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Designing a kitchen


Functional arrangement of a kitchen plays a basic role s far as ergonomics and comfort of a future user are concerned, and therefore should be treated as equally important as aesthetics, or maybe even more. Planning the kitchen should begin right at the start of home renovations or building. For example, it is important to properly arrange connection points, places for tiles, to determine the height of windowsills from the floor. Below, we present a few chosen aspects of kitchen design. 

Deciding on style and colours
Deciding on style and colours in the kitchen is the first step of designing process. The choice of colours should take into account, among others, the position of windows in relation to quarters of the globe.

An optimum location is to the north (that is how the location of a window is usually planned in a detached house). As it is the warmest room in a house, to cook in a kitchen which is situated to the south can be a real nightmare in the summer... Light colours are the best choice for small kitchens, as they make the room seem larger. They can also prove suitable for a north-faced kitchen with a small window, because even though the northern location is the preferred option, it does not let much daylight in. It is also worth remembering that in a sunny well-lit kitchen glossy surfaces should be avoided as they can dazzle and cause disturbing reflections. On the other hand, however, in such a kitchen you can go for darker walls and furniture.


When it comes to style of the kitchen, you can choose from the following:

  • Retro kitchens - rustic, English, Provencal - dominant features include wood, carved slats, stained glass, stylish accessories and built-in hidden household appliances..


  • Modern kitchens - simple forms, combining materials: wood, foil, laminate, metal; high functionality, virtually unlimited possibilities.


  • High-tech kitchens - "a culinary lab", where cool colours dominate and the most common materials are metal and glass; highly automated household appliances are often deliberately exposed


While choosing style and colours for the kitchen you should also consider a type of wall finishing. Surfaces, particularly those above rows of floor standing cupboards, are always likely to get dirty. You can choose among the following wall finishings:


  • washable vinyl wallpaper,
  • special paint for bathrooms and kitchens, i.e. wet rooms,
  • wall coverings and tiles made of glass, metal or artificial material,
  • ceramic tiles.


Present and future demands of a user 
On average, the kitchen is used for about 20 years and, as much time is spent there, it is worth thinking through your requirements and wishes concerning the kitchen, so that the applied solutions are functional and long-lasting. What is certain to be taken into account while making decisions concerning particular solutions is the size of the room as well as habits and expectations of its users and the overall features of the particular home. 

The size of the room
It is necessary to measure the room. Its size will determine how much space will be available for different functions of the kitchen. The following will be important while planning:

  • room area and its height,
  • dimensions (height, width) and the number and arrangement of entrances to the kitchen,
  • measurements of the window (esp. its height above the floor and width), height of the windowsills,
  • existing points of connection (electricity, water) - even if you plan to rearrange them,
  • arrangement of possible storage places, e.g. a pantry.

Determining your needs
It is worth giving some thought to family habits:

  • what kind of lifestyle you have, what are your cooking-related customs - it determines the choice of a cooker and amount of space essential to prepare meals,
  • how often shopping is done and therefore what kind of fridge to choose and how much space is needed for food reserves,
  • what appliances will you use - it will be necessary to decide where plugs, switches and lighting spots should go,
  • is the kitchen only meant to prepare meals or it should also be a dining room and meeting place - determine functions.

Apart from those general information, other aspects are of importance as well: 

  • kitchen user's height in order to fix the worktop at optimum height,
  • the way a particular user works - right- or left-handedness - it is decisive for the proper arrangement of zones,
  • amount of products stored in the kitchen.

Determining the usage space necessary
In the kitchen, 250 kg of various items and reserves are kept on average. In order to fit them all, you need certain usage space, i.e. the right number of shelves and drawers in cupboards. There can hardly be anything more inconvenient than storing tableware in the basement, other room or pantry as a result of design blunders. 
Designer can help you choose the right cupboards for different products.

Zone planning 

Every good project takes into account the division of the kitchen into working zones. Suitable location of zones makes the distances covered every day shorter and work easier. 
There are 5 zones usually marked out in the kitchen: reserves, storage, washing-up, food preparation and cooking and baking. Such order is a suitable arrangement for a right-handed person. If the person is left-handed the order should be reversed. Even if the kitchen is small it is worth separating particular zones with at least tiny worktops to be able to put down a pan or food taken out from the fridge, for example. 


reserves   all food reserves should be stored here, those which need to be refrigerated and those which do not - therefore, essential elements of this zone include a fridge and freezer and a high cupboard with cargo or inner drawers
storage   this zone is where tableware, i.e. glassware, porcelain and cutlery should be kept
washing-up   this is a so-called "wet zone" where a sink and dishwasher should be situated, there should also be a place for putting away dishes and drying them as well as some space for storing detergents and waste disposal and segregation
preparation   heart of the kitchen - it should take up the most central place possible, a worktop is essential (its minimum width is 90 cm) and so is access to all the necessary utensils (breadboards, knives, food processor etc.) and to food products which are often used (such as condiments, oil etc.)
cooking, baking   this zone should comprise an oven, hob, microwave oven, extractor fan; baking trays, pans, lids and frying pans should also be stored in here

The kitchen's working triangle
In order for the kitchen to be functional, which means no unnecessary roundabout routes, distances between particular appliances in the kitchen's working triangle should not exceed:
  • from the fridge to the sink 120-210 cm,
  • from the sink to the cooker 120-210 cm (in small rooms 90 cm),
  • from the fridge to the cooker 120-270 cm.

