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#Family Kitchen Guide

What works for one family will not necessarily work for another when it comes to kitchens, but there are certainly several design rules that make sense when it comes to creating a great family kitchen area.

Getting a kitchen that will be perfect for your own family involves sitting down and having a really good think about how you envisage the room performing. What you need from it on a practical level has to take priority over how it will look when it comes to a kitchen that works for all the family although, happily, with such an immense choice of kitchens on offer, this should in no way mean style has to be compromised.

When designing your new kitchen, keep in mind that to work for all the family, it will need to be more than just a place in which to cook. It should be equipped to handle the gathering of all the family at certain times of day and for various activities to take place, too, which means that building in zones is a good idea.

While neat, minimalist kitchens might be suited to couples, this is not usually the case with families the family kitchen will instead benefit from plenty of workspace and storage. Keeping the layout and fittings flexible in order to adapt to the needs of all the family is also vital. When choosing appliances, too, you should seek out those suited to family life as opposed to those that just stand out for looking good in the showroom, whilst lighting, flooring and wall finishes will also play a major role.

Sociable Layouts

One of the most important functions of a family kitchen is that it is somewhere for the whole family to get together be that in the evening after work and school, or in the morning, when everyone is bustling about having breakfast, doing last-minute homework and potentially getting under each other s feet.

Clearly the layout will depend on the size and shape of your kitchen, but providing enough space between units is essential to avoid human traffic jams. As a guide, for just one person to work happily in the kitchen there must be at least 1m of space between the worktops. The required space increases to a minimum of 1.2m to allow two people to pass one another. Galley-style (corridor) kitchens with runs of units on either side are not ideally suited to family life, as they make it hard to create a central space. If you are restricted by a long, narrow space, consider placing units on one side only and using the other for a breakfast bar or seating area. Alternatively, keep the space between the units as wide as possible and give a clear run through to a dining area at the end of the kitchen. Keeping units simple and using recessed plinths underneath will help add space.

Assuming you have more of a free rein with your layout, when planning the space try to think of it first divided into the sections you wish to create: probably food preparation, dining and relaxing spaces. You need to then come up with a logical order for the layout of the kitchen, so that food can be transferred easily from the cooking to the dining area, with the relaxing area farthest away from the preparation space.

Creating some form of central hub is a great idea for family kitchens. Island units are one of the best ways of doing this, providing you with not only some useful extra work and storage space, but also somewhere for the family to sit round.

Separate Zones

It makes sense in a family kitchen for it to be a multi-functional space, allowing lots of different activities to take place simultaneously. For this setup to work, the room should be divided into zones which can accommodate each of the various pursuits. Firstly, think about what will be happening on a daily basis in the room. Cooking obviously, but how about somewhere to keep the children entertained or to do their homework, or for younger ones to play? Will you need a large dining area within the kitchen space? Will you want to work from home there? Do you like to entertain guests regularly and need somewhere for them to relax and chat to you whilst you cook? Would you like somewhere to retire to after a meal but still be able to chat to whoever is clearing away? Think about everything you want from your kitchen at the planning stage.

Creating distinct zones is key to a successful multi-functional kitchen, but just how do you do it? The kitchen really needs to be divided from the dining area. In smaller areas you could just use a breakfast bar with stools for this, but if you have more space, use an island unit or, if you want more flexibility from your layout, use a butcher s block or a server on wheels which can be pushed out of the way when not in use. Ideally, the divide between kitchen and diner should double up as work surface. In the dining space, use low-level lighting over the table to highlight its function.

In order to separate the cooking and eating areas from a seating space, again use room dividers that double up as storage, such as low-level sideboards or shelving, and perhaps introduce some soft flooring in this space, too, in order to distinguish it as a relaxing space rather than a practical one. Finally, ensuring that your kitchen area has sufficient means of extraction, in order keep cooking smells and steam from encroaching on the other spaces, is vital.

Plenty of Workspace

In a family kitchen, you need to think of your work surfaces not just as somewhere to prepare and serve up food, but also as a place that can accommodate regularly used appliances and storage jars, books and papers, half-drunk drinks, lunch boxes, laptops and so on. Yes, all these things can obviously be put away and kept somewhere else, but in reality they often aren t in busy family households, so it makes sense to provide for them. 600mm is the standard depth for worktops, but you might want to consider going slightly deeper than this if you are able to. Creating circular worktop areas at the end of a run or a deeper section midway in a straight run of work surface is also a great way to get extra space.

You can also use your worktops in other ways. Many companies now offer features such as built in knife holders or small waste or compost caddies, pull-out electrical sockets and even built-in kitchen scales, all of which can be neatly concealed within the worktop.

Storage Solutions

Open plan kitchen areas need plenty of good storage to work well after all, it is hard to relax when surrounded by everyday clutter. Include nifty storage solutions in your scheme, such as carousel units, deep pull-out drawers and lots of tall floor-to-ceiling units, too. High-level shelving and hanging racks can also work well.

Practicality

Above everything else a family kitchen should be the ultimate practical space. What this means is not just having plenty of workspace, but that this workspace must be of a material that is easy to clean, can withstand hot pans, spills and knocks, and be easy to maintain. Good materials include granite, composites and some of the higher-quality laminates on the market. Timber looks beautiful and is a good worktop material, but it does require some maintenance to keep its good looks and will not resist burns or bumps.

In reagrds to unit fronts, most are pretty hardy, but be aware that gloss units show up fingerprints. If you are painting timber unit doors, use an eggshell paint that will be easy to wipe down.Using a moisture-resistant, washable paint on walls and ceilings is also a good idea.

Finally, give consideration to the flooring you opt for. Flooring in a family kitchen needs to be hard-wearing and easy to keep clean. Stone or ceramic tiles are brilliant options, whilst manmade flooring, such as vinyl and linoleum, has come on in leaps and bounds to provide a tough flooring that also has good soundproofing qualities helpful when a toddler is making music with your saucepans.

Design Solutions

Islands

Including an island unit in a family kitchen is popular, and for good reason. Islands provide extra storage and additional work surfaces. You should also consider using your island as more of a central working hub, with an integrated hob or sink. Islands are available in sizes and shapes to suit most kitchens and provide that central gathering area that is so important in working kitchens. They also work well in open plan spaces, providing a means of dividing the expanse without putting up too much of a physical barrier.




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