By Jackson Strom, Principle Architect at Strom Architecture
Photos by Jill Ockhardt Blaufuss Photography
With the holidays fast approaching, we wanted to share some of our thoughts and considerations that go into planning a room you will likely be spending a large portion of your time in during this season, the kitchen. As with most things in design, there are endless possibilities when it comes to planning a kitchen, but there are a few specific topics we tend to discuss more often with our clients.
In this edition of Form & Function, we will review two areas that will not only help make your kitchen a great place to cook your next meal, but also help create a showpiece, welcoming guests and family.
Kitchens come in all shapes and sizes: galley, U-shape, island, etc. No matter the layout, we feel strongly that it should always feature the “work triangle.” The work triangle, which was developed in the 1940s, simply states that the cook should not have to take more than four to five steps between the three main work areas of the kitchen: the preparation (sink), food storage (refrigerator) and cooking (range). As this triangle also represents the traffic flow, nothing should block this circulation path.
Keeping the work triangle in mind, we are often encouraged by our clients to include a large island in the design. Whether it is eating a meal, grabbing a snack or engaging in conversation while other family members cook, this is where the family tends to congregate. Like all other aspects of a home, the requests for the island design vary from client to client. In our past projects, islands have included any and all of the following: a sink, range, higher (42 inches) bar countertop, lower (30 inches) dining countertop or simply one large counter height slab. Put some thought into how you envision your island working best for you.
Things to consider when laying out the kitchen:
- Sink Location – Do you prefer to keep an eye on the family/guests (located at the island) or would you rather be looking out through a window (located at perimeter cabinetry)?
- Island – Will the island be used mainly for congregating or prep work? If mainly for congregating, you may rather have your dishes pile up at a sink located at the perimeter cabinetry of your kitchen. If for prep work, it may be most convenient to locate the sink front and center at the island.
- Range Location – As you approach the kitchen, is there an opportunity for a focal point, such as a decorative hood surround? We often try to develop a relationship between the island, range and lighting, ensuring they all complement each other. The range might be aligned with a fireplace that is located on the opposing wall of the great room, creating an opportunity for ceiling beam work to join the two, ultimately tying the space together. Regardless of the style of your home, we suggest you study the layout and look for these hidden opportunities that may exist.
Technology is continuously advancing our appliance options, but there are certain decisions that our clients are currently making when it comes to planning the kitchen. Many of these decisions revolve around the refrigerator and the range.
In our opinion, there is nothing that makes your kitchen look sleeker than a built-in refrigerator. With sizes often ranging between 30 to 48 inches, these refrigerators sit flush with your cabinets and can include a front overlay panel, making these appliances disappear as they blend seamlessly into your cabinetry. Although pricey, we would encourage the built-in option if you’re considering one splurge to change the look and feel of your kitchen. If this is not an option for you, consider a free-standing counter-depth version that costs less, but provides a similar look.
The range has become the crown jewel of the kitchen. Whether it’s the custom color of a French luxury oven or the red knobs of a professional range, these appliances set the stage and help create the aesthetic in many of the kitchens we design today. Ranges at this top-tier are all high-performing, so with the specifications aside, our clients are often basing their decisions on the look of these beautiful appliances. One of our clients shared a story of an acquaintance who had a French oven delivered to her upper floor condo in NYC, and to the installer’s surprise, there was no gas line installed – the wife had known this, and instructed the installer slide it in and not notify her husband – although not functional, it still looked amazing! We are not advising you to install a gas range without a gas line, but are simply making a point that this look is a current desire in the kitchens we are designing. As with refrigerators, there are many appliance manufacturers that are making professional models that have a similar aesthetic as the higher-end options mentioned, without the price tag.
Things to consider when selecting appliances:
- Mix and Match – There is nothing wrong with splurging on one or two high-end appliances, and allowing the rest to not break the bank.
- Pocket the Fridge – One trick we often do with a counter-depth refrigerator is to create a small recess at the back wall (if there’s room), so that we can slide the refrigerator back a few inches, creating the sleek look of the built-in, without the additional cost.
- Focus on the Hood – Regardless of the appliance package, the kitchen design can always be enhanced by an exhaust hood over the range. Whether it’s a stainless hood, or a hood insert with wood or custom metal surround, this is a surefire way to bring a pop of flair to your kitchen.
There are endless possibilities to kitchen design, and as long as you start out with the right pieces in place, you will not go wrong. Spend the time upfront on your layout, and put some thought into your appliance package. There are still many options from here, but getting these two decisions right based on your lifestyle will set you up for success.
With over a decade of experience, Strom’s passion for the architectural profession led him to found Strom Architecture in 2019. Within his new firm, Strom Architecture strives to elevate the ordinary elements that exist in all projects.