Archive for April, 2013

Are Your Kitchen’s Work Zones Working?

Posted on: April 28th, 2013 by Anthony Ramirez

Are Your Kitchen’s Work Zones Working?

Many household activities take place in the kitchen. Sometimes, the kitchen is a purely functional cooking environment. At other times, it may act as a social gathering place or a kids’ activity center or a dining room — often simultaneously or with only moments in between. Planning for all the different ways you and your family might use your kitchen will help make it the most efficient space possible.

Kitchen Work Zones

A great way to organize your kitchen to best suit your needs is to divide the space into different areas, or work zones. Work zones may be multi use or stand-alone; kitchens of all sizes will have both types of work zones, with the exception of the smallest kitchens in which all work zones are multi-use! Much like a recipe in which a variety of ingredients come together as a complete dish, separate kitchen work zones interact with one another to create a pleasing aesthetic and functional whole.

Sink Work Zone

The sink work zone should include plenty of nearby counter top for clean up. The dishwasher should be situated next to the sink on either side depending on your preference. On the other side of the sink, it is very useful to plan for a cabinet that holds one or more trash bins. In addition, storage in and around the area should accommodate dinnerware, glasses, and utensils that will be unloaded from the dishwasher.

Prep Work Zone

The prep work zone is an expanse of counter top conveniently accessible to both a sink and a refrigerator. The refrigerator should have empty counter space to one side to aid in the transfer of items to the prep work zone. Personal cooking habits, helpers who assist in prepping the meal, and the number and location of small countertop appliances will determine how much space is needed for the prep zone. Do you spread out, prep, and clean up after cooking, or do you prefer to clean up as you go along? How you answer this question is another important factor in determining the size of the prep work zone. There should also be plenty of storage in this area for whatever you use regularly to make meals—bowls, cutting boards, utensils, and any favorite specialty cookware and equipment.

Cooking Work Zone

The cooking work zone consists of the cooktop but may or may not include the ovens (in the case of separate cooktop/ovens). As the ovens are typically the least used major appliance in the kitchen, they may be moved off to another section of the kitchen—unless, of course, you’re an avid baker. The cooktop, however, is the third critical piece of the three major work zones. The size of the cooktop may be chosen to fit your typical cooking lifestyle or you may prefer to install a cooktop that’s large enough to function for busy holiday occasions—but choose wisely if countertop space is precious. In terms of overall dimensions, the cooking work zone should have a bare minimum of 9″ of countertop space on either side to allow for the extension of long saute pan handles. There’s no need to be overzealous, however; an abundance of countertop alongside the cooking work area may not be necessary, as the main focus in this zone is the cooktop itself. It’s also helpful if space and money allows to have some form of water close at hand, such as a small sink or pot filler. As for storage? In this zone, you’ll want your pots, pans, utensils—and sometimes spices and trays—all close at hand.

Secondary Work Zones

In addition to these three main areas, secondary work zones can often be designed into medium to larger kitchens and even some smaller ones, depending on lay out. These work areas, also called lifestyle work zones, are often a great deal of fun to design and utilize, since they center on your specific interests. One note of caution: Make sure your proposed secondary work areas actually fit your needs—and your space allowances—before allocating precious kitchen real estate to something you might use rarely or not at all.

Watch, Listen, and Learn

An important piece of the work zone puzzle is to carefully consider all of the various activities that take place in your kitchen over a period of time. Observe holiday meal preparation and entertaining, gatherings with family and friends, typical weekday meal prep, and all other lifestyle scenarios. By watching what you and your family do every day, as well as on special occasions, you’ll come to better understand what works and what doesn’t about your current kitchen—leading the way to a kitchen redesign that perfectly matches the way you cook and live.

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5 Myths About White Kitchens

Posted on: April 6th, 2013 by Anthony Ramirez

The Truth About White

White, in all its hues from snow to cream to the barest hints of blue or gray, makes a timeless base for kitchen design. Homeowners who hesitate to take the plunge on an all-white kitchen have no reason to fear. We debunk five commonly held beliefs about a white kitchen.

Myth #1: White is hard to keep clean

Fact: The right materials can make all the difference. New and improved stain-resistant countertops, sinks, and flooring give you all the beauty and elegance of white without the traditionally dingy surfaces. Some manufacturers offer pre-sealed granite countertops that keep spills—even wine!—from leaving marks. Other smart choices for white countertops include recycled glass, engineered stone, and quartz. Discuss your options for white countertops, sinks, flooring, and cabinets with a professional designer who can guide you toward materials that are easier to keep clean so dirt, food spills and other stains aren’t an issue.

Myth #2: White makes a kitchen feel cold

Fact: There’s more than one way to wear white, and the same holds true of kitchen hues. Choose warmer shades for walls, floors, and surfaces (think cream, vanilla or parchment, with undertones in the yellow-red part of the color spectrum rather than the crisp white that comes from the blue-green end of the spectrum) to keep the room from feeling chilly. Wood accents, such as bar stools, can add warmth. And don’t forget to let in plenty of light, paying special attention to work areas such as the kitchen sink, island, or peninsula. Well-positioned lighting can add character and definition to a white space.

