Designing the perfect environment for your family to enjoy living in is one of the most arduous but rewarding experiences you will undertake. That said, creating an outline or guideline for the task can be overwhelming when not approached systematically. Please don’t become discouraged as most of the questions and indeed the answers for your personal family’s needs are simply common sense responses to your lifestyle. Define your family’s requirements in the simplest terms first then move forward placing them into the proper perspective and priority. Separate those by need versus want especially if you have budgetary considerations.
We’ve started approaching your design process in a more analytical method and will continue here doing the same. The exterior and entry to the home has been covered in past letters and we will concentrate on the kitchen area in this installment.
The kitchen is the most important room in the home. More money is dedicated to this area than any other and is the gathering room for everyone. While the kitchen is a very important livable and functional element of the home; I don’t consider this single area any more important than the whole home, merely an important part of the whole home. I will explain further so as not to defuse the importance of the kitchen area in our design process.
The kitchen is the heart of the home and functions in most instances as the hub of activity. As such, we approach this area with your individual requirements and lifestyle. I don’t believe in all of the years that I’ve been providing design assistance to my clients that I have ever approached this area without analyzing their lifestyle. This space should be approached with conversation prior to any drawing. The client very rarely has a complete picture of every detail, element and function that can be availed to them unless we as professionals ask very pointed and direct questions. We talk about the functions, activities, type of food they enjoy, number of folks being served, and dozens of other very important points of discussion.
Everyday living activities for a family of four are different from that of a couple with no children. Folks that actively entertain with food require a more spacious environment, and in many homes the client wants the kitchen to be their showpiece. This is great, but needs to remain functional to their requirements. The basic shape of the layout of this area can be all over the board so pictures, tear sheets, friends and relatives can be a great help in establishing the basic look or feel of your “dream kitchen.” While extremely helpful, we must clearly understand how these great pictures, etc of kitchens fit your family and function of lifestyle. The old adage of “I want an island kitchen,” or “I have to have an island kitchen,” may or may not apply to your individual family. I have seen several kitchen spaces that homeowners “had to have” for many unspecified reasons; but in the final application wasn’t very well fitted for the family. Remember first and foremost, this is your home and we as the design professionals assisting you are doing our best, but simply put, we are not going to live there.
The most efficient design of a kitchen, the galley layout, doesn’t photograph well and doesn’t win many awards except in rather small homes or condos, but it works extremely well. Most restaurants throughout the world have been using this concept for centuries and have experimented with many layouts, but return to this simple concept.
We have all witnessed the use of the triangle approach, and it has served us well. I still use this concept. Rather than it being the driving element of design, I more utilize the “work station” approach. This simply means that after I’ve examined who will be using the space, what type of foods will be produced, and the lifestyle of the homeowners, then and only then do I start looking for the “work station” and how they will be utilized and by whom. I will define this further by an example I just recently completed.
My client who consisted of, husband, wife, and two children, one young girl 10, and an older boy 14 is the subject of this scenario. The first thing to remember here is by the time the home is completed, the children will have aged to 12 and 16; so always plan ahead. The husband is a corporate lawyer, the wife a professional event planner, and the children are very active in sports, school, and social with a lot of friends. This family constantly moves through the home at a quick pace. Breakfast is quick, lunch is rare, and dinner is a complete meal and only time for family. You would think that with the level of activity of this family unit all they would require is a microwave and phone numbers for delivery and several take out options; but not so. The husband always has coffee and a muffin with the wife while catching up on her emails, appointments, etc. The son pops something in the toaster and has a glass of milk, and then he’s out the door. Little sister “must” have her peanut butter waffle most mornings with orange juice. Lunch is mostly nonexistent in this home except on Saturday and Sunday, and everyone pretty much does their own. Dinner on the other hand is a well balanced and planned event. All members of the family participate in the production of the meal and clean up. Simply put, it is truly family time. The day is discussed and needs of each family member addressed most of the time. The other important factor in the mix is that this family entertains both adults and families in their home on a weekly basis. They have both professional adult guests and the entire soccer team with parents for pizza. By the way, this home is approximately 3000 square feet, not so large, just well planned. The kitchen serves as a gathering area as well as very functional in all of these applications. An island is a pivotal point for this layout, and functions well. A prep sink with a two burner cooktop is a major work station on the island in this kitchen. Actually, we have three specific workstations in this layout, and this family functions well in this space. This eat-in live-in kitchen environment works well for many but carefully examine your individual family and your lifestyle before trying to adapt another layout from someone else to accommodate your family.
We have all adapted to a kitchen environment that we weren’t compatible with, but when you have the opportunity to truly design your “dream kitchen” take the time to define your requirements.
Should you want to discuss any of this further, please do not hesitate to contact me !
Until next time enjoy the process!
KEN PIEPER AND ASSOCIATES, LLC