Beanplating the bean cooking
December 27, 2010 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Please help me design my new kitchen. I would like to know what kitchen features you can't live without!

We are planning a total kitchen renovation in our 100-year-old bungalow in Memphis, a space that measures 12x18. It will be a complete wall-to-wall gut job. I would like the kitchen to balance the history of the house with modern conveniences. Durability and easy cleanup are important, I want it to look great in five years. I don't want a modern design aesthetic, craftsman details would better fit the overall feel of the house, but I especially do NOT want it to be fussy and overdone. When we put granite countertops in our last house I swore I would never live without them again, this is the kind of personal information from mefites that I'm looking for. I've looked at previous questions and I know how to Google. I have a huge folder of ideas, but I want to distill them all down to the basics and build up just a little from there.

How we use our kitchen: We are empty nesters and don't cook every night. However, we do have large parties about three times a year, about 50 people. We also have large family gatherings about three times a year, about 20 to 30 people. I love to cook, and have all the usual accoutrements that make up a well-stocked kitchen and need storage space for those. I cook complicated meals a couple of times a month.

Can you give me ideas about what you have in your kitchen that you just wouldn't ever want to live without?
posted by raisingsand to Home & Garden (75 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
I've discovered over the years that pots and pans and other cookware is much more easily accessed when stored in deep drawers than in cabinets. In my dream kitchen, all of the under-counter storage will be drawers. No more fumbling around in the backs of low cabinets for stuff.
posted by decathecting at 10:52 AM on December 27, 2010 [14 favorites]

I think that balancing the craftsman with small modern touches is a great aesthetic. I would go with simple/period appropriate cabinetry but with something like a soapstone counter versus the granite, personally. Both feel appropriate for the period, but the soapstone feels modern.

I'm also a big fan of the farm style sinks with pot filler faucets. You'll love that when you have to fill a big pot or vessel for water.

A well designed backsplash really brings a kitchen together.

Pendant lighting tends to warm the space.

Finally, one of the things I miss from an apartment I had in Albuquerque: A giant, eight foot long woodblock topped island with a prep sink in it. It was a loft style apartment and with the open floor plan this made for great parties.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:52 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Double ovens. Or, one of the new ovens that has two ovens built in (instead of the bottom storage drawer). Or, an oven and an "avandium" microwave that can function as either a microwave or an oven. To me, being able to have two different ovens with two different temps is a must.

A really good garbage disposal. 3/4 horsepower at least.

I would love a place to hide away my toaster and my kitchenaid mixer.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:53 AM on December 27, 2010

100% agree with decathecting about drawers over cabinets. I prefer sliding shelves over drawers for this kind of thing though. YMMV
posted by FlamingBore at 10:54 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you cook or bake in quantity at all, having two ovens is *huge*.

I love our stone countertops that can be soaped down and wiped up at the end of the night. Good for pastry making, too.

If I were starting a kitchen from scratch, I would forego built-in cabinetry in many places in favor of shelving units on locking casters; ditto lower cabinets/counters for butcherblock and metal (or whatever work surfaces you need) tables on locking casters. Pull out to clean and assemble into the work space you need - brilliant. We were recently in a house with a Craftsman aesthetic; she had her kitchen fitted up like this and it had a really cozy cottage kind of feel.

Unless you have space for a *really* huge sink, I've found that one big, deep compartment is better than two. And stainless steel always wins over porcelain - porcelain is so pretty and looks great everywhere, but sometimes you need to scrub a huge roasting pan not-too-gently and it sucks to be stressed about not dinging the sink.
posted by peachfuzz at 10:57 AM on December 27, 2010

Carol from Alinea at Home recently asked her several thousand twitter followers the same question, and got a bunch of great responses.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:58 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you will have a kitchen counter that makes a turn, think of an "L" shaped kitchen counter, then I would make sure that space under the counter is fully accessible and useful.

I love having a tall but narrow cabinet right next to the stove to store all my cookie sheets.
posted by onhazier at 11:01 AM on December 27, 2010

Oh, also unless you are planning on selling in the next couple of years (but I suspect not if you're planning a big custom renovation), get the counters fitted for your height. If you are especially short or tall, having counters, sinks, etc. at the right height for you will make all the difference in terms of comfort on long or complex tasks. If you have multiple cooks of widely disparate heights, you can even put in different height counters in different places.
posted by decathecting at 11:06 AM on December 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

The absolute best thing we did in our kitchen was to build a center island with power outlets in it.

We have our pans in drawers in cabinets in said island, which makes all the difference in the world; you open the cabinet and pull out the drawer and there are all the pans, instead of having to squibble around with your hand to find the pan you're looking for.

We also have things like the toaster, food processor, rice cooker, etc. in a shallow cabinet in the island, which makes life marvelous; you whisk the toaster out, plug it in, put it back.

Seconding the narrow cookie-sheet/cooling rack/broiler pan cabinet with vertical dividers; it's so much better than stacking those things.

Something else we did with our island was to have the countertop raised about three inches on pillars (made of iron pipe in our case--it looks cool with the light wood and gray granite). We slide our cutting boards underneath, so we can just skootch them out and chop merrily away.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:07 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

A bottle opener directly over the trash can.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:11 AM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

My dream kitchen would have an island with outlets, and a faucet over the stove so I could just fill pots with water right there. I'm a big fan of open shelving too, but in my dream kitchen all my stuff would match better. If your stuff doesn't match then open shelving looks messy no matter how you organize it.
posted by headnsouth at 11:13 AM on December 27, 2010

I would totally put a french drain in my kitchen so that I could hose the floor down.
posted by kimdog at 11:13 AM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Things we did in our cabinet that I thought we got right:

1. No dead ends. You know how parties always congregate in the kitchen? We've got an island that creates a boundary between the kitchen and the rest of the house, but people can circulate around it. We sacrificed some storage space that would have been useful (compared to having, say, a peninsula), but it wound up being for the best.

