Kitchen Ergonomics - Why do we accept bad design?

colorladyJuly 21, 2011

After just finishing reading several posts regarding the physical discomforts caused by the design of many kitchen appliances and layouts, I'd like to open up the topic of kitchen ergonomics. In my opinion dishwashers are too low to the floor. Loading and emptying the bottom rack is a strain on the back. I think they should be mounted in a tall cabinet near the sink like a wall oven. Some of the new ranges have ovens or warming drawers right next to the floor! Sinks are getting so deep that if they are undermounted we have to jury-rig raised platforms to comfortably do dishes. Hi arched faucets cause us to hold our hands or an item we are washing a position above the surface of the counter, and the water splashes when it hits the target getting the counter all wet. My new range hood instructions advised that for best results we mount it so the bottom is 18-24 inches above the stove. Eighteen Inches!!!!! I would need to duck my head down under it to see the back burners and I'm short. I see cabinets with shelves so high they are virtually dead space unless you have a step ladder. Hard tile floors are bad for our backs and feet. Granite on an eating island is cold and hard to rest your forearms on not to mention a noisy landing spot for dishes, glasses, and silverware. I read a kitchen book from the library written by a designer who designed kitchens to be ergonomically friendly. He said the most convenient and accessible space for cooking oils, spices, etc. was the area just above the counter and below the cabinets. He put shallow shelves on either side of the cooking surface in all his kitchens. But 99.9% of us reach up into cabinets run to our pantrys for these things. What kitchen design trends do you find make cooking, and serving more difficult or uncomfortable? What solutions have you found if any? Here's your chance to vent.

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Its all a compromise between the horizontal (the footprint of the allowable space) and the vertical (the 8, or now often 9, foot ceiling)

Houses have to provide a certain amount of functions in a certain amount of square footage, and in the kitchen most of the function is best provided at about "bent elbow" height. The most potentially dangerous function--cooking on a cooktop--is always at this height, followed by wall ovens, but the rest of it works out as a fight between counterspace as how it needs to function. For every DW that is mounted at raised height, you lose 24" of counterspace, for every wall oven, typically 30" of counterspace, for the fridge 33-36" of counterspace.

I designed a kitchen for a theoretical age in place project where the DW was raised, the oven was waist height and instead of a tall or undercounter fridge, it had one undercounter fridge and one undercounter freezer side by side but mounted with the bottom of them between knee and waist height, so all these things could be reached by someone small, without stretching or bending or from a wheelchair.

The problem was this: The DW (24"), the Freezer unit not atop or below the fridge (30") the oven (30") took 84" or 7 feet of counterspace that would have been available if they were mounted in conventional ways. (Add another oven and a microwave, and you could take away another 5 feet.

The kitchen with all appliances in ergonomic positions has to be larger to create counterspace that is lost by raising appliances.

As for your hood, if it had more CFM power, it would be mounted higher, It needs to be close to capture. If it is as shallow as the cabinets 18"-24" isn't impossible, but if it is deep, higher is indeed more out of the way.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 2:43PM
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I agree with a lot of what you said. The dw can't be too high though or the top rack might be out of reach for shorter people. The question is what to do with the space below the dw or other raised appliance. You don't want to waste that space so you'd end up with something else down low to deal with. If that is made into drawers, it makes it usable.
I agree about using a softer floor if at all possible.
I like open shelving for its simplicity and ergonomics.

I think that no matter the height of the arch of a faucet it is where it lets the water out that counts...

I find that having a sink too close to the counter edge means my midsection gets drenched. While a big sink is a good thing, one needs a little barrier if they want to stay dry. Our sink would be considered small and not deep enough by GW standards, but it works quite nicely in keeping me from getting totally splashed or needing to reach far down into it to clean.

I am not a big fan of freezers on the bottom in fridges. I find that putting frozen things in a drawer means a lot of digging and rooting around. I like a large side by side or in our case, we got a separate freestanding fridge and freezer. I like having my frozen stuff on adjustable shelves that can be seen so things do not get piled on top of each other down low. It also helps that the bottom shelf/drawer of our freezer pulls out and is not deep.

