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February 1, 2004
It's hard to make a good meal without a good kitchen countertop. So why do we settle for counters that don't help us do our best work? Small or cluttered counters don't give us the room we need to be creative. Bad lighting makes it easy to make mistakes. And when counters are too high, some cooks can't use them at all. There are ways to make your counters bigger, brighter, and safer.
You want everyone to chip in and help with dinner, right? That includes your grandchildren and your parents too. So, do yourself a favor. Give everyone a work space that fits them to a tee.
It's okay to keep most of your counters where they are. That's about 36 inches from the floor. But add at least one counter that is 28"-32" high. Children will love working here. You'll find it easier to chop and bake at this height. And someone who needs to sit while they cook will be thrilled to have a nice place to work. Just make sure there's enough knee space under the counter to pull up a chair or wheelchair. That knee space should be 30 inches wide and 27 inches high.
Not ready for a new counter? Get a pull-out cutting board. Install the board in your lower cabinet. Push it into your cabinet area when you're not using it. Pull it out and you'll have great place to chop an onion. It's also a good place to work while you sit down.
Have some extra money to spend? Try an adjustable countertop. These counters move up and down at the push of a button. Some move when you turn a crank. Every cook can quickly move this counter to the height that is best for them.
You don't have to spend much money to clear the clutter on your counters. But you will need to be ruthless.
It's simple, really. Pick up every item on your counter. Then, find someplace else to put it. Get rid of the clock that's taking up counter space. Buy a new clock and hang it on the wall. Get a coffeemaker that hangs right under your cupboard. Put up shelves to hold mixers and other bulky tools. Move recipe books to their own bookcase. You'll soon be surprised at how roomy your counters really are.
Countertops that have a good design can help you steer clear of many kitchen hazards. Poor lighting is one of them. It can lead to eye strain and accidents. Are you working in the shadows most of the time? Install lights under all your cabinets. You'll brighten up your whole work area. Your eyes will feel better. And your work space will be safer.
Be sure to choose counter edges that are rounded, not sharp. This will help reduce the injuries if someone falls in the kitchen. In addition, the edge of your countertop should be a different color than the rest of the counter. Pick a color that really stands out. That way, people with poor vision will be able to see clearly where the counter ends. Fewer dishes will spill and break.
The type of surface that covers your counters can also make them safer to use. Choose countertops that are smooth enough to let you slide heavy pots and pans from your cooktop to your sink and back again. And put a heat resistant surface on the counters that are near your microwave and cooktop. You can rest hot dishes on this surface when you take them from the oven. You won't melt the counter - or burn yourself.
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