Myth #3: White is too traditional

Fact: White is timeless and makes the perfect backdrop for contemporary kitchens. All-white kitchens, with their ability to create interesting contrasts and shadows, can emphasize the sharp angles of modern lines. For a sleek urban vibe, go all white and add stainless steel appliances and stone floors. Mix contemporary pieces with vintage to add interest. Or introduce a bit of color, painting the interior of open or glass-front cabinets or adding a colorful backsplash. It’s also easy to add drama with punches of color in lampshades, art, or accessories.

Myth #4: White is cookie-cutter

Fact: White is a blank slate that allows you to infuse your own personality into a space. Introduce color and texture through flooring, countertops, backsplashes, window treatments—the possibilities are virtually endless. Show off your style through appliances, adding some shine with stainless or character by going retro. White also lends itself well to creating a contemporary space that doesn’t feel overly trendy.

Myth #5: White only works for small kitchens

Fact: White does work well for compact spaces, because it makes these areas appear larger. However, it also makes a great choice for homes in warmer climates, give the space a cooler feel. White can lighten and brighten a home that doesn’t get a lot of natural light. No matter a kitchen’s size, white creates an open feeling and helps the eye flow, creating visual continuity. Whether you want sleek and stylish or warm and welcoming, white makes a great choice for the home’s most popular gathering space.

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Is the Kitchen Triangle Dead?

Posted on: April 4th, 2013 by Anthony Ramirez

If you’ve done any research on kitchen design, or even casually flipped through the pages of a home design magazine, chances are you’ve seen the term “kitchen triangle.” A theory developed in the 1940s by the University of Illinois School of Architecture in which the cooktop, refrigerator, and sink are all placed at points on an imaginary triangle, the idea became the foundation of modern American kitchen design. The purpose was originally to suggest specific guidelines for design professionals to follow in order to achieve truly efficient kitchens. It had a good run, don’t you think?

Multiple Generations

Not to disparage the overall sound reasoning of the theory, but society has changed and people are ever more comfortable—and eager—to express themselves creatively. As a result, kitchen design has evolved too. Rather than blindly following the kitchen triangle directive, families are now designing kitchens to better fit their modern lifestyles. It’s becoming more common, for example, for multiple generations to live and cook within the same kitchen. Different generations have different needs, so in order to make the food prep and dining more efficient, accommodations may include seating at a prep area for seniors. Or it may mean that the refrigerator is placed in a location perceived as inconvenient, but which serves to create a better workflow for those who use the kitchen at the same time—so that children can serve themselves snacks while their parents prep for dinner. Specialty accommodations and/or kitchens designed solely for aging-in-place seniors, Boomers, or Gens X, Y, and Z may also be good reason to violate the sacred kitchen triangle.

Multiple Lifestyles

The new “traditional family” bears little resemblance to the traditional family of a generation ago. A family’s cultural needs, varying work and play schedules, possible single head of household lifestyle, and any other permutation that defines a particular family requires and deserves its own unique solutions to live and work efficiently in the kitchen. Perhaps one family wants the cooktop to end up on the opposite side of an island to ease their transition to the table. Or another family comes from a culture where cooking takes place in a separate area, such as in a basement or smaller, enclosed space—certainly not efficient according to the kitchen triangle theory, but it is that family’s favored way to function. In other words, vive la différence…and design accordingly!

The Social Kitchen

Designing a kitchen for social interaction often results in a different layout than the overly efficient aims of the work triangle. Instead of focusing only on how people can best prepare meals, designers now take into account the ways families and friends spend time together in the kitchen. Large or multiple islands are able to accommodate people who wish to gather near the action of food preparation and cooking. Comfort in the form of soft furnishings, banquettes designed for seating flexibility, and large-screen TVs and other media add-ons encourage more activities within the boundaries of the kitchen than ever before. Additionally, cooks may want appliances such as wine or beverage refrigerators, coffee stations, and grilling or other specialty appliances close at hand, disrupting the kitchen triangle further if these items take precedence in the cooking process over the sink/cooktop/refrigerator trio.

The Cooking Process

The art and process of cooking is personal to each of us. Whether you want to get a meal on the table as simply and quickly as possible or whether you regularly attempt to make gourmet meals at a leisurely pace (or whether you’re somewhere in between), the placement of appliances, storage, and countertop distribution must be designed precisely for your functional needs. Today’s enormous selection of appliances and their varying sizes and configurations further enables cooks to tailor the kitchen to their specific requirements.

Considering the expense, time, and care spent on a renovation, it makes sense to find out how your family uses, and wants to use, your kitchen. Forget the rigid structure of the outdated triangle. Instead, express your inner chef—however that translates into your new kitchen’s design.


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