Work Zones - Stepping out of the work triangle
Those set-ups, combined with the requirement to also incorporate a vast variety of appliances, make todays homeowner wonder how to make sense of it all.
Phone stations, computer and desk areas need to be integrated; breakfast bars and baking stations are on the homeowners wishlist. Wet bars, TVs and the occassional indoor pizza ovensare other well liked 'necessities' that have to find an adequate placement.
Having designed custom kitchens for more than a decade, I prefer the approach of laying out a space in Work Zones, rather than attempting to stay within the confines of what is known as the Work Triangle.
Although you will still recognize certain triangle-style arrangements - originating in plain common sense - within a more fluid layout, the Work Zone approach takes into consideration not only the needs of the cook, but of all members of the household - even the 4-legged ones.
In an ideal world any size kitchen layout allows at least 2 people to work in it unincumbered, while making the fridge accessible to a third person. But really successful work spaces go even further than that, offering food preparation space available to 5 and more people.
1. CLEAN UP ZONE The main clean up zone typically includes your largest sink, the dishwasher(s), and possibly a food compactor. (Sidenote - Give the necessity of a trash compactore some thought before you purchase one. They compact garbage so densely that the oxygen-induced breakdown of the garbage is being delayed by many years, thus taking up necessary landfill space). In your own best interest, allocate the Clean up zone away from the food prep areas, so that nobody in your household has an excuse not to do the dishes right now, because they 'could be in the way'...! Try to position the Clean up as close to the main area that accumulates the largest amout of dirty dishes - which is typically the informal or the formal dining area. Keep available 'dumping space' to a minimum, so that members of the household will feel inclined to fill up the dishwasher, rather than adding more dirty plates to the heap. 2' - ie the top of the dishwasher - is a good dimension, but make sure not to make it longer than 4' length. In a large space, consider adding a secondary clean up area, possibly including dishwasher drawers instead of a full size dishwasher, Ideal spots would be the Butlers p...
2. FOOD STORAGE Do you ever think about how often your kids grab a glass of juice or a snack when coming from the bedroom or living room? And how often do you have to get up from the dinner table because you forgot something in the fridge? Instead of bringing the fridge inside the main kitchen working area, try position it at the outer perimeter of a kitchen. Ideally it is accessible from a number of different spaces, while still being easily within reach of the cook - that way nobody will get under the foot of the passionate chef. Of course, unless you are incorporating a so-called French door fridge, which sports two 18" wide doors, you have to make sure that the door swing will work favourably with the cooks work flow. In a spacious kitchen the additional use of undercounter fridges or fridge drawers has proven to be a viable solution as well.
Tall pantries are often close to the fridge, typically in form of tall, deep cabinetry. My favourite approach is to bundle the tall storage units together - wallovens, pantry and fridge- and create floor-to-ceiling storage along a single wall. This approach allows me to open up other areas of the kitchen, potentially even foregoing upper cabinetry in favour of large stretches of windows. In a household with small children you want to assess which part, if any, of the cabinetry should be childfriendly and therefore accessible to the little ones, so that they can grab their favourite cereal and bowl on their own. Some pantry set ups like the pull-out systems with several baskets attached to the door becomequickly too heavy for kids to open. Individual drawers in the lower portion would be more practical. The above shown solution is a great way of utilizing a recessed wall area. Outfitted with sliding doors this pantry is a very elegant, modern storage unit, that is accessible from various areas of the home.
3. FOOD PREPARATION You have two different areas of food prep in your kitchen - the hot and the cold prep area. 'Hot' refers of course to the space around your range or cooktop, as well as the ovens. Past experience with clients has proven that a minimum of 18" of countertop space on either side of the cooking surface is a useful minimum dimension. If your tiny kitchen might have less space available. Make sure NOT to place a stove right up against a wall as this might interfere with handling a pot safely. Also keep your eyes on required clearances when placing appliances to avoid fire hazards. As long as the handle of a pot doesn't stick out beyond the side of a counter you should be able to prevent accidents. You also want to make sure that little hands can't accidentally reach up sideways onto a hot surface. If you are short on space, you could consider having a less space around the cooking area, and 'bundle' those valuable inches together in an actual 'cold' prep zone.
