In recent years, homes and the kitchens in them have grown bigger. Even in smaller homes the kitchen plays a much bigger role in modern family life. Many kitchen designers, builders, and remodelers are questioning the relevance of the standard kitchen “work triangle.” What if you can’t make the triangle work because of client requirements, the architectural layout, or just the sheer size of the room? What if there are more than three work centers? What constitutes a work center?
The triangle was and still is about efficiency. Big or small, no one likes an inefficient work area. Good workflow creates efficiency. If efficient working space is the goal, then the triangle is still relevant. The basic work triangle has each leg between 4 feet and 9 feet with the sum of all three sides between 13 feet and 26 feet. Enter the “Zone Kitchen Design” concept — an incorporation of multiple work centers defined by function into an efficient productive space for its users.
Start by asking clients these questions:
- How many adults and children in the family?
- How many people typically work in the room at one time?
- How many work centers are there and what functions are performed at each?
- What are the seating and work requirements of each family member?
What type of equipment and appliances do the homeowners feel they need? Think beyond the basics here. Appliances have come a long way: We now have steam ovens, built-in steamers, grills, griddles, wine storage, beverage centers, built-in gourmet coffee systems, etc. Most importantly, find out how often each appliance is used and exactly what is it used for. It’s not always obvious. What are the seating and functionality requirements of each family member?
The three primary work centers are cleanup/prep sink; cooking surface (excludes ovens); and refrigeration/storage. Additional work centers can be as varied as the clients using them. Some of the more common are baking (prep and ovens); food prep; homework and beverage/entertainment, which can include soft drink storage, gourmet coffee machines, and/or wine preservation and ice making. Depending on the amount of entertaining that clients do, elevating this area to work center status may be just what the client needs.
Regardless of how many work centers a client may require, three major issues should be considered: safety, obstacles, and workflow. When workflow is properly addressed, efficiency is the result. Obstacles — including those big, fancy islands — can be a safety issue as well as a real efficiency killer. —Jeff Kida, a designer and kitchen and bath dealer, owns DDS Design Services, in Chicago.
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