I like the cookie tray storage when they are placed on their edges above the fridge or the equivalent.

A step stool is fine for reaching the top of cabs and I only put less often used stuff up high. Due to my height, almost 5'5", I'd have to give up a lot of vertical storage if I were not willing to use a step stool. Keeping the less often used stuff up high frees up the more ergonomic locations for the commonly used stuff. It also makes a good place for things I want to keep out of the kids' reach.

I like a freestanding garbage can which can be opened by my foot. It can move around the kitchen as needed and guests know where it is. The motion ones are a cool idea, but the mechanisms do not last long, so we won't buy those any more.

We used Corian for our counters and like how it is not cold or hard, but I'd have no problem using a stone for a kitchen if it fit the look we wanted. I drool over stones with movement or veining....

I hated my corner sink and the wasted space behind it and the tight opening below it. As soon as you try to reach in underneath, you block the opening and can't see where you are digging. In order to reach in far, my shoulders would then block the view even if it were lit. The area behind my sink was a pain to clean and I'd almost have to lie across the sink and work around the faucet to clean the back corner.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 4:01PM
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Refrigerator designers belong in Gitmo. Period. There is no excuse for a storage unit where half the contents regularly spoil because no one can reach them. Postconsumer food waste is at crisis levels. Plus they're a PITA.

To answer you question, why: Women don't cook much anymore. They also don't clean much. They go to work instead, just like their husbands.

Since they aren't at home cooking, they are no longer clamoring for ideas to help them cook faster like they were in the '40s. Today the big time-saving ideas are the word "microwaveable." And the chicken nugget button. And take-out. That's how cooking became entertainment and kitchens became setpieces, where mom scrapbooks and teenagers with not a responsibility in the world play act their busysobusyImsobusyyouhavenoideasobusysobusy schedules.

A lot, not all, but a lot, of the people who post on GW actually cook quite a bit. But they don't make a big enough market to justify a manufacturer investing in ergonomics. For most people, ergonomics means an "Add 30 Seconds" button on the micro.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 4:25PM
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No need to vent. Just look and think about what works for you personally.

There are several European dishwashers at the height you discuss. They don't sell well.

Light and heat degrade oils and spices yet designers write books that say to build niches next to the stove where you get oven heat and halogen light. I see they by stoves over and over again. I don't agree with that at all. Oils and spices need cool and relatively dark storage space.

I personally love a deep sink and my high arc faucet. I'm tall but the depth isn't an issue and I like a lot of working space between the counter top and the faucet. I don't get any more splashing with the high arc than with the pulldown though the pulldown does go farther down into the sink and lets you work down there -- another benefit of the depth and also reduced splashing.

Manufacturer guidelines for many hood heights are geared to reduce complaints about the way their hoods function. Mine is mounted higher than recommended because I'm taller and I'm not going to hit my head on the hood or duck to use a back burner. There are too many good hoods with excellent extractors that can do the job at the height I need.

Had a quarry tile floor in a kitchen of a rental house -- once. Was in my late 20s at the time and it was the worst floor ever. It killed my feet and legs. I've had wood or softer surfaces ever since. Some people aren't bothered by the tile at all though.

So everyone has different opinions on kitchen design and there's no one right way and few rules. Spaces and families don't often match perfectly so compromises are made.

I do feel there are many common mistakes made in kitchens (due to various reasons) -- even in kitchens done by experienced designers. Unless you do a fair number of kitchen projects regularly and within a relatively close time frame it's difficult to have the depth of experience needed to come in and nail a space and get it adjusted exactly to the clients wants and needs.

Then too, wants and needs are often at odds. Easy this is not.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 4:28PM
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My mom is "aging in place." She'll be 93 in a couple of weeks. The worst thing in her kitchen was the microwave set way high above the stove. I was always afraid she was going to dump something hot on herself reaching so far over her head ("Pooh, pooh," she says.) Fortunately, she killed that microwave by heating the Meals-on-Wheels food tray in the it, so now she has one on the counter ("Just press the reheat button," she says, "and don't put those silver pans in there.") It takes up valuable counter space, but that's better than hot soup on her head.

