Sure, that shiny new fridge looks great, but it'll quickly lose its appeal if you can't open the door without hitting the opposite counter. Before picking products, consult the National Kitchen & Bath Association's "Kitchen and Bathroom Planning Guidelines" for tips on designing a functional layout. And aim to avoid these mistakes:
Blowing off ventilation. It's hard to show off your cooking prowess if the smoke coming off the range or cooktop is too thick to see through. Besides improving indoor air quality, a range hood that is vented to the outside can help remove heat and odors. Note that over-the-range microwaves with built-in ventilation systems did not fare as well in our tests.
Not maximizing storage. It's not just the number of linear feet of cabinets that matters, but also where you put them: 48 to 72 inches of wall cabinets for glasses, plates, and bowls above the sink and dishwasher; another 48 to 72 inches for cooking dishes and supplies near the oven; and 48 to 72 inches of base cabinets for pots and pans near the cooktop. Maximize potentially wasted space by outfitting blind corners with swing-out shelves or lazy Susans, deep pantries with high-backed pull-out shelves, and drawers with full-extension glides and built-in dividers.
Oversizing the island. An island countertop that's 36 to 48 inches deep and 36 to 120 inches wide provides ample work space and enough room for an overhang for sitting. Anything deeper can be hard to use or clean. Also make sure there's at least 42 inches between the island and surrounding cabinets; otherwise, cooks won't be able to get by one another and the oven may bang into the cabinets or opposite countertop.
Not lighting the way. Even the brightest recessed ceiling and pendant lights tend to cast shadows when you're working at the counter. So plan ahead to wire for undercabinet task lighting wherever you or a family member will be dicing, doing homework, or reading a recipe.
Forgetting the garbage. Trash and recyclables each require a 30-quart container at the minimum, located ideally inside a base cabinet on the side of the sink opposite the dishwasher. That way you can simply pivot as you scrape and load the dishwasher during postmeal dish duty.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.
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