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Posted on Jun 6, 2011

How To Refine Your Kitchen Space

Refine the Nerve Center of Your Home
For families, especially large families, the kitchen is often the nerve center of the house. It nourishes our bodies and minds, and nurtures relationships and creativity. Not to mention the possibilities for teaching and learning inherent in cooking and baking! With the recession, homeowners are increasingly choosing to remain in their houses longer, and opting to remodel or adjust their living spaces to suit their needs (as opposed to remodeling and updating for the next family, in preparation to sell). So you want your kitchen space to be yours, really and truly tailored to you and your needs, with an emphasis on making activities easier and supporting family health. So what are the important things? Remodel blogs (including my own last blog) often talk about getting new appliances, painting, new countertops, etc., and that’s fine, but that’s not the whole story. Let’s face it, it’s not even really the biggest part of the story.

Interior design ideas

Size Matters
You know it’s true, especially with kitchens! So when looking at your space with an eye to changing things up, start by comparing the size of your family with the size of your kitchen. How many people could be in your kitchen at the same time? You’re cooking at the stove and your four year old is washing veggies at the sink, your husband is chopping the washed veggies, and your seven year old is helping measure out spices for you or stirring a pot of noodles. All that activity necessitates a specific amount of space, both for the counters and standing room. When thinking of a redesign or face lift, look first to how best to fit all those people and activities into your kitchen. The best way to accommodate the size might be as simple as moving the trash can or re-organizing the appliances that live on the counters; you never know.

Ask yourself these questions
1) How many people use the kitchen at one time?
2) How much room do we need?
3) Can I reorganize to better suit our needs?
4) What one change can I make that will give us more room?

Use these questions to start down the path to making some simpler changes to accommodate your needs. And if you find that simple changes aren’t going to cut it, identify the one major change you need to make that will help improve traffic flow! (Egads, I just need another foot of counter space!)

Cooking Habits
Next, what activities do you most often perform in your kitchen? Critically thinking about what you use your room for most, and how long you spend in there, will help you prioritize making some of the bigger changes like flooring and counter space.

Do you and your family engage in creating nightly from-scratch made meals with two or three courses? Do you make huge meals a couple times a week and live off leftovers in between? Do your family members do drive-bys, grabbing small meals and snacks between activities? Which meals do you make and which do you purchase on the run? How much time do you spend in your kitchen? (i.e., how comfortable do you need it to be so you don’t go crazy with tired knees and stooped shoulders?) Think flooring options here, counter height to fit your leg and arm length, room temperature levels, etc. Molding your kitchen to these needs will drastically affect how much you hate or love it!

Ask yourself these questions
1) Which meals do we cook in the kitchen?
2) What is the one thing that most impedes activity and productivity in the kitchen?
3) Do I ever feel uncomfortable in the kitchen? In what ways? (Sore knees, shoulder or back pain, too hot or cold, etc.)

Use these questions to help identify the top things you can do to refine your kitchen to support your families cooking and eating needs.

Timing is Everything
Next think about when you spend the most amount of time in the kitchen. Do you start cooking dinner at four, then eat and clean up that night, spending three to four hours more or less ensconced? Do you work in there midday and make meals and package snacks for everyone? Your time of day will inform what kind of lighting will work best for you. If you’re in there mostly when it’s dark outside, you might want to invest more in creating a lot of lovely lighting options that clearly illuminate each area, with an emphasis on work spaces. If you’re in there during late morning and midday, consider harnessing more natural light.

Ask yourself these questions
1) How much time do you spend in your kitchen?
2) At what time of the day do you spend the most time in the kitchen?
3) Where do you need the most illumination to help perform tasks?

Use these questions to help identify where you might need more light—and what kinds of light might work best!—in your kitchen.

Function Over Form
Interior design, or making your place look like you have ownership of it, must start with a room’s functionality. If you can’t actually perform all the tasks you need to in the kitchen, it doesn’t really matter how attractive it is, you’ll still probably hate it. Use these tips to think critically about your space and make the changes you really need to make your kitchen serve you. Once you have the functions right, the form will surely follow!