When it comes to helping a client locate or relocate elements in a kitchen, make sure it’s a family affair. Though one or two people may be the primary users, other household members should be included. If there are no children at home, ask if the homeowners have visitors who gather in the kitchen.

Consider, if this was your kitchen, would you enjoy repeating the movements the client is making?
ISTOCKPHOTO.com/StudioVanCaspel Consider, if this was your kitchen, would you enjoy repeating the movements the client is making?

Watch during peak-use time. Try to be around when there is kitchen traffic. Notice the flow. Is it a tight squeeze past the fridge when the door is open? Do chairs, islands, or tables block natural flow through the space? Are foodstuffs, cups, plates, and utensils easily accessible for the youngest and the oldest users? Are there places for guests to sit or stand that don’t impede function?

Do a dry run. Have the client demonstrate for you how the kitchen is used by walking in to the kitchen carrying a full grocery bag. Is there a well-located place to put down the bag? Is it close enough to the refrigerator, pantry, or cabinets? Make notes or videotape this mock demonstration.

Have the client cook a meal. How far does the client have to walk or bend to get ingredients and take them to where they will be used? Are utensils and pots accessible? Are outlets, cleaning, and cutting areas well-placed? Does the client seem physically comfortable during the cooking process? Is there a safe place to put down hot foods? Is the person who is cooking able to converse with others in the kitchen or in an adjacent room? Also watch the cleanup process. Is it a struggle to find storage containers, access the trash, load or unload the dishwasher?

Giving a kitchen an observational test drive will help you make suggestions to clients based on firsthand knowledge not guesswork. The client will appreciate this, and your design process will go more smoothly.

Katherine Grace Morris, Ph.D., a depth psychologist and certified feng shui practitioner, in Chevy Chase, Md., works on site and remotely with clients who want their homes to make them feel good psychologically. www.psychologyofsetting.com