The Kitchen Zone



What Do Chefs and Interior Designers Agree On When It Comes to Kitchen Design?

(ARA) - What does it take to create a dream kitchen? One that's beautifully designed, high functioning and best of all, accessible for every home cook and every budget?

The Art Institutes recently posed this scenario to several of its top interior design faculty and chef instructors, challenging each group of experts to come up with a top ten list of "must-haves," either for a new or renovated kitchen.

Before we get to the list, let's hear how our experts weigh in on the workhorse of the home -- the kitchen.

According to Chef Chris Lauderdale of The Art Institute of California - Orange County, it's not the money a homeowner spends on a renovation, or a brand new kitchen. It's the thought and planning that goes on before. "One evening, I was catering a party at a home where the host kept asking me what I thought of his kitchen. He had just spent $30,000 on a complete remodel. Everything looked great, very high design, but we were having a terrible time cooking because it had been designed for style, not functionality," said Lauderdale.

So carefully planning your new kitchen for a successful outcome is key. But you also have to survive the process. Mom and kitchen designer Denese Menard, also from The Art Institute of California - Orange County suggests that before jumping into the "three R's," as she calls them -- remove, replace or remodel -- "plan for an alternative food preparation area, including refrigeration and dishwashing." If you don't own a grill or microwave, says Menard, this would be a good time to invest in one. "Take-out food will grow old with your spouse and kids," she warns.

If you do replace, all our designers recommend shopping around for appliances, and tracking down the best deals possible. And keep in mind the real-life use of your kitchen. Says Gerald Brennan of The Illinois Institute of Art - Chicago, "everybody these days loves stainless steel, but it's hard to clean and really high maintenance. If you have kids, you'll see every fingerprint." Instead, Brennan recommends black appliances to his clients. "Black is more 'dressed' than white and not so antiseptic looking," he says.

And what about those professional ranges? For Chef Scott Swartz, chef instructor at The Art Institute of New York City, while professional ranges are great, "they're not worth your while if you can't use them to their potential." Instead, buy a commercial grade stove with big enough burners to generate adequate heat. A spin on the average kitchen cook top that Swartz likes is a Jenn Air stove that converts to a griddle and a grill because it's multi-functioning.

In addition to appliances, cabinetry is one of the biggest investments you can make in a new or renovated kitchen. Once you select a material and style, says Sofeeka Hasiuk, interior design instructor with The Art Institute of Philadelphia, beware of gimmicky kitchen cabinetry that draws you in. For example, she says, "a roll out double trash base cabinet is great for recycling and garbage, and they even come with foot releases -- which is great when you're throwing away a take-out chicken container. " But a wine storage cabinet or cubby? Not the greatest of ideas for the kitchen, says Hasiuk. "It's a little warm for long-term wine storage in the kitchen."

Bottom line though, aren't kitchens all about preparing food? Yes, says Chef William Niemer of The Art Institutes International Minnesota. But whether you're an infrequent cook or a cooking fanatic, "you want your kitchen to be a place you, and your family, want to be." For that reason, Niemer recommends, buying the best you can afford. "Quality cabinetry and countertops will last longer, and make your kitchen function better over the long haul, not to mention be more pleasing to work in," says Niemer. But, he says, don't forget the importance of good lighting, counter space and the placement of waste containers.

Now here's the list. As you can see, our chefs didn't demand a state-of-the-art, 6-burner, professional stove, nor did interior designers specify granite countertops or imported Italian tiles for backsplashes.

Their number one priority for a kitchen that's beautiful to look at and easy to cook in? Work triangulation.

Dan Noyes, Department Director for Interior Design at The Art Institutes International Minnesota, explains work triangulation as the flow among the sink, the refrigerator and the stove, and when it comes to great kitchen design, the functionality of this trio is number one. As Noyes explains it, "The triangle between sink, fridge and cooking must work for the individuals using the space. It used to be that the distance of the triangle between the three was to be a certain distance apart. Now we use more flexibility but cater to the individual needs of the user and the space left to work with." For example, says Noyes, a left-handed cook might want the fridge to the right of the sink due to the need to work in a counter-clockwise motion.

To end up with a great kitchen on any budget, our experts encourage you to consult a professional. Kitchen design help is available at many large home centers. In addition, you can locate a professional interior designer by contacting an organization like the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) or a local design school. Consult with friends and neighbors who've recently gone through the process and get their recommendations too.

And now for the Top Ten List (from ten to one with number one the most important feature) for creating a kitchen that's great to look at and fun to cook in:

From The Art Institutes Interior Design faculty:

10. Walls and ceiling finish 9. Quality and craft of floor finish 8. Quality plumbing 7. Proper circuit isolation for electrical 6. Configuration of room 5. Natural light 4. Indirect light 3. Task light 2. Quality countertop material 1. Triangulation of work area (cook surface to refrigerator to sink)

From The Art Institutes Culinary Arts Program faculty:

10. Adequate storage for cooking equipment 9. Adequate number of electrical outlets 8. Height of counters 7. Amount of counter space 6. Countertop material 5. Quality cabinetry 4. Ventilation 3. Waste container placement 2. Work surface lighting 1. Triangulation of stove, refrigerator and sink.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Art Institutes (, with 30 education institutions located throughout North America, provide an important source of design, media arts, fashion and culinary professionals. The Art Institutes have provided career-oriented education programs for 40 years, with more than 140,000 graduates.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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