Southern California architect and interior designer Carol Tink-Fox has 10 rules of thumb when it comes to kitchen design.
1. Select design elements that are compatible with your lifestyle. You might like the idea of open or glass shelves, but these cabinet styles require diligent cleaning.
2. Go for timelessness over trendy. “Big trends are often the first things to date you kitchen in the future,” says Carol. (Remember the peach, teal and seafoam color palettes of the ’80s?) “If everyone is doing it,” says Carol, “it will be dated someday.”
3. Create a kitchen space to accommodate guests. Whether it’s an island with barstools or a simple breakfast table with chairs, kitchens should have a space outside of the immediate zone where guests can visit with their hosts.
4. Choose only the conveniences you really need. This is especially important in smaller kitchens. Do you really need a built-in coffee station or a warming drawer? By the same token, select the appliances you know you simply can’t live without (dishwasher, built-in microwave, etc.). Always consider how often you would use the appliance and the space you are sacrificing to get it.
5. Consider the value of incorporating countertops in different heights. Keeping in mind that most undercounter appliances are designed for a minimum height of 36 inches, lower counter areas are beneficial for shorter-statured individuals and children, as well as for adding a seat for a guest.
6. Use space efficiently. Small kitchens in particular are prone to wasted space, especially when there are corners in the layout. If a corner is unavoidable, however, use the space above the counter to install an open-shelved upper or corner window. If possible, use the undercounter space to install a corner cabinet with a built-in lazy Susan.
7. Watch for doors that block paths when open. Consider how any type of open door—cabinet, refrigerator, dishwasher, etc.—might block access to another area.
8. Design layouts so there are no more than three to four steps between key functions. This is especially important in larger kitchens. For example, how many steps are there between the cooktop and a water source, the dishwasher and storage, the icemaker and the wet bar?
9. Avoid dead ends in the layout. This not only helps ease traffic flow in and out of the kitchen, but is helpful for allowing multiple cooks to operate and stay out of each other’s way.
10. Prevent zones from overlapping. Each kitchen should have distinct zones for preparing, cooking, cleaning and other key functions. But when zones overlap too much, workflow is interrupted.
By Rebecca J. Razo
Photography by Mark Tanner