Good, Bad and Beautiful

Another article about kitchen planning? Yes, I believe this is an issue that needs to be discussed by everyone in residential design and construction.

Why? Every month there are beautiful projects published that ignore many of the basic kitchen planning guidelines. Can a kitchen be beautiful and still function properly? Of course it can, and most plans usually find that perfect balance. Unfortunately, many that don’t still find a prominent place in the pages of some of the prestigious publications. These projects are then collected by your prospective client and handed to you as the epitome of a perfect kitchen.

Over my many years, I have developed a standard that all the designs done in our practice must meet. It is called the “trinity” of a successful project. It includes all of the basics you would expect: balance, rhythm and emphasis, as well as the use of line, space, color, form and texture. Simply put, proper function + aesthetics + proper lighting = a successful project.

If any one of these legs of the trinity is omitted, what do you have? Let’s say that the kitchen functions very well, the layout is perfect and the lighting is really great, but it is as ugly as a mud fence. Would you want this in your home?

How about a drop-dead gorgeous kitchen with a great layout but with very poor lighting? It wouldn’t be long before you have your lighting expert do a makeover on that plan.

Here are four major errors made by designers, builders and remodelers alike.

  1. The primary prep center is too far away from the refrigerator. Always keep in mind that the primary prep center in a kitchen should be flanked by the main sink and the refrigerator. You should not separate this prep center with another tall item such as a wall oven or pantry.
  2. Sinks or dishwashers placed diagonally in a corner should be recessed 3 to 5 in. and be spaced at least 21 in. from the center of the recessed item to the edge of the sink or dish washer. This separation allows standing room for loading from the sink into the dishwasher and unloading into base or wall cabinet storage.
  3. Mantel hoods with pilasters extending to the counter tops should allow for a minimum of 16 in. of countertop space in front of the pilaster unless the pilaster is a minimum of 15 in. to the side of the cooking surface. In order for a mantel hood with deep pilasters, such as those equipped with pullout racks, to satisfy the recommendation in a safe and proper manner over a 36-in. cooking surface, the mantel hood would have a minimum width of 66 in.
  4. The bottom of a microwave should be no higher than 3 in. below the primary cook’s shoulders when standing at the countertop. This is at times a guessing game, when we have no idea as to the height of the people who will be purchasing the house or using the kitchen. This is certainly a good endorsement for the drawer microwave, and kudos go to all the manufacturers who have picked up on this innovation.
    The recommendations and guidelines that I have referred to are published in a handy booklet by the National Kitchen & Bath Association. Because these are guidelines and compromises are sometimes necessary, it is important not to ignore the thought and reasoning behind them.

The booklet Kitchen & Bathroom Planning Guidelines and Access Standards may be purchased online or by calling the National Kitchen & Bath Association at 1-800 THE-NKBA.

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