Saturday, April 17, 2010

How Much Counter Space Do You Need?

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For many homeowners, planning a kitchen remodel is pretty exciting. If you have to do it, or if you want to do it, either way there is an exercise of your creative side involved. It is easy to imagine the form and look you want in general. But don't overlook some important aspects of function.

What is a kitchen really for? Kitchens are for preparing food, in essence. If you are merely replacing old cabinets with new, you can stick with the existing layout/footprint, but at least give some thought to ways to make the same space better for food prep. If you are changing the layout, opening walls and rearranging appliances and utility lines, it's even more important to consider function.

Sometimes a kitchen is a gathering place, for family and/or guests. It's often a storage or display area for the kitchen stuff you've collected (where to put that KitchenAid mixer). These functions have to be incorporated, of course. But we want you to enjoy using the kitchen, which generally means preparing meals.

Some people depend heavily on microwave ovens for meal preparation while others shun them. Some scrape vanilla beans, some eat packages of ramen or even canned soup several times a week and consider this a meal. But in designing the layout of your new kitchen, consider that you might cook more in the future, that the next owner of your house/condo may be a foodie, or a chef.

Of course you don't have to be a gourmet cook to aspire to good and adequate workspace and lighting in a kitchen. I cook soup and pasta and egg dishes mostly. I also juice daily. For me, having a juicing area, where my juicer and other tools can be used and stored, and veg and fruit prep and cleanup can be done quickly and neatl, is essential.

This brings up an important point. Do you cook? How many meals a week do you cook from scratch? Do you bake? Do you bake once or twice a year, for holidays? These are vital questions to ask when designing the optimal kitchen layout. A dedicated cook needs much more counter space and storage than is provided in a typical 3-bedroom home kitchen. Many kitchens built in the last 30 years were designed with the "microwave age" in mind. There's no room to clean and prepare vegetables and fruit!   the kitchens have a bar area for seating, but no place to chop onions or knead bread dough! What were those architects thinking?!

If, on the other hand, you really want a beautiful space for entertaining, and minor food prep and lots of catered dishes will be involved, your priorities will be different. Sometimes, a dramatic or welcoming look is more important to a homeowner than counter space. This is fine, design with this in mind, but remember that, to sell the house someday, you do want to provide for future use.

Some tips: Always separate food prep and cleanup areas if you can. Work with the "kitchen triangle" but make it work for your style of food prep. For most of us, more counter space is better than bigger appliances. You can often keep an extra fridge or freezer in a garage so don't go overboard on the in-kitchen model you choose. A pantry cabinet or, better, more counterspace, will be often be better utilized than a huge fridge.

Keeping counter space free of clutter is also vital for best food prep function. To keep costs down  consider using shelves built out of IKEA panels (the same style as your cabinets) and used in place of cabinets.

Once again I would highly recommend working with an IKEA kitchen design expert to get the most out of your remodel dollars. You will still have many choices to make and your preferences and requirements have to be worked out and communicated. But to get the ideal kitchen for your budget, your space, your aesthetic preferences and lifestyle, get the help of a pro if you can. Call or email and we're happy to share our resources with you. 

If you'd like to discuss your project with me, I can offer you a free, 30-minute phone consultation. Here's my calendar, just pick a time that works for you.


Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753.