Appliance Interface

A great way to be more creative this year is to rethink how to integrate appliances in the cabinetry for both large and small kitchen plans. Go beyond simply choosing between totally integrating appliance units within casework or featuring freestanding appliances that take center stage in the kitchen to offer the consumer a “one-of-a-kind” kitchen solution.

Such a focus on the appliance component of a new plan makes sense right now. Regardless of the budget allowance or style requested, the room will have a full complement of appliances. Using your design “know how” to help the client select appliances, as well as being creative when placing the appliances, can be the “tipping point” that separates your design from the competition. Although the consumer may focus on the investment they are considering for the new kitchen, the buying decision will be made based on who offers the most creative plan, personalized to the family’s needs.

By re-energizing your knowledge around appliance engineering innovations, and moving beyond predictable appliance placement, you can offer a great solution, without introducing new products you are unfamiliar with, and without dramatically overshooting the budget.

Mixing and Matching

Let’s first consider the simplest – and most affordable – way to be creative when integrating cabinets and appliances: mix and match these various elements.

Rather than automatically paneling the refrigerator, consider transforming this piece into a “power appliance.”

Refrigerator finishes that minimize fingerprints offer a new look (remember how important innovation is to your client), so consider suggesting something other than stainless steel.

  • If a freestanding refrigerator's depth is an issue, find out if you can recess it through a wall into an adjacent area.
  • Surround this “power appliance” with panels, but avoid a normal cabinet-above refrigerator installation. Because this area is very difficult to access, why not make it an open display space? Whether traditional or contemporary, a 30" to 46" wide, 15" to 25" high opening above a refrigerator can be a spot to add architectural detailing. If you do make this a display area, plan on a strip of LED lighting directly behind the valance, and make the display area shallower than the full refrigerator depth.

In a room where all built-in appliances will be paneled, take a fresh look at the cooking center.

  • Rather than the expected stainless steel, suggest a dramatic color for the range. Show your client actual swatches of appliance colors – rather than a paper color card.
  • Propose a well-engineered and sculptural steel hood in place of a wood mantel hood.
  • Offer clients an alternative to the mantel hood they admired in your showroom – a stainless steel with a dramatic tile splash extending behind the hood to the ceiling.

The key reason to offer the consumer such options is to demonstrate your capabilities. If the customer selects the beautiful (yet predictable) mantel hood rather than a stainless steel dramatic one, that’s fine…as long as they buy it from you.

Appliance Placement

Refresh your appliance location specifications by placing more emphasis on ergonomic guidelines. I’ve written previously about the emergence of mid-height cabinetry (a European name for cabinets that finish between 60" and 78" off the floor – midway between base and tall units), and the concept of “pedestal cabinets” (my name for cabinets that finish between 42" and 60" off the floor).

Moving beyond the typical definition of base, wall and tall cabinets gives you freedom to rethink appliance locations.

Here are a few ideas for your consideration.

  • 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.

Point-of-Use Placement

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.

Televisions in kitchens today need to be positioned after considering the following:

How many viewing angles are required? Is there wall space available, or must accommodations be made in the cabinetry?

  • Consider a mid-height unit finishing at 72" so the television can sit atop this special height cabinet.
  • Create a design that positions the tall element with its side panel available to mount a television on a telescoping arm.
  • Identify base cabinet space not needed for kitchen storage that could house a lifting mechanism to conceal the television when not in use.

Visit www.dougmockett.com to see a wide variety of cord management and flexible electrical outlet fittings that will allow your client countertop access to Internet connectivity or electrical power.

As you search for a new colleague who specializes in media centers, consider ways that your two organizations might collaborate in our current challenging business climate. Is it possible for both firms to exchange displays in each other’s showroom? Is it possible for you to co-host a cause-driven Spring event – at either or both showrooms? Your collaboration can be as simple as developing a 2009 “we are working together” letter and sharing a mailing list.

An Appliance Checklist

Whenever learning about new appliances, or locating units you are familiar with, if your responsibilities include specifying all mechanicals and other material details, you may want to review the checklist developed for the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s Professional Resource Library volume “Kitchen & Bath Products.” I developed this chart many years ago for my private practice because I found I made too many mistakes around the details of appliance placement or the mechanical requirements in my designs. I hope this information prevents any profit slippage for you.

Many designers may have a bit more time on their hands in this first quarter of 2009. I urge you to take any professional free time you have and begin a new search – narrowly focused on appliance innovations. Search the Web, read trade journals, visit respected appliance stores or distributor showrooms. Then create an appliance idea book. Promise yourself to offer the consumer at least one new approach for the appliances with each design solution you present. You can expand this professional education right at your desk by enjoying “what if” solution-focused discussions with your colleagues at the office as well.

The benefit? Prospective clients will be intrigued with your design abilities…so much so, in fact, they will retain you to design their new kitchen!.

APPLIANCE CHECKLIST

Use this Appliance Checklist as you complete the final specifications for each kitchen project you work on. It will help you estimate and specify all of the planning details of appliance placement.