The low dishwasher was also a problem because she has a severe lung disease and she just can't get any air leaned over, even with maximum supplemental oxygen. Forget the low pot cabinets. There's only so much you can accommodate. Mom now has a nice lady who comes in to help.

Kudos to the person who had the light bulb moment to put drawers in base cabinets!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 4:31PM
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"Kudos to the person who had the light bulb moment to put drawers in base cabinets!"

I'll second that! And this as well:

"Light and heat degrade oils and spices yet designers write books that say to build niches next to the stove where you get oven heat and halogen light. I see they by stoves over and over again. I don't agree with that at all. Oils and spices need cool and relatively dark storage space."

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 4:36PM
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re items stored adjacent to range heat and halogen light...natal, I agree that if you leave oils and spices near the range for a long time they degrade. But I am thrilled to have a niche behind our range that holds small bottles of olive oil, veg oil, soy sauce and a container of cleanup materials for the stovetop, salt & pepper, and small container for garlic and onions. In my old kitchen, these items balanced on the upright part of the range and looked shabby. The niche is wonderful for us. We don't store our stash of spices there, though, although space containers may go there temporarily.

When I planned the kitchen I had some major principles which were the touchstone for all decisions:
1) this new space and the adjacent spaces had to serve me into my 80s -- a hypothetical "old lady" could veto any design decision that was unwise for her
2) this was to be a working kitchen before everything else, not a showplace
3) the front lobby had to allow two people to put on coats simultaneously and the traffic flow through the space had to be sensible and feel logical
4) the actual kitchen area had to allow at least two people to work there without needing to say "excuse me" to one another

Using these requirements, I think we avoided many temptations to include poor design or fashion at any cost. We were very serious about the principles and I'm very glad.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 9:47PM
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My last 3 houses, which includes the one I own now, are "builder" houses with typical "builder" kitchens. As such, it is my experience that very little thought was given to the location of appliances, storage, prep and how it all relates to one another. They all had the same basic things, sink, cooktop/range, fridge, microwave, but they were definitely not functional. One was fairly large, but the cooktop and the sink were directly across from each other. The cooktop on the wall, the sink in the island. Despite it's size, it was a "one butt kitchen". Two people would always end up running into each other at the sink.

One house had a very tight kitchen, not bad for one cook and simple meals, but there was no place else for another person to stand without getting in the primary cook's way.

This current house was another OBK. The corner sink and dishwasher were across the kitchen from where the dishes were stored, which of course crossed the cooktop. A wide shallow pantry was great for storage, but when the full sized doors were open, they completely blocked the aisle. Only 2 base cabinets were really usable. The other 3 were a 15" or 12". They were also face framed, so they were even smaller than that.

I think I could live with crappy appliances, but a bad layout is very frustrating.

Just another thought... I've seen raised standard dishwashers. I even have a book that gives instructions on how to build a platform for it. It seems ok for accessibility, but a full sized DW for an empty nest couple or single elderly is a bit overkill. When my grandparents lived by themselves, I don't think they ran their dishwasher very often, maybe every 3 or 4 days days or unless they had company.

But, I was just thinking, and forgive me it's late, I haven't thought through all the particulars, but could a single dishwasher drawer go in a full height cabinet? A cabinet that could place the DW drawer high enough to reach, but low enough to see inside as it's loaded from the top. Then the cabinet immediately above could store plates and glasses and drawers below can store silverware. Kind of a all in one dish unit.

Anyway, just a rambling thought.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 2:03AM
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Great and logical idea about the dw placement kathec -- how many times have we seen it? I recall one -- a very attractive white kitchen with a raised dw.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 8:53AM
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Wall oven doors should swing open to the side or be french doors.

Sorry, I take every chance to spread my gospel. I've also written most of the major American manufacturers. Maybe my daughter will have a wall oven that is easy to access.

marcolo is right about many people (not on this site) not really cooking, I think. With me as a stay-at-home mom, we live a sort of 50's life, where DH comes home to a glass of wine and the paper while I fix a sit-down dinner. (Unless it's DD's soccer game night. Then we get pizza or Subway, like everyone else.) But this is a luxury that many families don't have.

