The Perfect Kitchen design

suzanne_slMay 1, 2014

We're in the early stages of thinking about building a house, so I've been looking at online designs. Many kitchens look as if the architect or whoever never actually gets beyond the refrigerator in a kitchen. I mean, many of these kitchens just fill an odd space left on the main floor, or "it's gotta have an island" so, *plonk*.

MY idea is that the entire floor should be built around the perfect kitchen design. Of course it should. What's the perfect design though? I kinda fall into the smallish-but-efficient is better camp, but after that I never really considered if I started totally from scratch how would I do it. If you could design your kitchen is a space vacuum, what would you do?

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robo (z6a)

Big East facing windows, oversees the (in a perfect world, South facing) back yard, and walk in pantry. Those are the three things I start with when sketching out my "someday" dream house.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 3:29PM
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I would want a strong, easy to access connection to the outdoors. Ideally I would place the kitchen so that it could open directly to a large outdoor patio or deck. And I would like for there to be an easy way to get groceries from the car into the kitchen--so probably a side door to avoid dragging them all the way through the house.

I also like for the kitchen to be next to the laundry room.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 6:16PM
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Perfect kitchen . . . hmmm, first, I agree with you about planning for a small but efficient kitchen . . . but it must be coupled with a LARGE pantry for good storage. A small kitchen means you can afford to go with high end finishes, and it means it'll be quick to clean. As a part of keeping everything moderate in size, I'd skip oversized appliances and duplicate appliances.

With no constraints to consider, I think the most overall most efficient layout is an L + island. I say this because I like the three main appliances on the L . . . and then the island is in the middle for prep space. I dislike prepping while facing the wall, and I dislike anything over my head while I'm prepping, so that's why I say leave the island open for prepping.

Good lighting is a must. Ambiant lighting overhead, task lighting for the prep area and the sink. And under-cabinet lighting. Natural light too.

Single basin sink with a back corner drain.

Dish storage should be near the dishwasher. Ideally you'd have two-sided cabinets so you could put clean dishes in from one side and take them out in the dining room on the other side. Storage of drinking glasses should be near the dishwasher AND the refrigerator.

More drawers than doors . . . but one door for cookie sheets and another door for a pop-up mixer stand.

Plan a place for the trash can and recycling. Consider, too, the path for taking out the trash -- you don't want to carry it across your house.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 6:31PM
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I think you are right about architects - when I was getting my interior design degree, I had an architect student as a roommate - and he was considered the prima donna of the architecture department, which is why I wanted to live with him. However, when he had to put a kitchen into a design, he had no clue how to do it and asked me for help. I got the idea that architects were more concerned about the way the exterior of a building looked rather than how the interior functioned.

My ideal kitchen would be medium sized (as opposed to huge), have lots of upper cabinets (It is painful for me to stoop to reach lower cabinets and drawers), have a walk-in pantry, a small work triangle (fridge, sink, stovetop), and have doors so that it can be closed off. I hate open kitchens - I want to be able to pretend the kitchen does not exist when I am not in it. Double pocket doors to the dining room are ideal, but I do not want to see the kitchen from the dining room, and I do not want to see it from the living room either. I would also want plenty of storage for small appliances and plenty of counter space. I prefer a peninsula to an island, and I like the "U" shaped work area.

If I were going to have a counter that is used as a bar with barstools, I would want that to be in a different room and be used just as a bar, but it could have a sink. I have such a setup outside right now, except for the sink.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 7:09PM
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Excellent idea to design the house around the kitchen. I have tried to sketch our retirement home, drawing the kitchen first. Its not as easy as I thought it would be.

Simple L shaped with a sit at island. Placed to take advantage of the view.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 7:20PM
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My dream kitchen would be an addition on the back of the house, with curved glass joining the walls to the ceiling. No upper cabinets. It would have a small work triangle with a large prep area out of the foot traffic with bar stools on the other side of it. There would be a canning pantry and some sort of cold and dry storage cellar for curing meat and fermenting pickles.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 7:44PM
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I currently have an L plus a separate peninsula, and I like that. Lars, I've never really been drawn to a U-shape because of the two inside corners and the dead-end aspect. Why do you like U's? - I'm sure there's a good reason I haven't thought of, and I don't think I've actually worked in one.

