Kitchen Space Planning

Define work zones for each task you will do in the room, like cooking, supply storage and food prep

By: Kristen Hampshire

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Every kitchen functions differently. Beyond the basics — providing a place to store, cook and eat food — the kitchen serves as the new “great” room in the home. Depending on how you use the space — how you live your life — you will set goals for the kitchen design. For example, if you rarely cook at home but desire a beautiful space to entertain, you will make different appliance and floor plan choices than a family who needs to accommodate growing children, or a couple that cooks gourmet entrees.

“If a client comes to me and says, ‘We are a family that loves to mess around in the kitchen together,’ that is something very different than someone who says to me, ‘We do a lot of entertaining,’” says Deborah Pierce, principal, Pierce Lamb Architects, West Newton, Mass.

Before embarking on a kitchen remodeling project, define your lifestyle. What do you need in a kitchen? What appliances, cabinets, surfaces and extras are on your wish list? What needs to happen in the kitchen on a daily basis? Where does your kitchen flunk out in functionality? What works well in your existing space? Download and complete the Day in the Life of Your Kitchen Questionnaire to help determine your kitchen needs.

If you think big-picture, you’ll avoid the biggest mistake: “Looking at the kitchen as a set of parts rather than a whole,” says Mary Jo Peterson, principal, Mary Jo Peterson Inc.

This is because the kitchen has evolved from a utilitarian space to a household hub. We want more from our kitchens—we want them to really work for us and, at the same time, provide an appealing backdrop for all that happens there.

“Kitchens have become the main gathering area of the house, so clients are requesting kitchens that are functional but beautiful,” says Jorge Castillo of Jorge Castillo Design in Miami, Fla., and Shaker Heights, Ohio. “We are basically putting a family room, breakfast room and kitchen in all in one space.”

Modern kitchens simply do more than their traditional predecessors.

Pierce says that the generous kitchens of the 1990s and early 2000s, “a period where kitchens got bigger and bigger,” introduced possibilities to this former food-cook space. “During that time, we had the luxury of including more in our kitchens—the sky was the limit,” Pierce says. “That gave us a chance to rethink the kitchen in a way that wasn’t happening before.”

Essentially, that meant re-evaluating the traditional work-triangle: refrigerator, sink and stove. Now, designers plan kitchens based on “activity centers” or “zones.”

Work Zones

The kitchen should include work zones for the following:

Foods. Storage for groceries, including non-perishable items, refrigerated and frozen foods

Dishes, Etc. Space for dishes, glasses, cutlery and odds-and-ends, such as scissors or desk items

Cleaning. An area for recycling/waste management with recycling bins and trash cans, and space for household cleaning items

Food Preparation. The main work area with access to utensils, knives, small appliances, cutting boards, mixing bowls, etc.

Cooking. Where you’ll find pots, pans, bakeware, cooling racks, etc.


Additionally, a kitchen might also provide spaces for these activities:

Entertaining. An island, peninsula or other bar area that can accommodate stools a serve as a stand-or-sit space for cocktails or dinner. Or, an entertainment configuration might include a conversation zone with lounge chairs and a low table or versatile ottoman.

Dining. A place where family can eat breakfast together, or where a household can host holiday dinner (depending on goals for the space).

Working (Home Office). Either dedicated work station or hidden features like a drop-down touch-screen computer.

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