Over the past two decades, much has been written about the Great Room kitchen – a multi-purpose space with the actual cooking center tucked in one corner. Today, however, designers are telling me their clients are looking for a kitchen design that positions the gourmet space in a more central location within the Great Room.
The new trend seems to be about moving the kitchen out of the corner and giving it a center stage treatment. In the drawing featured at left, you can see the kitchen in a corner plan, as compared to the kitchen in the center of the room concept seen below.
In this example, moving the working kitchen into the center of the room resulted in space being available for a semi-private, quieter media room. Although separate, the area is still part of the kitchen because it is visible through the wall opening behind the sink.
A walk-through pantry is adjacent to the kitchen and houses the full-size freezer. Only the fresh food refrigerator is located in the cook’s triangle of work space.
With the inclusion of a well-organized pantry system, wall cabinet storage can be minimized. Replacing wall cabinets with tall cabinets is a good idea. University studies have identified the ideal storage area as the shelf space from the principal user’s knee level to eye level. In traditional base and wall cabinetry, this important storage area is interrupted by the countertop (and little-used backsplash wall space). Normal depth cabinetry or narrow depth storage areas (just make sure the shelf is deeper than 10") provide an ergonomically useful floor-to-ceiling storage area.
A desk for the children’s computer is placed by the back door so that it is private but near enough for a parent to oversee their activities. Another desk type area is “command central.” It is positioned to let the user stay organized while keeping an eye on what is going on with other family members.
Note the added center of activity directly opposite the arched opening into the more formal dining room (or family room?). An attractive refreshment center or butler’s pantry is a possibility. The kitchen refrigerator is enclosed with a wall, providing a space for a family photo gallery or art piece.
Such an arrangement of space may be very appealing to younger families who have very active and very casual lifestyles. They are much different from the career-focused Baby Boomers we have served for years. These Gen Xers have busy work lives as well as active children at home, and a pet or two. They really live together in the cooking/dining/activity space of a Great Room.
The major advantage of moving the kitchen into the center of a large, open Great Room space is that the circular – almost racetrack – traffic pattern allows specific activity centers to flow from one to another, as well as into and out of the cooking space. This is quite different than the kitchen being tied to the grocery entry point and all activity centers then stacked up one after the other beyond the cooking/serving corner area (see drawings above).
The Planning Process
So, how do you begin thinking about planning a kitchen in the middle of the room? This concept might be something you have not tried before. Permit me to share some helpful ways to start the planning process.