And what's in your drawers?
Updated: May 27
I see a lot of kitchen plans.
They are sketched up enthusiastically and they are waved at me in the fervent belief that there is no better plan for a kitchen this side of the Serra da Estrela.
They are undoubtedly a true reflection of the sketcher's wishes and ambitions, but very often they are flawed. Little or no account has been taken for windows opening inwards or stop-cocks or dog beds or soil and vent pipes or the need for space to open dishwashers or American fridge/freezers or RSJs in the ceiling or - and so the list goes on. But, it is still the sketcher's plan. As a designer I have to look with a sympathetic eye and try two things: one, to make the sketcher's vision work, and two, to offer another workable alternative which will achieve the same goal. Generally, after discussion and a cup of tea with the sketcher, option two tends to result. Disaster has been averted and a bank balance has been saved from serious damage - there's little more damaging to a bank balance than buying a kitchen which doesn't fit.
The problem is that people, in their enthusiasm, think 'kitchen'. That's great, but how does it fit and what is it's purpose? Let's talk storage for a minute . . . .
It is really, really important to think clearly about what you have, how you are going to use it and how you will store it when it is not being used - and think clearly now, right at the start of the planning process. So often, as with my sketchers' layouts, kitchens are planned by how they can be squished into a room and what they are going to look like - thoughts of storage seldom surface!
How many adults live in the house and how much kit will they need - will there be babies or children, will there be dogs or cats? Where is everything going to be stored? Crockery, cutlery, pots and pans, cooking utensils, packets of pasta, tins of this and that, jars of herbs and spices - all this needs to be accessible. Finding things when you need them is not as easy as it might seem and is hellishly frustrating when you can't.
How many out-of-date jars and packets do you find at the back of your kitchen cupboard? Perhaps you never do - you don't know they're there. Or perhaps you don't have anything past its use-by date because you are really, really, really good at remembering things, even without a list, and know exactly where you put the bottle of angostura bitters you had when Uncle Jimmy visited two years ago.
These days storage doesn't necessarily mean a row of boxes on legs with doors on and things stuffed inside. I am talking about purpose-built cabinets. Cabinets which have a defined storage function and are allocated to specific zones in the kitchen. Cleaning products below or by the sink; crockery in drawers close to the dishwasher; pots and pans by the hob or oven. Fixed shelving in kitchen cupboards has a function of course, but how much better to have drawers and pull-outs which move easily and effortlessly on full extension runners so you can access things right at the back?
Lifting and moving plates and dishes into and out of a kitchen cupboard is my biggest bug-bear so I always suggest having crockery in drawers - it's just so much easier and quicker. Clever units for corners, underneath the sink and on the walls can provide the same easy access and these days there are even automated open and close drawers and cupboards (if you have the budget for them). Under sink storage is another area of frustration for me, so if space is available I like to plan for drawers under the sink. A rectangular U-shaped drawer which fits around the sink bowl is great for the washing-up liquid and sponges whilst a bottom drawer can take all the other cleaning stuff we accumulate. In a drawer it's easy to see and know what we have so we don't then buy another bottle of bleach or whatever, 'just in case'.
Flexi-fit internal dividing systems in drawers can be useful too. Items are easier to find and don't get mixed up with each other. It's all out there in the market place and storage has never been more efficient. So, when you are thinking about planning your kitchen, think early on about storage and what needs to be where.
Zone your kitchen - consider perishable or consumable items, non-consumables, cooking and prep areas and cleaning and washing and allocate storage to these zones making sure that what you need is accessible easily and quickly. Remember, zoning is a good way to organise your kitchen, but it is not the be-all-and-end-all of the planning process. It is, after all, your kitchen and how you work there is your choice. Always discuss your preferences with your kitchen designer.
For example, grocery shopping needs larder units with pull out shelves and large base units with fully extending drawers (with or without dividers). It's a great way to store tinned food and dry packet food. Disregard cupboards with fixed shelves - we want to expose things not hide them. These units would usually be located close to the fridge so all foody bits are in the same zone.
Non consumables probably take up the most storage in a kitchen. These are the cutlery and crockery, Tupperware (can you still buy Tupperware?) glasses and mugs, electric gadgets like whisks, table mats and so forth. Again, use drawers, shallow cutlery style drawers and high fronted deep drawers which will take volumes and make full use of the cabinets. Drawer runners can be upgraded to take heavy-weight loads like cast iron pans.
You'll see a theme here: retrieving things from the shelf of a base unit is difficult. Bending the knees might be alright, but it's not so clever getting up again! If you have dodgy knees or a bad back then you'll need easy access. Drawers and pull outs provide the solution and I would go down that route every time. So, what are you going to keep in your drawers?
Let Kitchens in Portugal design and supply your new kitchen then you can decide . . . .