Tips from a Kitchen Designer for the Conversational Kitchen
Basically, you want to have easy access to everything you might need while entertaining. With the proper kitchen layout you can involve your guests in prep work and/or be able to keep the conversation going while they sit nearby.
If your pantry is out of the way, get all your ingredients out on the counter. Shallow 12-inch cabinets are great for pantry items; you don’t need to move the soups around to get at the beans in the back. Also, you can conserve space with pullout and foldout spice and can racks.
Wherever possible use drawers instead of doors. It is much easier to access the back of a drawer than crawling on your knees to get things from the back of a doored cabinet.
A basic principle in kitchen design is to have the area where you spend the most time facing your guests. (And if there are no guests and you can face the TV — that is all right, too.) An ideal situation is to have a sink with prep area on or near the peninsula or island. And, having the counter with a round shape in the seating area aids conversation — guests aren’t craning their neck to speak to one another. By having the sink in the corner you are utilizing unusable space.
The cooktop should not be on the island. You don’t want to splatter your guests with grease. Also, have plenty of counter space nearby for staging foods to be cooked or for plating. Don’t have cabinets that come down to the counter, or put the stove in a charming alcove. Both features will limit the countertop area. The cooktop also works great angled in a corner.
Add a wine refrigerator to the room. The Sub-Zero models have temperature zones for reds and white, so you are ready for whatever guests ask for.
An additional sink, a bar sink, separate from the main sink, allows two people to work at the same time. This sink should be facing the guest area, too.
The more distinct work stations you have, the more guests can get involved. Everybody wants to help anyway and it keeps the conversation going in the kitchen.
Instead of warming drawers consider a hood vent that keeps food warm with lights over the stove. Double ovens can come in handy when preparing large meals. A combination convection-microwave works well as the upper oven.
Dishwashers with two drawers are great for quickly doing the appetizer dishes while the main course is served. A quick unload and you are ready for more.
It is important to have a lot of light — recessed lights over workstations and no central overhead light works the best. It may be necessary to have 15 separate lights in a 12 x 12 kitchen.
Under-cabinet lights will help you find storage items.
You can hide electrical outlets in a strip under the edge of the counter or under the upper cabinets. When having a party all your appliances may be put to use.
Lastly, if you are building a new home, hire a kitchen designer before the plumbing goes in. Contractor-built kitchens can have serious defects in design and quality of materials.
Nina Hackel, kitchen designer, Dream Kitchens, Nashua, www.dreamkitchens.com