Layout of Kitchens
The work in a kitchen, though of course differing in detail from home to home, is basically the same, following a fairly constant basic pattern. Space must be allotted for storage of food (perishables in the refrigerator deep freeze, vegetables fruit in a ventilated cupboard or larder, and dry canned goods in a cupboard), and for preparation which usually involves sorting, washing, and cutting.
For maximum efficiency a well-lit flat work surface near to the sink is ideal, possibly with a wooden cutting board close to hand. Space and facilities for cooking will also have to be provided. The cooker should have a hard working surface next to it—preferably on either side for greater manoeuvrability. You can cook on a conventional combined cooker, or the oven—as is increasingly popular —can be separated from the hob-unit, and mounted conveniently at eye-level. Once cooked, the food is then served, usually on one of the work surfaces adjoining the cooker. Serving hatches are best positioned above or next to this dishing-up worktop.
For cold meals and sweets the food is prepared and dished up on a convenient work surface and passed direct to the servery. After the meal comes the most unpleasant part of what is usually a pleasant occasion— the washing-up. So it will be convenient if the sink is near the servery. If you happen to have a dishwasher, this could be well sited near to the sink whether it is a floor or work-top model. The final stage is the stacking of the clean dishes and cutlery. Most people consider the best place is close to the sink—unless of course it is priceless china to be put on display. But often crockery and cutlery are just as handy housed near the dining table, ready for table-laying. If some meals are eaten in the dining room, and some eaten in the kitchen, perhaps at a breakfast bar. then you will have to choose between the two. If you have one ‘best’ set and one ‘only-for-the family’ then you can keep your formal things together, or, if your dining room is some distance away from the kitchen you might find it best to duplicate your sets anyway.
Fitments, kitchen units and cabinets
There is a wide range of storage cabinets available today, from the inexpensive whitewood types without backs and with unsurfaced tops, to the more highly finished types with hardwood carcasses and laminated working surfaces. Similar cabinets are also available in stove-enamelled steel sheet. (Handymen should have no difficulty in constructing their own kitchen fitments, which can be especially useful if your kitchen is a peculiar shape and difficult to fit with standard sized units.)
Colour will always be perhaps the most personal aspect of design, but it is worth remembering that combinations of white and blue tend to give a chilly effect to the room, whereas yellows, oranges and reds have a decidedly warmer effect. If your kitchen enjoys long hours of sunshine or if you do a substantial amount of cooking it probably will feel over-heated towards the end of a day. This is where choosing the ‘cooler’ colours is particularly helpful. Conversely, a pokey kitchen that rarely gets the benefit of sunshine will look more welcoming if it has the warmer tones on at least some of its surfaces.
But over-strong, or over-emphasised colours can ruin the ‘homeliness’ of a kitchen, just as much as a chilly look. White fitments usually look very smart against some strong primary colour in the wall or floor covering. Or the main surfaces of the room can be painted white or neutral, and the fitments can carry the stronger colour. It is always difficult to visualise your kitchen from colours in a catalogue, so, if possible, visit a large showroom which will give you a good idea of what your dream kitchen will look like in ‘real life’. Kitchen fitments are produced in standard ranges, which usually incorporate a limited choice of widths and varying arrangements of drawers and cupboards. Most of the better quality ranges also include special corner cabinets. Shelves often come unfixed so that you can arrange them to suit your height, and most manufacturers produce special cabinets to house refrigerators, oven units and their hobs in the most popular sizes.
If you find – possibly because your kitchen is a peculiar shape – that the standard units will not fit neatly together, then this is a good opportunity to add an extra work surface by running one between two fitments or over the tops of several. Widths of units may vary, but their heights do not. Floor units are around 915mm (3ft) high which is a height that most people find useful—that is, as long as you are of average height.However, the Kitchen Fitters and Installers, can adjust the height.
The standardisation of height helps both the appearance of the kitchen, and its overall efficiency. Frequently the worktop itself, which continues across the top of several units (such as floor cabinets), is especially made from a single piece of laminate-faced blockboard, thereby avoiding joints in the surface. And the sink-bowl can be let flush into it , instead of having the sink-top interrupting the surface and looking ugly. As well as looking neater, this continuous surface is easier to clean, and therefore more hygienic.
