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 And get rid of all the outdated taco seasoning packets and use fresh salsa instead.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.
Technology has impacted how we work, increasing our productivity, efficiency and ability to manage multiple objectives. When it comes to our homes, technology makes it easy to control our thermostat, monitor the home alarm system, and use our iPhone as a TV remote control. Amazing, eh?
But with all the tech-stuff comes the challenge of keeping the the cords and the clutter they create under some measure of control. You know... a place for everything and everything in its place. So here are five fresh ideas to help you do just that.
• First Idea:
Create a charging station within a drawer. It takes a bit of doing but when you are remodeling a kitchen or adding a home office, this one is an easy one. And while this works if you only have one iPhone and one iPad, there probably isn't enough electrical outlets to accommodate a family of phones and pads. So think about making that outlet a plug strip. That way you are less likely to run out of outlets.
• Next Idea:
This one is amazing. Imagine that your entire countertop in the kitchen or the bath has the ability to charge your smartphone. Well, imagine no more because there are vendors making solid surface counter materials that can keep our cell phones charged up with out a cord. Amazing, eh?
Imagine how good this would be if the top to your cocktail or end table had the same feature.
• Third Idea:
We first saw the prototype of this about three years ago and knew that it would be just a matter of time before a standard outlet and USB charging port would be combined and in the marketplace. No more fumbling around for a charging brick.. just plug that pad or phone using a standard USB cable. Cost will vary but you can generally pick one of these up for about twenty bucks. Installation is easy. Just remember to kill the power to that old outlet before replacing it with this new one other wise it might be you that gets the charge. And certainly, a licensed electrician would be a wise investment, especially if you have several installed all thru the house.
• Fourth Idea:
This is pretty low tech idea when it comes to other solutions but it works. Take a series of those large spring-loaded paper-binder clips and mount them at the back or to the side of a desk or countertop. Weave all those cords thru the "arms" and keep the cords dangling out of sight until you need them.
• Fifth Idea:
Sometimes part of the clutter issues are really about not having sufficient places to plug our stuff into. From Task Lighting comes this angled pug strip that can be easy customized for what ever you want. Say that in a two foot length, you might want two 120v outlets and three USB outlets. No problem. And how about where to place it? The track is angled and designed to fit under a countertop as in this picture or beneath the bottom of a wall mounted cabinet.
Tackling a remodeling project can be a stressful time. Your home is turned upside down along with everything else in your life. We've heard stories about contractors that would make midnight nightmares seem like pleasant day dreams.
But it doesn’t have to be that way if you make a plan to survive it all. Here are four keys to ensure that all goes well, whether it is tearing out a powder bath or something much bigger like adding additional rooms to the house.
• First things first. You can't start too soon. If you want your project to go well, the best thing to do is make every single decision on paper before the work begins. It seems like a lot of work but skipping this step and you could be reaching deeper in your pocket during the course of the project. Keep in mind that a lot of elements interact with one another and by putting them together on paper, you are much more likely to catch any problems before they are created.
Need ideas? Create a clipping folder of all the neat stuff you've seen. Head out to model homes to see what builders and design-stagers are creating. But forget about watching HG-TV. Those are reality-shows, in our humble opinion, and don't truly reflect the real nature of remodeling, architecture and design.
And if you still don’t have a clue what you want or how to get the look you desire, you reall should hire a design professional up front. They can save both time and money and avoid many stressful situations. And it is important to tell them as much as you can so that they can create a master plan that matches your style preferences and budget. With a plan that will help control costs even before the project begins, you will be able to survive the process much easier.
• The second key: Don’t change your mind (too much.) Even though it’s inevitable that you will change your mind on some things once the project gets started, know this: Every change you make - even the minor ones - can create a domino effect on other elements in the space.
Plus changes have a way of quickly getting out of hand due to added costs and time delays - even if it is only the time spent discussing the change. Plot and plan ahead of time. ( See The First Key ! )
• The third key: Don’t over do it. Replacing that tired kitchen with new cabinets and counters may increase the value of your real estate, but only if you plan to live in the home for at least 3 to 5 years. As with any investment, the longer you hold onto it, the lower the risk and the bigger the returns.
• Finally, the fourth key: Watch what you spend. Investigate what homes have recently sold for along your street that may have had similar work recently completed. Then use that data as a guideline on what to budget for your project. It doesn't make dollars and sense if you over-design and over-spend for the neighborhood. Keep in mind that creating great curb appeal may increase your home's perceived value but also give you pride in where you live and how you enjoy your corner of the world.
And that alone is worth any investment in a remodeling project.
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.