Designing a Kitchen to Suit Your Lifestyle / by mark bruce

A well-designed kitchen has to be client specific; there are too many variables within all of us to allow a standard fixed design to work well.

There are of course some common traits and these are usually accommodated for by the many standard design principles kitchen designers follow. But a truly unique and well-designed kitchen will be very specific to you and your lifestyle.

So how do we develop this unique design? What information is required? Just how important is my lifestyle to the way my kitchen is designed?

Your lifestyle is a key component to a good kitchen design and the only way of establishing that connection is for your kitchen designer to ask a lot of probing questions.

  • Physical attributes

    • Height
    • Left or right handed
    • Any disabilities
  • Your demographics

    • Family numbers and ages

    • Socioeconomic status
    • Race/Ethnicity
    • Life cycles
  • Future plans for the house

    • Budget for this project

    • How many people will use the kitchen

    • Grocery purchasing habits

    • Existing appliances and appliance wish list

  • Storage requirements

    • Pantry

    • Crockery

    • Cutlery

    • Cooking

Once this basic information is gathered the more comprehensive information is required.

  • Social Habits
    • How often do you entertain?
    • Informal or formal
    • Food prepared in front of guests or behind the scenes
    • Are guest involved in the process
    • Type of food  you like to prepare
    • Out door dining and BBQ placement
  • Family interaction
    • How many work triangles are required
    • What other activities take place in the kitchen
    • Ie Homework, office work, hobbies, laundry
    • Is there any dining in the kitchen
    • Are pets fed in the kitchen
    • Do you need a t.v, computer or other entertainment source
  • Special storage requirements
    • Display areas
    • Cook books
    • Cutlery sets
    • Hand held appliances
    • Aesthetics
    • What style and look are you wanting (magazine cut outs)
    • Material preferences for benchtops, doors, walls and floors
    • Are task areas to be hidden from adjoining rooms
    • Lighting both artificial and natural

Obviously another key component is the physical size of the room, the homes layout and characteristics. Lifestyle choices effect these from the spacious farmhouse to the compact apartments.

Apartment living has seen smaller but smarter kitchens designed. Combo appliances such as oven/microwaves and drawer fridges provide solutions to space issues. The kitchen in an apartment is such a dominating design element a lot of care is taken with accent lighting and visual harmony.
The increased popularity of sculleries is a result of a lifestyle change where people don’t want the visual complication of a large kitchen but still need the storage and task areas. A small compact kitchen can be complimented with a large working scullery.

The concept of ‘open plan’ has been successful for some time now but the importance of the phase has taken on new meanings in some people’s lifestyles. Open plan design can not only mean within the living areas but incorporating an outside dining area and kitchen as well. More and more exterior kitchens are been designed to meet the changes in people’s life styles.
It seems that time, or lack of, drives some major lifestyle changes. Weather you are escaping the city and buying a life-style block to slow down or moving into an apartment to free up time it all effects the kitchen design. Time management and efficiency is always considered in kitchen design. Distances between working triangles is regulated, task areas and landing zones are positioned close to the appropriate appliances or storage areas.

Many aspects need to be considered and theories and formulas applied for your lifestyle and kitchen to be in sync.

Hints and Tips
1.    A NZ survey revealed 30% of all meals are eaten out.
2.    The ideal total distance between all three points of your working triangle is 4.5meters – 6.5meters.
3.    Traffic should not dissect the work triangle, except leg to fridge.
4.    The maximum height for your microwave should be 75mm below shoulder height. NOT ON TOP OF YOUR FRIDGE.
5.     The sink is the most frequently used centre. The food preparation area should ideally be between the sink and cooking centre, but an area between the sink and the fridge is useful for fresh food preparation.
6.    Most right handed people prefer the work flow in the kitchen to work from left to right. eg dirty dishes to the LHS of sink bowls and dishwasher to RHS of sink.