I wrote yesterday about the kitchen work triangle and how it was a bit outdated. So has there been any more recent research into kitchen ergonomics? Well, yes, there has been some – notably by the kitchen component manufacturer Blum.
Blum make high quality drawer boxes, hinges, drawer runners and the like (as shown above in their UK headquartes at Milton Keynes) – so they’re bound to think that storage is important. It’s true that drawers and pull-outs allow you easier access to stored items than standard depth cupboards (especially if you have any trouble bending down). They’re not the only answer, though. I also recommend shallow depth, tallish larders – which are low tech and give a lot of easily accessible storage.
Blum have done some research amongst owners of brand new kitchens, which shows that 60% wish they’d had more accessible storage in their new kitchen and a massive 80% still store kitchen items outside the kitchen. Of course, that might be because they have tiny kitchens, but it’s still a bit worrying. Are kitchen purchasers being persuaded to buy their kitchens without thinking properly about the storage?
If you’re buying a kitchen from a supplier with a so-called “free” design service, then you may not be able to take the plan away to study – initially. Once you’ve decided to buy, though, and have paid your deposit, you should be able to review your plan in more detail. Ask to take it home and consider exactly what’s going to be stored where – before the units are actually made or ordered by the retailer – that way you can make adjustments, if necessary. Bear in mind, though, that adding extra drawers or pull-outs will result in a price adjustment (yes, upwards – of course!).
Blum have done further research, using consumer focus groups, which has led them to a planning system called “Dynamic Space“. They separate out kitchen items into five zones: consumables (food and drink); non-consumables (such as crockery, glasses, plastic storage containers, place mats); cleaning (both materials – and bins for rubbish and re-cycling); preparation (mixers, mixing bowls, knives, chopping boards); and cooking (pans, baking trays, cooking utensils).
The zones obviously also include the appropriate appliances. The cleaning zone would encompass both the sink and the dishwasher, whilst the cooking zone would include the oven and hob and smaller appliances like the microwave, and any breadmaker, slow cooker and the like. Blum also suggest that their zones be planned in the order I listed them. That way the non-consumables will be next to the cleaning area on one side (so unloading the dishwasher is easy) whilst the preparation is on the other side (close to the sink).
The only real argument I have with Blum’s Dynamic Space system is that it does rather rely on the standard kitchen layouts (L-shape, U-shape, galley etc.) and it doesn’t take account of all the other uses that we put our kitchens to these days and the fact that large, modern kitchens are much more complicated to design. We tend to have rooms that have spread into odd shaped areas with an extension or two and we also want to socialise, eat, drink, relax, have the kids play and even study in our kitchens. I put a picture of part of one of my designs above - which does have a china cupboard next to the dishwasher - but the whole kitchen is shown below and it's not quite such a good fit to Blum's zones.
My plan does use the space well, I think (well, I would wouldn't I?) and it certainly works a lot better than a previous plan the lady of the house had considered (from a kitchen showroom) which included a rather inconvenient island, parallel to the table and a long way from the ovens. My plan is just not neat enough to fit Blum's zones (and the lady of the house changed my plan a bit anyway and moved the china cupboard, but she did say ... "Thanks for the design, we love it").
Whatever it’s shortcomings (and I may not have done it justice here), the Dynamic Space concept is still a great improvement on the old kitchen triangle … and it could be a great help, if you’re looking for some guidelines on how to plan out the space in a fairly small, regular kitchen. If you've got a much bigger space, then try creating your own list of zones, based on how you want to use the kitchen (especially if you have a kitchen diary - as suggested yesterday). You might want a drinks preparation area and you might want two food preparation areas; one for real cooking and one for snacks from the fridge. You might want a homework zone or a sitting down with a cup of coffee and a cookbook zone. The best type of kitchen design is one that's tailored specifically for you and your family.
If you'd like Majjie's help to design your kitchen please have a look at our Kitchen Design Services pages. We provide an affordable and professional service, which can be tailored to your needs - and we don't want to sell you a kitchen!