By Greg Stopher | Whether buying a new home, building a home, or remodeling the home you’re in, kitchens are the heart and soul of your dwelling. Think about it, where do you spend the most time in your home? In the morning, I make my coffee, eat breakfast, prepare lunches, and maybe if I’m thinking ahead, getting things thawed for dinner. When I get home in the evening, it’s straight to the kitchen to get dinner on, unless I get home just in time to sit down and enjoy a nice home cooked meal with the family. After dinner it is time to clean up. Think about what else goes on in a kitchen, it’s where we prepare meals, eat, store our garbage and recycling, and store food and beverages. Homework is often done in the kitchen and paying those dreaded household bills happens there as well. Family get-togethers and holiday celebrations also happen in the kitchen. With all this activity centered on this one room, why not give a little more attention to the heart of your home?
A kitchen must function for your family. Make a wish list of what your family needs and wants in a kitchen. In my family with small elementary children it is nice to have them close when they are doing homework. A desk space in or near the kitchen where the kids can do their homework or work on their art projects is important to our family. Another thing to consider is the number of people who will use the kitchen. A single bachelor will have different needs in a kitchen than a family of four. A lot of times as a family we share kitchen duties so having enough space for two or three people to move about is important. Do you need an eat-in space, space for entertaining, and how much storage do you need? Are there any additional appliances that you want to incorporate into your kitchen?
The first key to a good kitchen is layout. What designers call the work triangle is the triangle between the sink, stovetop or oven, and refrigerator. This area should not be too large or too small. If this kitchen work triangle is too large, it will be tiring and inefficient while cooking or prepping food. But make the kitchen triangle too close or even one leg of the triangle and it becomes ineffective as well. For instance, if the refrigerator is right next to the stove there would be nowhere to set anything down and others would be crowding if someone were using the stove. Think about general traffic in, around, and through the area. A strong design should keep traffic flow out of your workspace.
Storage is a one of the biggest issues in a kitchen. Everything that is done in a kitchen is stored in the kitchen. Pots, pans, food, cookbooks and even those dreaded bills. Storage can make a kitchen much more efficient. Try finding a pan among of 10 other pots and pans crammed into one cupboard. It reminds me of my college days, when it was easier to wash the dirty pan in the sink instead of digging through the cupboard. Kitchen cabinets have come a long way in recent years with a variety of cabinets, shelves that can pull out for easy access, and spice racks to organize spices. A pantry is a nice added storage area for big items and kitchen appliances that are not used often and in Southeast Alaska freezer space is a must. You should consider if you need space for a small chest freezer in your pantry or just off the kitchen. Small kitchen appliances should not be an afterthought. There are several options for incorporating these items into the kitchen design. I like a designated bill center area and small homework desk to further organize the kitchen space. When selecting cabinets for your kitchen think about incorporating a hidden built-in recycling station and trash area.
In Southeast Alaska lighting is a major part of a kitchen, especially this time of year when you’re eating breakfast in the dark and cooking dinner in the dark. It is good to have as much natural light as possible but you and I know during the winter months, it is hard to come by. It is important to have good general lighting as well as workspace and task lighting. The spacing of lighting and layout is essential so that you are not working in the area of your shadow. Accent lighting can add to the enjoyment of a kitchen, make a focal point really stand out, and set a kitchen apart from other kitchens. I like dimmable lighting throughout most of the kitchen, which helps when the kitchen is being used for entertaining.
There are many books, magazines and websites that cover design and can help you and your family settle on something that will work for you. Today many lumber stores offer design consultations and interior designers can be helpful at this point as well. I have seen many trends come and go over the years and to me I think that the way your kitchen is finished depends on what you would like to get out of your home. Are you remodeling to add value to your home to sell? If you’re looking to sell you should probably stay with a more neutral palette. Pick something that will attract the most people, not just your taste. On the other side of the coin if you’re remodeling or building a home that your plan on being in for a long time then go with whatever fits your taste. You’re the one who is going to live with this kitchen, so it’s important that it is comfortable for you. Once you have decided on layout, function, and a basic style it is time to put pencil to paper. Whether you need a designer, kitchen specialist, or not the more planning that is done the smoother and more fulfilling your kitchen will be.
There are hundreds of different materials that can go into the remodeling or new construction of your kitchen. Materials ranging from flooring, cabinets, countertops, back splashes, hardware, appliances, plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, and lighting to name a few. So the more your plan the happier you will be with your kitchen. A kitchen customized to your family can be a great space for gathering, homework, and entertaining. Be sure to enjoy the process of creating or remodeling the heart of your home.
Greg Stopher has over 16 years of experience in the construction field and earned a degree in Construction Technologies from the University of Alaska – Southeast. His company, Stopher Construction, LLC, is a general contracting company specializing in remodeling, custom finishes, additions and new home construction projects. He can be reached at 907-321-2350.