2. Custom height. My wife is petite, so the island is 3" lower than standard counter height. The lower height doesn't bother me. The wall-side counter is standard height.

3. Mixed surfaces. The island has a maple butcher block, the wall-side counter is quartz composite. So we've got a 5-foot long cutting board, which is a very practical luxury. It requires a little maintenance in the form of periodic oiling. Wood would not be good as a landing pad for anything hot, or around the sink, and a slick surface like quartz composite is better for things like rolling out dough.

4. The island base is completely open on the kitchen side—no doors or drawers, just shelves. This is where our pots and pans and blender and food processor live. I got the idea from Julia Child, who I read ripped all the doors off her cabinets for easier access to the contents.

5. Undermount sink.

I thought that one of these Bosch built-in food-processor bases would be really slick, but my wife nixed the idea.
posted by adamrice at 11:16 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The suggestions about deep drawers are exactly what I'm looking for. My last kitchen did have this dual-fuel double-oven stove and I loved it, but might upgrade just a bit next time. Also, the stainless steel sink is a must-have for us. Should have put both those in the question. This is our "forever home" and we are not concerned with resale value.
posted by raisingsand at 11:16 AM on December 27, 2010

An instant hot water dispenser!
posted by pointystick at 11:17 AM on December 27, 2010 [6 favorites]

I don't have this, but if I won the lottery? I'd find a way to either tile or use some kind of really really cleanable material all around the stove - the wall behind, the floor underneath, the insides of the counters on either side - because it makes me crazy having to pull it out and clean a wooden floor with molding and quarter-round, a regular wall surface, the sides of counters and the side of a shelving unit. Something I could just spray cleaner/vinegar on and wipe down would be like getting a gift every time I clean. I'd even do it more often.
posted by peagood at 11:23 AM on December 27, 2010

Oh! And P.S.? For cleaning reasons, I'd also mount my sink faucet on the wall for reasons of less gunk around the base of it to clean on account of how our sink is too shallow and splashy (and it really needs an overflow) and because of how the faucet swivels so far to the left and right that it can actually be pushed to pour water all over the counters. Because I have a six year old.
posted by peagood at 11:26 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

a few years back the kitchen at my parent's cottage was arranged so that there was a small couch in the kitchen. It was so great to be able to lounge about and chat with whoever was doing the cooking that I swore my next kitchen will have a couch in it.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:27 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Instant boiling water taps are incredible. Not really a necessity in any stretch of the imagination, but so cool and useful. Want a cup of tea? No hassle.

I know people with double dishwashers, and they say it's great.

A massive chopping board would be my request. Maybe have a counter with a replaceable wooden top - you can chop on the whole thing, but replace it easily when it gets grotty.
posted by djgh at 11:40 AM on December 27, 2010

My mom is just over 5 feet tall, but my dad is a full foot taller than her. When my parents did their redesign, they had countertops put in at two different heights, so that they can both cook together and chop vegetables without being uncomfortable.
posted by deludingmyself at 11:53 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

"... However, we do have large parties about three times a year, about 50 people. We also have large family gatherings about three times a year, about 20 to 30 people. ..."

Top of the line, double drawer or twin dishwashers. Top quality units will have a built-in booster water heater, to get wash water temperature above 140 degrees F, so you can still save energy with your main water heater set for the recommended 120 F, but if you buy dishwashers that don't have a built-in temp booster, put a tankless booster heater in front of the dishwashers.

Also, although I know Memphis folks are inordinately proud of their city water quality, I'd plumb in stainless steel, and put some filtration on the kitchen water supply, against the day something happens to mains supply on your street, that sends sediments into your home.
posted by paulsc at 11:59 AM on December 27, 2010

I'll second the countertop height one - everyone in my family is over 6', so having countertops 3-5 inches taller than standard is a backsaver.
posted by Seeba at 12:01 PM on December 27, 2010

Dish draining closet
posted by Authorized User at 12:10 PM on December 27, 2010

My kitchen has a Lazy Susan-type cabinet to the bottom right side of my stove. It's perfect for storing pots and pans--instant access to everything, and plenty of room to not have to stack pots and pans on top of one another. Also, I have devious, curious cats that can open cabinets, but they definitely can't work that kind of cabinet door.
posted by litnerd at 12:16 PM on December 27, 2010

I came in here to say double ovens. But not the kind under the range. This kind. Which lets you work with out bending over. This frees up the space under the range to be drawers, which is really convenient.
posted by ihadapony at 12:20 PM on December 27, 2010

The height and placement of key areas/appliances is something to think about. When I redid my kitchen a couple years ago, I built my new countertop very high. As a pretty tall man, I was tired of having to bend to do dishes and cook. Having the counters built to my needs made a huge difference!
posted by broadway bill at 12:23 PM on December 27, 2010

Whoops! did not preview, and now see that I am third in line with that suggestion!
posted by broadway bill at 12:24 PM on December 27, 2010

In my current kitchen I like:

my double oven
my pots/pan drawers under the cooktop
a 25 foot phone cord attached to a wall phone

what I miss about my parents kitchen:
bread drawer
desk with cubbies for bills
built in convection/microwave combo

My fantasy items:
marble for rolling out pastry/cookies/etc...
appliance garage
posted by vespabelle at 12:26 PM on December 27, 2010

I like having my pots and pans hanging from the ceiling. This beats cabinets or drawers, and is pretty easy to design into a kitchen, either with ceiling hooks or something like this. I also second the idea of a central island. Mine is right by the stove; I can prep on the island, turn around, and dump stuff straight into the pan. I also second the idea of tiling pretty much the whole kitchen -- at the very least, tile the backsplash all the way around the sink, the area around the stove, and the area around the trash can(s).

