Cooking up the perfect kitchen

Designers share tips on remodeling spaces to match clients' lifestyles

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Anyone who has ever built or remodeled a home knows that the most expensive room to construct and outfit is the kitchen. Along with extensive plumbing and electrical systems, there are cabinets, countertops and appliances. It's estimated that the average kitchen-remodeling job costs between $15,000 and $20,000.

The kitchen has also become the place where the family comes together and the partygoers always seem to group.

Is it any wonder, then, that so much focus in home design is on this room? Do it right and it makes the entire home function and flow. Do it wrong and you have an unwelcome, unworkable wasted space that wastes your time every day.

To help you and professionals do it right, here are a few guidelines to designing a kitchen.

Rule 1: The Triangle

Most kitchen designers start with the basic "work triangle," also known as the "golden triangle," the three points representing the locations of the refrigerator, cooking area and sink. You should be able to pivot only from one part of the triangle to another to avoid unnecessary movement while preparing meals.

Generally the total length of the triangle's "legs" - the combined distance between its three points - should be between 12 and 26 feet, depending on the size of your space, the size of the house for which the kitchen is being designed and other factors.

This rough rule leaves a lot of leeway. The big question: Which shape is best for your needs?

Rule 2: Heed Needs

Triangle theories aside, Barbara McLane of By Design Kitchens Etc. said she first talks with her client. Other factors also have to be considered, among them the client's lifestyle and particular needs: Are many people involved in cooking? Is the space meant for entertaining? Rule 3: Be Practical

Kathleen Tish, a certified kitchen designer who runs her own firm in Foothill Ranch, Calif., says that "most important is that a kitchen should be functional."

"In using the work triangle," for instance, she said, "I try to create work space on either side of the cooking surface and sink." She also always makes sure there is enough elbow room.

Rule 4: New Triangles

"A lot more homes are being designed with kitchens and dining areas in one big room," said Sandra Rodriguez, a certified kitchen designer with L&S Interiors of Anaheim, Calif. "Partly because of this, I view many kitchens I design as having more than one triangle."

Among them: a cleaning area, where people can do dishes and empty the dishwasher without interfering with the cooking areas. "A lot of times my kitchens also are split into a main food-preparation area and a helpers' area," she said, meaning a place for someone helping with food preparation to do tasks.

All three designers said the most important rule is to understand that the needs of those using the kitchen these days are changing.

"There are simply more people using the kitchen than ever before," Rodriguez said. "You have more of the family in the kitchen at the same time. Everyone is helping to prepare a meal, getting their own meal, kids are doing homework, everyone is socializing."

Kitchen redo

Questions to ask yourself as you plan a kitchen redesign:

What is your primary goal? A space for heavy-duty cooking and food preparation? Will part of the space be set aside for other uses (like a spot for the kids to do homework)?

How many people work in the kitchen regularly to prepare meals? Do you need more than one sink?

Do you need or want an island? Not all kitchens can accommodate one. Install an island without thoughtful planning and it could disrupt the way the kitchen functions.

Do you do a great deal of entertaining? Would having two ovens or two dishwashers be practical and worthwhile?

What about counter height? Do you need to accommodate a very tall or very short person, or someone with special needs?



Research: Look through magazines, watch home-improvement shows, visit kitchen showrooms and retail home-improvement stores to see what's available and compare prices.

Get help: Work with a certified kitchen designer from a dependable kitchen dealer or retailer.

Be practical: Consider stock rather than custom cabinetry; cabinets can sometimes consume half your budget.

Time your project: The best time of year to hire a remodeling contractor is between November and January, when most are least busy.

Plan: Find out how long it will take for delivery and installation of cabinets, appliances, etc., and whether installation is provided with your purchase.


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