The architect is usually the first in a sequence of designers to conceptualizing the kitchen. By the time a kitchen designer gets the plan from the architect, often the configuration has already been determined, and any desired modifications might be limited by adjacent rooms, walls, and openings. If your architect does not design cabinets, and most do not, then you need to continue reading. Take it from an architect who knows a lot about designing kitchens, and even more about when to hand the design over to the expert.
It is not always possible, nor necessary, to involve the kitchen designer early in the schematic design phase. That decision is usually made between the owner, architect and/or builder. If your architect has the knowledge and experience (emphasis on experience) to create a good kitchen layout then it is not critical to involve a kitchen designer early in the design process.
If you are currently working with an architect on your kitchen or will be soon, there are a few things to keep in mind. Communicate to your architect as much information as you can about the look and feel of your dream kitchen. I like to spend as much face-to-face communication with my client when setting up the program. It helps me see what genuinely excites them about the program and allows me to prioritize their needs and wants. An architect can learn a lot from his clients’ actions and subtext.
Also, do not hesitate to bombard your architect with photographs or images of kitchens you have collected from Houzz, Pinterest, etc. Consider everything that appeals to you as important information, even if you think that it is too early to mention things like color or cabinet style. Photos are invaluable tools to allow your architect to get to know your personal tastes.
Once your architect has a good sense of what your expectations are with the look and feel of your kitchen, their most important task will be to create a good layout. In other words, making the most of your kitchen with an efficient floor plan. Now, with a well-planned space laid out by the architect, the kitchen designer will have more to work with in creating your dream kitchen.
Some of the things that make kitchens successful are sometimes those same things that are not obvious and are often are not communicate well during programming. I am writing this article to share with you that there is sometimes a disconnect between the architect and kitchen designer. To ensure a smoother transition to the kitchen designer please consider and communicate these 8 essential points to your architect…and have fun!
1. Location, Adjacency, Sight Lines
Kitchens are one of the most complex spaces to design. They must provide enough privacy for the cook and serve as a hub for social interactions and family gatherings. Which is why it is critical that the kitchen space provides a degree of flexibility. From a simple, enclosed kitchen to the open-concept plan, the layouts of these spaces will vary according to each families’ priorities. Make sure that you clarify how open you want the layout and which spaces will be adjacent. Also, communicate to your architect your thoughts on circulation throughout the rest of the house. When guests enter your home will they see the kitchen? Or will the focal point be a brightly lit wall of family room windows?
2. Natural Light
You need a well-lit kitchen for many reasons. Food preparation, eating, studying, and any other regular activity that takes place in the kitchen. It also boosts your mood, vitamin D, and will help lower electric bills. The trade off is that the more windows you have, the less available space that you will have available for wall cabinets. A well-planned kitchen design will have a balance of windows and cabinets to allow ample storage. If you choose to lean towards a more open plan design, then you may pick up natural light from windows and doors throughout the adjacent spaces.
3. Work Triangle
The work triangle could be the single most important design concept to help create the most efficient workflow in your kitchen. The primary tasks in a kitchen are carried out between the cook top, sink, and refrigerator. These three points are connected by an invisible line which form the work triangle. For a functional kitchen, you want to keep this space clear. Redirect traffic outside of this area if possible. The NKBA recommends the following design guidelines: No leg of the work triangle should measure less than 4 feet nor more than 9 feet. No work triangle leg should intersect an island or peninsula by more than 12 inches.
4. Multipurpose Island
If space allows, then there is no better use of that space than a kitchen island. A kitchen island opens more surface area, seating, storage, and entertaining room than you could ever imagine. Just be sure to do your homework ahead of time. The more you know about how you want the island to function for you, the easier it will be for the architect to design its placement and configuration for you. Do you want to interact with kids doing homework and socialize with guests? Maybe you want the seating along two sides of the island? Do you want to use the island as a large buffet/serving area? Maybe that sink belongs on an exterior wall instead? Read more about the post-pandemic island on my last Blog.
5. Aisle Spacing
If the aisle space between cabinets is too narrow, then it will feel cramped and may not allow flexibility with the design down the road. Too much space and you will feel as though you are taking unnecessary extra steps between work surfaces. A comfortable width is 42” in the work aisles, with no less than 40” if you need to economize on space. You could increase up to 48” in busier cooking zones but absolutely no more than that.
6. Fridge Selection
The type of refrigerator you purchase will help your architect plan for the appropriate aisle spacing and work triangle clearances. Standard refrigerators usually project beyond the face of the base cabinets, making movement around that area more difficult and would require additional aisle width. A built-in refrigerator is designed to fit within cabinet depth making it easier to design into different locations. Also, keep in mind that fridges need landing space. It is important to have a space to put items down when you take them out of the fridge.
7. Kitchen Seating
Most of my clients usually know how they want to arrange their seating, whether it is at a location such as a breakfast bar or an in-kitchen eating table. If people tend to gather in the kitchen to enjoy watching the cooking process or just carry a conversation, strategically place seating away from your kitchen triangle and work area. If you will have seating at the island, make sure there is at least 5 feet of clearance.
Try to understand how much and what type of pantry storage space you will require in your kitchen. Pantry closets take up more space than pantry cabinets, but if a walk-in pantry is important to you then communicate that to your architect early. Decide if you will be storing only food and canned goods, or also appliances, utensils, and cookware. There are not any rules about the size of the area or what you can keep there, just customize your pantry to suit your home and lifestyle.