I also like my homemade magnetic spice rack. This'd be an awesome opportunity to build one right into the kitchen!
posted by vorfeed at 12:31 PM on December 27, 2010

In a 12 X 18 space, you might not have room, but if ever you would consider a wood fired oven for bread/pizza/roasting meats, now's the time.
posted by paulsc at 12:31 PM on December 27, 2010

A lazy-susan built into L-shaped lower cabinets.
A long powerstrip, or at least many outlets, along the backsplashes.
Either rolldown panels to create "appliance garages" under the upper cabinets, or accessible shelving to store small appliances right by where they'll be used.
Pull-out shelves or drawers in the lowers, as everyone else has said.
Good undercabinet lighting that's on a separate switch.

Next time I have upper cabinets or shelves on either side of the sink, I'm building a dishdrainer to bridge them. This is a feature I saw in an IKEA showroom and I've been obsessed with it ever since, since my counterspace doesn't quite hold a drainer sturdily.
posted by catlet at 12:34 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you can make any surface easier to clean, then do it. Scrubbing a tile backsplash is so much easier than a painted wall. And don't forget to tile all the way down to the floor behind the range, you'll thank me. Also, I second the deep basin/tall faucet combo. I like to have my tools in sight. I put in a bunch of magnetic strips and most of my tools, like measuring cups, whisks, tongs, etc., are now super easy to find and to put away. My final note, put a real vent on your range, the kind that vents to the outside. Then you can do some crazy cooking without coating your kitchen in grease.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:53 PM on December 27, 2010

A pull-out pantry, where nothing can hide and get lost in the back. Runnels and a drainboard cut into the counter for dish draining.
posted by ThatSomething at 12:59 PM on December 27, 2010

I'm stunned that nobody has mentioned a magnetic knife strip / block?

I put one on the wall above my oven / prep counter, and it's been amazing. I can put knives, microplane grater, tongs, and kitchen shears all where I can grab them quickly and easily.
posted by BZArcher at 1:07 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Consider placement of your elements. Try to always be about 60 degrees away from what you need. That means a quick pivot from the sink puts you in front of the oven. Continuing to pivot puts you in front of your mise en place. Think triangles.
posted by Gilbert at 1:07 PM on December 27, 2010

Disclaimer: I really, really like to cook, and generally dick around in the kitchen. Our entertaining tends to revolve around kitchen festivities. I might be biased.

Think hard about logistics. How do you really use (or want to use) your kitchen. If you do lots of baking you'll have different ideal layout than someone into more basic meal prep.

If you see lot's of "everyone hanging out in the kitchen" time, figure extra, segregated, safe, space for "everyone" not to be in the way of cooking. You don't want guests packed around the stove while you're deep frying the chicken. Or having to dodge children while trying to transfer a fiercely boiling pot of pasta to the colander in the sink.

There is no such thing as too much storage space. There is no such thing as too much prep space. You can't have too many eyes on the stove. You can't have enough places to safely set a hot pan. You need towels and pot holders everywhere, because you don't know when you need to wipe your hands, clean a spill or pick up something hot.

Don't forget, most really worthwhile cookware is goddamn heavy. It's made of iron, thick plates of steel and copper, and even the aluminum is bulked up with something heavier to spread heat better. Sometimes, for good measure, it's coated with porcelain, so it can be even heavier and have the bonus that is can spall off sharp flakes of shrapnel if you drop it. You don't want it stored over your head. Cookware you aren't afraid to lift over your head, or more precisely, take down from over your head, probably sucks. Plan accordingly.

If it's really "we don't care about resell, it's our forever home", look at how a commercial kitchen is fitted out. I think when I'm ready for forever, I'm putting in essentially a commercial kitchen with a few concessions to aesthetics. That includes a fire suppression system and (nod to @kimdog) floor drains. There's an Anthony Bourdain episode where he's in Barcelona, and his close friends have a Michelin 3-star restaurant that has a "chefs table" dining area attached to the kitchen. It's amazing...every time I see the episode I think "yes, that...exactly that".

Articulated pot filler over the stove. Pots full of water are increasingly harder to schlep around the older you get. Make it a bit higher than you think it needs to be, because you'll eventually have a bigger pot.

I *strongly* disagree with a big single sink being better than a dual one. However, I do find dual sinks where one bowl is bigger than the other more useful than same sized bowls. Porcelain is for show, stainless is for pros. Get a garbage disposal you can feed tree limbs down. 1hp+. Tim Allen had a point here.

Don't underestimate the wonder of a stainless steel surface. Yeah, butcher block and granite look great, but check out all the caveats on using them without destroying them. And when you really want your kitchen really clean, being able to use anything up to and including a propane torch and fine sandpaper is nice. See: Commercial Kitchen.

Nthing deep drawers over cabinets. Also, I love having the slide out racks for spices, etc. I hate rutting around the back of a top cabinet shelf looking for just that bottle I haven't used in a while.

Nothing gets older than having an often used kitchen accessory that only fits in a cabinet on the other side of the kitchen from where it's always going to be used. Think the 30lb Kitchenaid mixer your oft-baking girlfriend requires, and you have to haul around. Find the easiest way to get from storage to use and back. Hell...even that extra long knife that doesn't fit in the drawer closest the cutting board. Take a look at what you have and make sure it convenient.

