When it comes to kitchen planning, designers frequently face the same complaints from homeowners about what’s ‘wrong’ or frustrating within their existing kitchen. Most of these recurring problems – and their resulting complaints – stem from a kitchen not having been designed with the owners’ needs in mind (often the case, of course, with inherited kitchens).
So if you hire a good designer, they’ll spend time asking you about how you live in your home, how you use, or would like to use, your kitchen, your lifestyle, your tastes and your habits. You could also get a head start by making a list of your kitchen likes and dislikes, frustrations and wishes, to help you swerve the issues outlined below.
Not enough storage
One of the most common kitchen design problems resulting from poor planning is insufficient storage. This can easily lead to clutter, mess and frustration. Yet even in really small kitchens, generous base and wall cabinets should be achievable – you just need careful and sometimes imaginative planning (as pictured) to fully maximise the space.
Kitchen corner units, for example, are excellent for making use of otherwise unused corner space, as they reach fully into the depths of the unit. In this tricky kitchen space, the base cabinet in the left corner could have been closed off completely by the oven. Instead, a cabinet door (you can see the handle in the photo) swings open to the left; inside, a pull-out corner organiser keeps contents accessible in the space alongside the cooker. Similarly, pan drawers offer more generous storage than cupboards, and are also easier to access. Another option for a small kitchen might be wall units that reach to the ceiling.
There are also lots of clever storage options to consider, such as secret drawers or hidden spice racks, and many kitchen storage options are specifically designed for the provision of smaller items, such as gadgets, hand-held appliances and utensils.
Carefully thinking about your storage needs from an early stage of the design process will ensure you include enough of it and, in the long term, make for a much happier kitchen environment.
A badly planned layout and workflow
A poor kitchen layout will impede the use of the kitchen, making you work much harder than necessary, and ultimately stopping you from enjoying it. Your kitchen should work specifically for you, with a workflow and layout designed to cater to your individual needs.
For this to happen, your designer must enquire about your lifestyle, habits and kitchen requirements, as well as how many people live in your house, who likes to cook and what your preferred cooking style is. All of this information should be used in the planning of your layout.
While a lot of designers still plan using the traditional kitchen triangle, I think defining separate areas or zones for prepping, washing and cooking can result in a more efficient and personalised design. This approach allows fluidity in the positioning of the different areas of the kitchen.
In addition, of course, as in the pictured example, your kitchen should look good, too.
Not enough worktop space where it’s needed
A lack of worktop space, or worktops not being positioned where you need them, is a common design problem. It can prove to be one of the most frustrating, too, as your worktop is needed for just about every activity you’ll carry out in your kitchen.
The worktop forms part of the kitchen workflow, so this will help to determine where and how much of it you need. A common mistake is not leaving sufficient space next to or opposite a fridge or oven. With a fridge, this worktop space is convenient, but having space next to or opposite an oven and hob, as seen in this scheme, is also important for safety – this way you shouldn’t find yourself carrying piping-hot food across your kitchen, looking for a worktop on which to set it down.
During planning, it’s important to think about all the ways in which you currently use, or intend to use, your worktops. For example, you might want space for more than one person to cook at once, or maybe an area where your partner can sit and chat to you while you cook, or else it might be important to include somewhere for the kids to do their homework.
Traffic through your working area
As suggested, you might want enough worktop space for more than one person to operate in your kitchen at once. However, you need to consider how to achieve this so users don’t get under one another’s feet while both trying to reach the fridge, oven or sink.
Similarly, if you have children, you might want to ensure they won’t come charging past as you’re carrying hot food or working with sharp knives. Both of these are examples of how ‘traffic’ can become a problem in a kitchen’s working area – but it is preventable through careful planning.
This might mean setting up two separate and spaced out ‘prep zones’, or ensuring there’s only one kitchen entry point, so you can easily see who’s coming or going (as pictured). You can also ensure frequently used appliances, such as the fridge, are on the periphery of your kitchen, so other household members can still get things out of them without having to fully enter the kitchen (also illustrated here).
Badly spaced units and appliances
It’s important that units and appliances, while well-positioned for easy use, are also well-spaced. For example, there should be sufficient space (typically a minimum of 900mm) between opposing units and appliances, so doors and drawers can open clear of each other (as pictured).
Similarly, they shouldn’t be too far apart: for the sake of a smooth workflow, you shouldn’t have to take more steps between appliances than is necessary. Similarly, it’s important not to place wall ovens and microwaves so high that you can’t safely remove hot food from them.
Think also about which way your unit and appliance doors open. For maximum ease of use, and where it’s possible, these should also be handed to the left or right according to the surrounding kitchen space.