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Kitchens – possibly the trickiest rooms to organize in the whole house. But the most worthwhile, as research has shown that the ‘average’ woman spends about 3^ hours every day in the kitchen.


Firstly, every family wants different things out of their kitchen – the galley-type arrangement that suits the working couple will not be suitable for the family with young children who are aiming for a kitchen-cum-second living room. Secondly, the woman, the prime user of the kitchen, is also unique, with her own very personal likes and dislikes. Even her physical characteristics will make a difference to the kind of kitchen she wants – if she is tall for example, she will want a higher sink. Thirdly, everybody’s kitchens are of differing sizes and shapes, with different arrangements of fixed features such as doors, windows, plumbing points, radiators and so on. And of course your plans will be limited by the amount of money you have available. Getting your kitchen the way you want is no easy matter. But do not despair, because we have collected up the planning basics, and grouped them under easy-to-read headings. Here we deal mainly with starting from scratch, for those re-planning an existing kitchen, or organising the kitchen in a new or converted house. But at the end we give some easy-to-follow ways of improving any kitchen, when a basic re-plan is out of the question..


First job is to make a plan of the kitchen as it is at present. Kitchen unit and appliance manufacturers are now giving the dimensions of their products in metric measures, so we advise you to measure up in metric from the start, to avoid tedious conversions at a later stage. Make a rough plan first in pencil, so that alterations to it are simple. Mark everything that is going to affect your final plan: position of door and the way they open; position of window ; position of radiators or fireplaces; existing plumbing and gas points; position of existing power and lighting points.

Next step is to draw your plan out on squared paper. Use a largish scale, for example a metric scale of 1:20.


At this stage it is helpful to make some check lists. – Decide a who will be using the kitchen and b what they will be using the kitchen for. For example under you might have such activities as playing, eating, hobbies, chatting, homework and so on, depending on your type of family. And you may have a heading for ‘laundry’. In which case you will need to allocate space for storage and use of washing machine and/or spin drier and tumble drier, and ironing board. You may also need racks for drying clothes.. Think about the type of cooking you prefer to do. Do you need lots of working surfaces for extended cookery sessions? Or do you need lots of storage for instant foods? 2. Make a list of all the equipment and furniture which already have to be accommodated in your new kitchen. The list should include all relevant dimensions. You may find it helpful to draw the shapes of your equipment/ furniture on squared paper to the same scale as your final plan; then cut them out. This way, you can move them around and see where they fit best. Remember to allow for equipment you hope to buy soon. – Make a rough list of everything your kitchen will have to store’. – Decide what atmosphere you want your kitchen to have… cool, uncluttered, efficient? Cosy country-style? This will make a big difference to the way you plan your final lay-out.

Once you have decided what you are aiming for, there are some basic planning points to take into account before making any decisions.


When you are getting a meal, the pattern of your work is pretty much the same every time. You move from the storage area to the preparation area to the sink to the cooker to the serving area, not necessarily in a continuous sequence, as frequently you have to double back. You will find that it is most convenient if you can set your sink and cooker in one continuous run of worktop, so that there are no gaps and obstacles between them, and so that you have a place on both sides of the cooker to set things down. This will give you a sequence of work surface/ cooker/work surface/sink/work surface (or the same in reverse order) which should be unbroken by full-height fitments, doors or passage ways. This working arrangement can take the form of a straight line, or it can be arranged as an ‘L’ shape, or in a ‘U’ shape. The most travelled route in your kitchen is from SINK to COOKER and this should not be disturbed by any through circulation.

You can accommodate storage under your work surfaces, and in wall cupboards. Your refrigerator will be a basic element of your storage – indeed professional kitchen planners talk about the. ‘work triangle’ formed between the sink, cooker and ‘fridge’. To avoid unnecessary trekking from one spot to another, it is recommended that the total length of the work triangle should be between 3600 mm. (12 ft) and 1800 mm. (6 ft) long. You can buy ‘fridges’ that will tuck underneath your working surface, but if you have or intend to buy a tall ‘fridge’, or ‘fridge’ freezer, then you should site it at the end of your run of working surface so that it does not interrupt your work flow. The same applies to tall units containing built-in ovens. In larger kitchens, you will be able to arrange extra worktops and storage in addition to and separated from the main work sequence. You should aim to accommodate your serving area within your basic work sequence, to avoid the possibility of collisions with through traffic.


A double sink with double drainers is ideal, but may take up too much space in smaller kitchens. Possible alternatives are: a one large sink and one small sink suitable for rinsing, washing vegetables, etc; this small sink can also be fitted with a waste disposal if you wish. Or b a single large sink with a mixer tap and two rectangular washing-up bowls. Conventionally, draining boards are ridged, but if you opt for the unridged type, you can use the resulting flat counter for food preparation as well as for draining dishes. Sink-bowls are available for letting into worktops, with the advantage that you can arrange for one length of worktop to run continuously over a whole range of fitments, which makes it much easier to keep clean.


Unfortunately there is no single height level which is going to suit all of the people all of the time. This is fairly obvious, when you think how greatly people vary in height. A recommended height of 900 mm. for sink and worktop is specified in the metric British Standard for kitchen equipment. However, research has shown that 75 per cent of women would be more comiortable with a sink rim and draining board height of 975 mm. , with 900 mm. for other worktops. If vou are installing a new sink unit, you may therefore prefer to have it raised on a plinth. However, you will then have the problem of a change in levels between your draining board and other worktops; this should be avoided if it interrupts a run of continuous worktops. You may therefore have to come to some kind of compromise. Remember that your worktop alongside your cooker will be used for hot pans which will mark plastic laminates unless you provide a protective mat. Ceramic tiles, slate, or stainless steel are more suitable materials. You may like to incorporate a permanent ‘chopping board’ area into your worktop, and the most suitable material for this is beech.