P.S. I saw one plan that had both the sink and the cooktop stuck diagonally in the two inside corners, both facing walls. Would any real person actually like that?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 8:18PM
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Someone posted a really great checklist:

It has sections discussing and illustrating the ergonomics of layouts and storage options, how modern hardware makes a difference, and how to zone a kitchen. Great primer on all that.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 9:14PM
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mrspete & suzannesl - totally agree on the L kitchen for efficiency. i have a super susan and a dishwasher between sink and stove and that is the main prep space which i like but i wish they were just a little farther apart. an island with an L would be awesome, if. you have the width. i have all drawers except 1 base cab that stores my cutting boards, cookies sheets vertically and it works well. drawers are the best thing ever but i love the susan for my pots and pans.
i see most house have many footpaths through the kitchen(mine has 3) and that is tough for efficiency.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 9:19PM
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Working with an architect now, and gave him just two must-haves: kitchen must be located and oriented to receive the best natural light, and the main sink must look out over a big, bright window, preferably with a lovely view.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 11:23PM
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Yes! Windows, and plenty of them, or skylights/solar tubes if there is no decent view. Size would not matter to me as much as being laid out in an efficent manner. And ya, I could do with a great, walk in pantry.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 12:00AM
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This is my nearly perfect kitchen (I would add a couple of cabinets under the table island for more storage).

Contemporary Kitchen by Minneapolis Architects & Designers TEA2 Architects

There is also a kitchen that was on the Kohler website a while back (I haven't been able to find it lately) that is the same L shaped layout with the around the same number of windows. The Kohler kitchen though was mostly white I think and was very bright.

My current kitchen faces East which is really nice so I would probably keep that and have it at least slightly open to the livingroom which faces South (Passive Solar house).

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 12:18AM
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The problem is the perfect kitchen means something different to everyone. For my grandmother it was a downright small galley kitchen with everything close together; but she was only cooking for herself and her husband. For my mom it was a modified L with a closet pantry, but she was only cooking for 4.

For me it is a U shaped kitchen with absolutely NO through traffic, 2 full size dishwashers, double wall ovens and a large walk in pantry with extra cold storage; but I am cooking for a family of 6 AND I host all major get togethers.

When I started designing my kitchen my have to have list was pretty short.

*walk in pantry
*no through traffic
* all drawer bases
*2 full size dishwashers
*30" double wall ovens
*WINDOWS (previous kitchen had no natural light, I called it the dungeon)

I got everything I wanted with my reno. The only sacrifice is that my pantry is farther than I would have liked it to be.

Edited to add: regarding another poster asking about the appeal of U shaped, in the vacuum OP is talking about, dead space in the corners doesn't matter because you can plan for storage needs; it is exactly what I did. The appeal of U shape for me was NO one has any reason to step into or walk through the kitchen unless they need to be in the kitchen.

This post was edited by Texas_Gem on Sat, May 3, 14 at 1:01

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 12:58AM
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Lots of windows that go down to the counters.
Limited uppers, glass doors on the uppers that are there.
Lots of deep drawers.
Open to an eating and sitting area but not to the dining room.
No through traffic but I like people sitting and talking to me while cooking. Plenty of room for cooks.
On holidays my mother, sisters and I like to cook together.
Two 30" convection ovens.
Really big cooktop.
Excellent and attractive lighting.
A baking zone, I bake all our bread.
Lots of drawers, deep ones for pans and shallow ones for untensils.
Mostly empty counters so storage for everything.
A big single bowl sink and a prep sink.
Two dishwashers.
Big fridge and freezer plus a second of each nearby.
A separate drinks/coffee/toast station so people can help themselves without having to come into the main work zone.
A walk in food and paper goods pantry and a butlers pantry with dishwasher and tons of china storage.
Oh and neat, attractive, out of the foot traffic area for my pet's food and water.

Guess I have opinions on this topic!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 5:18AM
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"If you could design your kitchen is a space vacuum, what would you do?"
Which features go into it are personal.
If a client asked for this I'd :
Make a list of musts, wants, don’ts
Get a general size for the he, how many levels and type
Make a likely footprint for the house draw that
Get a roll of "yellow tracing paper" and start with bubble diagrams to set the relationships of rooms on first floor and circulation
Once kitchen area is settled draw that part of the foot print up at half inch scale and make several copies.
Take out the trace again, and rough in appliances and zone, more bubbles
Them take a few copies and draw the appliance and fixed things in a couple of likely configurations.
Be willing to cross the walls if needed
Go back to the house footprint and adjust it
Then, and only then would go to the computer or complete scale drawings with all cabinets
Look at a few configurations and list the pros and cons
Choose one, go back to the house and adjust it again

Many architects don't do kitchens, many do.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 6:05AM
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On the computer now so I had a chance to look at the link feisty68 posted. Awesome! Thanks for that!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 8:35AM
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My perfect smallish, efficient kitchen would have 3' (4' would be better) counter space next to the range. This is always where i do my prep, and my seasoning, my tasting, and seasoning again. I've lived in many places and in those many kitchens, there was only minimal space next to the range. "Landing space" that amounted to 6 -12''. Bane of my existence. A 6' island may *look* great for food prep...but, inevitably I end up walking everything back to squeeze it next to the stovetop. Why??