The irony is that if you have only one salary, so someone is home to cook dinner, you may not be able to afford that huge cook's kitchen. We can't.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 10:39AM
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dianalo, should there be a light and switch under such a narrow-access cabinet? I think if I had a cab like that, lighting might be a deal-breaker!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 11:11AM
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There was a Seattle Craigslist ad the other day from some people trying to unload a set of Miele appliances. The ad said we've realized we never cook, and we'd rather put a grand piano in the space.

OTOH adding European brands to the mix increases the ergonomic options e.g. side-opening oven doors and more DW choices. There are still a lot of things set in stone e.g. a bajillion right-handed microwaves but almost no left-handed ones. (The range hood problem comes from the fact that hoods should ideally be a lot bigger, but then they'd be too ugly to sell, so they try to make for it by being closer.)

One of my more interesting kitchen books is Sam Clark's _Motion-Minded Kitchen_, a 1983 book which draws on mid-century time-and-motion studies. Its aesthetic is a long way from most of the kitchens featured on this board (not a pendant lamp in sight!) but the way it breaks down tasks and flows is useful.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 2:04PM
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I guess I don't mind any of the things you mentioned. I don't mind bending or reaching. Even the hard floor and hard counters don't bother me. Maybe these things will bother me when I am older. My spices are in my pantry and I walk the couple of extra steps to go get them when I cook. At this point in my life I need counter space and would rather have my dishwasher low than give up counter space.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 2:15PM
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Thank you all so much for your interesting comments and responses to my question. I'd like to say that I considered a dw drawer since we are just two living here but the reliability and track records of all of them were dismal. And to be honest, I would have been afraid that a buyer (some time in the hopefully distant future) would pooh-pooh such a small DW. Regarding spices needing to be out of the light, the shallow shelves in some of the photos were behind sliding doors This kept things inside nice and dark. Oils need to be in dark bottles or metal oil cans. I also want to say that I'm in love with my new freezer on the bottom. I hated my side by side that had a freezer compartment that was too narrow. I hated my freezer on the top was so deep that I couldn't see what was in the back and that caused me to have to bend down to take things off even the top shelf of the refrigerator section. My bottom freezer is really well designed though, I must say. It has three tiers that each slide out. Some deeper, some shallow. It's a KA french door.
Now that I think of it, trends in kitchen design will probably never be dictated by comfort and practicality.....just like in fashion.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 2:30PM
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Hi, can you tell us the title of the book on kitchen ergonomics? I would appreciate knowing more on this topic. Thanks,


    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 3:30PM
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My objection to kitchens is not things too low, but too high. At 5'2", I find that most storage in the kitchen is too high unless there is a step ladder - one of my must haves for my future new kitchen is all bottom drawers. No more wasted space or falling over the cat when I climb down.

I wish that refrigerators and freezers all had pull-out shelves so that food int he back is not lost until I play find the stinky smell. I once saw a really old refrigerator that had turning-try-shelves - a pretty cool idea if the stuff doesn't fall behind.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 3:57PM
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Something I don't "get" are regular microwaves that are placed below countertop level so you have to bend down to see the controls and to see what's in there.

OTR microwave setups bother me as well because it seems like you have to stoop to see the entire stove top. Also, it's problematic when there are two cooks in the kitchen.

I keep my oils and spices in a cabinet next to the stove, and it seems pretty ergonomic to me. Maybe it's because I'm tall?

