A well planned kitchen should be easy to use, easy to clean and still be a pleasant place in which to work. Even the smallest kitchens can meet all these requirements.
Even if you have a small kitchen, careful planning, a little reorganization and a fair amount of improvisation can transform it into an efficient and pleasant place to be.
Studies have shown that in most kitchens, the activity centres around three main areas – those of food storage (pantry and fridge), the sink and the stove. From this information, the idea of an ideal work triangle has evolved: this forms the basis of kitchen planning no matter what the size of your kitchen.
The corners of the triangle are ideally linked by work surfaces, providing areas for food preparation, mixing and serving. The perfect work triangle keeps distances between the sink, fridge and cooker as short as possible. Ideally, a trip around it should measure between 3.5m and 7m.
Making a plan of the layout
The best way of planning a kitchen is to draw up a scale plan of the layout on graph paper. You can use any scale you like – although 1:25, where each 5mm square of graph paper represents 100mm of kitchen, is normally the most convenient.
Start by drawing the basic outline. Mark on it all fixed objects – the radiators, power points, chimney breast, alcoves – and also the swing of doors and windows.
Next, on a separate sheet of graph paper and to the same scale as your outline, draw up the outlines of your chosen units and appliances. Having labelled them for easy identification, cut out the shapes and transfer them to your outline plan. Juggle them around on the graph until you have a sensible, practical arrangement.
When positioning appliances, start with the sink: unless you want to be bothered with the lengthy and sometimes expensive process of moving it, it is best left where it is.
A small sink with only one drainer is best for a small kitchen and where space is really limited, consider doing without a drainer altogether. Use a draining rack instead, standing it on the window ledge or screwing it to the wall. If the rack is of the decorative wooden kind, it can act as a display area that also saves on cupboard space elsewhere.
By making a wall plan as well as a floor one, you will have a more comprehensive idea of the space available. Before you make plans for your walls, however, chock what they are made of – a partition made of plasterboard, for example, is no place to hang a heavy wall cupboard.
If you have an expanse of wall, measuring around 3m, you can have what is considered the ideal kitchen layout of worksurface. Sink, work-surface. Cooker, worksurface, Otherwise, the three most common kitchen layouts are the galley, L-shaped and U-shaped. The ideal triangle can be incorporated into all of them.
The average height of manufactured units is between 950mm and 975mm – the most comfortable height for the average woman of 1.6m. However, if for some reason you want a different height, you can either make your own units or buy a system which is adjustable for height.
If possible, the width of the gangway in a galley-type kitchen should be not less than 1200mm. This allows enough space for one person to bend clown to a cupboard and for another to move past at the same time without too much of a squeeze.
The average-sized adult has difficulty reaching higher than 1520mm so try to store items which are used regularly at this height. Where there is no worksurface to lean over, the height of the shelf or cupboard can be raised a little. Site wall cupboards at least -100mm above the work surface or they will obscure the back of it.
For sitting on high stools, the recommended space underneath a worksurface is 460mm. This space is also sufficient for storing the stool so you are not repeatedly tripping over it. The stool should be low enough to give knee space of around 150mm underneath the worktop.
The worktop should project at least 19mm beyond the unit base to allow for something to be held at the edge to catch the crumbs when wiping it down after use.
Free-standing stoves are not insulated so you should leave an all-round gap of at least 100mm between this and the surrounding worktops. This also makes them easier to clean.