Jul 5, 2012

Must-haves in kitchen design.

We all love to look at new designs and check out the trends. We can use them in our own homes and be smart and savvy in our design.  However, there are some essential elements that make a kitchen truly comfortable to live and work in.  Here are my top 10:

1. Make the floor comfortable.   A mat by the prep area, sink, bake counter, or stove will keep knees and backs more comfortable.  Cork flooring does that naturally, but area rugs and specialty kitchen mats are a great addition to a finished kitchen.

2. Have the best lighting possible. Under and over-lit kitchens are not pleasant to work or be in. Task lighting where you need - over sinks, cooking surfaces and prep counters - it is ideal, and ambient lighting for general use works well for eating, re-stocking, cleaning and gathering. A combination of recessed and ceiling fixtures works well for most spaces; using LED and halogen bulbs on dimmers will provide clean, white light at the perfect level.

3. Keep surfaces clutter free with optimal storage. Rather than leaving oft-used items like spices, cooking utensils and small appliances out, find a handy place to stash them. When you need cooking space, having to move items around is cumbersome.  Tuck a narrow cabinet for spices next to the stove, create shelves for easy-reach of oils and seasonings, and make homes for appliances right where you use them. 

4. Make the distances between counters, appliances, sinks and key usable areas precisely right so there are no long reaches, easy access from one point to the other, and large enough not to feel cramped.

5. Update appliances that don't perform well. Having an inadequate dishwasher, a noisy refrigerator motor, or an oven that doesn't heat evenly, is stressful and likely not energy efficient. 

6. Add color for interest and to create a desired mood.  Spots of color, changes in color between the upper and lower cabinets or an island, and accent walls, can create energy and a focal point. 

7. Create a gathering area. It's often nice to have company when cooking, and an extra prep area is nice but not always possible, but place comfy seating nearby; a padded stool, great counter chairs, even a fold out bench!

8. Add a touch of personality.  Hang a favorite piece of art, a collection of your children's masterpieces, and place travel mementos on shelves. You might find that a collection of glass jars becomes a great display filled with kitchen staple items.

9. Bring in a plant or flowers.  Even a tiny apartment kitchen will feel warm and happy with a few flower stems tucked into a glass.  The greenery, the color, and the texture is relaxing and pretty.

10. Have one movable prep surface. In a small kitchen, preparing a large meal can take up all of your counter space. By having a large cutting board, you can take it anywhere and add a kitchen surface. In large kitchens, it's nice to have a rolling prep center for large meals, baking projects and more.  It can serve as an island every day, or roll into a pantry for use when needed.