An L-shaped kitchen unit is a space-saving solution that still offers plenty of storage space. Photos: dpa
If you're going to spend time there every day, then it needs to be perfect. But planning your own kitchen, arranging the appliances, and picking cabinets and shelves to suit your own needs can be an ordeal.
Kitchen planners helped us break it down to the essentials. It’s not every day that you get a new kitchen, so it’s all the more important to get it right. Here are some top tips to make sure you get the kitchen you want.
1. Design: What suits me?
This isn’t an easy question but it’s quite simple to answer: you see it straight away. Whether it’s a playful country-home style, minimalistic Scandinavian or industrial chic with metal, concrete and stone surfaces: “The cupboard doors are what you notice first and they shape the whole kitchen, ” says Volker Irle from German trade association Die Moderne Kueche (AMK).
That means they’re the first thing you should think about. An open-plan layout, in which kitchen and living area blend into one another, also means that the design should be consistent, according to Ernst-Martin Schaible from Der Kreis, a buying association specialising in kitchens.
Modular kitchens are currently a big trend. Here, wall units and base units can be flexibly integrated into the living space furnishings.
“Modular kitchens are therefore very popular at the moment, ” he says. “You can integrate top and bottom cupboards easily into the living space. They are part of the living room furniture, or vice versa.”
2. Kitchen layout: What makes most sense?
Instead of the classic design of having a benchtop along one wall, an L-shaped kitchen is often better in smaller rooms. “It’s a space-saving solution which still offers lots of storage space, for example with a pull-out section in the corner cupboard, ” says Irle.
If you want a U-shape the kitchen needs to be at least 10sq m in total and at least 2.4m wide.
“That gives you the most work and storage surfaces, ” says Irle. For families with 12sq m of space, he recommends a G-shape – a U-shaped kitchen with a counter or eating space in the middle.
For a U-shaped kitchen interior, the room should have a width of at least 2.4m.
For even more work space you could add an island. “That’s only doable once you have at least 15sq m, ” says Irle. There has to be at least 120cm between the island and other cupboards to allow access and let people get past.
3. Kitchen zones: What goes where?
Your usual kitchen requirements will decide what cupboards, appliances and crockery goes where. It’s sensible to have the sink next to the area where you prepare food because you’ll be cleaning and washing things then.
“It’s the main work space. It should be at least 90cm wide, ” advises Irle. Ideally there should be a zone for stovetop and oven next to this area and space for cupboards with pots and pans.
A kitchen with an island is great if several people regularly cook together – provided you have the space.
“There should be at least 60cm between the stove and the sink, ” says Schaible. “On the one hand it makes it easier to prepare food, on the other because of the distance to water.” He advises against having the stove next to the fridge because the warmth will mean the fridge needs more electricity for cooling.
4. Ergonomics: What makes cooking easier?
The opening and shutting of cupboards and drawers using modern mechanics or even electricity has made kitchen work easier. “They [drawers] are easy to open and close no matter how many plates or heavy pots and pans are inside, ” says Irle.
Even interior shelves can be made to pull down further, allowing easy access to shorter people or those who have difficulty reaching up.
Don't forget to plan a cupboard under the sink for bins.
In order to ease your back, work surfaces, appliances and cupboards should be adapted for their users.
“The work surfaces should be around 10-15cm below the elbow, ” according to Irle. “If you’re using high-sided pans it could also make sense to lower the stovetop by 10cm so you can see inside more easily.”
The sink could however be made higher because it’s the bottom that is used as a work surface.
Another tip: Some manufacturers offer electronically adjustable kitchen islands and work surfaces. “A kitchen is also more ergonomic when the oven and washing machine are placed at working height, ” says Schaible. That means loading and unloading are much easier. – dpa