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Love Your Kitchen — for Life

Transform your cooking and eating areas into more user-friendly spaces without spending a fortune.

Kitchens today are more than rooms for cooking. They tend to be the heart of a house and the most appealing living space, where family and visitors gather for conversation and snacking. It’s possible that all you need to do to spruce up your kitchen the universal way is make a few simple changes. On the other hand, you might determine that a minor or major remodeling project is in order. For instance, it might be desirable to remove an adjacent room’s wall — perhaps the dining room wall — and expand the kitchen or combine the two rooms. This can create a spacious, more user-friendly and inviting eat-in kitchen.

See also: Make your kitchen cabinets work for you.

Regardless of the size of the room, the number of people you cook for or your personal cooking habits, the general workflow is essentially the same in all kitchens. You remove ingredients from the refrigerator, carry them to the sink for washing, move them to a work surface and then finally place them in a pot on the cooktop or in the oven. Or food is moved from the freezer directly to the microwave or the oven.

Under most circumstances, the ideal design for functionality is either an L-shaped or U-shaped kitchen. The five factors listed here are a good prescription to make the kitchen an easy place to work: consolidated design, easy approach, clear floor space, ease of use and convenient dining.

Consolidated Design

Design your kitchen around the so-called work triangle, which is formed by the paths connecting the refrigerator, the sink and the range. Long triangle legs can make meal preparation exhausting, while short ones create a feeling of confinement. A good rule of thumb is that the three legs of the triangle added together shouldn’t exceed 22 feet (6.7 m).

Easy Approach

Locate major appliances so they’re easy for anyone to get to. For example, place the oven, cooktop, and dishwasher so they all can be approached from right, left or front, accommodating the cook’s natural inclination toward left- or righthanded activity or a person’s physically stronger side.

Next: Make dining convenient. >>

Clear Floor Space

A 30 x 48-inch (76 x 122 cm) area of clear floor space in front of the refrigerator, stove, cooktop and sink allows a cook who uses a mobility aid much easier access. Similarly, if the kitchen design includes a table or an island in the center, aisles should be 42 to 48 inches wide (107 to 122 cm). This provides room for wheelchairs and walkers, children in strollers, and several cooks. A 5-foot (1.5 m) radius of clear space in the kitchen lets a person using a wheelchair or scooter turn around easily without banging into nearby walls and cabinets or having to back his or her way out of the room.

Ease of Use

Universal design makes cooking tasks easier, not harder. For example, the longer the unbroken work surfaces and the closer the sink is to the cooktop and oven, the more flexibility you’ll have in preparing food. This also means less moving of ingredients or lifting of heavy pots or food since you can easily slide them along the counter. Your back will be happier, too.

Convenient Dining

Plan your kitchen so it’s easy to serve and eat meals. For instance, a dining table or an eat-in counter on a kitchen island is a real plus for casual, relaxed meals. And it also saves having to walk with hands laden with plates, cups and serving dishes. An easy option is to install a pullout tray under the countertop to serve as a table for dining solo, or add a hinged extension leaf on your island. Another low-cost solution is to purchase a small wheeled cart. It makes transporting food from the kitchen to the table much easier.

A pass-through window between the kitchen and dining area is a great convenience feature. Add folding wooden shutters and you have a camouflaged pass-through when it’s not in use.