The Perfect Kitchen Configuration

You're planning a kitchen remodel. Or maybe you have the opportunity to design your next home. In either event, you'll want your new kitchen to be as functional as possible, with everything in the right place. What should you strive for? What should you avoid?

It doesn't take an expert to determine that kitchen layouts should avoid the hallway syndrome. You don't want people walking through your work space to get from one part of the house to another. If you can't avoid having two doorways into the kitchen, you should at least try to keep foot traffic away from critical food preparation areas.

Some other kitchen ideas to consider:

If your flooring is wood, go for a softer kind like fir, as opposed to hardwood, recommends David Fisse of Northwest Design & Restoration. With a softer floor, a glass or plate is less likely to break if you drop it.

Install individual ceiling lights, instead of those long fluorescent bulbs, says Fisse. They're more attractive. Also, consider installing lights under each cabinet to better illuminate counters below.

And don't put a powder room too close to the kitchen, suggests Carol Berg of Design Residential, Inc. For the sake of privacy, you don't want the restroom door to be visible from the kitchen.

The kitchen's relative size should match that of the home, says John Turman of Design Residential, Inc. If you are building a 1,400-square-foot home, don't put in a huge kitchen. Why? "If you spend more than you should on the kitchen, chances are you'll spend less than you should on other parts of the house, and that could detract from the home's overall value," he explains. Generally, he thinks the kitchen should occupy about 8 percent of the home's square footage.

David Fisse, president of Northwest Design & Restoration of Medford, prefers to put the great room or living room close to the kitchen so people will gather there and stay out of the cook's way. Or you can put a wet bar in the great room or living room for the same purpose.

When designing a kitchen, first decide where you'll put the refrigerator, says John Turman, co-owner of Design Residential, Inc. of Medford. "You usually put it in a corner so you can have a wall that at least partially hides it."

And you'll want it at the end of a counter, not in the middle, advises Fisse. Putting it in the middle breaks up the counter space and makes the work area seem smaller.

Both designers find islands desirable in kitchens.

"Put the stove in an island, so you can easily reach a refrigerator behind you and the sink nearby," says Fisse. "And hook it up for gas. Electric ovens are OK, but gas is preferable for stovetop cooking."

Turman would put either the stove or sink in the island. But he cautions that the clearance between the island and any other work station needs to be a minimum of 3 feet, 6 inches. That's so two people can walk through the space without colliding.

Both acknowledge the popularity of the "golden triangle" concept, with stove, sink and refrigerator arranged in that configuration. Turman goes a step farther and suggests you can look at it as a rectangle by adding a pantry as a fourth element.

There's a second triangular concept that also works well in home design, and that's arranging the kitchen, dining area and great room or living room in a triangle, says Turman and Carole Berg, the other owner of Design Residential, Inc. If it's a larger home, consider having a butler's pantry between the kitchen and dining area or living room. It can have a coffee bar, prep sink and wine storage area. And if at all possible, they'd put the kitchen at one end, close to the garage and mudroom, so there can be easy access when carrying in groceries.

If you do a lot of canning or live out in the country and make less frequent trips to the grocery store, Fisse suggests adding a walk-in pantry to store large purchases.

All three designers emphasize the need for natural light in your kitchen. Design it to capture the morning sun. A sink in front of a large window is always nice.

With some thought and planning done upfront, and perhaps the advice of a professional, your kitchen can be the dream space you've always wanted.

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