Kitchen design for life
SUBMITTED BY JAN RUTGERS Vestabul Design
Whether you are building a new home or renovating, the kitchen is typically the most expensive room in your home to complete. Because of this, the kitchen is a room that is not often renovated. You may paint the walls, change out the backsplash or add a new appliance over the years, but a “to-the-studs” overhaul usually occurs every twenty to thirty years. This makes Universal Design something you should consider upfront in the planning of your new kitchen.
Here are some statistics to think about before you start your kitchen planning:
• Historical kitchen guidelines were developed for a 5'4 able-bodied, non-elderly female (who represented 15 per cent of the North American population).
• Men, women, and especially children are now sharing in kitchen activities.
• By 2020, over 20 per cent of our population will be over 65.
• The numbers of people with disabilities are growing.
When you look at these statistics it starts to become clear that we should design our kitchens for our life time not just our prime time.
The definition of Universal Kitchen Design is “to design so that most people can use the space regardless of their level of ability or their size.” Many will think that this concept only applies to the elderly or persons using a wheelchair but this definition would apply to a 6'4 male with a bad back, a 5'6 female eight months pregnant or a 4’ 2” 10-year-old making their own breakfast. Universal Design allows people to safely use the space and comfortably age-inplace by making the most important room in the home adaptable to different and changing needs.
A good first step in your kitchen design is to plan the work triangle. In large kitchens, this will limit needless steps between the sink, range and refrigerator making the work area more ergonomic. Plan your main work triangle to be between 12 feet to 18 feet in total for all three sides. Multiple work triangles or zones can also be designed into a single kitchen to allow a variety of people to use the space at the same time.
One way to make your layout efficient for a lifetime kitchen is to incorporate long expanses of connected countertop along your main work triangle. This allows items to be “dragged” rather than carried between centers conserving energy. Not having to carry items across the room can make a difference if you are on crutches from a sports injury or are using a walker due to ageing.
In the other work zones provide a variety of countertop heights. This makes it easier to roll out pie crusts or mix cookie dough at a lower countertop height while chopping tends to be more efficient at a standard countertop height. By including a higher countertop you allow tall cooks to help out more comfortably.
Always include a variety of flexible lighting in your kitchen design: natural, general, task and decorative. As we age we need brighter lighting in our work areas. Planning proper lighting, in the beginning, ensures that you will always have enough illumination.
Colour schemes are important. Lighter kitchen colour schemes are easier on your eyes as you grow older. Dark colours absorb light and can be fatiguing when working in the space. Light colours reflect light and help with overall illumination. Lighter doesn't necessarily mean all white. Combining white with warm tones or choosing white counters on medium toned cabinets will give you the light reflecting qualities needed.
Easy accessibility of supplies is a must for a Lifetime Kitchen. All base cabinets should be full extension drawers or rollout shelves. For upper cabinetry include a few cabinets that extend down to the countertop, this ensures that everyone using the space has access to critical supplies. There are also options for cabinet accessories, such as drawer inserts, condiment racks, magic corners and pull down shelves that can be included in your design to make the room as functional as possible.
Working with a professional Kitchen Designer to incorporate the Universal Design features will make your kitchen more enjoyable to work in, with the added bonus of knowing that you will be designing a Lifetime Kitchen for yourself or anyone who purchases your home in the future.