Your New Kitchen
June 11, 2008 8:01 AM   Subscribe

RemodelingKitchenFilter: What do you wish you had done to your kitchen when you had the chance?

We are doing a complete remodel of our kitchen including everything from the electrical to the cabinets. The kitchen is gutted and we have a clean pallet. We are starting the electrical upgrade this weekend.

What ideas would you suggest we include in our design that you would want in your kitchen?

For example, we are adding under cabinet lighting, auto lighting in the pantry, a wine cooler to the island, canned lighting and in ceiling speakers.

I am looking for electrical suggestions (such as lighting or placement of outlets) as well as hardware or even design.

posted by birdlips to Home & Garden (43 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Dedicated storage for recycling bins with easy access to make it an incentive rather than a chore to be green.
A "salamander" (restaurant style broiler with a trillion uses).
Double the size of the pantry. Then double it again.
posted by Dizzy at 8:10 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

A deeper sink. More outlets over the counter. Island outlets. A tall fridge with the freezer at the bottom. An ice maker built into the fridge.
posted by Amby72 at 8:16 AM on June 11, 2008

Drawers for pans and such in the bottom cabinets. Much more usable space than just shelves.
An outlet inside one of the wall cabinets where you can hide all of the wall warts for phones etc.
posted by Gungho at 8:21 AM on June 11, 2008

ditto recycling bins

A gas stove.

As much storage as fits.

If you have a small child around, the fridge with the freezer at the bottom will probably be something you regret (they love to pull it open, over and over, and the big reaction it gets makes it all the more fun).

If possible, make it easy for more than one person to work in the kitchen at once (that is, each can move between a work surface, the sink, the stove, the fridge, without running into each other).
posted by winston at 8:23 AM on June 11, 2008

Universal design!

("Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." - here)

If you plan on staying in this house for a while, check out this list of tips for making your kitchen accessible for everyone who might use it - including yourself in a few years, perhaps. Also, consider that as time passes, older people will be a larger portion of society than they are now, so if you want to sell this house at some point, anything you build into the design now to make it more attractive will put you ahead of a kitchen remodeled without these principles.
posted by mdonley at 8:24 AM on June 11, 2008

Big deep drawers under the counter for pots and pans, utensils, pantry items, trash, recycling, etc. instead of cabinets. I did some, but if I was doing it over, I'd do the entire space that way.
posted by nkknkk at 8:26 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Lots of outlets -- they are cheap to install and do no harm if they sit there mostly unused. Put in some banks of 4 outlets in places where you normally leave the toaster and coffeemaker plugged in, so that you don't have to unplug something to plug in a seldom-used appliance.

Make sure there is enough space between counter and cabinets for the tallest appliance you will own -- a lot of kitchens can't fit a large Kitchenaid mixer, for example, because the cabinets are too low.

Dedicated knife space -- this can be a drawer with slots, an under-cupboard swing-out holder, magnetic racks on the wall, or something else. If you use a knife block, again, make sure that there is enough vertical space under the cabinets to easily get at the longest knives you will own.

Do you entertain at all? At most of the parties I go to (and the same thing happens when I have people over to my house), lots of people always end up hanging out in the kitchen, even if the living room has nice chairs and better lighting. A really nice kitchen, for me, allows for that kind of sociality -- even just a few stools at a breakfast counter will allow flexibility of use. I've been in a couple of kitchens that have loveseats/daybeds/couches built into the design, but that takes a large space to make work well without everything feeling crowded.

Deep sink -- at least one side of the sink should be deep enough to allow easy filling and washing of your biggest pot.

I've been seeing more kitchens lately with computer desks built in -- the people involved loved it for looking at recipes, etc, but I think that will date the kitchen really quickly, once computer design changes and we all get eyeball implants or whatever. Better to provide plugs (and maybe ethernet plugs, too?) to allow laptop use, and keep the design more flexible.

