Dear James: I am planning to remodel my average-sized kitchen so it looks more modern and is more convenient to cook in. Are there any general tips or rules of thumb when it comes to redesigning a kitchen? -- Pat H.
Dear Pat: Whether it is just for when your family is there or when you are entertaining, the kitchen is often the center of activity in most homes. The typical kitchen is also a passing area leading to the garage, laundry, basement or back door.
Contacting an interior designer or just perusing kitchen/bath magazines can provide you with plenty of kitchen decorating ideas, but only you really know your family's needs. Before you make any definite plans, sit down with all of your family members and ask them what they would like in a remodeled kitchen.
Once you have had your family's input, the two key points to consider are the activities done entirely in the kitchen, such as cooking, eating, washing dishes, entertaining, etc., and traffic patterns through the kitchen. They are often at odds with one another, so expect to make some compromises.
A commonly used kitchen design concept is the kitchen triangle. This refers to the three most often used locations -- the refrigerator/freezer, sink and cooktop/range. When cooking, preparing and serving foods, you will spend the majority of your time at or moving back and forth among these three areas.
These areas should form a triangle with no more than an 8-foot distance from one to another. The closer to each other they are the more convenient it is for you. For example, if the range is a long distance from the sink, you may burn yourself carrying a pot to the sink to pour off some boiling water or meat juices.
If you are also replacing all your kitchen cabinets, you will have more flexibility on locating the refrigerator. Because it is the tallest appliance, its location will be limited with the existing cabinets.
Once you think you have it all planned for your cooking and serving convenience, next consider the traffic patterns. You don't want to have people coming in from the garage with their hands full when you are carrying hot pots to and from the range. Also pay attention to how the refrigerator door will open and don't forget the additional space needed for the person opening its door.
You will want to have adequate counter space adjacent to each of the three major work areas. Counter space on each side of the range and sink is a must. You can get by with space only on one side of the refrigerator since the opened door blocks access to the other side. A counter width of 16 inches is ideal.
When you have arrived at a reasonable kitchen layout concept, use some graphic paper and draw a scale layout of it with all the appliances. This will give you a much better feel for distances and clearance for traffic.
The final consideration is lighting. You will probably want to have fairly intense task lighting over the counter areas near the sink. Some track lighting with halogen bulbs will give the foods a more natural look. Low-intensity uplighting along the cabinet tops will produce soft reflected light from the ceiling. This is good for entertaining and dining.
James Dulley's weekly column, "Here's How," can be found at creators.com.