Wall units are also made to standard heights, although because they come separate f r om the floor units you can fix them at various heights to suit yourself. This is particularly useful as the space above a singleheight unit is usually wasted and ends up as a mere dust-trap. You could try fixing wall units between the ceiling and the lower units to make optimum use of your wall space. But do remember that there should be a gap of not less than 460mm between the work surface and the underside of the first wall unit.
In deciding on the layout of your kitchen, you should allow adequate space for circulation, preferably for more than one person to move around in so that a toddler or chatty neighbour is not continually under your feet. Analyses of movements in average sized kitchens have shown that many miles are travelled in any given day. Often a large percentage of this distance could be avoided by simply re-arranging the fitments – it would obviously be a help if they were not several yards apart or hidden away in nooks and crannies. If you bear in mind the typical work-sequence as given above, then providing an efficient layout should be no problem.
It is a good idea to walk through the various stages of preparing a meal to discover the fastest route round your kitchen. Remember, all that is needed is enough space for two people to pass between one unit and another. More space than this will only cause tired feet.
Many families find it convenient to eat snacks and quick meals in the kitchen itself. On one hand it is practical to reduce the distance involved in carrying food dishes to and from the table. On the other, it does not contribute to the enjoyment of a meal if the debris involved in its preparation is always arrangement where the distance from the kitchen is kept to a minimum, and the kitchen itself does not obtrude. There are a number of ways in which this can be achieved. First, you can manage this compromise—if the shape and size of the room lends itself readily to it.
As you are starting from scratch by refurbishing the kitchen it should be easy to plan this sort of shape. The remaining small rectangle can be used as a service lobby or for storage. In other cases, the extension could be the main kitchen, and an existing small room be converted into the eating area. Second, in a long, rectangular kitchen, especially if there is a door about a third of the way along one wall, the smaller end can conveniently be used for eating. Third, if you want to cut off the kitchen even more from view, you can use a projecting cabinet as a divider. And instead of the upper cabinets being fixed to the wall, they can be held in place by steel corner or angle brackets, leaving an open space above the work-top for serving.
If the wall and floor coverings change where this fitment projects, then so much the better, because this in itself will indicate subtly where one area ends and another begins. A fourth and more drastic way of separating the two areas is to alter the floor level. This is easily done when in the process of adding an extension, but as a general rule, changes in floor level are not a good idea, especially in functional rooms like kitchens where it might be difficult to see the drop of level when carrying a tray. If, however, you do decide to change your floor level, an eating area with its floor about 305mm (1ft) below that of the main kitchen can look attractive, and separate the two areas most efficiently.
It is better to have the eating-area floor lower rather than higher to reduce the view straight into the kitchen. And there should be at least two steps—as one step can be easily overlooked. There is a danger that the ceiling may become too high in the eating area, due to lowering the floor levels. Tn this case you could install a false ceiling which would give an added feeling of individuality to the eating area and improve its proportions. If this solution appeals to you, but you find that the steps present a problem, then you could achieve the same effect by using a short ramp.
The gradient should not exceed 1 : 8 so, for example, a 305mm (1ft) change of level would need an 244cm (8ft) long ramp. If space permits this could be very effective, especially if a run of floor cabinets is positioned so that it masks the rough edge of the ramp farthest from the wall. Blinds can be used to emphasise the difference between kitchen and eating areas. Venetian blinds, for example, could be fitted to a divider or a free-standing panel and form a false ‘window’ separating the two spaces as effectively but less permanently than a wall. Spring-loaded roller blinds are available in fabric or specially treated paper—both in a range of bright colours and patterns.
Alternatively you could use horizontally sliding doors hung on a head track. A lightweight door runs easily and silently on this type of overhead track. Stale food smells can be especially off putting if the kitchen doubles as an occasional dining area. You can eliminate them by using a small extractor fan in some convenient position between the cooker— the main offender—and the eating area. These fans are usually fixed to an external wall, collecting the air directly from the room and discharging it into the outside air. Some models can be fitted to a fixed glass pane in a window instead of on to a solid wall.
You could also fit the fan in a concealed position, with a duct connecting it to the room or to the outside air. More elaborate but more positive in action, are the fans fitted in or connected to a hood over the cooker. But they may not be quite so effective with cookers having high-level grills. Some types of hood incorporate a renewable filter to collect the greasy fume.