am
What a refreshing perspective on kitchen design! This blog challenges the notion that bigger is always better and emphasizes the importance of efficiency in creating a functional kitchen space. The article provides valuable insights and practical advice on optimizing kitchen layouts, storage solutions, and workflow, all with the goal of achieving maximum efficiency. By focusing on thoughtful design choices, such as utilizing vertical space, incorporating clever organizational systems, and prioritizing ease of movement, homeowners can create a kitchen that not only looks great but also enhances daily functionality. The emphasis on quality over quantity and the importance of considering individual needs and habits is truly valuable. For those seeking a well-designed, efficient kitchen that maximizes space and functionality, this blog is an excellent resource.
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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.