Part Three – The Rest of the Story

by Geoffrey Butler, AIA

Remember the movie “Moonstruck” with Cher? That kitchen, where the family got together, was the focal point for much of their life and the dining table was in the middle of the kitchen. That was a big old house, and the kitchen was the heart. You cooked, cleaned, served and ate right there. You did it together and you talked to each other. We are moving back to that now with the large “living kitchens” that we are building.

So, we have the front end of the kitchen – the food prep and cooking – previously explained, but then there is the back end. As part of my therapy to relieve stress from work, I have embraced cooking enthusiastically. I have, however, learned that if you do not clean your pots and pans as you cook, you will have a problem after the meal.

We have the pots and pans from the food preparation as well as the dishes from the meal. They all come home to roost, and as I said before, if the sink is full of pots, pans and cooking utensils you will be stacking stuff everywhere. The end result is that the poor soul faced with clean-up (or KP Duty) faces a formidable task.

The kitchen sink was always a double sink when I was growing up. Before dishwashers were standard, the sinks had two bowls so you could have a bowl of soapy water and another bowl for rinsing. One bowl had a disposal in it to scrape the food scraps into and this was also doubling for the clean rinse. In commercial food service facilities we put three huge vat sinks in to do this.

Now, we are told by our plumbers what we can put down the disposal – nothing. Anything we put down there will inevitably clog it up and they get to come out and clean it out with a machine and charge us a ton of bucks. Notable “no-nos” include pasta, rice, grease of any sort, potato peels, etc. But shoving everything that doesn’t make a grinding noise down there is so ingrained in our heads that we will put them in and just plan on calling a plumber on a periodic basis – they need a steady source of revenue anyway.

The dishwasher will need to be right by the sink so you can rinse and load without dribbling water all over the floor (most times it is on the right hand side of the sink to suit right handed people). We are now seeing some kitchens with two dishwashers to handle large crowds at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Some have a conventional full door dishwasher and the newer drawer dishwashers for smaller loads. From the dishwasher, the dishes and utensils have to be put up so that cabinets serving this storage function need to be right there nearby to save steps. Now this is where the functions overlap. You need the dishes and silverware nearby the serving areas and the pots and cooking utensils near the cooking area and the cleaning areas (sink and dishwasher) right there, too. Are you seeing the problem? You have everything that has to happen in one spot.

The best way to tell if you have a layout that works is to take your plan and then locate the refrigerator/freezer, the range/oven and the sink/dishwasher. Draw a line between the three and check the length of the lines. A good set will have length lines in an equilateral triangle. This means that the travel distance is balanced. However, if the lengths of the legs of this triangle are really long, you have balance but you are still going to be worn out at the end of the meal preparation process (or you need an assistant).

So what does this mean to the lucky people that actually get an opportunity to create a new kitchen or remodel an old one? This means that you really need to sit down with your architect and talk through how you cook, how you live and what you want. You have a chance to plan something that you will live with for many years and if you plan right, all the way down to the size and location of the drawers, cabinets and even the location of the food processor, you can have a wonderful place that you can enjoy living in for many years.