Saturday, June 28, 2008

Should you include a waste disposal in your kitchen?

Waste disposals (garburators, waste disposers) have pros and cons. Not everyone needs or wants one.

  • easy disposal of food waste
  • no bad smelling garbage or compost container
  • waste containers can be smaller
Note: properly managed compost and garbage containers don't have to smell.

  • take up space in the sink cabinet
  • can be noisy
  • can get jammed by or damage items which go into the disposer by mistake
  • another appliance to go wrong and get serviced
  • food wastes add a high load to the sewage system (some areas do not allow disposals for this reason)
  • may overload septic systems
  • can smell (need to have citrus fruit or chemicals run through them to prevent this)
  • can clog and need plumbing disassembled to fix
  • uses a lot of water, which you or your local utility pays for

Because I compost most of my food waste, I don't feel any need for a disposer. But more generally, I believe they waste electricity, water, soil fertility and sewage disposal capacity for very little return in convenience. In fact if I moved into a house with one already installed, I'd probably take it out!

Agree/disagree? let me know!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Clear off that kitchen counter

Not necessarily ALL the counters, but clearing everything off the stretch of kitchen counter you use most for prep and baking makes a big difference in how easy it is to work. It makes for less cleaning, too, when you don’t have to wipe spatters off half a dozen doodads sitting at the back of the counter!

If there are often-used things which deserve to be "always out" in that counter area, try mounting them on the wall: magnetic strips hold knives and other items, mini-shelves hold condiments and spices, hooks and racks hold cups and mugs. Need to have a small appliance sitting there? Try an under-cabinet mounted version to get it off the counter.

Once you have a clean sweep of counter to work on, you’ll cherish it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Under-Cabinet Lighting Alternatives

The hands-down best way to light your counter work areas any place you have wall cabinets mounted over them, is with under-cabinet lighting. It's a wonderful thing to have light shining right onto your cutting board, instead of standing in your own shadow!

You can do this several different ways, and there are more choices becoming available all the time. here are some ideas:

Incandescent Lighting: cheap, hot, good light quality, but an energy hog. You can still buy incandescent strip lights intended to mount under your cabinets, but I don't recommend them - there are much better alternatives.

Halogen and Xenon: either puck lights (small round individual fixtures) or strip lights. These are moderately priced, the light quality is excellent, but they are HOT HOT HOT. Yes, Xenon is cooler than halogen, but it's still scary hot - not just the lights themselves, but the 12v transformer they run off. Even if they don't get hot enough to cause damage, who needs that extra heat in the kitchen in the summer? Not energy-efficient, either.

Fluorescent: strip lights in various configurations, some can be connected together to all run off one power hookup. Older-type fluorescent lights had an unpleasant light quality, but they are cheap.
Newer varieties have much better light color and quality but they are rather more expensive, comparable with halogens. They run cool, and are energy efficient.

LED: these are the up-and-coming thing in lighting. Right now the really usable fixtures are expensive but they have very good light quality (no blue-white cast like older LEDs). They run even cooler than fluorescents, have an even longer lifetime, use less energy, and don't have the disposal issues of the mercury in fluorescents.

Right now, I'd say go with LEDs if you can afford to, otherwise fluorescents - or if you can possibly wait, do so until the price of LEDs comes down within reach.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Work Zones or Work Centers

Today, the traditional work triangle is often not enough to describe how a kitchen will work. Modern kitchen layouts involving more appliances (extra sink, dishwasher(s), separate cooktop and oven(s), microwave oven, etc.) have more potential work stations which the triangle can't account for. And if you add more cooks to a single triangle, it's a recipe for tripping over each other.

The tool used to solve these problems in design is the concept of work centers or zones. A work center groups everything needed to do a specific type of task into a single area.

The three major zones are:

Food Prep Center
Cooking Center
Cleanup Center

Depending on your cooking and eating style, you may have other work centers too:

Baking Center
Snack Center
Eating Center

There is some overlap between the equipment and materials needed in each zone. Where you choose to keep what depends on your cooking style and needs, the size of your kitchen, and placement of centers near each other. You might also choose to duplicate some things (anything from measuring cups to dishwashers) in several work centers if you have the space and it makes work more convenient.

More details on work zones in kitchen layouts

Where to store the kitchen ladder

Unless you're unusually tall, there will be kitchen storage areas that are out of reach. If you're short like me, lots of things are out of reach! That's when the kitchen ladder or step stool comes in handy.

Where to store it when it's not in use, though? It's an awkward kind of shape. Here are some ideas:

  • A slim ladder can fit in a narrow slot beside the fridge. Mine needs about 1.5" of space.
  • Some cabinet lines include ladders especially made to fit in their toe kick drawers - for a price. If you search around you can find very small ladders which will fit just as well.
  • If you have a pantry or room door with space behind it, a ladder can hang on the back of the door.
  • Some step stools are designed as quite handsome stools, and can stay out in the kitchen all the time.
  • A folding step stool may fit in a cabinet or toe kick drawer, or hang on the back of a door.

Welcome to the Kitchen Layouts blog!

Hello and welcome to this new blog devoted to kitchen layouts and floor plans.

If you're in the process of, or thinking about, designing a kitchen - whether for a brand new home or a remodel of your existing kitchen - this is the place for information and ideas.