As a residential architect and working mom, I make it my mission to find ways for our houses to be more user-friendly. In a household of two working parents, life revolves around the kitchen. We come home tired, hungry, occasionally cranky, and need to deliver the evening meal before pandemonium breaks loose! We need kitchens that can handle the multiple cooks simultaneously without stepping on each other or our kids who are coming to grab a quick snack before dinner’s ready. Forget talk about this perfect "work triangle” in the kitchen. That worked when June from Leave it Beaver was the only cook in the kitchen. We all know that the modern kitchen is so much more than a single-person work factory!
In part one, I discussed the island: a beautiful solution to improving the functionality of our kitchens. Now, what about the rest of the room? Let’s think about where and how the food is prepared along with how many people are involved. In my household, it's "divide and conquer". My husband was in charge of the meat while I cooked the vegetables. On days that he would grill outside, we could go about our cooking without bumping into each other. But what about the times when we’re both in the kitchen cooking together? Working families need kitchens that can handle two cooks along with the kids darting about simultaneously.
If you have the space, consider separating all three cooking appliances. This allows one to bake in the wall oven, another to cook on the cook top and a third to heat something in the microwave. Many smaller kitchens try to cram all three of these together with the microwave above the stove and the oven below; this should generally be avoided. If space is at a premium, consider moving the microwave away – even if it’s adjacent to the stove. This will allow lower placement, which is great for the kids. Who wants their kids trying to stretch to reach the microwave while there’s bacon grease splattering on the stove below them? The more accessible location will open the appliance up for more use - critical for those pressed for time. There are many products on the market designed for delivering family meals quickly from the microwave, ranging from fresh vegetables to entire entrees. Just because the microwave is small doesn’t mean you should overlook its importance in the kitchen.
Last but certainly not least, the refrigerator! We need enough room between the island and cabinets to stand in front of this appliance while others pass behind you. We also need space at either side or behind to unload items. Inevitably, the one item we need is in the way back, so a counter should be in easy reach to place the gallon of milk while reaching back there. Most refrigerators have bottom drawers for vegetables, which require the door to open beyond 90 degrees. With this in mind, avoid wedging the appliance against a long corner wall!
When it comes to kitchens, function comes first and beauty will follow. As much time as families spend in this room, we cannot afford to sacrifice efficiency and effectiveness! The kitchen can assist in either bringing together or creating a divide in the household. You might be surprised at what your kitchen can do for you!
Whoever said you can’t have two cooks in the kitchen hasn’t lived my life or the lives of working families everywhere. Let’s make our kitchen function for as many cooks and helpers as needed!