Gas stove, from a top tier manufacturer. Period. BTUs are your friend. You can turn a blast furnace down to a pan warmer. You can't turn a camp stove up to perfectly caramelize that side of beef.

As an homage to my ancestors, I've always wanted a big fireplace in the kitchen, with a rod to hang a cast iron pot, and a place for skewers of meat to be turned. I remember, as a tiny child, my great grandmother cooking this way in her ancient, rural, Southern timber house. But as a modern cook, I've decided I also really want in the next kitchen a wood-burning clay or brick oven. These are fantastic; seriously. I see huge possibilities in a tandoori style wood burning oven, but don't have enough experience to risk putting one in my kitchen yet.

If you can't swing dual ovens, at least get a warming drawer. Better, dual ovens *and* a warming drawer.

With @pointystick: Instant hot water is delightful, especially if you like tea.

Dual, high quality/power, drawer style dish washers. Never have dishes stacked in the sink again.

I was serious about the fire suppression system. That old, Home Depot $9 extinguisher under the sink isn't enough. Consider how to include several, easy to find, high quality, multi-fuel fire extinguishers. Personally, I'd rather have a not-so-aesthetic wall mounted extinguisher that anyone can spot and use in an emergency than one under the sink that the fire inspector finds unused because no one thought to look there when the pan of oil flamed up. Also...a good burn first aid kit.

I don't think you can really do a kitchen these days without some attention to electronic media. I like having, at least, a place for the cookbook to be propped up that's close enough to use and far enough it's not going to get splashed, spilled or burned. Now, however, our recipes are on-line (I use my iPad, as it happens), so for most people, there needs to be a place for a computer of some kind. In addition, with so many of use centering family and entertainment around the kitchen space, a TV/flat screen is often in order.
posted by kjs3 at 1:16 PM on December 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

We have a small kitchen we just had remodeled. And I mean just: contractor finished up at 6 PM Christmas Eve! Stressful.

So! What I love so far: my big, deep drawers for pots and pans and also Tupperware and storage containers.
Also really deep kitchen sink, in granite composite to match the counters, with a 1.5 hp disposal unit on one side, a water filter, dish soap dispenser and a spray nozzle on the faucet.
The blind corner cabinet, which has an ingenious two-level shelving system that folds out and to the side so I can now access all the cabinet space and nothing gets buried in the back somewhere any more!
Vertically divided cookie sheet/cutting board, etc cabinet.
Hidden cabinet with Spice racks that pull out.
Double Trash/garbage bin on casters in a cabinet by the sink.
Shelves for my cleaning products under the sink, which pull out as well.
Appliance garage, with a door instead of a slide-down louvered contraption which could get stuck.
3 level Lazy Susan cabinet (we're both tall. My Mom calls this The Giants' Kitchen now).
Task lighting under the cabinets, which is dimmable from one switch, and ambient lighting above the cabinets, also dimmable from one switch. Lighting has made a huge difference; I need lots of light to work and to keep me from getting depressed. My son hates bright light from the kitchen ceiling cans we iced to have shining into his eyes in the other room (he's very photo-sensitive, stark contrast to me).

Mostly what I love is having both everything easily accessible and still having empty counter space to work with now!
posted by misha at 1:28 PM on December 27, 2010

>Next time I have upper cabinets or shelves on either side of the sink, I'm building a dishdrainer to bridge them.

This sounds interesting (I have wall cabinets around my sink, and countertop space is at a premium so I'd love to get my dish drainer out of the way if I can) but I can't quite picture it. You have a dish rack over the sink at or above eye-level?
posted by xbonesgt at 1:29 PM on December 27, 2010

Outlets everywhere. So many outlets. Outlets outlets outlets.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:40 PM on December 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

> The blind corner cabinet, which has an ingenious two-level shelving system that folds out and to the side so I can now access all the cabinet space and nothing gets buried in the back somewhere any more

And I can't quite picture this. Do you have a photo of it, or one like it?
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:43 PM on December 27, 2010

Friends of mine have a little thing that looks like a vent in the floor near the sink; you open it up and it's a trap for crumbs. Sweep the crumbs right into the trap. In their case it's connected to a whole-house vacuum but you can also just get a crumb trap that you lift out and dump in the trash. I WANT THAT.

I also want a nice low countertop for me to chop on.

My best ACCIDENTAL kitchen discovery is that the place the highchair goes is right by the back door, which makes sweeping baby food droppings out the door incredibly convenient. So much so that my mom puts the baby seat nearest the outside door in her breakfast room when we go visit her! This would also work for pet food.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:45 PM on December 27, 2010

I lust after these clever fold-out pantries. One day, I will have one.

Another vote for the magnetic knife holder on the wall. So useful. I don't know how I lived without it.
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:54 PM on December 27, 2010

xbonesgt, I can't find the picture online (it was from an IKEA catalog maybe eight years ago). The image showed a sink under a window, with upper cabinets on either side; the drainer was mounted between the cabinets. It used a slatted flat wood shelf that could hold plates upright but also left room for glasses & other non-plate things. I remember thinking that it made more sense than a traditional Shaker plate rack, which only works for plates. I'm 5'8" - I'd probably mount it at just above eye height so I could still see out the window as well as lift stuff up.

