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Kitchen design - your best and worst experiences

  • Peg Oct 5, 2008 12:50 PM
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I am about to have a new kichen built from scratch. Whilst I have chosen the basics (materials, major appliances), and the layout is pretty much planned - there are a host of details that are yet to be decided.
Like - are perforated metal drawers good for 'hard' vegetable storage, what would make recycling (paper/cans/glass/food/cardboard) easier, what lighting is easiest to work under, and will I really use a 'breakfast bar'...

So - thinking of YOUR kitchen, what works particulaly well, what was a waste of money, and what would you change/buy given the chance?

For info - I eat mainly vegetarian, with some fish. I never deep fry, and rarely bake anything except pasta. The kichen will form part of an open-plan living area on the top floor of a 3 storey house. The washing machine is in a separate utility room and I do not have a TV. And I am in the UK (so it never really gets hot or cold).

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  1. We just did our kitchen, and there are a few things that we are completely delighted with. One of these things is the very large sink. It is fantastic to not have to wrestle with washing pots and pans in a too-small sink. Don't get a divided sink. The second is the warming drawer. We use it for everything from heating plates for dinner to proofing bread. The third is the Miele Professional Series dishwasher. It is absolutely brilliant. It has a rapid cycle for parties that washes the first load in 15 minutes and subsequent loads in 8 minutes by using the rinse water from the previous load as the wash water for the next load. But everyday loads also wash in only 15 minutes, so the energy saving is enormous. We also love our beverage refrigerator with an ice maker right next to it. For lighting, since we have a 1920s house, we went with mainly pendant lighting with high hats over the sink, and under counter lights. But one of the best things we did was the flooring. In the main part of the kitchen, it is rubber! We adore it -- easy to clean and easy to stand on for long periods of time. We kept our old stove, but if we had it to do over again, we would not have gotten the grill on the stove, though we do use the griddle quite a bit.

    4 Replies
    1. re: roxlet

      No personal experience since I live in a rental apartment. But two friends, at whose homes I cook frequently, recently redid their kitchens and here are a couple of ideas that haven’t been mentioned yet.

      Slide out baskets for hard vegetable storage. These are not behind doors, get lots of air circulation, look beautiful, and are wonderfully handy.

      Two large, slide-out garbage cans, one behind the other, the first for “regular” garbage, the one behind for bottles and cans.

      A hole, about 4 inches in diameter, cut into the countertop with a small garbage can beneath it into which all vegetable peeling, ends—anything compostable—gets scraped. It’s a real treat to set your cutting board right up next to it and not have to carry all those scraps someplace else to get rid of them.

      One deep drawer that contains large canisters of flours, sugar, rice, and grains. Very easy to access.

      Agree about the warming drawer. Would kill to be able to have one of those.

      1. re: JoanN

        ""A hole, about 4 inches in diameter, cut into the countertop with a small garbage can beneath it into which all vegetable peeling, ends—anything compostable—gets scraped. It’s a real treat to set your cutting board right up next to it and not have to carry all those scraps someplace else to get rid of them.""

        That really scares me as a place for roaches and the likes to breed.

        1. re: JoanN

          i just use what rachel ray describes as the garbage bowl method but with plastic bags from stores or remnants of plastic wrap and styrofoam from packaged food.... toss all my scrap bits onto/into it and then toss the bag as a whole. i can keep it at the edge of my cutting board so it's super near by and throw everything away in there.

          1. re: JoanN

            I like the 'hole in the counter' idea - my local council collects food waste weekly for making into compost for the city gardens, and it is unpleasant to have a cannister on the worktop. I will suggest this to the carpenter.

        2. Things we did I'm happy about: 1.built in knife rack in the countertopHandy and easy to get to
          2. cork flooring; comfortable and good looking
          3. Commercial vent hood; gets rid of fish and other odors
          4. commercial pot rack; you can load it up and not worry about a crash.
          5. LED spots for lighting: high initial cost, but cheap to run and last forever
          Things I wish we had done differently; 1.bigger oven
          2. ice maker
          3.dishwasher with removeable glass racks for wineglasses

          4 Replies
          1. re: chazzerking

            Yes, we have a commercial vent hood, which is fabulous and we have so much power (it is in the attic) that the installer suggested that we put a lead collar on the dog! My husband wanted it even more powerful, but they said that if it was, it would put out the pilot lights in the furnace and water heater in the basement. We rarely use it on full power anyway. Our Miele dishwasher has tons of customized racks that you can buy for it. They are quite expensive so we are living with the one that came with it. We are very happy with the in-drawer knife bock we have since we have far too many knives to keep out. The 5 we use most frequently are in a block attached to the end of the small table that serves as an island.

            1. re: roxlet

              My in-counter rack is 2 slots with a wooden collar, a hole for the steel and the underpart is boxed in. It is the full depth of the counter, 3" wide and 14" deep. It accommodates 7 chef's knives ranging from 12'' down to 4", 3 boning knives, 2 slicers(1 12" and 1 10") a bread knife, a chinese cleaver a 7" santoku, 8 prep/paring knives a dough knife/scraper and a steel. I tried an in drawer block, but didn't have enough room in it so I had this built by our cabinet maker.

