Remodeling a Kitchen? 5 Kitchen Layout Recommendations

For many homeowners, their kitchen is not just a place to eat but a place to congregate. In fact, according to numerous studies, people actually spend more waking hours in their kitchen that anywhere else in their house.  Perhaps it’s time to redefine and redesign your kitchen, and you’re looking for guidance on the perfect kitchen layout.

Not so fast – there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to designing the optimal kitchen layout. We’ve been remodeling kitchens for years, and we see what can be done and have talked with homeowners well after their kitchen has been remodeled and know what works and what doesn’t work.  Here’s some secrets:

1.  Just the Facts, Ma’am! 

Gathering information from clients on how they cook and use their kitchens is key to a planning a successful kitchen, and we’ve spent a lot of time honing our kitchen remodeling questionnaire.  First, there’s the questions of how you’ll using the kitchen.  For example:

  •  What do you like to cook for dinner?
  • How often does your family eat dinners together (and do you want to eat in the kitchen)?
  • Is breakfast a big deal or is it ‘grab and go’?
  • How much if any time you do spend entertaining in the home?
  • What does a week of activities in the kitchen look like?

Each homeowner’s answers form a unique picture of what a designer might need to include in a kitchen to fit the homeowner’s lifestyle.  For example, if we find you like to cook Italian pasta for your large family, you’ll need easy storage for the large pots, a place for the spice rack, and good ventilation :-). Don’t worry so much about budget when you talk to a professional about how you use your kitchen.  Sure, there will be tradeoffs between wants, needs, and budget – but first knowing what you want to do in the kitchen is of primary importance.  Remember, you have to live with your kitchen for as long as you live in the house – or until your remodel again.

 2.  Create kitchen zones. 

There’s a traditional kitchen design ‘rule’ called the work triangle, which has been around since the 1940’s.  Essentially, efficiency is the triangle’s main goal, as it keeps all the major work stations near the cook, without placing them so close that the kitchen becomes cramped. The work triangle is also designed to minimize traffic within the kitchen so the cook isn’t interrupted or interfered with.  For example, the work triangle formed by the refrigerator, stove, and sink, works reasonably well in closed off, small kitchens.  But it assumes that there’s just one person doing the work (hello 1940’s!).  Today, kitchens are larger and more open-planned, and are served better by zones.

In a ‘zone designed kitchen’, you may find a cooking zone, a prep zone, and an entertainment zone.  Unless the kitchen is massive, there’s going to be some overlap on the zones.  For example, the entertainment zone might include a bar  – and that bar might also be served as a part of a prep zone.   Remember, the answers of how you use your kitchen will determine what zones may need more space and what zones can be overlapped.

 3) Choose Materials Wisely. 

One reason you might be considering a kitchen remodel is not just how the kitchen looks, but the wear and tear it has experienced over time.  Some designers will try and convince you of including particular materials.  That might be OK, but  don’t let their eagerness for a certain countertop material or flooring choice lead you astray.  Once again, we refer to the answers from the questionnaire.

If your cooking style is to chop vegetables directly on the countertop, then we won’t recommend marble or laminate (which will begin to look scratched rather quickly) – rather, you might consider a solid acrylic surface such as Dupont’s Corian.    As for flooring, if you’ve kitchen is  heavy traffic that needs constant sweeping, stay away from ceramic tile with deep grout grooves.  And if you have young children or plan to stick around for years, nonslip floors are important for safety.  Even within a flooring materials category like tile, there are options to consider.

The bottom line on materials is to spend time researching and talking with an expert.

 4) Leave space for breathing. 

The working space within a kitchen layout is critical.  When possible, plan to design a kitchen with 42 to 48 inches between counters, islands and walls.  For example,  did you ever wonder why a dishwasher with its door down or a open refrigerator door always seems to invite two or three people to need to walk by it at once?  With proper space,  it’s no problem.

5.  What you want – what you need – what you can afford.

We know of kitchen designers who say that their clients can easily spend hundreds of thousands on their kitchen, and devote time and resources to the tiniest detail, materials and features.  If  you have that kind of cash, go for it.  But most homeowners we work with have nowhere near that kind of budget.   What they want, tempered with what they need and can afford must be considered.

Often, we’ll talk with people who want a particular feature, but might rarely end up using it.  For example, we had a client who thought they might want a double oven, to accommodate for baking cookies while cooking a turkey.  But when we got down to it, they realized they might only need that second oven a few times a year around the holidays, while the rest of the year the second oven (and it turns out even the first oven!) might sit idle.  The second oven was removed from the design.

What should you spend on a kitchen remodel?  It’s different for every homeowner, but ask yourselves this question:  Do you intend to live in your house for a long time?  If the answer is yes and you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, spend near the top of what you can afford.   By the way, according to research from Remodeling magazine, a midrange kitchen remodel in the Albany, NY area averages $55,000.

On the other hand, if you’re thinking of selling your home and the kitchen remodel is necessary, don’t go on the cheap, either!  A kitchen can make or break a sale of a house.  Generally speaking,  a rule of thumb for a kitchen remodeling investment on a home geared for resale is to spend around 10% of the home’s value to get fair returns.

What’s Next?

Bennett Contracting has remodeled thousands of kitchens for Capital Region homeowners.  We like to think we’re pretty good at it, and our 99% satisfaction rating on Angie’s List tells us that our customers think so, too. To talk with us about your kitchen remodeling dreams contact us!