REFRIGERATOR INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
1. Required door swing/drawer opening dimension verified. _______
2. Overall appliance depth (including air space and handles) listed on plans. _______
3. Overall width, including air space and countertop overhang dimension,
determined before overhead cabinet width size and height specified. _______
4. Appliance doors drawn in an open position on the plan to verify walkway clearances. _______
5. Ice maker copper water lines/water filter specified. _______
6. Trim kits and/or panels have been ordered. Labor to install has been included in estimate. _______
7. Special handles ordered for integrated units. _______

SINK INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
1. Number of sink holes and fitting placement has been specified on the plans. _______
2. Dishwasher air gap requirements have been met in design. _______
3. Method of securing sink to counter surface has been determined: _______
Flat rim with stainless steel rim and clip installation. _______
Self-rimming sink, color of caulking to be used between sink and countertop. _______
Under-mount sink. _______
Integral sink. _______

DISHWASHER INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
1. Trim kits and/or panels have been ordered. Labor to install has been included in estimate. _______
2. Existing water lines and drain location to be reused. _______
New water line to be installed. _______
3. Existing dishwasher circuit to be reused. _______
New dishwasher circuit to be added. _______
4. Appliance door drawn in an open position on the plan to verify
walkway clearances. _______

TRASH COMPACTOR INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
1. Trim kits and/or panels have been ordered. Labor to install has been included in estimate. _______
2. Existing compactor wiring to be reused. _______
New compactor wiring to be added. _______
3. Appliance door drawn in an open position on the plan to verify walkway clearances. _______

FOOD WASTE DISPOSER INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
1. Unit to be batch fed _____ or switch operated _____. _______
2. Switch location located after considering primary user’s handedness. _______
3. Waste line no higher than 17" on center off the floor. _______

BACKSPLASH CONVENIENCE APPLIANCE INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
1. Backsplash appliance does not interfere with wall stud placement. _______
2. Recess required for appliance is not obstructed by vents, ducts or pocket doors. _______
3. Recessed convenience appliances do not interfere with backsplash design or use. _______
4. Convenience outlets along backsplash do not interfere with built-in backsplash appliance location. _______
5. Heat generating backsplash appliances are not specified below task lighting that features a plastic diffuser. _______

DROP-IN OR FREE-STANDING RANGE INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
1. Gas or electrical requirements:
Gas Size of existing gas line. _______
Existing gas line to be reused in its existing location. _______
Existing gas line to be relocated. _______
Diameter of new gas line required. _______
Electric Electrical amperage of existing line:
30 amp _______ 40 amp _______ 50 amp _______
Electrical amperage requirement of new appliance:
30 amp _______ 40 amp _______ 50 amp _______
Existing electrical line to be reused in its existing location. _______
Existing electrical line to be relocated. _______
New electrical line to be added. _______
2. Ventilation system specified on plans. _______
3. Drop-in range method of support and distance from floor to bottom of range specified on plans. _______
4. Countertop cut-out for drop-in units specified on plans. _______
5. Side clearance for drop-in units that have a flange overlapping adjacent cabinetry has been considered in the planning process. _______
6. Appliance overall depth, including handles, listed on the plans. _______
7. Appliance door drawn in an open position to verify walkway clearances. _______

BUILT-IN OVEN INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
1. Gas or electrical requirements:
Gas Size of existing gas line. _______
Existing gas line to be reused in its existing location. _______
Existing gas line to be relocated. _______
Diameter of new gas line required. _______
Electric Electrical amperage of existing line:
30 amp _______ 40 amp _______ 50 amp _______
Electrical amperage requirement of new appliance:
30 amp _______ 40 amp _______ 50 amp _______
Existing electrical line to be reused in its existing location. _______
Existing electrical line to be relocated. _______
New electrical line to be added. _______
2. Ventilation requirement for new oven: Ducted _______ Non-ducted _______
3. Countertop overhang treatment against oven cabinet side to be:
Countertop extends past oven case. _______
Countertop ties into side of special depth oven cabinet. _______
Case depth to be ______________________________________.
Toe kick to be ________________________________________.
4. All dimensions are included in specifications and plans.
Overall appliance depth (including handles). _______
Appliance height placement in relationship to primary cook’s height. _______
Cut-out and overall dimensions. _______
5. For undercounter installation, manufacturer’s specifications have been verified for minimum cut-out height from the floor. _______

COOKTOP INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
1. Gas or electrical requirements:
Gas Size of existing gas line. _______
Existing gas line to be recessed in its present location. _______
Existing gas line to be relocated. _______
Diameter of new gas line required. _______
Electric Electrical amperage of existing line:
30 amp _______ 40 amp _______ 50 amp _______
Electrical amperage requirement of new appliance:
30 amp _______ 40 amp _______ 50 amp _______
Existing electrical line to be reused in its existing location. _______
Existing electrical line to be relocated. _______
New electrical line to be added. _______

2. Ventilation system specified on plans. _______
3. Can cabinet drawers be ordered below the oven? _______
4. Can roll-outs be installed below the cooktop? _______
5. All dimensions (cut-out and overall) are listed on the plan _______

MICROWAVE OVEN INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
1. Dedicated electrical circuit specified. _______
2. Trim kit ordered with appliance. _______
Labor to install trim kit included in estimate. _______
3. Microwave oven placement is away from other heat generating appliances. _______
4. Microwave oven placement is away from television in the kitchen. _______
5. Appliance height has been determined in relation to the height of
the primary cook for both safety and convenience. _______
6. Cut-out and overall dimensions are listed on the plan. _______

VENTILATION HOOD INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
1. Length of duct path from ventilation system to exterior termination point. _______
2. Number of elbow turns along duct path. _______
3. Ventilating unit’s (free air pressure) CFM rating. _______
Exist (static air pressure) CFM rating estimate. _______
4. Hood depth in relation to adjacent cabinetry. _______
5. Hood distance from cooking surface. _______
6. Hood width in relationship to cooktop width below. _______

Source: “Kitchen & Bath Products: Materials – Equipment – Surfaces” by Ellen Cheever, CMKBD, ASID, for the NKBA’s Professional Resource Library

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