2007-09-10

Kitchen Design with Cooking in Mind

That's the title of a book by Don Silvers that I just downloaded. The book came recommended from the LA Times home repair blog, Pardon Our Dust. Recently I found I've been reading the LA Times blogs more regularly (particularly Pardon Our Dust and LA Land). Don has a separate website as well.

The book starts with a statement that spoke to me.

Most homeowners face an immediate obstacle—the kitchen triangle. What is the kitchen triangle? You won’t find it in Webster’s. You will find it in most American homes, however. For decades, it has been the great bane of sensible kitchen design.

The work triangle has been on my mind since going over my first designs. My intended kitchen simply won't fit into any "normal" sort of triangle. Fortunately Don Silvers has a concept of work flow which promises to untangle my design choices. As I understand it after reading the first chapter, Don likes to design for the maximum (dishes, people, whatever) and then try to telescope that capability into the available space: If you can make a meal for 10 at Thanksgiving then you should surely be able to make a meal for 2 on a weekday night. His approach is kitchen systems engineering, a methodology that I am well acquainted with.

Take the title of the second chapter, "Storage Subsystems" in which one of the first paragraphs starts,

As important as it is, both in terms of style and function, cabinetry often presents a formidable obstacle to good kitchen design. In a properly designed kitchen, it is the appliances that drive the design, and the cabinets work to support appliance placement. But the cabinet industry has long set the standards when it comes to dimensions. In a sort of tail-wagging-the-dog situation, manufacturers create appliances to fit into the cabinet industry’s standardized 22 inch deep European to 24 inch deep American cabinets. Stop for a moment and consider the consequences: Cooktops are designed to fit a cabinet, not to address whether you cook for 2, 6, 12, or 20 people.


What follows are notes from the book that I thought useful enough to give careful consideration to. There's a bunch of ideas that I already have a strong opinion on which are not noted here.

1. Two sinks!! See if you can shoehorn in a second sink, each with a garbage disposal. A second sink is just the type of utility station that can break the kitchen triangle, split the workload, and create separate flow patterns for the different tasks each handles. As such, it is well worth the cost.
2. Built-in food centers are motors set directly into the counter that attach to a food processor, blender, or other appliance. They are worth considering for small kitchens with minimal counter space. These machines can mix, blend, grind coffee, crush ice and perform a dozen tasks in a compact space. A quick Google seach "kitchen appliance built-in blender" or the like turned up the Broan/ Nutone Kitchen Center KC-PWR-1SS Power Base at
http://www.monstermarketplace.com/Home/Landing347a445.html.
It's a bit discouraging that they have only a mixer and blender attachment. I'd like dough kneading, food processor, and juicer attachments to make this a true space saver for a small kitchen, particularly since you'd give up valuable counter top to have it. Maybe another brand will have those or they are available elsewhere. Needs more investigation.
3. A "rolling island" - A kitchen needs to be a minimum of 12 feet wide to accommodate a 24 inch deep island.... So if you don’t have a 12 to 14 foot wide kitchen, you can still very effectively extend your counter space by using what is actually a type of rolling island.
4. 30" deep counters created by furring out standard base cabinets. 15" to 18" recommended counter top to upper cabinets distance If you have sufficient cabinet storage—and you’re tall enough—I would recommend the 18 inch height. This means the bottom shelf of the cabinet will be four feet, seven inches from the floor. This allows stowing small appliances (e.g. coffeemaker) at the back of the counter with plenty of workspace left in front.
5. He personally finds a soap dispenser built into sink indispensable ;-) This could be a nice space saver, but I keep imagining the rusted broken stub of the dispenser marring my otherwise perfect kitchen a couple years down the line. That plastic doesn't last all that long and replacement parts may go unavailable.
6. Buy a European dishwasher for quiet, speed and efficiency. Claims it's better to not pre-rinse dishes for the dishwasher because dishwasher soap is highly alkaline. Without food residue to work on, the soap works directly on the dish surface, potentially etching it. The soap can also etch glasses and pit silverware. One of the ways you can combat this dishwasher wear and tear is to only fill the main soap compartment of the standard two. As it turns out, the water in the first rinse cycle usually isn’t hot enough to dissolve the soap anyway. Later, If you are right handed, the dishwasher belongs to the left of the sink; if you are left handed, it belongs to the right. All dishwashers come 34 to 34-1/2 inches high, so fitting them under the standard 36 inch counter is no problem. However, if you wish to lower the counter, only European models come with adjustable legs that allow the dishwasher to be raised or lowered two to three inches.
7. Lighting Lamps and fixtures under wall cabinets will light three-quarters of the counter, from the backsplash out. The color of your counter surface will reflect light, so the lighter the counter, the better the light. Your ceiling lamps and fixtures should be placed above the outer quarter of your counter so that, with your cabinet lighting, all surfaces will be lit. Finally, your overhead lighting should cast a balanced light and not leave any dark spots.
8. Consider efficiency of flow: food out, dirty dishes in, groceries in and away, etc



Overall this was a good book for the download price of around $15.00 but wouldn't be tops on my list at the dead trees price ($30 plus $5 shipping if ordered online). Most example drawings showed larger kitchens than mine could ever be: Nearly all had room for an island. In that sense the book was not on target for me. However, it made up for that by validating my sense of dissatisfaction with the work triangle concept and giving me an alternative kitchen design meme, namely flow.

A chapter on "Tools" (meaning pots, pans, and cutlery) seems gratuitous. Perhaps it was added for completeness, but it was redundant for me and most likely for anyone who knows a thing about cooking. The somewhat short length of the book suggests that this is secondary filler material. The photo gallery at the end of the book has nothing but large kitchens.