Building a Good Foundation Through Smart Space Planning

I've been in the process of revamping my website and branding materials over the last couple of weeks. While elements of the process are enjoyable, like the visual aspects, picking images, and choosing fonts and colors, some parts are time consuming and more mundane.

But, it made me think about how the process is very similar and can be compared to space planning. It is the foundation. The layer that is looked at in black and white, that builds the bones for what goes on top. It's all the fun stuff that sparkles, shines, and looks really pretty.

It seemed appropriate to talk a little about the basics of space planning and kitchen design. Design elements are important in their own right but how a kitchen functions is the make or break reality to good kitchen design. For me, the space planning element is one of my favorite pieces of renovation and design work. It is colorful, in its own way. It is full of energy, created, in my imagination when thinking about how a space is used, how traffic patterns weave their way through the space and what makes it more livable to its' occupants.

The Working Kitchen

When starting your planning it is important to give careful consideration to how the space will be used. What is your cooking style? What appliances are important for you to have? Will the kitchen also be an entertaining space? Do you need specific zones mapped out for specific tasks?

The Traditional Triangle or the Work Station Concept

Everyone has heard of the "kitchen triangle." Traditionally, the stove, sink and refrigerator are placed at points of a triangle to ensure efficient movement in the space. In our contemporary world, we have added more appliances and entertaining to the kitchen mix, which has changed the kitchen design landscape and language. Often the kitchen triangle still works for smaller kitchens, and one or possibly two cooks. But, the "work station" concept is a better design plan for larger, busier kitchens. This concept takes the approach of separate stations for tasks, such as preparation, storage, and baking areas to name a few. Often these areas are centered around a major appliance and supply a landing area of at least 15-18 inches of adjacent counter surface.

Islands and Their Location

Islands continue to be popular and will continue to be so in my opinion for a variety of reasons. They enable functional traffic flow, provide additional work surfaces, seating options, and look beautiful in a larger kitchen space. 

I am a fan of same level surfaces. I believe that it creates better function, flow, and aesthetics to the space. Some like different levels so one can hide dirty dishes and the like. My motto is "clean as you go," taught to me by my father many, many years ago. But, then again I am also a fan of everything in its' place and beautiful aesthetics...but enough on that tangent.

Islands also create space for customized details like prep sinks, second dishwashers, warming drawers, built-in wine refrigerators and microwaves and decorative storage. Always allow for at least 42 inches of space around your island for ease of movement and appliance door openings.  I think that every kitchen, if possible should have an island either built-in or provided as a piece of furniture.  This is one of my favorite elements of kitchen design.


In order for a kitchen to function properly and feel good it must be well lit. Good lighting is layered. It is a mix of different types of light, task, ambient, accent and decorative. Good kitchen lighting design does not come from a single light source. Think about can lighting, pendants and under-cabinet lighting. And, finally adding dimmers on all your switches is worth the small up charge.