Dish draining cupboard over sink. Easy, less steps involved than a dishwasher.

Tall side by side frig/freezer. Top freezers don't hold enough, bottom freezers tough on the back.

Base drawers instead of cabinets with the 1/2 shelf. Why oh why didn't this become standard long ago? So much more storage and ease of use. Bonus: double drawer inserts.

Solar tubes for increased natural light. Under cabinet lighting. Under cabinet outlets.

Glass front upper cabinets. I promise I will not store garish cereal boxes behind them. :)

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 2:49PM
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Other than the size, layout, appliance locations, lighting, and colors, our new kitchen will be perfect!

Kidding aside, we spent a lot of time on our kitchen, as for us, it is the most important room in the house. We went with a 2-cook kitchen, and there are two non-overlapping work triangles. I really, really wanted a second sink! We have a lot of window area on two walls, and there will be no upper cabinets, although they could be added later. Lowers are all drawers (34 of them!) except under the sinks. I made a prep area with nothing under it so you can SIT while doing prep work. I'm going to put a hole towards the back, and place a trash can under to catch the scraps. I'll make an attractive plug to fill the hole when not in use.

We are going with plain, inexpensive appliances. The budget is tight, and we rarely cook for more than 6 people. We've always had plain white appliances, and will continue to do so. I recessed the refrigerator 5" so it is closer to counter depth.

Our kitchen is U-shaped (G-shaped, actually, with the peninsula) and is quite open to the rest of the house. We like to visit as we cook for friends and family.

The big (43") clean-up sink is under a 6' wide window, looking out on the woods and distant mountains. That was one of the few 'line items' my wife had.

I guess our kitchen would be considered fairly small, at 13' X 14-1/2', but it is far bigger than other kitchen we've had.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 5:14PM
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I don't get the no uppers thing. If there's a wall there, I want uppers. Chest to eye level is great storage, right where you want it. Some prefer open shelves, hooks, etc., but the only thing that isn't perfect about my kitchen (entirely made with advice and consent of GW) is not enough uppers (much territory taken by windows, ovens, hood). Don't get me wrong! I wouldn't remove windows or any of the rest, but if I had more wall, I'd want more uppers!

The things that I think make my kitchen as close to perfect as possible include wide, but not too wide, aisles, 42-48". More than 54", which I've had in the past, is awful. Well above 40" gives people room to pass while carrying stuff. Also, good natural light and excellent, well positioned artificial light, including color adjusted to sunshiny, indirect light, which can be used to add to daylight without outshining it.

Next is layout. I used what I call "the spiral" to organize work zones and storage. It's a conceptual spiral, not a physical one. The center of the spiral is the classic work triangle: fridge/staples > sink/prep > stove > clean up and fridge. One thing I dislike about larger kitchens is that they remove cleanup to a whole different section. That's fine if you have a scullery maid, but I prefer having the cleanup within a few steps of prep and cooking. I also want the spices and the most used staples at point of use, rather than in the pantry, and the same for all bowls, tools, pans and utensils that are used more than once per year. All should be within the core.

Dishes, not so much. I do have kitchen dishes, in some of those uppers, in the core, because there's room, but most of them are closer to the dining room. I did that very much on purpose. I get it when people want the dishes by the dishwasher, but when the eating area isn't also next to the dishwasher, you're going to have to carry them sometime, either when you're unloading the DW or when you're setting the table. I prefer the dishes near the table. It's also a lot easier if you need an extra glass or fork not to have to go all the way into the kitchen for it.

Which leads to another point: Part of perfect kitchen, which I don't have, would be a bright breakfast room that was out of the kitchen proper, but still part of the kitchen's purview. Not an "eat-in" area, but a separate room, maybe with a pass through. Dish storage, snack/coffee station, etc., could easily be dislocated to there. On the spiral plan, this would be the outside leg.

Anyway, the next part of the spiral, after the core, are the secondary function zones. These can be a baking area, wall ovens, snack/coffee/bar, pantry. All the things you want close to the kitchen but not in the middle of where you're working. Again, things used most often towards the core, and less often farther away. After that, come the true storage areas. Dishes and service ware, bulk storage, picnic supplies, barbecue supplies, etc. Things that are kitcheny, but don't need to be in the work area.

In my kitchen, the baking area is between the stove and the oven, so the core is an L and the next part turns it into a U. The prep sink can be accessed from the oven side of the island, for baking, and the prep side of the island can be additional baking room, too. I often put cooking racks on my glass cooktop, as well. All of this takes place away from the cleanup, but is only about four strides away. The "umlaut" to the U shape is the pantry, with less immediate storage through several doorways beyond.