              1. re: chazzerking

                Sounds like a great solution for you! This prompted me to count how many knives we have in the drawer -- 42! These include a dozen sharp, small Wusthof knives that we use on the table as steak knives when we have big dinners. Many of the knives don't get used every day, but all have a purpose, even if it is occasional (like a ham knife or cleaver). We debated cutting down, and then, once we realized how much room we had in the drawer, we just decided to keep them all. And by the way, we don't have a very large kitchen. When we did our renovation, we resisted combining the kitchen with the butler's pantry, which would have made it much larger. The house was built in the 1920s and we kept the original configuration of the kitchen. However, with an extremely brilliant kitchen designer, we were able to get so much apace in the same room that we even have a few empty shelves, despite bringing most everything up from the overflow shelves in the basement. As I am sure you know chazzerking from your kitchen, a well-designed room is a pleasure to work in!

            2. re: chazzerking

              I agree with the knife rack in the counter top. I have a built in cutting board, and in the back of it (which is empty space) I had the carpenter put in slots for knifes, and it is one of my most favorite things in the kitchen. Plus, it didn't cost anything, and knifes at my fingertips!!

            3. Off hand, the first thing I can think of that I dislike is the built-in compartments for utensils. Much better to buy those separately than to have them built into the drawers. Once the dividers are built into the drawers, it is much more difficult to clean.

              On the plus side, I love having drawers for pots and pans, rather than having everything stuffed into cabinets and therefore hard to find.

              2 Replies
              1. re: erica

                I would have agreed with you before we had ours done. Our designer has little hidden pegs that make the dividers slip out and are customizable. The separate ones, which we had before, always rattled around in the drawer and were never the right size for the configuration of utensils that we have.

                I agree with you on the drawers for the pots and pans. In the dead spot, in the corner next to the sink, we have something called a magic lazy susan that swings out when you open the door. It's great.

                ALso, the other thing I am so happy with is our faucet. It is like the commercial ones with the big, high sprayer above the faucet part. It's got enough pressure to get gunk out of every corner of the sink.

                1. re: erica

                  Compartments - yes, I had wondered how easy they are to clean. I guess as long as they lift out I'll be able to clean them OK. I may have to live with the kitchen awhile and see what I store where before I invest in the details like drawer compartments.

                2. I would love to have a functional "breakfast bar" and yes, I would use one. But whether in apartments or homes (unless thought of before hand as an upgrade with a custom build), the "stock" bar here in the US is only 1 foot or .3 meters and pretty worthless. I would think a 2 foot bar width would allow ample room for an actual place setting with beverage and not be cramped. It would also provide an overhang on one side where a stool, when occupied would allow for leg/knee room without banging in to the underwall. Wish I'd have thought of that when I had my home built........

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: CocoaNut

                    We have a breakfast bar table in our kitchen that we purchased from Williams Sonoma about 9 or 10 years ago. We love it and use it all the time. It's square instead of rectangular and has a stainless steel top and a hardwood base. We not only use it for most of our meals, but the top stays so cool that it's terrific for rolling out stuff like pie/cookie dough etc. It was a big deal to make the decision to get this table because it sits in the part of the kitchen that used to be our dining room. So now we no longer have a dining room, but we have a huge kitchen with the bar table and a regular height dining table at the other end of the kitchen. It went from being an awkward, little-used space to the most used space in the house.

                  2. There have been several previous threads on this topic. Do a search. Also check out the Garden Web Forums. Much more information.

                    The one thing I strongly suggest is to have drawers, not doors/shelves, for your base (lower) cabinets, as others mentioned above. Works much much better.

                    1. One of my upper double cabinets has vertical dividers in it. They're spaced about 2 - 3 inches apart. This is great for storing pizza pans, muffin tins, pie tins, cutting boards, skillet screens, etc.

                      1. I just finished my kitchen. Here are the some random design items that needed more attention that I gave them:

                        -Lids - where do you put them? (both pots/pans and plastic containers)
                        -Pets - where does the dog's food and water bowl go?
                        -Separating Compost - Green material vs Coffee Grounds - my wife and I drink a lot of coffee. Most of our compost is made up of coffee grounds from our French press. Coffee Grounds can bypass the compost bin and go straight under some of our plants (acid loving).
                        -Microwave - finding just the right location was a real problem at first. (We finally modified one of our tall cabinets)
                        -Snack and Breakfast Zones - The workflow is different for us when we are Snacking/Breakfasting vs "Cooking".
                        -Which appliances should stay on the countertop? - toasters, etc, for sure. I found that leaving our plug-in Sandwich press, KA mixer and small food processor on the countertop at all times greatly simplified the day-to-day workflow.

                        We love the following:
                        -Linoleum floors - We used Marmoleum flooring - I love it. Tough, easy to clean, and feels great underfoot and inexpensive.
                        -Laminate counters with a beveled Corian edge - good bang for buck. Inexpensive but tough.
                        -Ikea cabinets - sometimes infuriating to install properly, but we are very happy with how easy it all came together.

                        Good luck.