As I'm thinking about it, I wonder if it might be even better to mount brackets on the sidewalls of the cabinet so that the drainer could be removed/replaced as necessary.
posted by catlet at 1:54 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

We just did a large kitchen remodel (turned our kitchen and dining room into the kitchen), and you've received some good advice so far. Here are a few other things we did that we appreciated:

1. Beverage center/fridge. This is nice for entertaining; you don't need people congregating by your main fridge.
2. The island is great (ours is 3'x8'), and we really like the (walnut) butcherblock top. It coordinates well with the granite countertops.
3. Pull-out garbage can on the island (in addition to a stand-alone garbage can).
4. Instead of pot drawers (which were going to be much more expensive), we have pull-out shelves in our cabinet which work great.
5. Dual fuel slide-in range is great. Ours is Bosch and we love it (and it was highly rated by Consumer Reports), but I strongly recommend both slide-in ranges (for a nice flush look) and dual fuel (for performance.)
6. Undermount sink. (Ours is a farmhouse style sink and didn't end up costing any more than a similar conventional sink. We have a more rustic look, so it's a nice blend of rustic and modern for us to have a stainless farmhouse sink).
7. We put in switched outlets near the ceiling for lighting so we can reconfigure as we see fit. We have wooden ceiling boards, so we can hide brown extension cords well; this might not work if you have drywall.
8. Lazy susans in any corners.
9. We like our spice-drawer next to the range, but mostly we have it because we had a 9" wide area we needed to fill.
10. We have a desk area, which works out nicely since our laptops end up in the kitchen pretty often.
11. Depending on the shape of your kitchen, consider whether a second prep sink will be useful. We passed on this, but only after giving it consideration.
12. The Instant hot water dispenser is nice, but we're frequent tea drinkers.
13. A backsplash can be simple, but turns out to be a really important finishing touch.
14. If you have a decent amount of wall cabinets, wiring for undercabinet lighting is a good idea. We like ours despite only having 3 wall cabinets. (Our kitchen has a TON of windows.)
15. I've never heard anyone complain about having too much cabinet or countertop space.
16. Find a place to hide your microwave. Ours is on a shelf under the island.
17. Outlets everywhere. We have several on every wall, under cabinets for the beverage center/etc., on window sills.... Everywhere.
18. Dividers for cutting boards/baking sheets/etc. are great. To be honest, the chrome ones from Lowes/Home Depot are fine and more reconfigurable than custom ones.
19. We didn't think of at this, but I'd consider a wired ethernet jack in the kitchen. Our microwave messes up the WiFi signal temporarily, so we can't really use our laptops in the kitchen while microwaving. It's not a big deal, but if you have a semi-permanent computer in the kitchen (or even frequent visitors), it's not terribly hard to run a Cat 5 cable.
20. Chimney style range hoods really tie the room together nicely, and if you look around (Costco online was our best choice), they're not terribly expensive, either.
posted by JMOZ at 2:39 PM on December 27, 2010

Hot water tap

Seats and space in the kitchen for people to linger, nibble, and chat while you're cooking and cleaning and up.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:42 PM on December 27, 2010

We're expecting to to redo our kitchen in 2011, and we'll absolutely be going with two dishwashers. When you consider the real world workflow implications, this concept really works. At the price of custom cabinets, it's not tons more expensive.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:47 PM on December 27, 2010

Linoleum. Not vinyl, real, old-fashioned linoleum which comes in amazing colors these days. It's comfortable and not cold underfoot, you have no evil grout to deal with, dropped things don't shatter (and often don't break). It is a breeze to keep clean, and it fits the period of your house. You will LOVE IT and convert to The Church of Linoleum, and then you'll be proselytizing for it just like me.
posted by cyndigo at 2:56 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

That crumb vent thing mentioned already us what I want. I think you can also sweep wet stuff into them so it's like having a shop vac at your feet.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:59 PM on December 27, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all the ideas so far. I did have a magnetic knife strip in my previous kitchen and that's going in for sure. Hated to leave it when we sold the suburban house, but it's easily replaceable. Already have the old Coca-Cola bottle opener to install over the trash can (I did take it when we moved but don't tell the new owners.) Not sure about the wood fired oven, that seems a little over the top and I don't think I have room. I've never considered a dish-drainer over the sink, but I'm installing a temporary one this week to use before the project gets under way, to see if I'll really use it. So far, these are all best answers.
posted by raisingsand at 3:02 PM on December 27, 2010

Just finished a kitchen remodel a couple of months ago.
1. Nthing deep drawers instead of cabinets, it is so much better. No more crawling around on your knees trying to get that pan from the back of the cupboard.
2. Pull-out pantries. Again, easy to access stuff at the back.
3. Consider caesarstone as your countertop material instead of granite. It doesn't burn or scorch, you can just put your hot pans straight on it from the oven, doesn't scratch, and doesn't require re-sealing or any other upkeep.
4. Plenty of undercabinet lighting.
5. I got rid of the double sink and replaced it with one gigantic stainless steel sink, as deep as I could possibly fit in the cabinet. It is awesome. I have no need for a double sink, as generally everything gets washed in the dishwasher, except for the really large items that don't fit. Those large items also didn't fit in either of the stupid double sinks, but fit nicely in the giant single sink. My new sink also has a removable grid on the bottom, which mystified me at first, but now I understand it, its great.
6. I have the double dishdrawers. Ergonomically they are awesome, again because its drawer-style not cabinet style. However, the fisher-paykel ones do not have a built in disposal, which means you have to rinse everything before you wash it, or the lines clog. I am unimpressed by this waste of water. See if anyone else makes drawer style dishwashers with built in disposals.
7. Lots and lots of outlets.
8. Fridge with the freezer on the bottom - easier to access stuff at the back, freezer gets opened less often than the fridge so it makes sense its in the least accessible position, physics-wise it makes sense that the coldest section is the lowest down.
9. Lazy susans in any corner cabinets you have.
10. The most used countertop space in a kitchen is generally the bit between the stove and the sink. Try and maximise this.
posted by Joh at 3:06 PM on December 27, 2010

Oh, here's a simple one. I have a water filter on the cold-water tap in my kitchen, because the tapwater here tastes like bleach. It's installed under the sink and I can't tell it's there -- the water pressure is fine. No more Brita pitchers taking up room!
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:07 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Traditional cabinetry in the U.S. is despicable. I do not understand how or why the cabinets I am forced to live with were designed. Meanwhile, after the fact that PLATES BARELY FIT IN THEM, there is really all told no storage to speak of in all these dozens of cabinets.

