It’s amazing how many of the kitchens in magazines seem to bear very little relation to real life. Most of the people I know don’t have huge kitchens with multiple eating areas, fireplaces, sofas, window seats, huge pro-look ranges, several ovens, multiple sinks, 2 dishwashers, and goodness knows what else. In fact most people seem to have the ordinary, common small kitchen with range, fridge, sink and dishwasher. And they don’t have the space to add more, or the money to add on to the house to make it half as big again.
So what can regular folks like you and me do, in practice, if we’re going to remodel an existing small kitchen without spending an arm and a leg?
The first point is to be really clear about what you NEED (not want) from your kitchen. Do you need it to be the heart of the home? A place where several people cook together? A single-person workspace? Make a list of the absolute must-haves that you need to get from the remodel.
Now, how about things which you need only occasionally, but are more than wants.
- Do you can a lot? Then you may get real use out of a large range where you can run two canners and other pots at the same time. Can you fit a larger range with an extra burner or two into the layout without sacrificing more important needs? It can be large without being huge, nor does it need the space-eating “hearth-look” arrangement we see so often in pretty pictures. You’ll also want really good ventilation to get rid of all the steam and heat.
- Are you a big baker, but only at the holidays? Then arranging for a baking area is important, but it doesn’t need to be a dedicated baking centre that won’t see much use at other times.
Wants come after needs, but can often be fitted around them. There’s a never-ending list of possible tweaks which could make your kitchen nicer to use, but which aren’t strictly necessary. A second sink, for example, can be very useful when you’ve got several people working in the kitchen.
[ad code=2 align=left]
How do these needs and wants translate into layouts? There are three important principles to bear in mind.
Firstly, the things you use the most should be the easiest to use – to reach, to work with, to clean, and to put away. That means that the sink and range should be far enough away from corners that you’re not squeezed while you’re working: the dishwasher shouldn’t open across something else important, or be squeezed into a corner: appliance doors shouldn’t block the main walkway, etc.
Secondly, the layout should make your workflow easier, not get in the way. My pre-remodeling kitchen took food from the fridge, to the sink, to prep counter, to range, all moving in one direction along the kitchen, ending up by the back door instead of by the serving counter and the dining room, which were at the other end of the room! My ideal layout would have the workflow move in exactly the opposite direction. Pay attention as you use your kitchen and see how you move from one task to another. Draw out your paths on a sketch plan of the kitchen. How could you arrange your kitchen floor plan to reduce walking and repeated movements?
Lastly, your chosen layout should make the most of already-existing infrastructure (plumbing, electrical etc) and window views without being overly constrained by them. Use what’s in place if you can, but don’t stick to it if it makes a decent layout impossible. Moving a range outlet, sink plumbing or even a window in a small kitchen may not be that expensive and may make all the difference in getting a floorplan which works for you.