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How to Create a Kitchen You'll Love

When it comes to kitchens, form and function are everything. Home Depot's home improvement expert Chris Long has the ultimate guide to the 5 most popular kitchen types. Plus - helpful tips on how to maximize your counter space.

By
Beata Santora, QDT editor
August 29, 2013

If cooking in your kitchen is anything less than a pleasant experience, you may be considering remodeling. But with so many options, it can be daunting to decide what to do. Where to begin?

The first and simplest thing to consider is that your kitchen's existing structural layout will largely determine whether (or how) it will serve its purposes and satisfy your cooking needs.

For instance, consider this common kitchen scenario:

Apartment-dwellers the world over are all-too familiar with this cramped kitchen layout. Sure, it's basically functional, but there's nothing fun about it!

A lazy cook's best friend, this layout facilitates cooking without much moving – you can literally turn around in a circle or pivot from side to side and never have to move your feet to whip up a meal.

The downside is that your meal is likely to consist of a box of mac-and-cheese because there's no storage or counter space for stocking shelves or prepping fresh food. But again, that type of no muss, no fuss cuisine might be right up your alley.

For those of us who desire a more upscale kitchen – or at least a kitchen on a larger scale – there is hope! Indeed, the one thing we have to credit this little city kitchen for is that it has the building blocks of a great layout: the classic work triangle.

Notice how the range/cooktop and the fridge and the sink are all located at the three different points of a triangle. This arrangement places all essential tools of food prep (refrigeration, heat, and water) within an easily navigable triangle. After all, even worse than a tiny kitchen is one that has your cooking components spread out to the far corners of the room rather than in close proximity to each other, where you end up running laps around the room – on second thought, sorry about that "lazy cook" crack...who wants to work out while making dinner?

But no matter if you’re making a bowl of mac-and-cheese, or a 5-course gourmet dinner, one thing we can all agree on is that the layout of your kitchen just has to work. And whether your kitchen works for you depends on your intended uses of the space and how the kitchen components are located in relation to each other.

To help bring your kitchen design or remodeling path to fulfillment, here are some classic kitchen layouts – plus a few extra helpings of food for thought:

Kitchen Type #1: L-Shaped

Commonly favored by cooks who like to work alone, a traditional L-shaped layout bounces the traffic out of the room and forces the cook to give a cold shoulder to anyone who remains in the room because they must cook with their back to you.

The L-shape layout is not great for someone who likes to watch TV during cooking, either. Unless you have a set on your countertop or in the corner over your cabinets or fridge, you will have to turn around to catch your favorite episodes and shows.

The above kitchen is actually a modified L-shaped, or an L-shaped kitchen with an island. Adding the island facilitates more open interaction in the kitchen and provides a workspace that allows the cook to return his attentions back to you – or the game – while he works. Baby steps, right?

Kitchen Type #2: U-Shaped

Coming onto the design scene as an answer to a lack of storage space in the kitchen, this full wrap around, U-shaped kitchen packs a lot into whatever size space you drop it into.

Adding an extra third (at least) to your L-shaped layout, the "U" shape gives more counter space and storage. Plus, traffic flows around the room naturally and the addition of an island provides even more usable work area for those extra bodies you want to accommodate.

Kitchen Type #3: Galley or Corridor

Characterized by its long and narrow "corridor" shape, the galley-style kitchen has two straight runs against the walls on either side. As in this example, the sink and stove usually each occupy a side and are located across from each other.

The galley style is most commonly used as a space-necessitated go-to design. In other words, there are enough drawbacks to this layout that it is usually favored only when there are no other options simply because you must operate within a limited space. Cons include:

  • Traffic jams: This design makes it almost impossible for two people to spread jam on their toast at the same time.
  • Single appliance operation: You are typically forced to open one appliance at a time and cannot, for example, unload the dishwasher and unload a batch of cookies from the oven simultaneously or unpack groceries into the fridge and stock cabinets at the same time.
  • Limited storage space: Since the appliances take up much of the walls, there is little room left for cupboards and cabinets.

Kitchen Type #4: Zone

Although not technically a "zone" layout, which provides separate work stations to perform different tasks in distinct areas of the kitchen, you get the idea from this design, which incorporates a long L-shaped countertop, a center island, and a separate counter space under the microwave on the other side of the room.

Great for larger families or folks who like entertaining in the kitchen, this type of sprawling kitchen design allows many people to operate on separate projects at the same time.

Kitchen Type #5: Hybrid 

This layout has it all and provides a wealth of tips for kitchen design ideas:

  • Open concept allows movement and interaction with others during food prep.
  • L-shaped outside with the sink located in a center island gives the feeling of tons of counter space.
  • Extra zone addition of table top extension from the center island provides eat-in kitchen seating or additional surface area that can be used as a zone-style work space.
  • Clean lines and uniform color palette opens up the room (already large in its own right) and enhances the natural lighting from the windows and bright spots provided by the pendant candle lights.

Bonus Tip: When incorporating an island of any kind into your kitchen, go with a different color than the rest of your cabinetry. Whether you select a wholly-contrasting color (a red island in a black and white kitchen) or a complementary color like this kitchen (a gray island in a white and gray kitchen), the goal is to "cohesively differentiate" your island – in short, you want the island to stand out but not stick out.

Speaking of sticking out, when you're stretched for space, whether it's on the countertops or inside the cabinets, incorporate some creative solutions like these:

Upright Utensils

Gather your soup spoons, ladles, spatulas, bowl scrapers...you get the idea – all utensils can be placed in the upside-down upright position and dropped into a ceramic vase or even large pot for easy access.

Take this opportunity to maximize the space you do have and add a bright pop of your room's accent color in a corner or relatively empty space on your countertop.

Keep in mind that this décor trick comes with a price – you'll need to be careful when you pull from the pile if you haven't washed the utensils lately as they serve as little culinary magnets for pet fur, dust, and debris. Wash them periodically and rinse them off before each use if you want to avoid that unappetizing food-and-floss-in-one experience during a meal – yikes!

Hanging Out

Another option when you have little to no storage space is to hang a pot rack from the wall or ceiling and hook your pots and pans to the rack.

Make sure you don't place the rack too high and can't reach your pots and also ensure that you secure the rack in such a way that it sufficiently supports the hefty weight of your cookware.

What are some of your favorite kitchen design or kitchen remodeling ideas? Let us know in comments.

***

Chris Long has been an associate at Home Depot in the Chicago suburbs since 2000. Chris writes on kitchen design ideas for the Home Depot website. He provides advice to Home Depot customers on cabinets, islands, faucets, and other crucial kitchen fixtures.

 

Photos courtesy of  Shutterstock, and mconnorsjadegraceyehensley, and DodgertonSkillhause from morguefile.com

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