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Feeling Flexible: The Easy-to-Use Kitchen

Designer Melissa Wilson rolls out a user-friendly kitchen for a couple of dedicated home chefs using an angled wall, pivoting table and lots of easy-access storage.

Two cooks still might spoil the broth in the easy-to-use kitchen designed by Insignia Kitchen and Bath's Melissa Wilson, but they'll be able to work without getting in each other's way while doing so. Melissa, who works out of Barrington, Ill., designed a space for an avid cook and his wife, who also cooks as well as cleans and who really values access and convenience due to a bad back.

"We had a shaky beginning because they wanted something different but had a tough time communicating it," she says. "Once I realized they really meant it, I let my thought processes go and was able to take them up on the challenge."

At the heart of Melissa's accessible and decidedly different kitchen are angled walls, a pivoting work table and separate cooking and cleanup spaces. Here, she shares some lessons learned in the design process and tips for adapting her style to other kitchens.

Melissa employed 2 x 4's and drywall to add an angled wall that added interest to the rectangular kitchen, lengthened the available wall surface and created more space for cabinets behind the new curved surface and the existing wall. "The most important design benefit, though, is that it created smaller, separate work areas in the kitchen space, which you don't get with the designs that are just one big island in the center of the kitchen," Melissa says. "That allows the couple to cook at the same time in this space that's the center of their home, which is particularly important on the weekends when the kitchen is their base."

The designated cleaner among Melissa's client couple had a bad back, and making the kitchen more comfortable for her inspired several amenities. "I used a two-drawer dishwasher, which could be placed higher than usual so she didn't have to bend as much and also pulled out for convenient loading," says Melissa. "The cabinetry also included custom pullout shelves, which means you can pull stored items to you — you're not bending and digging."

Another one of Melissa's innovations that made the kitchen both easier to use and more accommodating for multiple cooks is a pivoting table that can swing to become a work area or a seating area — whatever's needed. "It all sounds so simple now, but I agonized over the design for weeks," Melissa says. "So they wouldn't wear and tear the wood floors, I created a dark circle of porcelain tile for the wheels to pivot on."

"In any kitchen, you need to define your work zones — the prep area, the cleanup area, the dining area if you're going to have one," says Melissa. "This kitchen was very large, so the angled wall I used to delineate different spaces didn't detract from the space. But a lot of people with smaller kitchens say, 'I don't have room for work areas.' But think about it. You have the same functions as people with larger kitchens. You can still place everything for one task in one area, like linking the dishwasher, the sink and the soap in one spot for cleanup.

"Designers call it 'point of use' organization and it really makes for a more functional kitchen design. Store 'em where you use 'em!"

Meet the designer:
Melissa Wilson asks her clients for emotional information. "I want to know how they want their place to feel, what their dream is, even if they can't have the whole thing," she says. Designing for the kitchen and bath industry for 18 years, most recently for Insignia Kitchen & Bath, Melissa is a certified bath designer and particularly likes to take on remodeling jobs. She describes her role as that of a "guide, never a dictator" and has worked around many restrictions, memorably for a longtime client who was really into wave radio and required her to place walls, cabinets and appliances in a kitchen with the primary goal that his radios would have reception in the kitchen.

Resources
Melissa Wilson
Insignia Kitchen & Bath
Barrington, Ill.
www.InsigniaKitchenandBath.com

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