Within the core, knives, cutters, tools, prep bowls, mixing bowls, colanders and graters are in the prep area. Wraps face the fridge and containers are on the fridge wall. Small appliances are under the ovens and MW (next to the fridge). Towels are in the corner with the containers. The most used oils, wines, flour for sauces, and spice and herb blends are by the stove. The full spice rack is a few steps farther in the baking area. All the baking pans, bowls and tools, as well as baking staples, are in the baking area. All the pots are under the cooktop except for big specialty pots which are in high cabinets (i.e., remote storage, even though it's up rather than out).

For me, that's what makes it an ideal kitchen. Everything in the optimum place so I don't have to hike back and forth to cook. I'm fond of nature hikes, not interfering ones. :)

Oh, and given the wide aisles and carefully laid out zones, six cooks are as comfortable cooking here as one.

Good luck with your house! Keep in mind that limitations are sometimes the sources of inspiration, so don't despair if other considerations give some to you. You're wise to have the kitchen well designed as the basis for the house, but don't let perfection be the enemy of greatness. :)

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 5:59PM
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Plllog I totally agree on dishes. All my dishes and cutlery are on the far side of the kitchen by the table. Totally out of the cooking zone and I love it that way.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 6:22PM
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Mushcreek and plllog, if you don't mind, could you share your layouts? I'd love to see them. : ) Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 9:55PM
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Sure, Laughable, happy to. But I don't have fancy drawings, just the cabinetmaker's plan, which is closest to what's actually built, and my sketch. My sketch is okay. The yellow rectangles are upper cabinets on the right, except for open shelves over the ovens and window, and floor to ceiling on the left, except that the butler's pantry has a counter, but the uppers come out flush with the lowers.

The green is counters with drawers underneath, and the dark green is additional cabinetry. The dark band on the island shows where the island top overhangs the table shelf but there's also a pull out, a void for the fridge and plumbing and the sink cupboard back there. On the left of the ovens at top of page it's a pitchers cabinet, and on the right is a tall spice rack. Wine and liquor ended up around the corner on the bottom shelf of the upper pantry, and "coffee" refers to the pots. They come into the kitchen proper when there's company to make coffee for. There's electricity in the butler's pantry, but I don't like having the steam there.

The blank rectangle on the laundry side is also floor to ceiling pantry cabinets. I have my laundry sorters in the bottom and papergoods, picnic supplies, etc., in the uppers. The cabinet marked "display" is actually pegboard for awkward and overlong things, with the message center in the middle. Otherwise, the reality is about what it says. I do have an armoire in the dining room where the formal dishes and oversized serving pieces live, but most of the dishes are in the butler's pantry. Cleaning supplies and brooms are in the understairs.

You can look at the finished kitchen here too. The only big change is that the carbs pullout by the Advantium now has bottles and accessories for the juicer and soda stream (both gifts that needed rearranging space).

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 1:14AM
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Our house is a work-in-progress, as I'm building it myself. It will be 6 months (at least) before the kitchen is done. Here is the kitchen layout- actually, this is the back half of the whole house. Counters will be either concrete or solid surface; the peninsula and prep corner will be butcher block wood. Ignore all of the extra lines; I was working out cabinet dimensions.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 7:04AM
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We have rented a condo for a week's vacation at the same place for several years in a row. I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy working in the small U-shaped kitchen. One side of the U is open to the family room and includes a raised bar height counter and barstools. This lends itself to people hanging with you in the kitchen but they aren't "in" the kitchen so the kitchen doesn't have to be big to allow for more people to be near the cook. If I were going to build a retirement house someday I would want this kitchen. I could just turn around and reach things on each side of the stove that was on the wall at the end of the U. I love that kitchen. Not huge but certainly big enough. I could live in that condo! It's right on the beach so that will never happen unless we win the lottery : ))

View from the condo with the beach down the path past the deer in this picture.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 12:09PM
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Plllog and MushCreek, a huge THANK YOU to both of you for sharing your kitchens. : )

I love all the thoughtful details you've put into yours Plllog. I've saved it in my favorites link so I can go back, visit it again, and mine from it later. ; )

MushCreek, you are going to love your new kitchen. It's so satisfying to build something yourself, isn't it? We used a kitchen similar to that on vacation last year and it was wonderful to work in (the stove and sink locations were swapped.) It was friendly with the sitting counter, open to views, and extra people tended to stay out of the kitchen work zone. One thing I'd consider on your plan is to offset the prep sink so you have more unbroken space for plopping and prepping. ; ) Please post pictures as you progress!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 5:55AM
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