Finally, my sense is that planning for the long-term is a really good idea. That doesn't just mean trying to avoid the trendiest of materials (granite, anyone?) but also borrowing design elements from things like Universal Design -- a really good kitchen should still work if one of you is on crutches, or in a wheelchair, or if an elderly relative comes to stay for a while. That means thinking about dimensions, drawer-pulls, locations of stove and sink controls, open space and doorways, etc; done right, it should be invisible until or unless you need that universal access, at which point it will be invaluable.
posted by Forktine at 8:37 AM on June 11, 2008

One of those articulated shelves that can support a heavy object like a stand mixer (the kind of shelf that can pop out of the cabinet, swings up to countertop level, supports the stored item during use, and then swings back down & into the cabinet)

I didn't have room for one, and the hassle of moving my mixer has meant that I leave it out on the counter rather than neatly stored.

Also, baking-sheet storage (thin vertical slots). I skipped that, and regret it enough that I'm probably going to end up building my own.

Oh, and include some kind of storage area for a stepladder of some kind, so that you can use hugely tall storage without completely inconveniencing short people.
posted by aramaic at 8:44 AM on June 11, 2008

Put a garbage can next to the cutting surface, so that the work area overlaps the garbage can. I've seen this as a pull-out cutting board that overlaps with a garbage can that pulls out underneath and slightly to the side, and as a hole in the counter-top that goes straight down in to the garbage can, but I'm sure the possibilities are endless. You want to be able to just sweep all the mess from your work area straight into the trash, without having to pick it up.

No more holding the trash can up under the rim of the counter to sweep in spilled flour or sugar. No more wiping food into your cupped hand and carrying it to the garbage. No more Rachael-Ray-style garbage bowl. It's the best.
posted by vytae at 8:44 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

One interesting thing that I've seen people do is to have a "potfiller" faucet at the stove. It's just an extra water faucet for putting water into a pot that can reach any of the burners on the stove. That way, you don't have to fill pots at the sink and then carry the pot full of water back to the stove. Its convenience is a lot more apparent if you use a big pasta pot or something similar.
posted by LionIndex at 8:52 AM on June 11, 2008

We did a gut rehab of our kitchen (photos way back in my flickr feed if you're curious), and the main thing we would have done differently--if it had been a realistic option--would have been to make it bigger. We could do with an additional three linear feet of storage space. But we've got a small house and struck a good balance.

Niggling detail: Our wall-hung cabinets are 18" above our countertop; we could have gotten by with 15". That, plus the fact that the cabinets have ~3" trim board across the bottom, means that only the bottom 1-2 shelves are readily accessible to my wife, who is short. If we'd been aware of that, we'd have asked the cabinet-makers to use shallower trim boards (they only need to hang ~1" down to conceal the under-cabinet lights). LED under-cabinet lights instead of halogens, which get hot. A better faucet—the one we've got seemed plenty expensive when we bought it, but hasn't worn well.
posted by adamrice at 8:59 AM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

A double convection oven. Used to have one, have a single in our new house, wish we had the double.

Sliding shelves for pots and pans and whatnot in the lower cabinets.

Lazy susans in any corner cabinets.

A slim cabinet for trays and cutting boards.

A section of butcher block countertop so you really don't need cutting boards.

An instant hot water faucet for making tea or other small hot water needs.

A cabinet dedicated to spices with properly stepped shelves, or library-style pullouts.

A concrete countertop with built-in drainage at the sink where you're putting your dish drying rack.

Induction cooktop with downdraft ventilation. Nix the vent hood.
posted by beagle at 8:59 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just started using my new kitchen. For the most part it’s awesome, but not everything is perfect. Some thoughts:

If your prep area is away from the main sink, consider adding a small second sink at the prep area. We have a large island with a small sink on it and so far it’s been great. We can leave dirty dishes in the main sink and still wash vegetables in the prep sink.

Electrical: Code will pretty much require you have plenty of outlets. If your toaster, coffee maker, kettle, etc will all be grouped together, consider add a quad or two.