So I suggest you go through the kitchen now and calculate square footage both on food storage and on glass and cutlery and ceramic, etc., storage. The answers may surprise you regarding what you have and what you lack.

In fact, almost all kitchen issues are about scale. I am currently suffering with a Viking oven (I HATE IT, everything about Viking ovens is nightmarish, except, to their credit, they sure do get hot fast) that is of a shape that cannot fit two of anything. It's bizarre. So, yes: I would say calculate square footage of counters needed, amount of storage needed and even actual cooking space needed and work from there.

(And then loan me about 15 square feet of glassware storage please.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 3:15 PM on December 27, 2010

I used to have a very shallow sink, but now I have the deepest sink in the world and I love it!
Also, I have a tall faucet with a detachable head like the one on pictured here. These two things make washing pots and pans really easy.
posted by Hop123 at 3:44 PM on December 27, 2010

One thing I do try to work out in every kitchen I have, is separate "paths" for access to dishes, the dining room, and the cooking area. The reason for this is simple: if I have guests, it's common that they'll want a clean glass, a clean plate, or even, to be of help setting the table, bring in food from the grill outside, etc. So, providing a path for guests and "event help" to the dish store, and a bit of counter space, that is outside the food prep area, and outside the cooking area, while still having a dish store that is still "handy" to the work areas of the kitchen, is key to large group entertaining. It's also great if the refrigerator can be outside the stove/sink/prep area triangle, so that folks needing a cold one, can get it, without dancing with the busy cook. Although, for significant events, I usually either put out coolers with drinks outside the kitchen, or set up a small bar (with hired help), outside the kitchen entirely.

And I also keep a small set of "cooking dishes," e.g. plates, bowls, platters, silverware, glasses, etc. separate from the eating dishes, in the cooking area, so that when cooking, I don't have to grab an item from the "dish store." And my "cooking dishes" are of different pattern, entirely, from my "eating dishes" so that they go into and come out of the dishwasher without mix up.
posted by paulsc at 4:25 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sorry to keep jumping into the thread, but I keep thinking of points that may be useful.

In the last few years, I've been in several upscale Memphis kitchens and several Florida kitchens. Most often, the Florida kitchens have extensive air movement/air conditioning facilities; the majority of the Memphis kitchens I visited didn't have ceiling fans, or much more than ordinary air conditioning provisions.

Some folks like a kitchen that gets hot, when they cook. Food smells better, in the winter a noticeablely warm kitchen seems to be more "homey" than one at 72° F, bread rises faster, cake icing spreads easier, etc. Other folks don't want to sweat when they cook, expect iced drinks to last awhile, think nothing of leaving potato salad out on a counter for an hour while "serving," etc.

What I'm saying is, you need to think a bit about whether you want a "warm" or "cool" kitchen, and plan appropriately. Maybe you want one that can be reliably varied, from "cool" to "warm," at the touch of a button. But if you put in a big capacity refrigerator/freezer, a honkin' big Viking range, a ginormous dishwasher, 60 amps of counter outlets (and all the counter top mixers, blenders and appliances to populate that outlet farm), a 3/4 horsepower garbage disposal, a complete under counter/ceiling light system, a hot water dispenser, tankless hot water, and dual dishwashers, you're not going to have a "cool" kitchen, on an average July Memphis evening, without witchcraft... And you can't just throw some fans and air conditioning ducts at the problem, at the end of the design process. Air flow matters to gas range burners, ovens, sinks and refrigerators. Turn on a badly situated ceiling fan, full blast, and you may find that the stew you've been simmering all afternoon on that big, new Viking will just congeal into high grade dog food. Rice you thought would be done in 20 minutes, won't be. Etc.

It's great if you can have a high kitchen ceiling, some gentle natural convection, some gentle ceiling fans high up for general circulation, and some great air-conditioning behind all that, as well as some intelligent relationship between moving air sources, and stoves/exhaust fans/appliances/holding areas. Because if you don't, your kitchen, however well equipped, will be less than cozy in winter, and hotter than hell in Memphis summers...
posted by paulsc at 5:22 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might want to consider disability for yourselves, visitors, and future owners. It doesn't take much to suddenly find yourself in a wheelchair. Can you still reach everything?
posted by hungrysquirrels at 5:45 PM on December 27, 2010

When I was planning my kitchen, I used to laugh at people who had 2 dishwashers. Several years later, every time I have a bunch of people over, I'd love to have a second one. It's better now that I have a larger-capacity dishwasher; the KitchenAid holds much more than the Bosch I used to have.

For long time, I refused to have a pot rack because I thought hanging pots were clutter. Now I've got one and it's made my life so much easier, when both cooking and cleaning up. In our week-end house kitchen, we have deep drawers, which are also great. Have a plan in mind for pot lids; you know what will happen if you just *assume* you'll find a decent place for them!

I much prefer to keep spice jars in drawers. They're out of sight, easy to organize, and also protected from light.