I have a bottom freezer and I like it because I can pull a tray out and see everything on it. Seems more ergonomic that crawling around on the floor trying to see what's on the bottom shelf of a side-by-side freezer/fridge.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 4:04PM
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It's not that bad design is acceptible, it's that a pretty design is more important to most. A small to medium sized kitchen is much harder to create function and beauty than a large kitchen. Large kitchens have enough room for an ideal layout that is also pretty. A "normal" sized kitchen is actually one of the more challenging design problems. And, most people don't use designers to help them achieve the function and the form. So, form wins out, and you have pretty spaces that don't work.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 4:21PM
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I've never had a microwave anywhere but just under the counter. I don't need to bend to see the controls -- they're completely visible. The arrangement that I don't get is the microwave over the range. It always seems dangerous to me when something's cooking and you also need the wave. Also don't love them at eye level as I find it scary taking hot stuff down. But over and over again I see microwaves in upper cabinets. So is someone short with that arrangement always destined to use a ladder and trip over the cat? That comment is priceless.

I'll personally take an unattractive kitchen that functions well over a more attractive one where you fight the layout.

But we all have such different needs and ideas. I think what's most important is to get the kitchen exactly right for each person/family's needs. When we were looking for a house I never saw a kitchen I could live with just as is. Rarely even see them in magazines.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 4:40PM
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It's true that the trends in American appliance design are pushed by the market, and the largest market is builders of both large developments (usually not the top end houses with the top end finishes) and apartment complexes (ditto). The most convenient size and shape for inventory, transport and shipping is more important than the thing that will give the end user the best experience. Maybe that's the real difference to Europe? That big developers don't have the same market share? I don't know if that's true, but it might be.

Another problem is the MBA-icization of product design. You can't get a Pyrex style measuring cup with a closed handle (IMHO, a much better style) because it reduces warehousing and shipping costs to have the open handle and stack them. I've always stacked the closed handle ones, and in the quantity that one has at home, it's good enough. For a non-kitchen example, they make so so so many sleeveless tops, at all price levels, because it's cheaper not to have to use the fabric (especially for matching prints at the high end), sewing time/skill, waste for setting wrong, etc., not to have sleeves, and a sleeveless top will fit more different bodies than a sleeved one. Never mind that huge numbers of women would rather have sleeves. They buy them because that's what's offered, but it's not what's most wanted.

OTOH, OXO Good Grips has made a huge business off of the idea that universal design and well conceived operation is good for everybody. There are gizmos that are as well designed, but I've rarely found better.

I love my tile floor. I have a slab foundation, and my wood floor in the living room, even with all its fancy underpinning, is just as hard. A great utility feature of tile is that it doesn't matter how much water doesn't get wiped up immediately. There's no slipping through the cracks and causing rot to the subfloor. Or screwing up a wood floor. I have some decorative, cushy mats, but I find when my back or feet are tired, I'd rather stand on the tile.

Re the range, separate cooktops and waist height wall ovens, have been around for at least half a century. Your comment on the ergonomics is why so many people insist on them. In Europe, they seem to mount the ovens more at chest/face height, which means less bending to check, and if you're the right height, even more ease of putting things in and out. No reason one couldn't do that here.

I also don't mind bending for the DW. Never notice it (even when I had a tweaked sciatic nerve), and I think having to stretch and bend a little is good for everybody who isn't absolutely disabled. I'm sorry you were discouraged about the dish drawers. People here have been very favorable in their reviews of them. You can fit a standard dishwasher in the space for a double dish drawer dishwasher. If you had put a single in its own cabinet, removing the drawer underneath and retrofitting wouldn't have been a big deal.

Smeg, an Italian company, makes a 36" wide, "horizontal" dishwasher (they have it at AJ Madison for a price similar to any high end DW). That's the one that would be perplexing because it's unique, but even so, unless you have built in place custom cabinets, retrofitting a standard DW, and 12" tray cupboard, or something similar, wouldn't be that hard.

I agree that the hood height you mentioned is ridiculous. Standard is 30". Maybe you need a different hood? An ergonomically motivated customization people often do is add counter level switches for the fan and light, so that short people don't have to stand on tippy toe. Also, this allows the addition of a continuous control to a hood that just has on/off or three settings.

OTOH, I agree with you about the stone eating counter. Mine is made out of sunflower seed husk board (husks pressed together with a little resin). It's lightweight and warm to the touch. This is a case where form, whether the beauty of the stone or having a single surface for an island, wins out over function. For most people the eating function of the counter is secondary, so they put all their thinking into the primary, cooking function of it, and the practicality thereof.

