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Considering Kitchen Layouts: What's Cookin' Good Lookin'?

The single-guy-who-nukes-his-dinner-every-night crowd probably doesn't care about a good kitchen. To the rest of us, the kitchen can make or break a real estate deal. To a lot of people a kitchen isn't just a room in which to prepare meals. It's a homework area, a place to sit with a neighbor over a cup of coffee, and, in the case of the country kitchen, an area where the family gathers to share the day's stories. If you're not that single guy with a microwave, evaluating kitchens will be an important aspect of your house hunt.

Classic Kitchen Design: The Work Triangle

One element of classic kitchen design remains constant throughout the years: the work triangle. The triangle's three points are the refrigerator, the oven and the sink, and its purpose is to ensure efficiency and good traffic flow.

To picture the triangle, consider how you work in the kitchen. When preparing a meal you move between the refrigerator, the stove and the sink. Good kitchen design places these elements in a triangle. Which element is at the apex of the triangle depends on the kitchen's layout. There are four distinct kitchen layouts, and within each of them the work triangle remains a constant: the galley, the "L" shape, the "U" shape and the "G" shape or peninsula.

Within the kitchen triangle there should be an area for food preparation, such as a cutting block, counter or island.

While the work triangle is a well-known aspect of kitchen design, many kitchen layouts either ignore it or have a deeply flawed triangle. When you're looking at a kitchen, keep the work triangle in mind. Even small kitchen layouts can be functional and practical if the work triangle is properly integrated.

Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets play a dual role in the kitchen. They are both functional and, hopefully, decorative. Deep cabinets are ideal for storage of seldom-used and oversized items, while shallow cabinets work best for small, frequently used items, such as spices. When viewing a house you're considering purchasing, take a look inside each kitchen cabinet with an eye toward whether it will accommodate your kitchen equipment.

The location of kitchen cabinets is also important. You should be able to reach the pantry and cooking supplies without having to deviate from the kitchen work triangle.

Kitchen Design Extras

A number of features are wonderful surprises when house hunting, even if they're not essential to kitchen layouts:

  • Breakfast nooks
  • Fridges and dishwashers disguised by cabinetry
  • Garbage disposal units
  • Kitchen islands
  • Recessed lighting
  • Big pantries

Lighting can Enhance Kitchen Layouts

Avid cooks understand the importance of good lighting in the kitchen. Homebuyers, on the other hand, seem to give it a cursory glance. If you cook, even if it's just family meals, good lighting is essential. Turn on the lights – all of them. Try to picture the room as it will be at night, while you're cooking dinner. If the light is insufficient, is there a way to add more light? Some of the big-box department and import stores carry inexpensive under-counter lighting that you can install with just a screwdriver.