If you’re about to design a kitchen — either a remodel of a kitchen you don’t love, or a new space in a new house — then you’ve probably gotten yourself good and scared. There’s just so much that you need to learn and decide, so much that it’s keeping you up at night. Every design newsletter I read these days has some tips on redecorating a kitchen. It’s a frightening prospect, they all seem to say.
The hardest part is simply getting started. There are a lot of reasons not to start, especially in the case of a remodel. For one, it’s going to be expensive. For another, you’re going to be living in a house without a kitchen for a few months. But once the decision is made to proceed, you’ll be surprised how much of your decisions are already made.
For one thing, your doors and windows are where they are — either in the existing kitchen or on the blueprints. Sure, you can knock down a wall, or turn a window into a door, but that’s going to add some serious expense. Moving plumbing and electrical is less of budget-breaker, but it takes both time and money. But no matter how you reconfigure, you’re going to end up with some long walls and some short walls, and those long walls are the only places you can put a good workspace and your range. If you can, have those two things adjoining. Once you’ve got the range in place, the rest of the kitchen falls into place.
Next, you’ve got your sink. Plan for one big enough to make a big sauté pan disappear. I know our mothers all had windows over their sinks, but that’s because they wanted to watch us playing in the back yard while they slaved over the dishes. These days, we all have dishwashers and the kids are playing video games, so there’s no harm in putting your sink against an interior wall. You should put that dishwasher next to the sink for convenience, and your trash can (a pull-out, of course) should go somewhere near the sink so you can scrape the plates before they go in the dishwasher. The trash can should also be close to your main work area, so you can just swipe your prep mess off into it.
Then you’ve got a fridge to put somewhere. If you know how to cook, then you know the secret of getting all of your ingredients out before you begin to cook, so don’t worry if there’s an extra step or two between fridge and stovetop. (Though maybe you should worry about that if you like to keep your wine cold.) What you do need to worry about is having a counter space near enough to the fridge that you can get more than one thing out at a time.
There are some other considerations, of course. If your house often has the “more cooks in the kitchen” problem, make sure you’ve got multiple places to work. Make sure that cabinet doors don’t block each other, and that the dishwasher door doesn’t block a walkway when it’s open.
One thing you don’t need to consider? That magic “triangle” that everyone keeps talking about. Just make sure that range, sink, and fridge are not too far apart, and not too close together. (Goldilocks would have been a good kitchen designer.)
Before the cabinets are ordered, you’re going to talk to your cabinetmaker (at least), and perhaps a contractor and interior designer as well. They’ve seen hundreds of kitchens and can look at a space and know exactly where everything should go. They can look at your space, and your preliminary designs, and tell you if they see anything troublesome.
And then, once you know where things are going to go, it’s time for the fun part, which we’ll go over in Part 2. It’s also a lot easier than most people think.