I think, in the end, how ergonomically adept any kitchen is comes down to individual design for particular circumstances. There is no "universal" good kitchen design. I would never use those niches you mentioned--I have a shoulder height shelf (yes, behind a door) where the seasonings, oil and wine are contained and easy to get at. I don't want to reach across the counter to a niche and have to worry about how pretty the items are. The raised DW that many have is an elbow bumper to me. If it's by the sink (good access), it reduces the amount of set down space, or changes it to set up space. Good for some, bad for some, don't care for some, I think. And I think that's why so many standard kitchens aren't well designed. The builders just want something pretty that will sell the new house. There's no way to predict what the eventual owners will want in a kitchen, so they just put in the cheap stuff and expect them to rip it out and customize. Kind of stupid in many ways, but good for the bottom line.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 4:42PM
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I think if I had had a light under my corner sink cab, it would have helped a little, but the small opening for a large cab is still annoying. Things blocked the way to other things. The back corner was even harder to reach below the counter than above. YMMW

The bottom "shelf" of our freestanding freezer is actually a pullout, so no need to go digging and searching. Our 2 units work just like a s x s (placed next to each other). In our last house, with a nice size LG s x s, we had no trouble fitting or finding things in the freezer. Just like with house layouts in general, the larger sizes correct some potential layout flaws.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 5:03PM
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Ginny - you couldn't be more right. In our first house, the kitchen was a nice size and when I was mostly a SAHM to our boys, it was nice to make a homemade dinner every night, as well as lunch and breakfast. I even made all the baby food and did not buy jars. We moved into our current home with its lousy small kitchen and in order to afford the renovation, I went back to almost full time work to afford a nice kitchen once the little guy hit first grade and was there full day. I have had less time to cook because of the disruption of the renovation and because some nights I am working late.
On the bright side, I can now come home from work and prepare dinner in a pleasant layout and because my entire pantry and refrigeration is now in the same room, I do not run around my house gathering supplies to make dinner. It has streamlined the process for me. I also don't have to pack grocery bags for the fridge in the kitchen, the fridge/freezer in the garage and the extra food storage in the basement. When I come home from food shopping, it all gets unloaded in one place. Ahhhhhh.... luxury, lol....

Someday, when the reno is finally done, I will have more time on my hands and will be able to make more from scratch dinners than even now. It will still mean cooking after work most days, but it will be in a nicer environment and I can others work alongside me helping to prepare dinner.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 5:24PM
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I suspect that open floor plans have also affected kitchen priorities--don't want to look at ugly stuff from across the room so gotta put pretty stuff higher on the priority list. Witness how many people on the GW are asking about deep sinks not because they do anything to improve dishwashing ergonomics but because they can camouflage the mess swept off the countertops in order to make the room look better from a distance.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 5:59PM
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So many people here offered some really good insight. With builders of homes, the bottom line always seems to dictate the choice in kitchen layouts and the appliances in them. A lot of homeowners don't cook. I know LOTS of people who eat most of their meals outside of the home. Their kitchen doesn't have to function like mine. It is an individual need... IF you do cook, and you need your kitchen to function well, enlist the help of a kitchen designer THAT LIKES TO COOK. As soon as we decided to build, I bought a few books on home building and started reading. I also found this website that guided me. I educated myself on kitchen design and started thinking about what worked in our kitchen and what didn't...In the beginning, our GC did not understand our decisions concerning kitchen layout. Once we explained why we made these choices, he understood. Once again, he and his family eat out every night for dinner...there is nothing wrong with that but their needs are different than ours. That is one of the reasons why we are building a "custom" home...and you are renovating your customize it to suit your needs. Doesn't have to be expensive or grand, it is what you want. BUT, back to the ?? of OT...the majority of people do not demmand good form and function (we/they buy it)so they will produce it as cheaply as possible and so on and so forth...

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 6:45PM
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I know someone who had out of town guests one year after she moved into a new condo. The guests decided to cook dinner for her. When they preheated the oven, it singed the oven manual that was still sitting inside.

