A kitchen is one wide open possibility. You may think of kitchen design at its most basic: a collection of appliances and cabinets in one or another order. But where the appliances go, and how the cabinets are organized for function can mean the difference between a kitchen that really works for you, and one that causes endless frustration. Hiring a professional kitchen designer is the best way to make sure you end up with the former instead of suffering through the latter.
Beyond where your sink goes and how many drawers you have next to the dishwasher, there are some less obvious considerations that may not even be on your radar. Here are a few to keep in mind that could improve your kitchen’s form and function.
1. Outlets They are required by code, but that doesn’t mean they need to get in your way. Consider plugmould, which sits at the top of the backsplash, concealed by the cabinets. We often install it on a 45 degree angle so it’s easy to plug in.
New pop-up outlet strips that install in your countertop provide a way to meet code if you have a long run of windows and no backsplash. Finally, consider installing the outlets horizontally, and with a low-impact color (custom to match tile, or black or stainless steel) so that they blend into your backsplash.
2. Air switch Old school garbage disposals have their switch either on the backsplash or under the sink cabinet. This leads to messy, wet backsplashes, and wet hands on the cabinet doors, which often leads to early failure of the cabinet finish. A nifty alternative is the air switch, a counter-mounted button next to the sink that is easily cleaned and comes in the same finishes as most fixtures.
3. Garbage, recycling and compost
Most cabinet companies now offer a trash/recycling combo pullout for lower cabinets.
This eliminates the need for a stand-alone trash can elsewhere in the kitchen. If you locate it in front of your food prep area, you can even sweep trash right into the can.
Take it one step further with an in-counter compost. Blanco makes a nice model that is easily removed for emptying and cleaning.
4. Magic corner. Yes, it is magic, and it will remind you of a transformer, but this hardware made by Hafele will work wonders for lower corner cabinets formerly relegated to being caves that swallow up little-used dishes. You have to see it to believe it, and Hafele makes that possible on their website.
5. Vent your exhaust hood Too many kitchens suffer from poor air quality because while they have hoods with a fan, many of them either don’t vent all the way to the outside of the house, or are recirculating. If you want the smoke, steam and smells to leave your house, make sure you give it a way to get out.
6. Remote water shutoff If your fridge is built in and has an icemaker, you may want to consider a water shutoff valve in the lower next door cabinet. This will allow for a swift shutoff of the water should there be a leak or another problem with the fridge.
7. Built-in or drawer microwave
Why take up valuable counter space when you can build your microwave into your cabinets? New drawer microwaves offer an even more versatility by making it possible to install below counter level without the trouble of reading controls on the face of the microwave.
8. LED tape lights
There is a new option in under-cabinet lighting. Low-voltage LED tape lights install very easily, can be cut exactly to length, produce even light over a workspace and work via transformer.
It’s not a beautiful thing to see from below, but they also work beautifully to illuminate the floor below wall-hung vanities and also in more standard kitchen cabinet applications.
9. Charging station Pick a drawer or a cabinet as a charging station for all your phones and other devices and install as many outlets as you need there. Out of sight, and ready to go in the morning.
10. Use dimmers and 3-ways Don’t skimp on lighting–task lighting for your counters, space lighting for the room and decorative lighting for bar or sink areas. But whatever you put in, remember to specify dimmers so that you can control the lights, particularly if your kitchen is visible from your dining or living room. Nothing like being blinded by your kitchen while having a dinner party. Three-way switches allow you to control lights from two locations. Only issue here–you can only have a dimmer on one of switches, so choose the one you’ll use the most.