For kitchens, it’s about form and function

Published 5:52 pm Thursday, October 11, 2018

“Familiarity breeds contempt” — the saying can apply to many aspects of life, but when it comes to living spaces, after a certain amount of time people can get caught up in the design flaws of their home. What may have seemed surmountable, or a quirky design, at first, can become a major impediment to functionality.

This is especially so when it comes to kitchens. If one is a cook, kitchens need to be functional. Being able to easily move from task to task, from retrieving food from a refrigerator to chopping it on a countertop, to sautéing it on the stove, to popping it in the oven, to trips to the sink, a kitchen has to be easy to maneuver. If not, a meal in the making could end up a lesson in frustration.

But there’s a formula to prevent such a thing from happening — an actual formula.

It’s called the kitchen “work triangle.”

Here’s the magic equation, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association:  the work triangle is made of imaginary straight lines drawn from a cooking appliance, sink and refrigerator in a given kitchen, or kitchen design. This is where much of the work in the kitchen happens, and the idea is that when the work triangle is positioned correctly, meaning the cooking appliance, sink and refrigerator are all in close proximity to one another — the kitchen is easier and more efficient to use.

The concept also reduces wasted steps, say, around an island in the middle of the kitchen.

SCALENE: The shape of the this “work triangle” does not have even sides, but it does have even access to main appliances. Though in the middle of the kitchen, a free-standing cutting board does not impede traffic from one to the next.

NKBA recommends the following to create the efficient and usable kitchens:

  • No major traffic patterns should cross through the triangle.
  • The sum of the work triangle’s three sides should not exceed 26 feet. Each portion of the triangle should be between four and nine feet.
  • Avoid cutting through an island or a peninsula.
  • If the kitchen has only one sink, it should be placed between or across from the cooking surface, preparation area or refrigerator.

While the design is the base of kitchen comfort, it’s the accessories that can really elevate the functional to fantastic. For those thinking about putting a house on the market, the following design choices can make much more of impact on potential buyers.

Oversized sink

Although high-efficiency dishwashers are popular, deep sinks to soak soup pots or woks are still useful. Deep sinks may be preferable to double sinks, especially for homeowners who use lots of kitchen tools when preparing meals.

COMPACT: Deep sinks are preferable for homeowners who use lots of kitchen tools when preparing meals. There’s plenty of sink room even in a compact kitchen such as this one.

Soft-closing hinges

When replacing cabinets (or just the hardware), consider installing soft-closing hinges and slides on doors and drawers. These devices eliminate slamming and caught fingers, reducing noise and injuries in the kitchen.

Bottom’s up

People likely spend more time raiding the refrigerator than the freezer on any given day. Rather than having to bend down to seek out that favorite flavor of Greek yogurt, choose a model with the fridge on top and freezer on the bottom, especially if anyone in the household has mobility issues. When shopping for refrigerators, French-door style units may offer even more access, making it easy for homeowners to slide fruit trays, sheet cakes and other large items into the fridge.

EYE LEVEL: A freezer on bottom, rather than on top, makes a lot more sense when comparing how much more often people “raid the fridge” than “raid the freezer.” French-door style units are also more functional, especially when it comes to large trays to be refrigerated.

Extra lighting

A kitchen should be a balance of form and function. A combination of overhead lighting, decorative lighting and task lighting can illuminate all areas of the space effectively.

Appliance garages

Architectural and design resource Houzz says that appliance garages are popular kitchen additions, too. Set at countertop level, these cabinets allow people to keep small appliances plugged in but tucked neatly behind closed doors.

Kitchen remodels are a sizable investment, and renovations can be customized to make the kitchen more hospitable for all in residence.