The Efficient Kitchen Has Good Flow

Whether your household consists of one or many, the kitchen is probably the center of activity. For it to be a useful and enjoyable space it needs to have an efficient “flow.”

For starters, you need a “landing” area for keys, handbag, mail, papers, and anything that you bring in or take out of the house so it doesn’t land on a countertop where it gets in the way or looks like clutter. The passageway from the house entry or to an outside deck should not run through the area where food is being prepared. There should be room for family members and guests to sit and visit without disturbing the cook. There may be an island with an overhang to accommodate stools or a nearby table. If there is more than one person cooking there should be a minimum of 48″ space between parallel work areas. If there’s usually just one cook 42″ should be sufficient. A space used as a passageway only needs to be at least 36″ wide. Since food comes from the refrigerator, moves on to the sink and then to the stove, the sink should be central to food preparation. There should be a “landing” space for goods from the refrigerator. Most food preparation will take place between the sink and the stove so there should be a minimum space of 36″ there. In the prep area there should be at least one bank of drawers. 18″ is a good size, wide enough to accommodate most items but not wide enough to get messy easily. If there’s room, an 18″ pullout wastebasket is a great convenience, especially if it has one compartment for recycling and another for trash. The dishwasher will be near the sink and needs to be situated so that when it is open it doesn’t interfere with offloading. If it is at an angle to the sink, for example when the sink is placed in a corner, there should be at least 18″ between the two. Dishes and cutlery should be accessible to the dining area so the table can be set without disturbing the cook. A popular place for dishes is in drawers rather than in less accessible upper cabinets. Wall cabinets, which are becoming more scarce thanks to larger windows and taller appliances, provide a lot more storage space if they are 15″ deep rather than the standard 12″. A microwave should be approximately elbow height so the contents are easily seen and not easily spilled. One reasonable location for it is near the refrigerator on a shelf between an upper cabinet and the countertop, leaving space for small appliances underneath. Then it can be accessed if someone is using the stove at the same time. Or it could be placed in a location separate from the main food prep area along with a toaster, coffeepot or other appliance, as long as there is a landing area for its contents.

Consider the viewing habits of all who will be using the kitchen, which is often a part of a larger room where a screen is a part of the activity. It may work well to place a computer monitor or flat-screen TV in an office or desk area that’s separate from the food prep/dining area but visible from there.

Islands can be a good way to organize flow efficiently. They usually provide some distance between guests and food preparers and if there is sufficient room for another prep sink sink can be a secondary work area. WIth an overhanging countertop they give both cook and visitor a place to sit to prepare food or to dine. The kitchen with peninsula can make it difficult for two to prepare food at the same time and may require extra steps to get to, say, a pantry or oven on the opposite wall. A galley kitchen, with at least 4′ of space between work areas, can be one of the most efficient, as long as it is not also used as a main thoroughfare. Laying out a kitchen plan will expose any flaws in the organization and traffic patter. It is hard to plan a kitchen without one. Sometimes it may be necessary to move a doorway or a wall to get the most efficient plan.

Learn design guidelines for planning your new kitchen or bath before starting your remodeling project by attending my next seminar, “Planning Your New Kitchen or Bath,” on October 12 at 7:00 pm in my studio at 79B Ocean Street in South Portland, Maine. There is no charge, but space is limited. Please call (207) 899-9421 to reserve a seat.