Some Tips on Kitchen Design

There are several significant ways that the use of kitchens has changed since the mid-century, which may make your existing kitchen layout obsolete:

  1. Today, the family and guests WILL be in the kitchen while you are cooking. You need to plan on where they can socialize without getting in the way of the food preparation process.
  2. Multiple cooks are much more common today than 50 years ago. The cooking areas may need to be thought out more carefully, and the classic cooking “triangle” may not apply.
  3. Traditionally, the kitchen used to overlook the front entry or yard — maybe for Mom to see the kids coming home from school, the postman arriving, or for watching the ladies arriving for tea. Now, Mom may be coming home from work at 6 pm, and the kitchen has become the focal point for family living. It may make more sense to relocate the orientation of the kitchen towards the back yard/recreational area. This can help mothers monitor kids playing there, too.

A mistake that amateur remodelers often make is in not seeing the big picture. Some of my clients are surprised that it is often only slightly more expensive to rebuild the kitchen in a different area of the house, and their worrying about reusing the existing plumbing lines, or not touching a decrepit and dangerous wood-burning masonry fireplace (that is never used) was needless. Having a design professional, such as an architect, who is used to thinking through the “big picture” issues, can make the difference between a kitchen that really works for your house and lifestyle, versus a “band-aid” kitchen that never quite works well.

Sometimes getting rid of a structural post or bearing wall is not nearly the challenge you might think. In the last Eichler kitchen remodel that I did, we were able to remove an inconveniently placed structural post with a simple “transfer beam” for a few hundred dollars, which was much better than trying to plan a layout around it. This is a reason to consider having a design professional with structural expertise, such as an architect or structural engineer, on the design team.

Don’t worry about so-called timeless design. Design for yourself and what you like, rather than some unknown buyer years down the road. The next buyer is probably going to remodel the kitchen, anyway. Timeless design often ends up being just boring and innocuous.

Find something you really love for a focal point of your design, and pick the other finishes to be complementary to that. Maybe it’s a special cabinet finish, or unusual countertop, or stunning backsplash. Other finishes should be subsidiary, but harmonious, to that. If EVERYTHING is special and tries to capture your attention, then the overall effect will appear overwhelming.

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