Under-cabinet lighting: Really look into this. We installed Xenon lights on all cabinets and the light is nice but a) it gets hot, heating up the cabinet above it as well as the stuff below and b) it reflects off the granite counters back into our eyes. Do some homework. If your prep is on an island you might not even need much under-cabinet lights anyway, just a couple of pendants. I’m told most fluorescent underlights are worse.

Light over the sink: Consider putting this on a separate switch. We have to light 8 recessed cans and one pendant just to get light while we do dishes. It’s a fine line though, since you don’t want too many switches.

More drawers than cabinets. Cabinets are a pain. It’s much easier to grab tupperwear, pots and pans, and other stuff out of drawers. I’m glad I did plenty of big drawers.

Do you bake bread or make pies? Consider making one counter lower than the rest. We have an area that is the right height for kneading bread and rolling pie crust. It’s also perfect for my son to use. Two big drawers below and a cabinet with cookie sheet slots hold everything we need for baking. The Kitchenaid mixer folds out of another cabinet, which also has an outlet in it so using the mixer is simply a matter of folding up the shelf. It’s one of my favorite things so far.

Forget the “Kitchen Triangle.” Instead think about stations: Cooking, prep, doing dishes, putting away leftovers, emptying the dishwasher, mail/administrative stuff, storage, etc. Everything should be nearby. Saran Wrap and tupperwear should be near the leftover area, dishes and glasses should be within reach of the dishwasher. Oils, tools, and potholder should be near the cooking area. Spices should be close to cooking and prep. Trash should be central, but very close to the dishwasher and sink. You know what you need.

Separate the work area from the traffic flow. For the most part we managed this (an island is a good barrier) but if someone grabs a drink from the fridge they can get in the way of the cooking area.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re being too picky. It’s your kitchen, you know best how you’re going to use it.
posted by bondcliff at 9:12 AM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Without a doubt, double sink with the best garbage disposal that fits.
Drawers the right height for spice containers. Once you go with drawers with labels on the top, any other method of spice rack/sorting seems barbaric.

The best thing I *did* do was sand the heck out of the pantry door and paint it with Crayola chalkboard paint. It was great for jotting down groceries, phone messages, etc. Every kitchen I've been in needs more communication space. When we sold the place, the people who bought it (for over asking) said that was what convinced them it was the right house.
posted by Gucky at 9:21 AM on June 11, 2008

We completely remodeled our kitchen about a year ago. (If you want pictures MeMail me). So I will just agree with some of the recommendations here.

Agree with the following:
Lots of pantry space. We have an entire wall of pantry cabinets and they are great. We also really like the fact that the shelves pull-out in the pantry.

Definitely have drawers instead of shelves in the lower cabinets. We LOVE ours.

Get some kind of solid surface counters so you can have an under-mounted sink. (We went with Quartz which we love because it is indestructible and no maintenance. You can cut on it, put hot pans on it and you don't have to seal it like granite)

French-door fridge with bottom freezer. These are really great and convenient.

Our kitchen is open to our living and dining rooms and is separated by an island. Our island has a raised counter that hides the dirty dishes when we have company. This is great.

Get a very quiet dishwasher. It is wonderful to have a dishwasher that you can start right after dinner and not hear it running.

Get soft-close drawers. Our kitchen cabinets are from IKEA and the soft close drawer mechanism was only $5 or so extra per drawer and they are well worth it.

Don't Have in our kitchen but would like:
We don't have an integrated garbage can into our prep area. That would be cool.

I also plan to have a space inside the cabinets for the garbage can & recycling. We don't have this and it is the thing I most dislike about our kitchen.

Finally if expense was no object I would consider getting a central vacuum with a vent under the cabinets that you can sweep dirt and debris into.
posted by bove at 9:24 AM on June 11, 2008

Two dishwashers - one acts as the cupboard, the other gets dirty dishes until full. Once cleaned, reverse roles.