Actually, I have another friend with a similar story.

I think there are a lot of people who never cook.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 7:52PM
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My observation is that, even accounting for the occasionally really badly laid out new kitchen, function is generally at an all-time high.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 8:24PM
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BTW, wherever we go, 100% of the time 1/3 of our immediate world requires bending to reach and another 1/3 reaching up, gravity 100% of the time plotting to undo us.

People with genuine, irremediable handicaps are fortunate if they can function nicely with everything brought into their accessible area.

For virtually everyone else, some stretching and back-strengthening exercises allowing them to live within a normal plan will add enormously to their functional capacity, save big, big retrofit bucks in the process, and in many cases mean additional decades of enjoyment of their kitchens.

Heading for 60 here, enough early rheumatoid disease to make the issue very real to me, but basically planning to be living pretty much the same around the house when I'm 90. Like my Grandma did.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 8:43PM
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Digression re: people who never cook: It reminds me of when I went piano shopping, looking for a grand piano for my first house. The salesman at a good piano store was watching/listening to me try out the pianos. I started asking him a question about the action and he said, "you know, you have a big advantage over most of my customers. You *play*!" I asked if most customers are buying the piano for someone, like a child or a grandchild? He said no, most customers buy the piano for the living room.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 9:39PM
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My microwave/speed oven is too high for most people, and in retrospect it was probably a design mistake putting it as high as I did. I should have used a below counter m/w, but didn't want to lose my garbage/recycling bins in my clean up run, and didn't want to mess up the grain of my walnut drawers on my long run. DH and I are tall, but my SIL & MIL (not to mention my children who are still too young, but eventually) can't get into the m/w easily at all.

If only the speed oven had a side opening door - if it does I didn't see it. So I accepted bad design as a compromise I guess. Does anyone have a kitchen without some compromise?

NYSteve - that is crazy.

florantha - I admit it, I like my deep sink b/c it hides so much! For other reasons too, but I love that I can put my dirtiest, biggest pot in there and virtually not be able to see it. But that is also why I left a wall in place hiding my clean-up run from the LR and DR.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 10:04PM
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Long-time lurker. First time poster.....

Despite the general reluctance to invest in the $100,000 kitchen, there is an English designer, Johnny Grey, who has written extensively on kitchen ergonomics and so on. We may not be able to afford his products, but he offers very valuable perspectives on the hows and whys of contemporary kitchen design. Anyone undertaking a reno or first build should read his work.

We are in the middle of our design stage and have cited JG often in our wants/needs.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 12:23AM
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I think I agree with rosie. I'm OK with having to sometimes reach up for things and sometimes bend down for things. I like to incorporate every bit of every-day bending and stretching and exercise I can. I was a stay-at-home mom for the years when my kids were little. Although my kids are now college-aged and I'm working full-time, I still do lots of cooking and really "use" my kitchen. I'm by no means a gourmet cook, but I'm an everyday cook and a big baker. All part of the reason we felt it was worth it to do the total renovation. I just turned 50, and I too hope to be puttering around this same kitchen, self-sufficient, 35 or 40 years from now!

I do understand that kitchen ergonomics would definitely be more important to some other people than they are to me. And who knows if I'll be singing a different tune in 15 or 20 years!! I think it's unfortunate that it seems so expensive to get the things that seem to make sense as far as "ease of use."

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 4:05AM
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I think that the concepts of zones and the work triangle are still very valid and are probably the most important things to keep in mind when planning the kitchen. When I see a floor plan proposed on the GW the first thing I do is draw in the triangle. Then I think through tasks and ask myself who else is in the space and might be trying to use the same space at the same time. Is this ergonomics or efficiency? Dunno but without thinking through the tasks first, you're just mindlessly buying stuff.

It's up to the consumer to choose the stuff; the merchandisers and manufacturers and mag publishers are cheerleaders on the sideline. We don't have to buy if we don't want to.

