These days the importance of the kitchen can never be overemphasized. Unlike our grandmothers who often made do with small, dark and dingy rooms, and wood or coal burning stoves, the modern kitchen is more often than not, large, airy, spacious, with natural light streaming in.
Whereas earlier, the kitchen was mostly tucked away at the back of the house or even in an outhouse, away from public view, the modern kitchen is often the first room one sees when entering an apartment. It stands to reason then, that it has to look good. Moreover, with the lady and mistress of the house (and, increasingly, the lord and master too) doing the honors of rustling up a meal, the cook-house is becoming the central room of a household.
Here, too many cooks do not spoil the broth – with papa, mamma and all contributing their little mite to set the pot boiling, the resulting soup is fragrant and tasty indeed, and many a time the family prefers to pull out handy counters and have their meal in the cozy comfort of the kitchen itself.
That kitchen décor is becoming increasingly important, is evident from the many lifestyle stores which cater exclusively to this room and with the advent of many foreign brands which offer easy-to-install modular kitchens. All one has to do, is take room measurements and a pocketful of cash – and you can order a complete kitchen, down to drawers, cabinets, sinks, cooking range and electric chimney.
But of course, you must know the ABCDEF of kitchen outlay – aesthetics, beauty, convenience, design, ergonomics function, and so on. While budget certainly plays a part when planning a new kitchen, a few other aspects also need to be taken into consideration. These are: the size of your household, your individual lifestyle, your shopping habits and your personal needs. Here is some professional guidance on setting up a new kitchen.
The plan: First, compartmentalize the three basic centres of the kitchen, each of which includes an appliance and the counter space and storage areas around it. These are:
Mixing/preparation centre: This includes the refrigerator and storage space for dry and perishable foods. Normally located near the kitchen entrance so that groceries brought in can be stored easily, this centre should include at least 15-18 inches of counter space on the opening side of the refrigerator or an island located within 48 inches of appliance front. If the same island counter is used for food preparation/assembly, at least 36 inches space is suggested. The microwave should be placed in this centre. Small hand-held appliances should also be housed here with electrical outlets for the convenient usage of mixers, hand-blenders, food processor, etc.
Cooking/serving center: This is the next basic area in the kitchen. It revolves around the main cooking surface and should be well-ventilated to remove grease particles, smoke and steam. There are a number of cooking equipment choices available today – slide-in, drop-in or freestanding units that incorporate an oven, can be chosen with overhead ventilators. Whatever cooking surface is chosen, one must make sure that attention is paid to location of the electric controls. If a built-in unit is selected and the cook-top and separate ovens are located next to each other, then a minimum space of 18 to 24 inches is recommended between them. A cook-top should have at least 12-15 inches of counter space on either side for safe use.
Clean-up center: This includes the major sink area and should be located between the other two centres mentioned above. This center also includes the dishwasher, food waste disposer or any special water-using appliance. Everyday dishes of glassware, serving and eating utensils are stored here. Even non-refrigerated vegetables like potatoes and onions could be stored here. The clean-up center should provide a minimum of 24 inches of counter space on one side of the sink and 18 inches on the other side.
Shape: In order that the kitchen functions effectively, the path that connects the three centers mentioned above should form a triangle. The triangle can be set up on kitchens of different shapes. There are four basic shapes and several other modifications of the basic shapes to suit contemporary lifestyles.
1) The first and simplest shape is the one-wall kitchen where the centers stretch along one wall. The counter and cabinet space is usually limited and the triangle is not well balanced.
2) The second basic shape is the two-wall corridor or Pullman kitchen where the centers do form an efficient triangle. However, this often has doorways at both ends, so there is a constant flow of traffic which reduces the efficiency of the plan.
3) An L-shaped kitchen is a third popular arrangement. Continuous counters along two walls connect the two basic work centers. The food flow proceeds smoothly through the centers to the dining area because of the connected counter.
4) The last basic shape is the Ushape. It consists of continuous counters along three walls that form well-defined centers. This is the most efficient plan with smooth flow and an efficient work triangle.
Most designs today also incorporate some sort of dining area, be it a cosy nook, a large family breakfast table or an island, in the case of larger kitchens. Whatever the arrangement, 21-24 inches of eating space should be allowed per person. In counter-eating spaces at least 15 inches of knee space is needed.
Storage: Kitchen design should be such that it not only improves function but also creates maximum storage space in a minimum area, along with easy maintenance. One of the places where storage space is wasted is generally at corners where cabinets meet at right angles. However, there are ways to make these hard-to-reach corners usable. For upper cabinets install a carousel turntable with two or three shelves so that things needed from the back can be removed by revolving the carousel. For base cabinets one can use a Lazy Susan turntable.
Tandem-box and metal-box systems in pull-out drawers generally allow a lot of effective storage space. They are built in different sizes and depths, with lateral dividing systems to store items like cutlery, kitchen utensils, cookware, bottles, groceries and appliances. They even come with plate holders which can be adjusted to suit various plate sizes.
Full extension pull-outs give a better overview and direct access to entire drawer contents. There are also larger or tall units with adjustable shelf system. L-shaped ones are also available, with a rounded dining table top at one end.
Lighting: The kitchen must have general as well as task lighting. General lighting can be provided on the ceiling to throw light in the aisles and traffic flow areas. Task lighting can be provided under overhead cabinets. These are essential in the preparation center. One can also have light boxes fitted on the bottom of the overhead cabinets. They should have minimum of 18-21 inches clearance from the counter top. Fluorescent lighting is better. Angle light fixtures in such a way, that no glare is formed. Electric chimneys usually have soft lighting fixtures attached to them.
Flooring: The main criterion to be taken into consideration is that it should be non-slippery. Besides, it should be easy to clean and not reflect too much light. A light color is preferred. Try to fix flooring in such a way that the numbers of grouts are reduced because they usually collect dust and small food particles.
Wall treatment: Tiling is the best option for the leftover wall space as they are easy to clean and maintain. One can also combine with wallpaper in the preparation center
Electrical outlets: Each of the three centers should have sufficient and, in fact, a few extra electrical outlets and power points for appliances
Kitchen accessories: Various types of functional as well as decorative accessories are available in the market today. There are hooks in vibrant colors or in shapes of fruits and vegetables for hanging up spatulas or gas lighters. There are fancy baskets for storage of onions and potatoes. Decorative bread boxes can hold daily-use cups and mugs. Adding brightly colored accessories certainly adds charm to your cooking area. Jugs, bowls, salt and pepper shakers and trays are in stunning colours, shapes and sizes.
Frilly curtains at the windows, red polka-dotted table-cloths, bunch of flowers and sheaves of wheat, give a warm touch.
As with any other room in the home, all you have to do is add a touch of your imagination to make this room to come alive. After all, a pleasant ambience will surely add to your talents in cooking up a wonderful meal for the family.
Praveen is a food blogger from India who loves to explore various cuisines and talk about the rich diversity of Indian food to the world.