Past experience shows over and over that wall ovens, steamovens, and microwaves are more secondary hot food prep areas than you might be aware of. Just think about how much time you actually spend in front of those appliances - it's usually a mere few minutes of opening a door, placing or taking food out, and setting the controls. This means you could position those units a few steps away from the main prep zone. As long as there is a drop-off counter nearby - either located next to the ovens, or right opposite from them in form of an island or a table with a heat resitent countertop.
The 'cold' prep zone is where the work triangle comes into play again! You want to have essential food storage as well as a separate prep sink ( or a 2-bowl clean up sink) and possibly a compost container close at hand. You also need sufficient work counter at your disposal. Prep area comes in the form of perimeter counter space, or an island or two. Keep in mind that endless feet of uninterrupted counterspace along a wall easily lead to clutter. The rule of thumb is to keep it around 4' length maximum to keep yourself in check. But then again, rules are there to be broken... This 4' 'rule' definitely doesn't apply to an island. However - having said that - in my own practise I will think of a design that might offer the homeowner a series of level changes on the island, if the available space and the design concept allows....
4. SECONDARY WORK ZONES If you find that you have too many lineal feet of counter length in your kitchen available, consider reorganizing the wall space to include dedicated secondary work zones. Those areas can be out of the main part of the kitchen, and even be treated as transition spaces linking one area of an open concept space to the next.
A BREAKFAST BAR is the perfect spot to pull together the necessities for a good start into the day. Coffee machine, toaster, kettle, mugs, small plates, cutlery, and space for bread and jam can all be pulled together into one useful entity. Being close to the fridge, or incorporating an undercounter fridge is a necessity, and storage space for cereal boxes should be considered. The microwave could be located in this area as well.
A BAKING CENTER is a big hit with pastry chefs who like to hide some of the clutter, while being organised first class. Often hiding behind retractable doors, a countertop could offer a permanent home to the heavy Mixmaster, (unless it sits on a pull up shelf, as shown above) while storage bins underneath hold large quantities of flour and sugar. A utensil drawer holds baking paraphernalia, and shallow shelves above provide storage for jars of condiments. An integrated puck light or LED strip illuminates the work counter, while the deep uppermost cabinet is ideal to store upright cookie sheets and platters, that can be easily reached.
WINE BAR A wine and/or beverage center can be as small as a multizone undercounter fridge in a transitory area towards the family room or the deck. If space allows, you can go the extra mile, complete with separate red and white wine fridges, open bottle storage, space for hard liquor, a fridge drawer for beer and pop, possibly a freezer drawer for ice, and ample space for an asortment of stemware. A small sink is an extra bonus, as would be the before mentioned dishwasher drawer. Of course such an area lends itself to be combined with the coffee center for deluxe entertaining potential.
A small transitory space between kitchen and formal diing area - as shown above - can also act as an elegant Butlers Pantry. The beautiful illumination and classic features turn a potentially dark and dreary spot into a useful and hardworking feature piece of millwork. Using granite or marble counters will allow you to position hotplates brimming with food there when you entertain.
The transitional space from kitchen to a dining area is a good location for a hutch or a buffet. Starting point for it's depth should be 12 1/2" - but make sure to measure any larger dishes you plan to store or display there! Consider incorporating space for your cookbooks there as well, or maybe a small sound system could be incorporated as well.
Families with children often include a larger desk area to be able to supervise the kids' homework. The desk above is tugged between 2 large pantries. To achieve an airy feel the inset upper cabinets have glass doors, however, in order to not force the homeowner to simply use those cabinets for display, the glass received a frosted film.
INFORMAL EATING AREAS Not so much an actual work zone, but rather an element of utmost convenience, the informal eating area offers space for the kids to snack on, or for a leasurely breakfast for two. While it should be easy to add space for a stool or two even in a small space, a larger layout lets you get creative with the seating arrangement.
If space allows, combine a few bar or countertop height stools for a chat with friends and family while preparing food with more comfortable table height seating for family breakfast. More and more homeowners seem to enjoy the possibility to look into each other faces, rather than sitting side by side, as is typical on straight runs of raised bartops. Arranging this area close to a fireplace and the TV makes this zone even more efficient.
And not to forget about man's best 4-legged friends. They, too, have demands on the kitchen, or a pantry... Required food storage aside, incorporating designated feeding stations into the shallow side of an island is a great way to keep the bowls out of the way. What makes the example above so remarkable is the fact that the bowls are inset into an easy-to-clean countertop surface, complete with tile backsplash for the unavoidable splatters.