Design a Multifunctional Kitchen

By prioritizing your needs and thinking creatively, you can design a multifunctional kitchen that brings your family together.

| September/October 2011

open kitchen

Open floor plans keep cooks in contact with the rest of the house and accommodate chatting or entertaining during meal preparation.

Kitchens are among the most vital parts of our homes. No longer just for cooking, today’s kitchens act as socialization hubs, home offices, craft rooms, bill-pay centers and more. In fact, despite a decline in home size (by 2015, average new home size is expected to be 2,150 square feet, down from a peak of 2,500 in 2007), the size of the average kitchen is actually increasing as Americans choose to allocate more and more floor space to kitchens that do double-, triple-, even quadruple-duty.

If you want your kitchen to serve you better, start by thinking about what activities you want to accommodate: Do you need a work space? A garden-supply table? A dedicated baking area? By defining the activities you want to engage in most and planning accordingly, you are sure to design a kitchen that works for you.

Is it a cooking room, an eating room or a homework room? 

Today’s kitchen has truly become the proverbial “heart of the home” as the line between the kitchen and adjoining living areas blurs—in new construction, open floor plans that incorporate meal preparation, eating and work space, and an entertainment area have become the norm. Achieving a multifunctional kitchen by creating a more open floor plan is also the top priority in many remodels. The benefits of this approach are multifold and include reduced material use, better space utilization and daylighting, as well as a more accessible space that can be adapted to a wide variety of occupants.

In the Zone 

From the 1930s to the 1990s, the average American kitchen was designed based on the “triangle theory,” wherein the sink, range and refrigerator were placed in an efficient triangle in a 10-by-10-foot room. These kitchens did not safely allow for two cooks in the kitchen, had no space for eating and were essentially closed off from the rest of house, minimizing occupant communication. As the size of the average kitchen began to grow, the triangle became less efficient, giving rise to the “zone approach” to kitchen design. Kitchens designed in zones cater to the needs of their occupants. For example, all kitchens should have a prep zone, a cook zone and a clean-up zone, but you can further tailor your kitchen to your lifestyle with spaces dedicated to specific activities such as a bread-baking zone, a canning zone or a garden prep area. The lines between the zones are loose and typically overlap.

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