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Kitchen Design Basics

by Don Vandervort, © HomeTips

Although the kitchen was once a strictly utilitarian workroom, it has become the center of household activity, the hub of both family life and entertaining. As kitchens have grown into this high-profile role, they have gone through many dramatic changes, not only in the appliances they contain but also in their basic design. For example, today’s kitchens often have an adjacent breakfast room or open onto a family room, and the may be designed to accommodate two cooks.

Because the kitchen is the key work and activity area of a home, its layout and design are critical to a successful kitchen remodel. As you and your architect or designer develop plans, be sure to take the following into consideration:

The Kitchen Work Triangle

The classic kitchen work triangle was developed in the 1950s for limited-space housing. Because it worked well for the simple, single-cook kitchen, it was adopted in the design of millions of kitchens over many years.

The classic work-triangle concept places the main food preparation areas—refrigerator, sink, and stove—at a point on a triangle and then specifies that the total distance of all three sides be less than 26 feet, with no side less than 4 feet. Secondary work areas can feature additional storage options, a small sink, and easy access to an oven or microwave.

Although it works well for simple, single-cook kitchens, it lacks flexibility. Many of today’s kitchen designs break the classic work triangle and are instead allowing for multiple independent work zones. They may also incorporate the kitchen into the overall living area.

Kitchen Dimensions & Clearances

Traffic patterns should provide for easy flow and plenty of elbowroom. A doorway should be at least 30 inches wide; a work aisle should be at least 42 inches wide (46 to 60 inches if the aisle doubles as a traffic path). Main traffic paths should be away from work zones.

Work surfaces are needed at all key work areas. The main sink should have a minimum of 24 inches of counter on one side and 18 inches on the other. The stove or cooktop, as well as the oven, requires 15 inches on one side, 9 inches on the other. A refrigerator needs 15 inches of counter on the latch side or a landing space, such as a nearby island. A microwave, if separate from the oven, should be mounted 36 to 54 inches from the floor.

Two sink stations, one for cleanup and the other for food preparation, are helpful. The cleanup sink should be within 36 inches of the dishwasher. A storage area for garbage and recyclables should be nearby.

Storage, of course, is very important. Highly organized, accessible storage cabinetry should keep kitchenwares near where they’re used.

To get free recommendations for top-rated local kitchen designers, call the most reliable and comprehensive referral service, HomeAdvisor, at 866-350-2983 (toll free).

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