For years, the traditional American kitchen was designed with what is called a “work triangle” in mind. The term refers to the path between the refrigerator, stove, and food prep area, and designs have focused on requiring the least amount of movement for a single cook preparing a meal. According to an article from Urban Home Magazine, the standard work triangle locates the sink midway between the oven and the refrigerator. Some designers have even determined optimal lengths for each side of the triangle in search of maximum cooking efficiency.
Times have changed, however. As homes have increased in size, so have many kitchens, and families and even guests often take part in preparing and serving meals. In addition, new appliances (such as the dishwasher) have become available and popular, and part of everyday kitchen use. In response to all of these changes, kitchen design trends have evolved.
Today, as HGTV points out, many kitchen designers “think outside the triangle.” They think of kitchens in terms of “work zones,” or areas designed to handle different phases of meal preparation. One section of the kitchen might be designed for food prep, another for cooking and baking, and yet another for setting out dishes and serving. In some kitchens, a certain area (perhaps the kitchen island) is designated for casual drinks or snacks, and another for casual meals. Others even have a nook with window seating designated for children’s studying or projects. The idea is that more than one cook uses the kitchen these days, along with family members and guests who might not even be cooking. It’s important to design the room with functional zones, and easy movement within those zones.
Some new approaches to kitchen design focus on ergonomic workstations. A free standing island, for example, might serve as a food prep area and include storage for tools such as cutting boards and utensils. Well-placed storage means less reaching and bending, and less wear on the joints and back. Island and counter heights can be adjusted to reduce strain, and a variety of innovations can help older homeowners, including more use of drawers over cabinets.
Another trend affecting current kitchen design involves installing flooring to match needs regarding high traffic, easy cleaning, or décor. Vinyl and linoleum are still the most comfortable surfaces, and great improvements have been made in their style and appearance. Wood floors coated with polyurethane are equally durable, and stone and tile floors add a Mediterranean flair. Before deciding on a flooring option, consider durability, ease of maintenance, comfort, and the expected life of the material. A family with young children who spend a lot of time in the kitchen, for example, might want to avoid a hard stone surface.
Lighting is another aspect of kitchen design that is changing with modern trends. Recessed lighting is less popular, and track lighting on rails is often replaced by smaller lights suspended from the ceiling. Energy efficient lighting is also coming into play; in the United States, certain aspects of the Energy Independence and Security Act go into effect in 2012, changing what types of light bulbs will be available to consumers (see Lightopedia for more information and a bulb replacement guide).
Other current trends include a leaning toward the use of natural materials (such as stone) for countertops and other surfaces, and the ability to use more than one surface material to match the different needs of different work zones. The desire to maximize space has led to an increase in the use of organizers in drawers and cabinets, while environmental awareness has inspired more eco-friendly choices for both lighting and appliances.
Of course, the addition of new appliances has led to big changes. See our blog posts on Steam Ovens and Warming Drawers, for example. Major appliances can also be disguised, today, to match the panel designs of kitchen cabinets and furniture.
Overall, modern kitchen design is moving toward separate work zones, spaces that accommodate more family members, functional materials that match the home’s décor and a family’s needs, and awareness of new environmental requirements. At Atherton Appliance & Kitchens and BSC Culinary, our staff stands ready to help you take advantage of the latest trends to design the modern kitchen of your dreams.