If a local ordinance required a contractor to take a class in sensible kitchen design would that have any benefit? Dunno. Went to a Parade of Homes new house in a fourth tier suburb last year which had the stupidest kitchen I've seen in new construction. Woman assigned to sit there to talk to visitors acknowledged this, then directed our attention to some other feature in another room. Apparently the contractor was particularly proud of his innovative kitchen. Wonder if anyone bought the house.

I was really worried that our 16 x 12 workspace was too big. I wouldn't want one any larger, but I've decided to embrace the dragon--a 16 foot long diagonal walk from range to refrig--as a way of keeping me active. And I walk 6 feet from one side of the kitchen to the other during other activities. Will keep me young.

The GetMats are probably one of the most important features of the kitchen, plus prescription shoes. Without them, the kitchen can be my enemy.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 9:58AM
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Good point about the GelMats and good shoes florantha. I can't cook in bare feet - even with hardwood - my feet and back start to ache after 10 minutes. I don't have a GelMat, but I do wear ugly but uber-comfortable Berkenstocks when I'm on my feet in the kitchen - invaluable. I can work for hours without pain when I have them on.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 10:21AM
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Sochi, glad to hear from younger people that leg and foot issues are important in a kitchen. It's one factor that many forget. And as you say, proper shoes can be a piece of kitchen equipment.

BTW: our local Home Depot has a display of Martha Stewart foam floor mats in a coppery brown for $20 apiece. I just bought two for the lake cabin. I have no idea how well they will hold up, but the price was excellent.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 1:09PM
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I am under 50 and have battled pinched nerves in my feet from time to time. I can't cook for long without wearing shoes either. I also will always have a soft kitchen floor of some sort.
When my older ds was approx 8.5, he ran across our old kitchen floor and slipped. His face hit the tile and I heard it from the next room. It is something a parent never forgets. I love the look of ceramic/stone tile and the many ways it can be installed with patterns and designs, but I will never use it in a room larger than a bathroom. In there, no one is ever moving at a high speed and the amount of water those floors see is greater, where the softer floors may be a maintenance issue.
I guess I will use hard tile for backsplashes and save my creativity for other things...

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 1:32PM
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Thanks to the OP for starting this thread. Many of our decisions were based on meeting the challenges of my back and feet and of course lack of vertical stature!

Many of our decisions have turned out well: the raised DW, cork floor, FD frig and shallow sinks. Unfortunately some of them I wish I could go back and fix with the advantage of hindsight: buying the matching MW instead of making a shelf and placing a countertop one in and the faucets at the prep sink. In hindsight both of those decisions happened because of having to meet someone else's deadline and not ours. So, I really encourage those of you are doing your design phase to really think thru every detail now because it is really hard to change them afterwards.

I do want to encourage people to have the raised DW. Ours is at the end of run partially behind a wall. We have a shallow drawer underneath it which is great for flat dishes. The counterspace on top is where dirty dishes wait their turn and is backup space for when we are doing lots of dishes by hand.

Our frig is at the other end of the kitchen from the MW which is something that I debated on but figured I could work with. It does mean more walking while making things but since I was determined to have my raised DW and the frig not visible as you walk in the house...

It is interesting to read what considerations we all have had as we design our kitchens for being used as kitchens. I had thought about making it more of eat in nook type of kitchen but decided I wanted the extra prep space instead. I also believe as others have demonstrated that you can have a functional and beautiful kitchen at the same time. It just takes some thought and planning which is why I guess builders don't want to take the time and thus money to do that.

I haven't cooked barefoot but I do find the cork floor is much easier on my back than our previous tile floor was. And one of these days DH will finally take the rest of our pictures so I can post on the FKB!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 2:53PM
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Can anyone post pictures of their raised dishwashers?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 7:39PM
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I have a 24 year old dishwasher, and its bottom shelf is 5" higher than any dishwasher on the market. I don't wish to buy a dishwasher that is going to make me reach as low as the floor to deal with the bottom shelf.
Why don't manufacturers make some models that are 'shorter', for those who can't or don't want to bend so low?
They will say it is so you can wash pots and pans - I'd rather wash them by hand and save my back!
Also - notice that dishwashers are displayed on a raised platform - so that we won't notice how low we would need to bend.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 12:10AM
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