Electricity or gas? It is up to you, of course. The conventional combined cooker is space saving, and considerably cheaper than a split-level arrangement, where the hob and oven are installed separately. However, if you opt for a split level, it is possible to combine gas hobs with an electric oven/ grill. It is also possible to have, say, 2 gas hobs and 2 electric. Your hobs can be built into a continuous run of worktop and you thus avoid dirt-col! acting gaps and crannies. Your kitchen will look more streamlined. Do not site your cooker or hob unit under a window if there is any danger of reaching over the hob to clean or open the window. Do not site your cooker or hob unit in a corner, as you will need room to stand comfortably in front, preferably with a working surface on either side of you, at the same height as the hob, so that you slide pans on and off as necessary.


The recommended front-to-back measurement for base cupboards is 600 mm. ; this will enable you to build in appliances such as washing-machines, washing-up machines and so on. You will find that you are actively using only the front part of the resulting working top; the back part can be used for the permanent storage of large bins or canisters or of often-used foodstuffs such as flour or bread and for appliances such as mixers or grinders. Wall cupboards or shelving units should be not more than 300 mm. deep, or you are going to start bumping into them. Wall cupboards should never be installed without a working space below them, if there is any danger of people bumping into them. You will need a height of between 400 and 450 mm. between worktop and wall cupboard, but you could use the wallspace in between for extra narrow shelves not more than 100 mm. deep. Remember that sliding doors can only be used effectively on cupboards longer than around 800 mm.. You will find sliding doors safer in use than hinged doors. So many people have cracked their heads on the nasty sharp corner of hinged wall cupboards as they stand up. However: hinged doors allow you to see the whole contents of the cupboard at once and you can fit extra racks on the inside of the doors to improve storage facilities. Open shelving or box units are cheaper to provide than wall cupboards and perfectly satisfactory if you have no objection to everything being on view all the time. Adjustable shelves are the best solution for inside cupboards; this enables you easily to accommodate things like cereal packets or large bottles.


Most families like to be able to eat at least breakfasts and snacks in their kitchen. Families with young children will find a full-scale table with benches or chairs very useful, not only for easy-to-serve family meals but also for supervised painting and hobby sessions/homework. If you settle for a counter top and make it 900 mm. high, you can use it as extra working surface for jobs done standing up; but you must leave the knee space underneath open, unblocked by any storage or appliances. You will need to sit on tall stools and this arrangement is therefore not suitable for younger children, who could topple right over. Table tops are of course lower and therefore can only be used as a worktop when you are sitting down. However, when you are not too pressed for time, it is very pleasant to sit down for some jobs, e.g. preparing vegetables for a stew, or fruits for a salad. If you are planning to have a table and chairs in your kitchen, do make sure you allow adequate space around the table for comfort. Round tables on a pedestal leg take up less room, and allow generous knee space. You should allow easy-to-get-at storage near your eating area for foodstuffs needed regularly for the table and for china, cutlery, table napkins and so on. Thisstorage should be easily accessible from your sink/ drainer, when the washing up is finished. If you have a washing-up machine, you can save space by allowing cutlery/chinaware to remain in the machine until needed for the next meal. Do you have any electrical appliances which you need near your eating area? A toaster or hot plate for example? If so, plan for a suitable surface for them, and also provide a power point.


Kitchen floors should be easy to clean, resilient, hard-wearing, quiet to walk on and slip-resistant. Suitable floorings incxude vinyl sheet or tiles, cork tiles , wood strip. Ceramic and quarry tiles are not resilient or noise-deadening, but will provide a semi-permanent finish which is easy to look after.


Good lighting is more important in the kitchen than in any room in the house.

Ceiling mounted fluorescents will provide a good overall level of illumination, but you may find the result rather flat and institutional. Cylinder down-lighters would be a satisfactory alternative, or choose fittings which fit tight to the ceiling. Or you can conceal spotlights on the tops of cupboards and allow their light to bounce off the ceiling. Worktops can be lit with fluorescents mounted underneath an overhanging cupboard and concealed by a narrow wooden pelmet. In all cases, select fittings which are easy to clean.


If it is impossible for you to do a major re-plan on your kitchen, there are still various simple ways you may be able to make it work better for you. – The position of the sink is difficult to alter, but you may be able to have the position of your cooker changed. – This might give you the chance to build an extra worktop, if possible to link sink and cooker. – Could you add any wall storage to your kitchen? Narrow wall-fixed shelves are simple and cheap, and provide handy storage for packets, bottles, jars. Fix cup-hooks to their undersides for mugs, etc. – Utensils hanging on the wall can be seen easily and will not clutter up worktops. Fix lengths of battens with hooks or simple dowel pegs. Fix small eyelet hooks into the wooden handles so that you can hang them up. – Is your sink too low, causing backache? You can raise a plastic washing-up bowl on a teak board, to bring it to a more comfortable level. Similarly, if the sink is too high for you, you can stand on a slatted wooden ‘platform’. Always put your platform away when the washing up is finished, to avoid the possibility of tripping. – Could you improve your lighting? Jobs done in a good light seem much easier. – Treat yourself to a few gadgets – for example, wall-mounted can opener, or wall-mounted kitchen scales. – Reorganize the insides of your cupboards. Fit racks to the insides of doors to take packets, saucepan lids, etc. Add extra shelves, hooks, etc. – Add on a cork pin-up area – for example, a few cork tiles. Use for messages, recipes, memos, receipts.

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