important to place a kitchen so the traffic doesn't go through
the cook's work triangle. The kitchen shouldn't be a
transitional space or a link between two other rooms. It should
be located in a terminal or offset location, in order to
prevent both accidents and aggravation.
I often see kitchens with work aisles as narrow as 36 inches
(and sometimes less). The minimum practical allowance should be
42 inches, measured from countertop edge to countertop
Conflicts of interest. Appliances are often
installed in such a way as to interfere with one another ().
For example, the dishwasher door will conflict with a
refrigerator or oven door. This can usually be prevented with
proper planning, regardless of kitchen size.
The refrigerator should be located so that it's equally
accessible to food preparation areas as well as to the table,
since it's used just as often in setting and clearing the table
as it is during meal preparation.
The dishwasher is conventionally located to one side of the
sink, based on the "handedness" of the user. Actually, it's
better to place the dishwasher where it will be convenient to
the table. With most new dishwashers, it isn't necessary to
pre-rinse the dishes, so they can go directly from the table to
the dishwasher, savings tons of time and water.
The microwave is often misplaced as well. Many designers
incorrectly locate it near the oven, in spite of the fact that
the oven is only used in 15% of meal preparation. Meanwhile,
the microwave is used at virtually every meal. A location near
the refrigerator makes more sense.
When two or more small appliances share a countertop,
allowing 36 inches of space between them makes for a more
comfortable work area.
Many kitchens are designed with good traffic flow and work
triangles, but are equipped with too many narrow 9- and
Small cabinets are difficult to use effectively, and cost
more for the storage space provided. As a general rule, 18-inch
and 36-inch cabinets offer the most usable storage, and create
the best-looking kitchens.
Slide-outs. Almost everyone loves slide-out
shelves. However, if installed in cabinets that are too small,
they lose their effectiveness. I like to use slide-out shelves
in 30-, 33-, and 36-inch cabinets, and try to avoid 21- to
27-inch cabinets altogether. If I have a cabinet that's 18
inches wide or narrower, I'll use a drawer-bank instead of
Pantry cabs. Some of the cabinets that
consumers love to look at are in fact the worst. Take the
swing-out multi-storage pantry: It's expensive, and because
it's essentially made for canned goods, it can be a real space
waster. As an alternative, I recommend a nominal 36-inch-tall
base cabinet with five adjustable-height sliding shelves. It's
less expensive, wastes no space, and is wonderfully adaptable,
since it can be used to store pots and pans, plastic ware,
canned goods, or just about any kitchen utensil.
Peninsulas. I try to avoid hanging cabinets
above a peninsula, unless storage is absolutely critical. Most
peninsula cabinets get in the way of interaction between the
cook and people on the other side of the counter. People find
themselves constantly bending down to look under the cabinets
in order to make conversation and eye contact. If the storage
is a must, open shelving or cabinets with glass doors and backs
don't question how a kitchen will be used, you may wind up
installing the right cabinets but in the wrong locations. Good
functional design sometimes has to break with preconceived
notions to make sure items are stored near where they are
For example, pots and pans are traditionally stored next to,
underneath, or hanging above a range or cooktop. But, in fact,
if they were stored near the sink, they'd be closer to the
point of first and last use. Knowing how the various items in a
kitchen will be used is key to good layout.
old school of design held that it was a sign of quality to
install cabinets snug against the casing, because it would be
obvious that the cabinets were custom made. In fact, if the
cabinets are held back from the trim a couple of inches or
more, it makes the window look bigger. It also allows space for
window treatments, and gives the designer a little more
latitude in the choice of cabinet size.
Another old myth is that base cabinet doors and wall cabinet
doors must line up vertically. There's no practical reason for
this rule, and it can actually prevent good design. Wall
cabinets and base cabinets should be viewed as separate items,
although the doors used on each should be of a similar
seating counters don't provide enough knee space (Figure
All too often, there's
not enough knee space at eating counters. Provide a 19-inch
overhang for table-height counters (left); standard counter
height (center) requires 15 inches; and at bar height, a
12-inch overhang is necessary (right). Generally, a seat
occupies 24 inches of counter length, but allow 30 inches for
wheelchair access at table height.
Probably because of stock laminate sizes, the typical
counter bar has just 10-1/2 inches of overhang, not enough for
long legs and big feet.
The overhang for a 30-inch, or table-height, counter should
be 19 inches, a 36-inch-high counter should have a 15-inch
overhang, and the typical 42-inch-high snack bar should have a
minimum 12-inch overhang.
About That Kitchen Sink
put the sink under a kitchen window as if obeying some
unwritten law, when actually, a better location would be on an
island or peninsula. Since we spend approximately 70% of our
time in the kitchen at the sink, wouldn't it be better to be
able to look at your spouse and children, rather than out the
window? Putting the sink under a window ensures that we'll have
our backs to the social action.
Two sinks aren't necessarily better. Second
sinks installed in the kitchen often go unused, for a simple
reason: We don't put waste disposers in the second sink. A
second sink without a waste disposer forces the user to take
the food scraps from that sink to the main sink to dispose of
them. It becomes much easier just to work at the main sink.
Because an under-counter appliance
can disrupt the visual flow of the cabinets, many appliances
can now be fitted with a matching face panel. In particular, I
like to see a matching front on the dishwasher and trash
compactor. As a loose rule, when an appliance doesn't break the
plane of the countertop, it ought to have a matching front. On
this basis, refrigerators don't necessarily have to have a
matching panel. In most cases, however, the addition of a
matching panel, especially to a refrigerator, helps to diminish
the apparent bulkiness of an appliance (Figure 5).
5. To give kitchens a more streamlined look, the author
prefers to use matching face panels for under-counter
appliances. The addition of a matching face panel to the
refrigerator allows it to blend in with the surroundings,
reducing its visual bulkiness.
install flush with the cabinets. To make a standard
refrigerator look built in, recess it into the framing of an
interior wall. Adding matching side panels and an upper cabinet
can also help create a custom look.
You can pick up 3 to 5 inches depending on the stud size. In
some cases, I've been able to recess the refrigerator into an
adjacent space, such as a closet or garage.
Provide Plenty of
Ductless hoods are out! When it comes
to effective ventilation, they're nothing more than noise with
a light bulb.
Ventilation fans must be ducted to the outside, and should
be capable of at least 150 cubic feet per minute of air
displacement. To ensure good exhaust, keep elbows to a minimum,
since every elbow introduced into the ductwork reduces the
exhaust capacity by an amount equal to 10 feet of straight
So, for example, a hood that works well connected to a
30-foot straight run will essentially not work at all with
three elbows in the line. You could use a more powerful fan to
compensate for unavoidable elbows, but this introduces more
noise. It's best to plan ahead for the shortest, straightest
duct run possible. Always refer to the technical literature
accompanying a new range hood for information on maximum duct
Jim Krengel is a Certified Kitchen Designer from St. Paul,