Either that or one small dishwasher and one larger one. Sometimes the stack of dirty dishes in the sink is too much for one dishwasher to handle. Sometimes it seems silly to run a load for a few dirty coffee mugs.
posted by badger_flammable at 9:32 AM on June 11, 2008

trash compactor is awesome!!!
posted by maloon at 9:45 AM on June 11, 2008

1. Task lighting. Stand where you will be working (sink, cutting board, pastry prep, etc.) and look up. If you don't see a light there in your remodeling plan, get one.

2. Pantry. When we built our house, we re-purposed the entire laundry room into what we call the "Costco Pantry". Now, we can buy in bulk at a considerable savings, and have plenty of room to store not only food, but paper goods and some of our appliances. (We re-located the laundry).

3. Choke points. Every kitchen has them, where people will need to pass continually, and where guests will inevitable choose to stand and schmooze. Picture Moe, Larry, and Curly all trying to get through a door at the same time. In general, try not to have a passage narrower than 40 inches wide.
posted by dinger at 9:53 AM on June 11, 2008

Our kitchen was remodeled by previous owners and it was done pretty well but the thing I am thinking of adding is a stove vent hood. Every kitchen needs an efficient way to get rid of cooking odors.
posted by JJ86 at 9:58 AM on June 11, 2008

Island with full butcherblock top, incorporating storage cabinets and pullout garbage to sweep crumbs into. Electrical outlets on opposite sides to plug in kitchen tools.

Oh wait, we did that! (love it)
posted by artdrectr at 10:07 AM on June 11, 2008

We found years ago that butcher block countertop doesn't work as a substitute for cutting boards. Difficult to clean, easy to stain, impossible to make sanitary, takes too long to dry, impractical to replace if it cracks or gets badly gouged. You're going to use a separate washable board for raw chicken anyway, right? Get two plastic cutting boards that are small enough to fit in the dishwasher.

If you buy narrow European appliances, size your cabinet opening for the wider American standard sizes anyway, and then fill the extra eighth of an inch with trim. (The house we bought came with a German dishwasher. When that eventually conked out, we were ready to buy an American brand but found that it wouldn't fit in the too-narrow opening that the previous owner had custom-designed for the narrow German machine.)

On preview, regarding the stove vent: Standard stove hoods make a lot of noise and don't accomplish much. Depending on the air flow in your house, you may need a more serious exhaust solution to prevent cooking odors from spreading.
posted by Dave 9 at 10:07 AM on June 11, 2008

Custom-height countertops, to provide chopping and food prep surfaces that are ideal for you and your partner. Probably best done in conjunction with a butcher block surface. This could be difficult to execute, depending on the layout of your kitchen — obviously it's preferable not to have a stairstep in the middle of your counter surface — but if the difference between your heights is significant, one of you will probably be straining a bit to lean over, or cutting a bit higher than he or she would naturally want. Perhaps easiest would be to optimize the island's worksurface for the taller of you, and the counters for the shorter.

And yeah, per Forktine's suggestion re: future-proofed computing, I'd go for a recessed wall-mounted electical outlet, ideally with cat6 and coax, positioned such that if it were feeding a large touchscreen you could easily interact with it and read it while prepping. Or you could just have a TV there. OR you could hang a print over it and save it for the next homeowners, if that's not your kind of thing.

I go through dish cloths at a fierce rate and wish I had a convenient laundry chute to neatly chuck 'em down into the basement. Depending on where your laundry area is, consider a solution for easily getting used dishcloths from the work space to the wash me heap.

Seconding beagle on the instant hot water spigot.... I wish I had one, and imagine that they're awesome for tea, blanching things, and just for filling a pot with really hot water so that it comes to the boil on the stove that much faster.

Make sure your sink is deep enough and wide enough for your favorite pans. One of my most-used pans has handles that stick out juuust a bit too far for it to fit in the sink, which is a constant source of mild annoyance.
posted by mumkin at 10:08 AM on June 11, 2008

On second preview: We liked the look of the butcher block; we just found that it couldn't substitute for cutting boards.
posted by Dave 9 at 10:10 AM on June 11, 2008

Replace half of the above counter cabinates with open shelves where you will store your dishes and more attractive serving-ware. If guests can see the glasses they can help themselves and help taking stuff out of the dishwasher. Depending on the guest, I suppose.

