Glitches in kitchens – Hindrances abound to good, practical design |

Glitches in kitchens – Hindrances abound to good, practical design

After more than 20 years designing kitchens, I can almost guarantee at least one of my pet peeves will come up for discussion in any given remodeling or new construction project.

These are usually based on common oversights, preconceived notions, or past experiences. For example, someone who has a strong aversion to using stainless steel sinks usually has had a bad experience with a cheaply made one that was tinny, noisy and prone to denting.

A high quality, 18 or 20 gauge sink that is well insulated will be a pleasure to use for many years to come. And stainless steel sinks are so much easier on your glass and dishware than cast iron or porcelain sinks are.

A big sticking point with me is microwave placement. One client insisted I design her microwave oven over her wall oven in her new kitchen, as this was its location in her previous, much smaller kitchen.

Over a wall oven is fine, but in this case she now has to walk around a large island and across the floor to reach it. All those extra steps negates the time saved by using her microwave – the sole reason for its existence.

Micros need to be placed at a convenient height as well. It’s really a safety issue. If it’s too high, you (or your child) will not be able to see, tend or remove food safely. Imagine using a cooktop burner that is shoulder height or higher!

And when placed over the range or cooktop, (usually in conjunction with a hood) the chances of accidents increase when reaching over burners. Located there, micros are too high for safety and – conversely – limit the space over the burners for tall pots and boilers.

I recommend microwaves to be positioned no higher than 42 to 48 inches above the floor (about elbow height) and not over burners. Of course they can be placed lower; in a base cabinet, for instance, where there is a convenient landing space right there above it.

Another often ‘misplaced’ appliance is the dishwasher. Two situations require special consideration. If there is not enough room in the middle of the “U” for both a sink cabinet and dishwasher, the dishwasher can be placed perpendicular to the sink – but not immediately after the corner is turned. Move it down at least 12 or 15 inches.

If you don’t, there is no place to stand while you load and unload, since the dishwasher door is swung down in front of the sink cabinet. Sinks placed on the angle (see photo) demand the same kind of treatment. Locate the dishwasher down the run for room to stand. The space between can be used to store trays vertically or house a small stack of drawers.

Do you ever wonder why your drawers get all gunky? You are most likely just another a victim of “Skimpy Countertop Overhang.” This is where stuff from your counter drips and sifts down into the top row of drawers because the countertop doesn’t extend far enough over the cabinetry. Tile counters are the most common culprits.

There should be one and half inches of overhang measured from the front of the cabinet box to the outside edge of the counter itself. Since some drawer fronts are thicker than others, the person responsible for fabricating your new countertop will need to factor in that extra thickness for the final overall countertop dimension.

Another annoyance is standing in front of the kitchen sink with a beautiful view ahead and having to look at an obstructing window frame or divider. Try to plan for the window to have three sections; two operable side sections with the center fixed – allowing an unobstructed view. You could also have a double hung window placed directly in front of the sink with two others flanking it, if space allows.

And don’t feel compelled to center the sink under a window. Treat the sink and dishwasher as a unit and place the window’s open area directly in front the sink.

And is there any storage in your kitchen that is less useful than that tiny, shallow, hard-to-reach cabinet over the refrigerator? You can bring it out two feet or so, run some side panels to the floor and achieve a great-looking built-in appearance. Who wants to keep that exposed refrigerator top dusted anyway? This extra-deep cabinet is the perfect place to vertically store those big serving trays or other large, flat items. Just make sure the opening size (cavity that the refrigerator slides into) allows for sufficient top and side clearances.


Karen Austin, a home economist and independent designer certified by the National Kitchen and Bath Association, has designed area kitchen and baths since 1983. You can reach her at Creative Kitchens & Baths, 272-4963.

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