When I design a new home I plan kitchens of course. My kitchen plans are based on over 45 years in the business. Throughout the years, I’ve gone from being single, to being a newlywed, to having four kids running around the kitchen, to being an empty nester, to having a house full of family for the holidays. Plain and simple, I know something about kitchens. When you go to the kitchen store all they are going to talk to you about is the “work triangle”. Let me give you a bit of truth – the “work triangle” is over-rated. What matters in a well laid out kitchen, is “ are the stove and refrigerator close together, and “are the sink and dishwasher close together”. Think about that and you’ll agree. I’ve seen kitchen plans with a small work triangle but the refrigerator is as far away from the stove as possible. If you’ve ever cooked, you know that you can’t cook without having to get into the refrigerator. So, who wants to walk all the way across the kitchen to get the butter, eggs, or other necessities.
I won’t spend a lot of time on cabinets, since there are so many choices out there and it should be a personal choice. I will suggest that whatever you choose be wood cabinets, stay away from the “particle board”.
OK, everyone wants granite today, and even though prices on granite have come down in the last few years, not everyone can afford or justify the price for granite. So educate yourselves, and consider alternatives that are out there. By checking around you’ll find composites that look just like granite, you’ll find new concrete and glass tops, tile tops, and even laminates that have edging designs that give them the appearance of some of the more expensive countertops.
If kitchen space allows it, you might want to consider a small desk area. Most cabinet suppliers make a variety of different desk styles, some of which are very handy. They usually don’t take up a lot of room, and are great place to do your household book keeping.
I always try to place a pantry in the homes I design. In smaller homes it may be nothing more than a small closet with shelves. In a larger home it may be a walk in closet with loads of shelving, and in more expensive homes I may put in a “butlers” pantry. No matter what size, a pantry is a great dollar value. The cost per sq. ft. of storage space is about 10 cents on the dollar when compared to cabinets. So if you want a quick way to save money on the kitchen add a pantry.
A LARGER KITCHEN WINDOW
Most builders install a small (3’X 3’) double casement window above the kitchen sink. This is very “old school”, and limits visibility to the back yard tremendously because width of the center divider section between the sides.
A much better choice is an awning window or a sliding window. An awning window is full glass which allows for much better visibility, and ventilates from the bottom when opened. A sliding window has a very narrow section in the center giving you much better visibility as well.
If you have a pantry as mentioned above, it will minimize the amount of cabinets you need, which will allow you to have a much larger window over the kitchen sink, making the kitchen much lighter and brighter. So, if you have a pantry, opt for a 3 ½’ – 4’ awning or a 4 ½’- 5’ sliding window above the sink.
The convenience of a trash compactor is well worth the price, especially if you’re in an area where you pay by the bag to get rid of your trash, or if you have a large family. If you recycle, compost, and use a trash compactor you’ll probably only have about one bag of trash a week. My wife and I recycle everything we can, compost all our food waste, and use a trash compactor. We usually only put out a bag of trash every two weeks.
If you plan on buying a large side by side refrigerator, be aware that most of them will stick out about 6 or 8 inches past the cabinets, and this looks awful. This can be easily corrected by building out the wall behind the cabinets beside the fridge 6″ which will keep most full depth fridges from sticking out past the cabinets. Depending on the floor plan it is sometimes possible to have the wall recessed behind the refrigerator so that it sets in, which accomplishes the same thing. The third option is to buy what is called a “profile” or “built-in” refrigerator. These are only about 26 inches deep and don’t extend very far past the cabinets. Sometimes this style fridge is wider and taller, so before you order cabinets you need to know the exact size of the refrigerator. The profile styles are usually also a bit more expensive than standard side by sides.
INSTANT HOT WATER
If you like quick hot water for coffee, tea, hot cereal or soup, you might want to consider having a hot water dispenser installed at the kitchen sink. The cost of about $150 and is well worth the convenience it offers. This is also a device that is fairly straightforward to install and can be done after you move in if you are handy. If you are going to do it yourself be sure to have the electrician install an outlet under the sink if there isn’t one there for a dishwasher already.
UNIQUE ISLAND LIGHTING
Want a light for your island that is a bit unusual, available in a large variety of styles and colors, and gives more than enough light? Consider a pool table light. They come in literally hundreds of styles, and are really “cool” over the kitchen island. I know because we had one in our last home.
GENERAL KITCHEN LIGHTING
To make the kitchen much brighter during the long winter months, install the new L.E.D. flush ceiling lights. These look like a regular recessed can light, but don’t require a can. instead of a 10 or 12 dollar can they attach to a 35 cent plastic electrical box. A 100 watt L.E.D. will draw only about 14 watts of power and last for almost forever. They cost less to install, and a lot less to run.
Your kitchen is second only to the bathrooms for generating moisture in the home. (Moisture is not good in the home.) Therefore, your kitchen stove should definitely be vented to the outdoors either through the wall or the roof. This can be accomplished with a simple stove vent, or with an “over the stove” micro-wave unit.
KITCHEN FLOOR COVERINGS
I know a lot of people that either want or have hardwood, or the “Pergo” type floors in their kitchen, but I don’t personally recommend, or believe in either. Do what you want, but consider this, “Neither hardwood, nor the “Pergo” style floors like wetness.
So, unless you know water isn’t going to be spilled in the kitchen, consider either ceramic tile or the new vinyl plank floors. The higher end vinyl plank floors look and feel like real hardwood but are completely waterproof. We just used them throughout our new home, and really like them. If you choose a conservatively priced tile it is usually not very expensive, and it will last for probably as long as you live in the home. That said, be sure that you like what you pick out, and don’t pick a color or style that will turn off prospective buyers should you ever decide to sell the house. Also if you do go with tile, (or the vinyl plank) be sure to save a half a dozen pieces somewhere just in case a piece ever gets broken. This happens very rarely, but if it does happen, you’ll be prepared.
A KITCHEN FIREPLACE
Most people don’t think of fireplaces in the kitchen, but if you have a large “country kitchen that has either a sitting or dining area you may want to think about having a fireplace on the end wall. Country kitchens are usually larger than living rooms, and a fireplace won’t “overheat” them as quickly.
If your country kitchen has a common wall with the living room, you might want to consider a “two-way” fireplace on that wall. This type for fireplace can be enjoyed from either room at the same time.