Several 6" x 20" vertical racks - like you might hold an LP in - for you baking sheets.

A special drawer in the island for cutting boards.
posted by shothotbot at 10:35 AM on June 11, 2008

Replace half of the above counter cabinates with open shelves where you will store your dishes

NB: only do this if you enjoy dusting or rinsing your glassware every time you want to use it.
posted by dersins at 10:43 AM on June 11, 2008

Our kitchen has a C-shaped cooking area and a linear cleanup/cabinet area like | ] . The dishwasher, clean-up sink, trash and all the dish cabinets are on the clean-up side so things move nicely from sink to dishwasher to storage and the clean-up person (that would be me) can stay out of the way of the cook. All the windows are on the cooking side and the cooking side sink is centered under them so there is a lot of light. It is not that large a kitchen and no matter what, two people occupying a kitchen at the same time have to learn to tango, but it works for us. The thing we wish we'd done then (but could not afford) is to have the proprietary lab bench coating on all the counters, so the place will look like a chem lab. That's for next year.
posted by jet_silver at 10:49 AM on June 11, 2008

Yes yes yes to the instant hot-water tap. Filtered. And a cold one right next to it. Yum.
posted by Stewriffic at 10:49 AM on June 11, 2008

Every person I've ever met who has installed a "computer station/ kitchen desk" wishes they'd used the space for more practical things, like storage. Think twice about this trendy area-eater-upper...
posted by Dizzy at 11:05 AM on June 11, 2008

Deep counters. 36" or even 40". You can leave the food processor, blender, toaster, coffee maker, kitchenaid, etc. out on the counter without losing working space.
posted by Wet Spot at 11:14 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have no doors on the cabitnets. I spend all my time opening and closing cabinet doors, or knocking my head on them. Without the doors, your attractive serving-ware serves as decoration, and your guests can navigate your collection. Dust was not a problem in my apartment. If you are worried, install transparent doors that folds into the cabinets so they are out of the way while you're cooking. Or install translucent curtains.

The trash can should be on a pull-out rail under the cutting station, so you can sweep trash straight into it. You should have two such trash cans, a normal one and a compost one.

Get a good hot water spigot or you won't get good tea. The water will tastes strange, the temperature will be unreliable, and it will never be hot enough. Get one with an integrated water filter and a precision thermostat. Otherwise you are better off with a high-wattage kettle.

Having a cutting block integrated in the counter is bad. You can't move it, you can't clean it, you can't repair it. Having a heavy cutting block sitting on the counter is better. They don't bounce and move from under you like plastic cutting boards. It frees the hand that used to hold the board down. The downside is that you need to transfer to a bowl to bring the veggies to the stove.

Buy a large collections of spice bottles and rack space for all of them. With more bottles you can accumulate a wider variety of spices, thus cook from more cultures. Fill the bottles with en-vrac spices from the best spice shop available within a 100 kilometers radius of your house. Shop around. You want the spices to be fresh, potent, and cheap.
posted by gmarceau at 11:34 AM on June 11, 2008

Whenever I get a house I'm going to make certain the faucet is high or the sink is deep, or both. Filling pitchers and stock pots can be a pain otherwise.

One thing I saw on a Food TV special where Alton Brown helped a family remodel their kitchen was better, though; there was a water spigot high above the back of the stove. You could just fill a stock pot right there.
posted by Nattie at 11:36 AM on June 11, 2008

check out this guy's blog. he makes a lot of good suggestions on kitchen remodels.
posted by msconduct at 12:08 PM on June 11, 2008

Instead of a lazy susan, I'd suggest something like these diagonal corner drawers. Actually, there's an even better solution than that; a mechanical swing-out/slide-over corner shelf device. I just saw it on This Old House but I don't remember the name.
posted by hjo3 at 12:16 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Foot pedal-operated faucet for the sink. :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:13 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sensible, bright lighting everywhere. Too many poorly-lit kitchens in this world.
posted by Brian James at 7:37 PM on June 11, 2008

Seems a few people are against the butcher block idea. Hold on. Just wanted to note that it is easy to clean and it can be refreshed (if stained) with a quick sanding and a splash of butcher block oil. (Though we use plastic to cut meat on). But everything has cleaned off easily. And it really warmed up are kitchen style-wise (stainless steel appliances, glass tile splash).

