10 Top Design Tips for an Ergonomic Kitchen
Good ergonomics are more important in the kitchen than any other room in the home.
Get it right and you’ll create a smart space with good flow where every meal is cooked smoothly and in style. Get it wrong and you’ll be frustrated on a daily basis. Here are 10 clever tips – as well as mistakes to avoid – to help design a fit-for-purpose kitchen.
1. The traditional kitchen work triangle has evolved beyond geometry
The ‘kitchen work triangle’ refers to the relationship between the stovetop, fridge and sink, which were traditionally arranged at points of an invisible triangle. This concept came about in the 1940s when kitchens were usually smaller, sequestered rooms.
Today, however, our kitchens come in countless configurations, from U-shape or large open-plan layouts to narrow single- or double-walled galley styles.
These days we also have more appliances, such as microwaves and dishwashers, so it’s often impractical – or downright impossible – to plan your kitchen according to the triangle. Instead, consider which appliances you use most and allow unobstructed lines of movement between them.
2. Plan the right distance between benches and fixtures
Having enough room between work spaces such as benches is essential – too little and you will feel cramped, too much and you will constantly be stretching and reaching for hot, heavy pans. A distance of 1050 millimetres is often regarded as the minimum, while 1200 millimetres is ideal for most. More than 1400 millimetres between benches and fixtures can result in ergonomic inefficiency and wasted space.
3. Store crockery near your dishwasher, not above it
To save your sanity and your spine, keep plates and glasses on either side of your dishwasher, or even behind it if you have two facing benches. This lets you unstack your dishwasher with smooth, swift movements.
Housing crockery in wall-mounted cupboards directly above a dishwasher forces people to lean over it when it’s open and reach up awkwardly to put away clean dishes. This kitchen cleverly avoids such a fate by positioning the dishwasher in an island bench.
4. Consider raising your bench height
The standard bench height of 900 millimetres has become a common culprit of back pain for more statuesque souls. These days 920 millimetres is often preferred, and 950 millimetres or even higher is not uncommon. If the head cook in your home is tall, raising your bench height will improve the ergonomics. Likewise, if you’re less than leggy, an 850 millimetre bench height will save sore shoulders when you’re stirring at the stove.
5. Watch your head!
If you’ve ever lent forward to smell that delicious sauce simmering on the stove and bumped your forehead on the range hood, you’ll know how important it is to position wall-mounted appliances above your head height. The minimum clearance in Australia between stove and range hood is 600 millimetres for an electric stove-top or 650 millimetres for a gas stove, though most manufacturers recommend a distance between 700 and 750 millimetres, which can be increased.
Likewise, consider reducing the width of wall-mounted cupboard doors so they don’t open too far beyond the bench, or install retractable hinged systems.
6. Swap cupboards for drawers
Instead of ferreting inside dark cupboards looking for a lost utensil, it makes sense to simply open a drawer and see its contents at a glance. Drawers are ideal for storing anything from pots and pans to plates and perishables, just opt for maximum weight bearing systems.
7. Clever solutions for tricky corner cabinets
Gone are the days of stretching into deep corner cupboards, thanks to carousels that spin internal shelves around like a lazy Susan or systems such as the LeMans, which swing the contents of your corner cupboards into the kitchen.
8. The dimensions between your tap and sink matter
We’ve all had the infuriating experience of turning on the kitchen tap only to be sprayed with water. Splash back is a common issue, and one that results from a poor relationship between your water pressure and the dimensions of your mixer and sink.
While there is no single solution to fit every kitchen, if you don’t want to wear your water think twice before pairing a deep sink with a high arched spout, or choosing a short sink and a long tap.
9. Design kitchen lighting with work zones in mind
Dimmable LED downlights coupled with a beautiful pendant provide a general ambient glow, though without task lighting you may find you’re slicing food in the shadows. To illuminate important bench space and work zones, install LED downlights or strip lighting under wall-mounted cabinetry.
10. Add a sprung floor… and some comfort
With the amount of time we spend standing up in the kitchen, the ergonomic benefits of a sprung floor cannot be ignored. Add some other creature comforts while you’re at it to make your kitchen a joy to cook in: music, some seating, plants and potted herbs… did someone say wine fridge?
Source: Julia Fairley, Houzz Editorial Team, Houzz