Let's talk about the kitchen. It’s the heart of the home and the hub for all activity. The kitchen often becomes the office, the gathering space, the organization center, the art and crafting space, a sewing center, the list goes on. What it comes down to is that this space needs to perform multiple functions.
Over time, I see kitchens grow larger and larger, and I am starting to wonder at what point will it explode and the spaces either become individualized again or the kitchen will take over the entire living area. As of late, it appears as though we're heading more toward the individualized use of space with a very strong connection to adjacent spaces.
The first step in removing chaos from the kitchen is what may feel like the endless chore of cleanliness. I find that when I feel overwhelmed, focusing on cleaning out the sink and wiping the counters alone does wonders for the room.
My husband does the grocery shopping and while he’s out, I clean out the refrigerator, and cabinets to make sure I have open space and am not desperately cramming new groceries on top of the old ones.
If you ever look at real estate listings, you may notice that the kitchens seem almost bare compared to all the gadgets we may have on our counters. Take a minute and look around the kitchen- how many items do you have on the counter that are not used every day? Why are they taking space? Some of the most obnoxious counter-eaters are the toaster and microwave. I finally parted with the toaster and use my oven broiler instead. I haven't regretted it for a moment. If it's possible to build in the microwave or store it in a pantry or cabinet, the space will feel so much more open. Try to keep it near the refrigerator though. Consider that all food that goes into the microwave will likely come from the refrigerator.
Zoning is a major part of my job, and I take this very seriously in kitchen planning. The idea is that an area is delegated for a type of activity. The categories I use for zoning are: consumables, non-consumables, preparation, cleaning, and cooking. In an ideal situation, no two zones overlap.
Each zone can be a bit confusing because it truly depends on how the occupant uses the space. For example- nonconsumablesincludes flatware, dishware, utensils, and the like. Preparation may include mixing bowls and baking utensils. Cooking will include pots, pans, and cooking utensils… so the question is- do we have three zones for utensils? And, the answer may very well be yes- but it ultimately depends on the layout of the kitchen, the size of the kitchen and the way that it is used.
Non-Consumables: Cutlery, Dishes, coffee dishes, glasses, dessert bowls, plastic containers, and less frequently used electrical appliances.
Consumables: This is where the refrigerator is and ideally the pantry is nearby… again, sometimes the home dictates a layout that simply does not comply with this ideal. Bread, beverages (coffee, tea, cocoa), cereal, canned goods, noodles, rice, packaged foods, sugar, flour, snacks.
Cleaning: This is usually centered around the sink and includes the waste storage, garbage bags, household cleaners, detergents, and shopping bags.
Preparation: Prep utensils, “gadgets”, cutting boards, mixing bowls, vinegar, oil, sauces, spices, mixing bowls, scales, mixers, storage containers, cookbooks
Cooking: Pots and pans, Cooking utensils, special oven pans, baking trays, baking tools, oven mitts, cookbooks can also go here.
It’s important to determine what activities dominate in your space and I like to create a hierarchy of these activities to ensure that those that absolutely need to work together do.
Most of the time spent in my kitchen is preparing dinner, assembling the kids’ meals for school, and cleaning. I love to bake with my kids in my spare time, but unfortunately spare time is limited. So, my hierarchy begins with cooking, preparation, and cleaning, and I ensure that everything supports these needs in my kitchen plan.
Not all of us have the luxury of planning a kitchen from scratch, or even remodeling, but that does not mean that we cannot consider the way our space was laid out and work with that layout rather than fight it.
These zones work great for basic kitchen purposes, but the real trick comes into play when secondary activities are happening in this space. Is your kitchen your office? Do the kids do homework here? Make these activities easy to do here, rather than expecting the family to drag items into the room and remove them when they’re done. Not only is it frustrating, it’s chaos!
Return to how you want to feel in your space, and consider this in the way color, décor, even scent is used. Because so many activities happen here, the kitchen should be a place of convenience. We want to be in the moment, but in this instance thinking about every task can cause a burden and overwhelm those trying to use it. This is a space that is utilitarian first- where form should follow function.
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