Computer station: no.
But wherever the phone is, that's a good place to build a 'recharge station' (iPods, cells, etc).
posted by artdrectr at 8:36 PM on June 11, 2008

add a cable drop, whether you want it or not. I didn't think about it during our remodel and I regret it.

see if your electrician/cabinet manufacturer can integrate your countertop outlets into the underside of your cabinets - a much cleaner look.

I LOVE my dedicated knife drawer.

seconding the French doors on the fridge.

(niggly detail - if you have a tiled backsplash, make sure the gap between the bottom tile and the countertop is filled with silicone instead of grout - it's cracking something awful here at mi casa.)

be patient and have fun!
posted by killy willy at 8:52 PM on June 11, 2008

link to our remodel photos - before and after.
posted by killy willy at 8:53 PM on June 11, 2008

You didn't mention countertops. What kind of tops are you planning?

We had $7,000 worth of granite installed in our large kitchen including full height backsplashes and a 25 square foot island but we're not happy with the color! It's labrador gold which looked good in the warehouse but it just doesn't have the polish and pop we expected.

That said, I'd do granite again. Our granite looks the same as it did when it was installed 3 years ago. It doesn't have a single stain and I love the feel of it, the granite being a natural material and all.
posted by qsysopr at 6:09 AM on June 12, 2008

Our kitchen has two couches. Great for company while you're cooking. And naps.

I want but don't have shelves that drain, to go on the wall over the sink. The lowest shelf would be in use all the time so I can wash up as I go, and the upper ones would be permanent storage/display/drainage so that a wet serving dish can be set up in its permanent place and it can drip-dry harmlessly.

My husband built a wonderful oak-top island but we had to cover it up. One wet beer bottle, one damp coffee can, put permanent stains on it. I tell myself that Julia Child had oilcloth on her worktop in Provence.

We don't have any cupboards; everything is open storage. I like having all the pretty things on display. Once in a while I dust, but most things get enough use that dust doesn't build up.

Refrigerator-counter-sink-counter-stove opposite an island works well. I'm left-handed and wanted the fridge on the left side but that's where the stove needed to be.
posted by sevenstars at 7:12 AM on June 12, 2008

Seconding sevenstars on a couch-type seating area, rather than the standard "breakfast area". If you don't have an overly formal dining room, eat all your meals there. It's great to have some easy chairs to sit around in adjacent to the kitchen.

Not to protract the butcher block debate, but, to protract the butcher block debate: ours is the countertop on a smallish island. Assuming the island is where you want to do food prep, that's where butcher block works great. If it gets too chopped up, you can sand it down. Oil it once in a while. You'll love the ability to just take that onion and start chopping. For all vegetable prep, all it needs is to be wiped down. For red meats, a little soap and water is plenty. We avoid cutting fish and chicken on it, just take out a cutting board for that.
posted by beagle at 9:55 AM on June 12, 2008

Also: with decent ceiling lights, you really don't need under-cabinet lighting, except over the cook top (as part of the vent hood, if you go that way, or under the cabinet if you go with downdraft venting). Seconding someone above that a few separate lighting controls are a good thing.
posted by beagle at 9:57 AM on June 12, 2008

Plan space for your bokashi composter. Think about some sort of folding step stool so you can store infrequently used stuff high and still get to them. Think about how you will be standing when you open cupboard doors - my current kitchen has a few doors that open up towards where you have to stand to get stuff out of them resulting in awkward reaching.
posted by srboisvert at 4:55 AM on June 16, 2008

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