- Use a bank of mid-height cabinets at the end of a run to house a raised dishwasher, as well as other “point-of-use” appliances – for example, a microwave oven installed directly above a raised dishwasher. Or, consider a microwave, warming drawer and coffeemaker installed horizontally next to one another in a mid-height cabinet application. Double built-in wall ovens are much more accessible if installed side-by-side as well.
- Use the concept of a pedestal cabinet at the end of an island, at the back of an island, in the midst of a kitchen countertop run – or any other location where a continuous countertop is not the key planning criteria. Once again, this type of a raised cabinet provides an ideal height for easy access to smaller built-in appliances – or even a full sized oven.
- Reintroduce yourself to well-engineered downdraft ventilation units. We seem to have shifted our design focus away from these ventilation systems. In smaller kitchens, or kitchen spaces that are a part of a bigger living area, the downdraft system can be the perfect solution to maintaining clear sight lines for the gathering part of the kitchen, and providing efficient, effective ventilation.
- Watch for new innovations in ventilation hoods. Decorative hoods are emerging as dramatic design statements. Additionally, accessibility innovations are being launched. I recently saw an island hood whose canopy moved in and out so the user only extended this section when cooking was taking place: The rest of the time, there was no danger of anyone hitting their forehead. An island hood (which could be used against a wall as well) that had a variable chimney height so the hood raised out of the way when the family was not geared up for a cooking extravaganza was also recently advertised.
Designers can also take a new approach to appliance placement grounded in the “point-of-use” approach to appliance location.
We all remember simpler times when a kitchen had one refrigerator, a range with hood above it and a sink with an adjacent dishwasher. As the charts on pages 42-43 demonstrate, with the introduction of built-in ovens and microwave energy as a cooking source, the world of cooking appliances has dramatically expanded. Additionally, the primary sink has morphed into two very specific full-size fixtures: one sink as a clean-up center, one sink as a preparation center. The small vegetable sink of years past is now a third water source in a large kitchen.
Over the last few years, a dramatic explosion of options has also led to “point-of-use” refrigeration. Yet, many of us still focus on one tall 30" to 48" wide multi-purpose refrigerator/freezer appliance. For large, active families, empty nesters, smaller second homes or condominium kitchens and those who enjoy their home but may not cook much, this approach to refrigeration can be a bit stagnant. Matching the refrigeration system to the homeowner’s needs (while remaining conscious of resale value) gives you a broader range of options to propose to your clients.
One solution recently created by Joseph Giorgi, Jr., CKD of Giorgi Kitchens & Designs in Wilmington, DE, was to transform a small kitchen walled off from the adjacent dining room and living spaces into a much more inviting room by “thinking outside of the box.” Giorgi proposed to the client that the tall refrigerator appliance be completely eliminated. The existing refrigerator/freezer was moved to the basement. Two 24"-wide double-drawer under-counter refrigerator drawers were installed. This solution extended the workable counter space, and freed up one wall so an arched opening to the dining room could replace the smaller swinging door. The trade-off of traveling to the basement for freezer items was enthusiastically embraced by the two-person family.
I have seen several wonderful plans that used point-of-use refrigeration for large, active families to create a breakfast/snack or refreshment center for the children on the fringes of the primary cook’s work triangle. Such a center can include a small sink, a built-in coffeemaker or microwave and a beverage center that offers an icemaker as well as refrigerated shelf storage.
For an adult household, I remember with fondness a client in Lewis, DE whose island included an 18"-wide wine storage unit at one end of a seating area. In this fun-filled beach house, the primary cook had total access to the major appliances and could visit with all of the friends and family gathered around the island – with the hostess able to reach for a new wine bottle without ever entering the kitchen space!
The Flat Screen TV
A television is the norm in most kitchens today. In past years, a workable solution was to encase small – yet bulky – televisions in the upper portion of a diagonal wall cabinet, or in the top portion of a tall pantry cabinet or other tower. Today, several intriguing small “fold- down” televisions are available that are attached to the bottom of a wall cabinet when an 18"-high backsplash dimension is specified. These are good solutions.
New installations work better for today’s flat-screen televisions. Wireless technology will provide a dramatic increase in design flexibility for television placement in the future. At this winter’s Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show, wireless cable boxes were introduced – eliminating the need to hard wire the cable box to the television. Flat- screen technology with a wireless connection to computer elements is also on the horizon.
This industry moves so quickly that the best way for a designer to stay “up-to-date” is to establish an alliance with a local media center specialist. Additionally, keep a keen eye on hardware innovations as far as television stands or mounting mechanisms. Try Googling “TV stands,” or visit www.standsandmounts.com – you will be amazed at what’s available.