I'm very happy to have wooden floors and countertops. Since there aren't kids in your kitchen most of the time, you can have wood if you want to. MeMail me if you'd like instructions for protecting and maintaining counters.

I wish, wish, wish I had a pantry of any sort. Dry and canned foods take up a lot of space, and it would also be great to buy certain items in bulk.

If there is a feature that you really would like to have, try to figure out a way to make it happen even if it seems silly or indulgent. E.g., friends might kid you about a hydraulic lift for a heavy stand mixer, but if you like to bake, it might be a real asset.
posted by wryly at 6:06 PM on December 27, 2010

instant hot. can't live without it. so many uses for this thing that we wonder what we did before we had one.

large, deep sink instead of two small sinks.
posted by kenliu at 6:13 PM on December 27, 2010

Just had a total kitchen remodel done this summer. Seconding drawers on all the below-counter cabinets, one deep sink instead of two, and pull-out pantry drawers. Pot racks are great too, but now that I have deep drawers for pots, I no longer want a pot rack.
posted by statolith at 7:02 PM on December 27, 2010

We have the LeMans Corner cabinet, and here's a video of how it works.

We actually wanted one that was fancier, but it wouldn't fit in our corner cabinet.
posted by misha at 8:33 PM on December 27, 2010

Sorry, that was in response to this:
The blind corner cabinet, which has an ingenious two-level shelving system that folds out and to the side so I can now access all the cabinet space and nothing gets buried in the back somewhere any more

And I can't quite picture this. Do you have a photo of it, or one like it?

posted by misha at 8:35 PM on December 27, 2010

Do not put a pot filler faucet over your stove or anywhere else where it is not over a sink, or at least a floor drain. It is something that has been very popular lately.

It is also a fantastic way to flood your house.

Even a slow drip (from an o-ring dying, etc) can add up to hundreds of gallons of water on your floor over the course of a week's vacation. If you are not handy, it takes a task (fixing that dripping faucet) that can wait until the plumber can pencil you in in two weeks to calling the emergency line(and paying the 250 extra dollars for it).

All that is just not worth the few seconds of effort to carry the pot from the sink. If you can't carry a heavy pot of cold water from the sink to the stove, you have no business carrying a heavy pot of boiling water from the stove to the sink.

Commercial kitchens have pot-fillers, but commercial kitchens are filling simply enormous pots that don't exist in home kitchens. Also, they have floor drains, and people whose job it is to mop the floor.
posted by rockindata at 9:40 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So much here to think about. Thank you all for your help. The previous suburban kitchen was glorified galley style, so I never had to think about the corner cabinet issue until we moved to this old house. I was trying to figure out how to completely do away with the corner cabinets, but now I don't have to. I would never have considered the one large deep sink over the divided one we had but now I will, and the instant hot also. Still not sold on the pot filler above the stove, but we'll see. Thanks for reminding me about the air flow, paulsc, this kitchen will not be very big and that's important in our lovely Memphis summers. Never knew the microwave interfered with the laptop, but we won't be "living" in this kitchen the way we did when the kids were young and family life was more meal-centric. And while I do keep most recipes on my laptop, I'm still old-fashioned enough to print out THE PLAN and work from a paper copy in the kitchen.

I do like the mixed materials for countertops with designated work areas, but I have never in my life put a hot pan directly on a counter and I really don't understand how or when you would need to do so. Well, except for serving buffet-style, and that's what trivets are for, right? But that's another week's question.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
posted by raisingsand at 9:41 PM on December 27, 2010

as a custom cabinetmaker myself, I've never understood why anyone would want roll out shelves instead of drawers. Why have to open a door (or two) ALL THE WAY just to pull your drawer out? you can lose as much as 2 inches of inside space in your drawer because you have to space the roll outs to clear the door. Plus if you don't specify, you may get roll outs with 4 inch tall sides. Go for drawers if you want the most efficient access to your inside space. Also, unless there's a good reason not to, specify 15 inch deep upper cabinets. Nothing more embarasing than finding your customers plates that she can't live without are too big in diameter to lay flat in her cabinets. *blush*
posted by Redhush at 9:48 PM on December 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Seconding ducting the kitchen vent to the outside. We have a cheaper vent, but sending it out of the house has made a world of difference. It's amazing to be able to sear meat without filling our small house with smoke (and making the house smell), and to boil pasta water without fogging up the windows.
posted by linettasky at 10:14 PM on December 27, 2010

And get yourself a serious range hood.
posted by emeiji at 2:28 AM on December 28, 2010

People have touched on it, but get granite countertops. You can put hot things on them, cold things on them, cut on them, clean them with whatever, and they're perfect. My parents have them and my family cooks as well and as much as anyone that we know, and they still look as good as the day we put them in.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:00 AM on December 28, 2010

OK, you've had discussions of sinks, and discussion of garbage disposals, but I want to urge you, if you get multiple sinks, to put a disposal in each of them. We actually try to compost everything and put non-compostables in the trash because we're told that garbage in the drain is a stress on the waste treatment, but having a disposal in each sink means not dealing with clogging so much, or using only one sink for things like sticky pots.
posted by Mngo at 7:18 AM on December 28, 2010

Can you actually fit a giant range, 500 drawers and a second dishwasher into 12'x18'?

The reviews I've seen on the dual single-drawer dishwashers have been pretty uniformly bad - Frequent breakdowns, insufficient space in both drawers, clogging... I'd love to be wrong (I'm bidding on a house that's got a kitchen that makes that size look like a football field), but it seems like putting twice the hardware in the same space at a similar price means you have to cut corners somewhere.

