Island? Peninsula? Two cooks? Your dream kitchen starts with a checklist to help you decide what works best for the way you live. (Plan 464-13)
Kitchen Design Checklist
Print out a copy of this checklist to use while planning a kitchen for your brand-new house or remodeling your kitchen. Take it along when touring model homes or show homes. There's much more information on this topic in Katherine's The Brand-New House Book and throughout katherinesalant.com.
1. What do you love and hate about your present kitchen? (Tip: Post this page on your refrigerator or bulletin board so you can jot down thoughts as you're preparing meals or cleaning up. That's when you'll gather invaluable information for sitting down with an architect or builder.)
2. When you tour model homes, get beyond the look of the kitchen and zero in on layout and efficiency. (Tip: While touring, do pantomimes of meal preparation in the kitchen. You may feel silly, but you'll quickly see inefficiencies such as crisscrossing the kitchen from refrigerator to sink and stove and back 20 times while you're preparing a meal. Think strategically. A wall oven can be off to one side because you won't be hovering over it. But a microwave should be convenient to the food-prep area. If you cook with a partner, do this pantomime together to see where you might get in each other's way.)
3. If there's a counter island, how far is it from the main counters? (Tip: To be functional, it shouldn't be more than 42 inches away. An island cooktop should be at least 60 inches long. With this length you can get a 15-inch counter on each side of a standard 30-inch range and have space for pot handles to overhang, as well as a place to put bowls and utensils.)
4. If there's an island cooktop, is it directly opposite the sink? (Tip: Staggering an island cooktop rather than placing it directly opposite the sink makes it easier for two people to work in the kitchen at the same time. Turning the island 45 degrees to create a triangle-shaped floor area between it and the adjoining counter also gives more space and is especially convenient when children are underfoot.)
5. Are you being realistic about your cooking style - neat or messy - as you select countertops, cabinets, flooring and backsplash? (Tip: A neat cook can work anywhere, with any counter layout and any countertop material. A messier cook needs a scratch-resistant, stain-resistant countertop, a medium-colored floor with a pattern, and a smaller, contained food- prep area. Otherwise, he or she will spread out everywhere and cleanup will take forever. Messy cooks also will be happier avoiding white cabinets and light-colored tile grout which will stain easily if food spills are not caught right away.)
6. Is food storage adequate for your shopping and eating habits? (Tip: If you grocery shop once a week, you need more storage than someone who goes to the store every few days. Also, serious cooks need more space for pantry ingredients than someone who eats out a lot.)
7. Stock, custom or semi-custom cabinets? (Tip: Custom cabinets are the most expensive, with higher-grade materials and a greater choice of woods and stains. Detailing is more refined and can be made to order in any size. Stock cabinets come in fixed sizes and allow fewer choices of finish. That said, some stock cabinet lines now include features that were once the hallmark of custom cabinetmakers, such as roll-out trays, solid-wood drawers with dovetail joints and under-mounted drawer glides. Semi-custom cabinets occupy an ill-defined gray area between the other two.)
8. Do you have enough base drawers, versus base cabinets? (Tip: Many kitchen designers now recommend drawers rather than cabinets for storage below counter level. Drawers can be more precisely tailored to individual needs and are easier to use. But it's a good idea to include at least one base cabinet suitable for awkward-sized pots. Most designers recommend drawer widths between 18 and 36 inches. Also, tall cabinets with roll-out trays have all but replaced that quintessential 80's gizmo-the swing-out chef's pantry.
9. If you're planning a kitchen that's large enough to hold lots of people when you entertain, will it still feel comfortable when they leave? (Tip: Today's trend toward large kitchens requires special care in design so a kitchen doesn't feel cavernous with only two or three people in it.10. Will you have enough light for working in the kitchen at night? (Tip: Kitchen lighting is often overlooked because most buyers visit model homes during broad daylight. Even if there is sufficient general lighting, the counter areas can be hard to work in. Under-cabinet lighting will eliminate the problem. Very few builders install these, but ask to have the wiring installed so you can add the lights yourself after you move in. A "slim line" type of fixture that fits in the recess under the cabinet box is more expensive but gives a kitchen a more finished look that makes the added cost worth it.)
Award-winning syndicated columnist Katherine Salant is the author of The Brand-New House Book. For more of Katherine's Essential Checklists for Home Design, click here.
For a collection of house plans with a variety of kitchen layouts click here.