For decades, counter tops in bathrooms were, at most, 30 inches in height, while kitchen counters were 6 inches taller. Does that make sense? Of course not, but those dimensions nevertheless remain the American standard.
Slowly, finally, the situation is changing. Many newly built homes feature 36-inch counter-tops in master bedroom-bath combinations. Other traditional and equally illogical placements are beginning to be rethought as well.
Jim Krengel, design director for Maytag's Kitchen Idea Center, offers some interesting tips for how to save time and improve efficiency in the kitchen. Dishwashers, he points out, don't have to be placed under the counter or even next to the sink. Other, more sensible options are available, depending on the configurations of a given kitchen.
For example, the dishwasher could be angled toward the sink by separating the two elements with a base corner cabinet. That arrangement will often make it easier to reach between the sink and the dishwasher.
And because today's dishwashers have no requirement for pre-rinsing, and because they can be plumbed directly into the waste line, there's really no need to locate them anywhere near the sink. In a large kitchen especially, it might well be wise to situate the dishwasher close to the table, thus saving all that walking back and forth.
And where is it written that dishes can be stored only in upper-level cabinets? If young children help set the table on a daily basis, it would be simpler and safer for the dishes to be below the counter. That's also the least inconvenient place to turn when unloading the dishwasher.
Mr. Krengel further points out that elevating the dishwasher a mere 5 or 10 inches above the floor will make a great deal of difference to people with bad backs. Again, this is a relatively simple alteration, since the dishwasher usually occupies the space of a standard 24-inch-wide cabinet. Pull-out drawers for pots and pans can then be installed above and below the raised dishwasher.
The upper-level space in this type of configuration, which needn't be at counter-top height, can be used for other purposes as well. A microwave 6 to 10 inches above the standard counter level will be safe for both children and adults to operate.
The photograph from Maytag -- which, in my opinion, still represents the best in American-made manufacturing -- shows a kitchen island filled with similar ideas for families who like to entertain. Located near the dining area, it includes a detachable work surface to the left of the sink. This caster-equipped unit can be rolled over to the table for setting and clearing or angled against the island to create a U-shaped work area. Note, too, that the dishwasher has been elevated and outfitted in ways I've already described.
One caveat has to be added to the emphasis I've placed on convenience. New ideas and products can be exciting, but they shouldn't automatically be adopted simply because they promise to save a few minutes. Novelty doesn't have any more intrinsic merit than does habit. In each case, it's smart to question whether a certain practice or item is truly suited to our individual needs and preferences.