If you buy a dual-drawer unit, DO RESEARCH - And if you find something worth having, please memail me, because I haven't found it yet.

If you're redesigning your kitchen, I'd suggest looking at Suskana's 'Not so big house' books, particularly the first one. I also have Justin Spring's 'The itty bitty kitchen handbook' coming into the library any day now.

I did Catlet's idea of hanging a draining rack across the opening between the cabinets to the left-and-right of the sink at my last two kitchens - and it's very helpful if you ever actually hand wash anything - I used a rubber-coated wire shelving unit piece in my first apartment. Brackets would have been nice so it could be taken down for cleaning.

Also, the magnetic knife rack gets a +1 from me.
posted by Orb2069 at 7:55 AM on December 28, 2010

I believe I have the exact hanging pot rack vorfeed links to, and it has made my life SO much easier. My back doesn't like me bending over to get pots & pans out from under counters, no matter how easy it might be with drawers instead of cabinets. I've had it maybe a month or two and I *love* it. (I do have mostly cast iron, and storing it above my head is not a problem even though it is heavy; nothing like trying to store it so I have to bend over to get it out.)

Next time I have anything to do with selecting or redesigning a kitchen, I *will* have counters that are the right height for me. Doing anything in a kitchen makes my back hurt; I need at least a couple more inches on any counter.

I also put in a rack above the sink recently, which has given me back so much counter space. I just got a wire shelf that fits between the cabinets to the left and right, and put it in upside down, so the lip is upward. Extra large drying rack, drips directly into sink, and saves the counter space for actual use.

I love the idea above of an island instead of a counter in between kitchen and next room.

We have a tile countertop, which is great for setting hot pots/pans on, and reasonably cleanable, but a solid countertop would be better. Grout can stain and the uneven surface means that anything large done on the counter needs an extra flat surface between the counter and the project (rolling out dough for cinnamon rolls, for example, can't just put flour on the {clean} counter and roll it out, need a large flat something to roll it on). Also I may worry more than necessary about cracking a tile by dropping something on it, but tile does crack.
posted by galadriel at 12:34 PM on December 28, 2010

We love our new induction cooktop. Boils a full pot of water in less than 60 seconds. Amazing!
posted by bluloo at 3:49 PM on December 28, 2010

Lots of drawers - it's been said before, but drawers are the best way to store virtually everything, from pots and pans, to pantry items.

A word of warning, however. There are places where drawers don't work too well. If your kitchen has any corners, drawers don't work quite as well as corner cupboards do. You will end up with dead space. Similarly, under-sink drawers aren't great. And finally, it is pretty obvious, but don't put drawers too high.
posted by damian_ at 7:56 AM on December 29, 2010

I love my magnetic knife strip (especially great for small kitchens) and a place to hang my pots and pans. I think you're right that drawers are easier to access than cabinets but hanging pots look cool and offer easy access.
posted by particular at 10:43 AM on December 29, 2010

Avoid decorative touches like lips/rims for counters and around the sink, ditto textured/nubby/crevice-y flooring. My mom had that stuff in one kitchen remodel decades ago because it was pretty but quickly discovered what a hell it is to clean gunk that gets trapped. She redid her kitchen a couple years back and now has smooth flooring, slab countertops with no scalloped edges, and one of those sinks set deep with no outer rim which is GREAT when you're sweeping peelings or whatever from the counter into the disposal. Sinks are better when they're deep, I think that's more important than them being wide personally. Keeps splashing to a minimum. I prefer hanging wall racks/strips for your most-used knives and spoons to blocks or canisters myself. Two ovens, yes--I want this very badly right now. If you can swing it, keep appliances like the stand mixer or blender or whatever in the corner spaces below low-hanging cabinets. Have some kind of set up where you can hang things--whether it's baskets of produce in tiered wire baskets, pots and pans, or whatever. Accessible and saves space. You may want to consider one of those deals where instead of cupboards underneath the counter one section is slotted vertically so you can "file" baking sheets, pans, etc.--a neat trick and saves you hassle going through a bunch of noisy nested tins/sheets in a drawer or whatever. See-through canisters so you know what's what. A fridge where the freezer is on the bottom. Rick Bayless' kitchen as seen on his PBS show has lots of well thought out touches--a pull-out spice drawer, efficient work space near the stove, etc.
posted by ifjuly at 11:23 AM on January 2, 2011

Do you have pretty pans and serving dishes? Open shelves display those nicely and keep them handy.

In our kitchen nearly everything is on open shelves, even the not-so-attractive stuff. It's convenient for me and makes good use of a small work area. I know where everything is and can grab it with no more than a step to one side.

The only things hidden are in a small old dresser on wheels. The knives and baking pans in there wouldn't actually need to be hidden, but I like the little blue dresser and wanted to use it in the kitchen.

Pots and pans are in two stacks on the top shelf of a rolling cart; baking pans go on the bottom shelf. This is not an inspirational sight, so it's tucked in a corner.

The top of our island is crammed with stuff, all of it as pretty as I can find--a cake plate with lemons, nice sugar and flour containers, jars of utensils, a china honey dish, cutting boards, marble square. On the two shelves underneath are woks, pot and pan lids, stacks of mixing bowls, basic ingredients, a griddle, cooling racks.

Over the sink are three shelves of our nicest bowls and copper things. I'm trying to figure out how to put draining racks up there. That's the only thing I'd change about my little kitchen. Oh, one other change: my husband built an oak counter for the sink, very elegant, but impractical.

We also have a pantry where we keep ingredients and big things we don't use very often.
posted by sevenstars at 1:56 PM on January 10, 2011

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