Aviva Ben Choreen, Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD), Laurysen Kitchens Ltd. (www.laurysenkitchens.com)
“We have been trying to decide what kind of kitchen will suit our family. We haven’t had much luck, and it might be because there are so many different elements to our family and lifestyle. My husband and I each have children from former marriages, and the age range is wide: from 3 to 19.
We both work full time at demanding jobs. The children are all very busy, but in vastly different ways. So are their schedules, eating habits, and comfort levels. Besides our family needs, my husband and I like to entertain.
We’d like our kitchen to be the hub of our world at home – a place of comfort, ease and efficiency but also with a kind of elegance. We’d like to sit with little ones over breakfast cereal and toys, create a warm space for teenagers to relax and spend time at home, and yet be able, all in the same day, to host a small intimate dinner party with friends right in the kitchen itself. Oh… and I almost forgot to say my husband’s great hobby is gourmet cooking.
Are we asking for the moon? What should we be looking for in our “perfect” kitchen?”
Kitchen design is very dependent upon the available space and budget. As you haven’t given me any information regarding the size of the room you want or your limits on spending, I’m assuming these are not critical issues.
Think about a kitchen as a nice wide room with a window, with an adjoining open-concept breakfast room with a window, and a few doors into the space.
When you’re planning your kitchen layout, it is important to look at the traffic flow through the space, and to try to avoid placing work zones where people will be walking through.
To accommodate a large blended family with busy schedules, a large efficient pantry is a must.
Due to the varied ages of your children, a table for breakfast would be best. Small children have trouble with taller chairs. The table can also be used as a homework/project zone and as a work surface for the shorter people in the kitchen.
To enable the younger family members to be as helpful and independent as possible, items that they use should be stored where they can reach them. For example, cereal bowls & (unbreakable) cups can be kept in a drawer so they can get a drink of water or breakfast on their own. A fridge with a built-in water dispenser is also helpful. (Freestanding water dispensers take up valuable kitchen space, and if out of the kitchen, don’t get used.)
If the space will allow, a window-seat in the breakfast area could double as seating and storage for toys. Drawers below the seat would allow a quick clean up when the space is reclaimed for that adult dinner party.
To entertain adult guests while cooking, nothing is better than an island with some seating. The number of stools will depend upon the room design. This can also be the eating area for the teenagers on the run, if the table is busy with the small siblings’ homework. For larger work surfaces the countertop on the island should be all one height – raising the eating bar at the back can reduce the work zone by as much as 1/3.
To please your gourmet cook, the appliances you purchase should be as good a quality as your budget will allow. For efficiency, they should be easy to clean. There are appliances on the market that help to speed up the cooking time. Steam ovens, convection ovens, and induction cooking surfaces are some examples of this.
Available space can sometimes force compromises on appliances. For instance: a stand-alone stove takes up less wall space than a separate cooktop & wall oven.
Each appliance should have a countertop work space near it. Ideally, these work areas will not overlap. For example, the sink and stove should have ample space between them and the doors of the appliances should not conflict with each other when opened.
For elegance in entertaining, consider selecting finishes that coordinate with the house – it should flow well with your furnishings in the adjoining rooms, since it will be a space used by family and guests. A solid wood is very durable and gives warmth to the space. It can also be repaired if scuffed, which is not possible with a thermofoil door. (Durability is important with a busy household.)
Solid surface countertops would be the best choice if the budget will allow it – aside from the benefits they offer, they are very attractive. For example, Quartz, which is heat resistant, is very difficult to scratch, non-porous, and low maintenance.
Flooring should be easy-care. High traffic and wet spills can wreak havoc on flooring choices that would look good elsewhere in the house (such as hardwood or cork). Ceramic or Porcelain tile flooring make cleanup easy and reduces parental stress levels. Be sure to choose one that is not slippery, and that won’t chip with heavy use.
For a final touch, add some texture and/or color with a visually interesting wall tile. If you are short of the time you need to shop for wall tile, flooring, lights, etc., hire a decorator to research and present finish options and colors that would suit you.
With all the detail to consider, there are lots of items that could be missed. When you are finished your renovation, the space should be one that you enjoy living in, so be sure to consult with a professional kitchen designer to have it well planned from the start.
Today’s families are at home in their kitchens much more so than in the past. This makes the kitchen the most important room in the house. Put together a folder of favorite “looks” and think about your personal wish list. The more time you spend thinking about it before you begin, the happier you will be with the end result.
Renovating is something that will disrupt your life; but by avoiding last minute changes and revisions, you can reduce the bumps along the way.