How to Make Your Kitchen Fully Functional and Cook-Friendly

Kit out the kitchen that suits your cooking needs.

Updated on June 21, 2017 8:06 am

Jasmine Goh


Those of us who cook often know how important it is to have a practical kitchen layout. A poorly-planned configuration can only spell disaster. Since the way a kitchen is used varies from person to person due to our differing lifestyles and cooking habits, it is essential to create one that fits your unique profile. While good quality storage and appliances all play a part in the functionality of your kitchen, placing them in the right layout and choosing the right surfaces are equally important. Follow these pointers to start building the right cooking space:

For regular cooks:

For a kitchen to cope with the demands of regular heavy cooking, it needs sufficient storage, preparation and clean-up areas; topped with easy-to-maintain surfaces.

Image courtesy of HC Interior

1. Storage. Serious cooks often have a collection of pots, tools and food larger than most homeowners. Choose closed cabinets which help to eliminate dust, hide clutter and make for a tidier workspace. If you have decorative items to display, go for clear glass doors rather than open shelving.

Instead of knobs and hard-to-grasp decorative handles, opt for C-shaped ones so that you can open cabinets even when your hands are greasy. If you have the budget, a lift system that opens cabinet doors by a mere touch will add to the convenience of an efficient kitchen.

Featuring Servo-Drive System for Aventos by Blum

2. Layout. To keep cooking smells contained, a closed concept kitchen would probably work best. However, if you like to stay connected to the other zones or simply need to watch over the kids, try a semi open concept kitchen which has glass walls or sliding glass panels.

To ensure sufficient space for food preparation and cooktop, it’s recommended to have a galley, L-shaped or U-shaped kitchen layout. For small- to medium-sized kitchens, go for a galley or L-shaped layout while those with a larger floor area can afford a U-shaped layout.

3. Surfaces. Easy-to-clean materials on kitchen surfaces are especially crucial for regular cooks. For countertops, granite (only if properly sealed) and engineered quartz are usually recommended due to their high level of heat resistance, while solid surface is typically used as it lends a seamless finish to the backsplash.

For backsplashes, a popular option is tempered glass. Its scratch-proof and non-porous nature makes it extremely easy to maintain while its reflective surface helps brighten the space. Functionality aside, a backsplash constructed of tempered glass also creates a modern look for the kitchen. Another material to consider is stainless steel, which has been the common mainstay in many commercial kitchens due to its high heat resistance and non-porous quality.

For those who bake:

The ideal baker’s kitchen will need additional countertop space for baking, its accompanying supplies and appliances, and legroom for an oven or two.

1. Appliances. Have plenty of electrical outlets installed along the walls and the sides of the counters so that you can operate several appliances at the same time without having to unplug. This will also save you the hassle of extension cords, which can be a hazard in the kitchen.

It’s best to avoid side-by-side refrigerators and get a bottom-freezer refrigerator instead which will have shelves that are wide enough to accommodate baking sheets.

Design by Rezt & Relax

2. Layout. Similar to kitchens used for heavy cooking, kitchens for baking need plenty of countertop space. If you have the luxury of space, a baker’s kitchen will benefit greatly from an L-shaped or U-shaped layout with an island counter.

To prevent unnecessary injuries, serious home bakers, or those who regularly make their own dough for pizzas and breads, should also consider customising countertops to a certain height or lowering just one section of the counter so that it's the right height for you to knead and roll out dough.

Design by Sky Creation

3. Surfaces. As your countertops may come into direct contact with heated sheets or trays, whether by accident or out of convenience, you need to ensure that the material of your countertop has a high level of heat resistance. Granite, engineered quartz, or butcher block are all suitable candidates.

If you make lots of pastries and breads, you’d probably be rolling out a lot of dough and would love marble countertops as they stay cool and allow the easy rolling of pastry dough. However, natural stone surfaces stain easily if not properly sealed and can be a high maintenance option.

To remedy this, opt for butcher block, which will lend a warmer feel to your kitchen, or install the marble surface only on one small section of the countertop. Alternatively, you could add a table with a marble top to the end of the counter to function as a designated baking centre. These tables are usually lower than a standard countertop and would be the ideal height for rolling dough.

For multiple chefs in the house:

Planning a kitchen for multiple cooks is not that straightforward as the description itself can bring many interpretations. Since a "multi-cook kitchen" label is not enough to provide a clear picture, it is important that you get down to the specifics of what you really need when finalising the details of your kitchen layout.

Identify your type of multi-cook concept:
• Partners in meal preparation
• Individuals using the kitchen simultaneously
• Chief cook and assistant(s)

Design by Ideal Design

1. Layout. Couples who love to cook may find themselves falling under the first two categories. If that’s the case for you, consider designing the space such that it would work whether you’re cooking together or apart. This could mean, if budget and space allow, going to the extent of having separate sinks, cooktops, appliances, and preparation areas. Families with children helping out in the kitchen or picking up skills from the parent usually make up the third category. In such situations, it is unlikely that they would need a separate set of kitchen fittings.

The most common layout for a multi-cook kitchen is a U-shaped one, and frequently also includes an island counter for additional workspace. Another common layout for this lifestyle is the galley kitchen. Both of these layout plans work because they provide sufficient work space for each cook, minimising the occurrence of collisions. If you have the budget for one more item to help your multi-cook kitchen function even better, install a separate sink. This additional sink could be a small bar sink or a large one, depending on your needs and space constrains.

Design by Darwin Interior

For those who entertain frequently:

Entertaining is one thing; entertaining in the kitchen is quite another. The ideal conditions of a kitchen used for both cooking and entertaining often comprise an open space and seats around the counter for a casual dining spot.

Design by Rezt & Relax

1. Layout. While the open-concept kitchens that double up as an entertaining space is a popular choice, it may not be the most ideal if you’re also doing a lot of heavy cooking in there. Besides the difficulty in containing the smells, you may also face the problem of having a pile of dirty dishes stare at you and your guests from the sink, and the not-so-comfortable feeling of greasy floors and countertops.

Other than the use of sliding glass pocket doors, which can be slid into place to enclose or open up the area, you can also choose to do up two kitchens: a wet one and a dry one. In this way, you have a fully functional kitchen to cook in, and a dry open area where you can mingle with your guests while putting the finishing touch to the dishes without worrying about the state of your wet kitchen.

Whether the layout of the dry kitchen is in the form of a counter that extends from the wet kitchen, or an island counter; a small bar sink and appliances like the oven and wine chiller can be incorporated into the design to make this dry kitchen a functional one as well.

2. Surfaces. Since the dry kitchen functions more often as an area for food preparation and entertaining, the materials used for the countertop can include laminate and solid surface. However, because these materials can be easily scratched, burned and stained, you may choose to top it off with a layer of tempered glass to prevent damage to the surface.

Article originally published in SquareRooms Issue 94 February 2013. Visit their website here.

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