Courtesy Lisa F. Young/iStock/Thinkstock
The kitchen is arguably the most important room in a farmhouse. However, sometimes this hub of home-based activity is too crowded, inconvenient or walled off to fill the role very well. If that describes your kitchen, here are seven important points to ponder before you start ripping out countertops and knocking down walls.
1. Traffic Jams
Traffic jams are bad enough on the freeway without bringing them into the privacy of our own kitchens.
The first thing to think about during a kitchen renovation is the size of your work triangle, i.e., the combined distance between sink, stove, and fridge. Optimal range for each leg is 4 to 9 feet, for a total of 12 to 27 feet between the three. These three work stations should have no household traffic interference or obstructions, such as islands, eating bars or cabinets. Play with your kitchen space on paper, moving appliances to different locations to create optimum efficiency.
In most cases, plumbing, wiring and even walls can be moved to accommodate your improved floor plan, depending on your individual house and/or budget. If you’re limited by room size, space-saving appliances can offer flexibility. Counter-depth refrigerators don’t stick out into the room as far as their standard counterparts, and if you go with French-style doors, the doors block only half the space of conventional full-door fridges when opened.
Also make sure cabinet doors, drawers and appliance doors don’t collide with each other upon opening (watch those 90 degree turns and stove/fridge/dishwasher handles). Move your drawer bank if possible, and, if not, select a stove or dishwasher with low-profile handle.
Keep in mind that you can eliminate travel time in the kitchen (and thus the potential for a traffic jam) by providing countertop space by the fridge for loading and unloading items.
2. Unsafe Obstacles
As vital as kitchen safety is, sometimes we can overlook aspects of this basic element. Dishwashers and ovens should not open into walkways. Likewise, stovetops shouldn’t open next to doorways. Aim for a countertop on both sides of a stove to avoid dangerous situations. If it’s too late or your stove is stuck beside the doorway, consider installing what cabinetmakers call a "finished end”—a wall of sorts that extends from base to upper cabinet.
3. Wiring Hazards
Wiring is another concern. Electrical circuits can only carry so much load before overheating and tripping the breaker. If your wiring is old, minimal or already maxed out, which is a potential fire hazard, replace it and/or have additional circuits installed. Also, install ground fault receptacles near the sink area to prevent electrical shock.
4. Lack of Storage
The need for storage requires no explanation for any home cook. However, it’s important to consider a few things when installing storage units.
Some corners can be nigh unreachable. To avoid having to reach your arm into a cabinet up to your armpit only to find food generating enough moths to colonize your whole town, utilize wasted space by installing a lazy Susan or other innovative solution, most of which can be retrofitted if necessary.
Trash happens, so plan for it. Nowadays, pullout trashcans can be installed under the sink, near your food prep area or wherever you find most convenient. If you forgot this aspect during planning, look into retro-installing.
Stationary countertop appliances, such as toasters, mixers and coffee makers, can eat up valuable counter space and give your kitchen a cluttered look. An appliance garage can store some of these away in an attractive manner and are made integral or can be added after the upper cabinets are installed. An over-the-range, built-in microwave can free up even more counter space.
5. Dim Lighting
While dim lighting may be romantic, it’s hard to cook by. Do yourself a big favor, and install plenty of lighting options for task areas, such as under counters and in the ceiling above work stations. Also, pay special attention to placement. Overhead lights behind you will cast shadows on the workspace in front of you. Not a good plan when you’re chopping veggies. Retrofitting for added light is not all that difficult. Select a higher-wattage ceiling fixture, install under-counter lights and/or hire an electrician to introduce other lighting options as well.
6. Poor Ventilation
Some food smells awesome, but others? Well, for those we need exhaust fans. If at all possible, opt for outside ducting. If not, spring for a good quality oven hood with an internal filter.
7. Cheap Hardware
Skimping on materials, design or hardware, including drawer slides, door hinges and handles, is also a mistake. Cheap hardware won’t hold up to years of use. If your current kitchen has poor quality accessories, consider replacing them with higher quality.
If a kitchen renovation is in your future, keep form and function in mind as you plan your way to the kitchen of your dreams.
About the Author: Leslie J. Wyatt is a freelance writer with more than 200 stories and articles in publications like Children’s Writer and Cat Fancy. She lives on a micro hobby farm in northern California and can be found online at www.journeywithhonor.blogspot.com and www.lesliejwyatt.com.