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Home Sweet Home Series – Pt III
In Part III of our Home Sweet Home series, we take a look at the kitchen. The kitchen is where meals are lovingly prepared, where the family bumps into each other for a quick exchange of words, and where you nurse a mug of warm Milo late at night. If the living room is where you relax, the kitchen is where all the action is.
When getting started in planning the layout for your kitchen, consider the size of your household, and the needs of the people living in it – especially the person who uses the kitchen most – as well as the available space to work with. If you are buying a resale flat, check the condition of all your electrical wiring, plumbing, condition of the flooring and wall tiles when re-doing the kitchen. Electrical points may need to be changed or fixed if you intend to change the configuration of the kitchen layout.
Start off with the main items that a basic kitchen needs. Every kitchen will need the following to be fully functional:
- Work / Preparation Zone
You’lll need a countertop or work area for the preparation of meals. A good working height for most people is 85 to 95 cm; a comfortable work space to prepare your food should measure at least 60 cm in width, 80 cm in height and have a depth of 60 cm.
Pick the countertop material according to your cooking and cleaning habits. A solid wood counter top would require diligent mopping up of water spills and regular treatment by brushing a thin layer of treatment oil on the surface to prevent water absorption into the wood. A hard stone, ceramic or marble surface is best if budget is not of an issue. Maintenance of these hard-wearing surfaces is easy with a simple wipe down after use so consider this if you intend to do lots of serious cooking.
- Cooking Zone
Steaming, frying, boiling, grilling, baking… This is where all the action is, and where your cooker hob and hood, oven and microwave oven will reside.
- Washing-up Zone
Washing up is never anyone’s favourite activity. Make it less painful by choosing a sink that’s large enough to accommodate your needs. Don’t forget that dishes that have been washed need to be dried after. Think about your drying areas – would you prefer wall-mounted racks, or would a small one just next to your sink suffice? Remember too that laminate countertops do not like getting wet, so factor in your choice of drying racks when you choose your countertops.
- Storage Zone
You’ll have opened packets of pasta, cans of preserved goodies, herbs and spices… You can never have too much storage space! Don’t just think about kitchen cabinets, think of what you want to put in them. For example, pull-out drawers will allow you to reach those cans of soup that are hidden right at the back.
Lighting is essential for every kitchen for safety reasons. Kitchens need general lighting such as ceiling lamps that spread light evenly throughout the room. They also need functional lighting such as counter top lighting in front of the user so no shadows are cast over the workspace.
Creating an Easy Work Flow
The most important decisions you need to make when planning your new kitchen are deciding where to place vital functions, such as the main workspace for preparing food, the cooking area and the refrigerator. These decisions go hand-in-hand with your choice of kitchen layout. The aim is to place the functions in a layout that creates the most natural workflow for you, otherwise known as the ‘work triangle’.
- Single-sided kitchen
The single-sided kitchen is designed along one wall. This solution is suitable for narrow spaces or small to medium-sized households where only one person works in the kitchen at a time. With all appliances and cabinets against one wall, the work triangle is one straight line.
- Double-sided kitchen
The double-sided kitchen does not require a lot of space. It is often suitable when windows and/or doors are situated on the narrow walls of the room. A double-sided kitchen may have workspaces on either side. A double-sided kitchen requires a minimum of 120 cm between opposite kitchen cabinets so that doors and drawers can be opened freely from both sides at the same time. Avoid placing workspaces directly opposite each other so that two people can comfortably work together without getting in each other’s way or having to stand directly back-to-back.
- L-shaped kitchen
The L-shaped kitchen is a versatile layout. If there is enough space, the kitchen can be combined with a dining area or a kitchen island. L-shaped kitchens provide generous workspace and storage. However, it is difficult to optimise the use of space in the corners, as they are tight and impractical to stand by when working.
- U-shaped kitchen
The U-shaped kitchen provides a concentrated work area. It is efficient and offers a lot of storage space. A disadvantage is that it is difficult to optimise the use of space in the two corners. For an effective kitchen, the layout requires a minimum area of 8m². A U-shaped kitchen provides a lot of countertop surface and plenty of storage space but if the kitchen is too large, there will be long distances and unnecessary movement between the functions.
- Island kitchen
The island kitchen provides additional storage space and makes it possible for two people to face each other while working in the kitchen. The island can also work as a room divider. The island kitchen is only an option when there is sufficient floor space.
An island kitchen requires a minimum of 120cm between the two main kitchen combinations so that there is enough space for working and opening of doors and drawers from both sides at the same time. If the island is equipped with a cooking unit, ensure that there is a utility surface next to it for unloading hot pots and pans. This way, hot items do not have to be moved over open floor space. If possible, plan space for an extra sink.
Do Cooking Styles Come into Play?
If you prefer or usually cook Asian stir fry dishes, closed kitchens are a better option so that the oil and smells do not spread to other rooms. However, a cooker hob over the stove greatly helps minimises the vapour from spreading. If you do a lot of baking, you will require a lot of countertops for preparation and kneading.
Think Big for Small Spaces
If you have a tiny kitchen but want to include a small breakfast counter, consider a foldable table with stools. You’ll still be able to have cosy breakfasts in the morning with your new love, but the counter will stay out of sight once the meal is done.
Make use of wall-mounted racks and accessories to create more space. Display your spices up on wall-mounted spice racks for easy access, put shelves high up to store items that are seldom used. Kitchen trolley tables can offer more work space, and can be easily stored away when not in use.
Planning your dream kitchen is lots of fun if you know what you want. Don’t rush through the process – take your time to think decisions through. Once you create your perfect kitchen, you’ll never want to eat out again!
Credits: Specialist knowledge: Krisztina Pohl, First Interior Designer, IKEA Images: Courtesy of IKANO Pte Ltd, © Inter IKEA Systems B.V. 2011
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