Vertical zone arrangement in the kitchen
A good idea is to put particular items at suitable levels, as regards the frequency with which they are used: 
  • Items which are used most often - in easily accessible drawers, directly beneath the worktop or at the lowest level of wall-mounted cupboards.
  • Less often used items - below and above that level.
  • Sporadically used items - at the highest level of an upper cupboard or at the lowest level of a lower cupboard.


Height of the worktops
The level at which the worktop is fixed should be adjusted to the user's height: 
  • With an arm bent, the distance between the elbow and the worktop should be 10-15 cm.
  • The recommended height of kitchen worktops: 89-91 for standing work, 70-75 cm for food consumption and 110-115 in case of a counter.
  • You should take into account the fact that different activities require different height of a worktop. As far as ergonomics is concerned, it is best if the hob is situated lower than the worktop. 

Advantage of drawers over shelves
  • A good solution is to give up shelves in lower cupboards.
  • A shelf requires you to stoop, kneel or even take the contents out on the floor.
  • Drawers guarantee more comfortable view and optimum access.
  • It is better to choose drawers with a full pull-out as they allow you to have complete access to their contents. 

Working surface 
It is worth giving some thought to planning the worktop surface in the kitchen. 
  • The proper kitchen worktop is situated in the preparation zone. This area between the sink and the hob should have the right size and be well-lit
  • Minimum recommended width of the worktop is 90 cm 

Location of sockets 
It is certainly worth considering the number of appliances which will need to be plugged in. Remember that a fridge, cooker and dishwasher are appliances which require their own sockets and will be plugged in permanently. Other appliances also need a sufficient number of sockets, in places where they are most likely to be used. You should not install sockets near the hob or sink - water splashing during the washing-up or boiling over in pans can cause short circuits, electric shock or even a tragic fire! If electric points already exist, you should count them and describe their layout in the room (this is going to be an essential piece of information for the designer). 

Lighting in the kitchen creates the right atmosphere, emphasises the style and some of the elements, and it also influences working conditions. Lighting spots should be planned as central lighting, e.g. above the table or in the middle of the room, and as additional lighting - above the worktop and near places where kitchen work is often done: at the sink, above the worktop and the hob (this will often be light fixed into the hood).


Choosing household appliances
It is important that household appliances are situated in convenient and functional places, at such levels as to avoid stooping and kneeling, and the purchase of appliances is preceded by careful consideration of the following questions:


Fridge - its size depends on the size of the family, shopping frequency, preferred food products (pasta and ready-made soup enthusiasts will not need as much cooling space as devotees of fresh vegetables and yogurt). It should also be taken into account whether you cook some food every day or larger amounts once every few days (then you will need some space in the fridge to store such food).  
Kitchen hood - it should be wider than the hob. Minimum height at which it should be mounted is 70 cm. However, if fixed too high its efficiency will be reduced. 
Efficiency of the extractor fan is set individually in relation to dimensions of the room. As a rule, the following calculation should be applied: 
Kitchen area x height of the kitchen x6 = minimum efficiency of the fan in cubic m/h
Kitchen x height of the kitchen x12 = maximum efficiency of the fan in cubic m/h
kitchen area = 12 sq m 
height of the kitchen = 2.4 m 
12 sq m x 2.4 m x 6/h = 173 cubic m/h (minimum efficiency) 
12 sq m x 2.4 m x 12/h = 364 cubic m (maximum efficiency)
Oven and the hob - you should think over what you will need the oven for: baking, roasting and grilling or maybe just defrosting and warming up dishes? Will you need an oven or maybe a microwave will do? A good solution is to place the oven at eye level - it will make access to the inside easier. The kind and size of the hob depends on the number of family members, type of meals - "one-pot" or cooked in many pans - and on whether you eat at home or out.  
Dishwasher - even a small kitchen can be equipped with it and as a result save time, water and energy. It is estimated that owing a dishwasher can save up to 40 minutes a day, i.e. 10 days a year. In front of the dishwasher there should be free space of minimum 1 metre.  
Sink - its choice depends on whether we only do the hand washing-up or use a dishwasher, but even in the latter case we should plan some place for putting down the dishes - we may need to rinse something "by hand". It is better to buy a sink which is too big but convenient to use than bother with one which is not big enough  

Organisation of cupboard insides

  • Think how to organise the drawers.
  • Partitions and inserts suitable for drawer functions can prove helpful.
  • Order is a vital part of culinary life!
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