Step By Step Guide – How to Choose Your Kitchen Layout

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People often have a dozen or more (brilliant?) ideas on their perfect kitchen. This is more so if you are an HGTV enthusiast, in which case, your ideal place of cooking may look something like this…

  • Dreamy white kitchen cabinets? Check. 
  • Big marble-top Island at the center? Check. 
  • Top line steel appliances? Check. 
  • Suits all your needs AND fits within your budget? Hmm… 

And this is where your fantasy comes to a startling halt, as you realize the definite gap between HGTV your unavoidable reality! 

Fortunately, choosing a kitchen layout can be a hassle-free process when you follow this simple, step-by-step guide. 

Define your kitchen’s purpose

This may seem obvious at first glance. After all, a kitchen’s basic purpose is to facilitate your cooking, right? And there lays your first major puzzle – to decode your cooking

What kind of a cook are you? 

  • Do you prepare elaborate meals, frequently and for many people? If so, you are more suited to an L or U shaped kitchen, with a large island at the center. 
  • Do you get through the week by heating many pre-made takeaway lunches or dinners? In this case, a straightforward I-shaped kitchen may be all you need. 
  • Do you need a full-blown convection oven with all the bells and whistles for baking, or will a simple microwave suit your heating needs? This decision will obviously factor into the overall cost. 
  • What kitchen appliances will you need, beyond the basics (sink, cooktop, and fridge)? Also, do you need to factor a new gas line for any of your appliances? Again, these decisions will affect your budget.

Understanding your kitchen’s purpose will help in choosing a kitchen layout that works perfectly for your unique needs. 

Define your budget

It’s easy to get carried away when designing your dream kitchen, especially if you don’t have a defined budget. It’s just as easy to feel heartbroken, when you later realize how financially elusive your ideal kitchen seems! For this reason, set a clear budget to fit in all your kitchen construction and remodeling needs (including fitted appliances), so you don’t feel tempted to overspend. 

With this step, you may also realize the need to compromise on some of your requirements. Don’t lose heart at this time, as your dream kitchen need not be built all at once, and can take shape organically and gradually. 

Define accessibility – open or closed

Almost nobody wants an isolated kitchen in these modern times. But, a completely open kitchen, while attractive for entertaining, also requires a fair amount of space. This is more so if you want to factor an Island workspace in the center. As a result, it is best to come up with a clever compromise, keeping in mind the space around your marked kitchen area. 

Here, also consider your current plumbing and electrical points. If you are remodeling around an existing space, it can get very expensive to move electrical or plumbing. Hence, you are better off making the best out of your current layout, while also introducing simple tricks to make your kitchen more practical and accessible. 

Define a basic layout for the holy trinity 

Regardless of how pretty a kitchen looks, if the all-important work triangle of sink-cooktop-refrigerator isn’t designed in a practical manner, then your expensive kitchen will be virtually useless. To avoid this catastrophe, begin by designing the first draft of your work-triangle within your kitchen’s space. This will also help you determine the final layout shape for your dream kitchen. 

Here are some tips to get this right: 

  • Your triangle design should give you quick access to important appliances, and also factor space to move. (The last thing you want is to feel claustrophobic in your own kitchen!) With this, draft a triangle layout that fits within a 2-3 feet cumulative walking distance. 
  • The cooktop + oven should see the least amount of foot traffic (for safety reasons). For this reason, it is often delegated to the innermost wall of the kitchen space. However, it still needs to be at least 20 inches away from a door or window. It is also prudent to leave at least 12 inches of counter space on either side of the cooktop for ease of access. 
  • Leave enough space on (any) one side of the sink, to fit in the dishwasher. Also, this needs to have at least 36 inches of space in front of it, so you do not accidentally bump yourself when loading or unloading dishes.
  • Avoid placing the dishwasher close to the refrigerator, even if it works within your work triangle, as layout interferes with your fridge’s de-condensation capacity. Instead, move your work triangle in such a way to keep the fridge and dishwasher separate. 
  • Appliances like microwave, coffee maker and juicer which are more frequently used can be placed outside the work triangle. (Likewise with upper cabinets.) This will also help reduce foot-traffic within the work-triangle. 

Define the overall layout shape – L-shaped, U-shaped, I-shaped or Galley 

This is an exciting stage, as you ponder on the ideal layout that works best for your kitchen space. 

Your options include: 

1. L-shaped kitchens: 

These are the most popular, as they only need 2 walls. In that sense, they work well as semi-open kitchens. Also, it is easy to fit the sink + dishwasher on one side of the wall, and cooktop + fridge on the other side, without having the appliances interfere with each other. Finally, if you need additional storage or working space, this layout is the best type to factor in a kitchen-island at the center. 

2. U-shaped kitchens:

These are a lot like L-shaped kitchens, with an island at one end. For this reason, it is considered a premier layout ideal for heavy cooking and entertaining needs. 

3. I-shaped kitchens

If space is a constraint (like city apartments), the I-shaped kitchen is your best bet. This layout works best for people who prefer microwave dinners and takeaway, over daily cooking. As you can guess, this layout comes with accessibility limitations as your work triangle may be more of a straight line! To offset this, you can place a slim dinner table (that doubles as a workspace) in front of your kitchen.

4. Galley-shaped kitchens

The galley shaped kitchen is like clubbing 2 I-shaped kitchens, giving you a fair bit of counter space, and room for plenty of cabinetry. However, it can tend to get narrow and hence dark, especially if there is no room for a window or door to allow natural light. So, if this is your choice of kitchen layout, make sure you factor in plenty of (artificial) lighting. 

Once you have defined your layout shape, it is also easy to define your kitchen cabinetry (both upper and lower). Here, just remember to leave at least 18-24 inches of head-space around important appliances (like your cooktop, sink, etc.), without upper cabinets, so you do not bump accidentally yourself. 

Consult a professional

Once you have your kitchen layout in place, it is always advisable to run it through a professional, like a construction engineer or a certified designer. They will be more updated on trends, measurements, and other limitations that could affect your kitchen. They may also be able to help you with tempting deals, thus offsetting the cost of their professional fees. 

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