Designing a new kitchen is not a simple case of one size fits all – it’s far more complex than that, as each kitchen needs to be fit for purpose for its owners. That’s where the skills, experience and know-how of a qualified kitchen designer come in, to ensure that your space is not only well designed, but also highly functional, liveable, comfortable and good looking, too.
Ergonomics, the science of designing the environment to fit the people who use it, plays a vital role in creating smart kitchen spaces that alleviate daily frustrations and traffic jams, and creates good flow. In relation to kitchen design, ergonomics ensures that kitchen benchtop and cupboard heights are correct, that there’s enough space to move around comfortably, appliances are placed in the right positions and that the space is, overall, easy to use.
An ergonomic kitchen ensures efficient workflow and comfort for all kitchen activities. Clear zones for cooking, meal preparation and circulation are must-haves in any functional kitchen layout. The cooking and food preparation zone should also utilise bench space with the cooktop, oven and sink.
The right benchtop height
Raising your benchtop height can drastically improve your kitchen ergonomics. A benchtop that isn’t at the right height can cause discomfort, including sore shoulders or necks and back pain, so the correct benchtop height is nonnegotiable. The standard benchtop height, that is, the distance between the finished floor and top of the benchtop, is 910mm to 950mm, as this height will suit most teenagers and adults.
Although 900mm was previously thought to be the ideal benchtop height, as people are now taller on average, 910mm to 950mm is now suitable for today’s households. However, your kitchen designer should consider how tall those in your home are and may need to make the benchtop height lower or higher to accommodate certain family members. Some family members may also have mobility issues that need to be taken into consideration when planning benchtop heights, so discuss these requirements with your kitchen designer.
Also, the thickness of the benchtop needs to be taken into account when specifying the height of your kitchen island.
Tip: If sitting at an island bench, allow for 300mm to 400mm of leg room underneath the benchtop to sit comfortably, and at least 600mm width per person when seated.
Optimise traffic flow with walkways
The kitchen is quite possibly the busiest room in the house, therefore, it’s so important to have easy and unobstructed flow between benchtops and the most-used appliances, and the right amount of room between workspaces.
The main pathway into the kitchen shouldn’t be obstructed by an open fridge or oven door. Also, kitchen fixtures and appliances must not be too far away from each other – for example, a fridge that’s far away from the stove will complicate meal preparation.
A kitchen island’s location is also important – it has to be easily accessible, but shouldn’t block important appliances such as dishwashers, ovens and refrigerators. As there needs to be enough room to open the dishwasher or oven without obstruction, it’s ideal to leave between 900mm to 1000mm around the sides of a kitchen island and fixed items, such as benchtops, walls or pieces of furniture, to create a walkway for people to move around, and ensure good flow.
The right amount of distance between workspaces such as benches ensures that those in the kitchen can avoid constantly stretching or reaching, or feeling cramped. A distance of 1050mm is often regarded as the minimum, while 1200mm is ideal for most. More than 1400mm between benches and fixtures can result in ergonomic inefficiency and wasted space.
Work flow made easy
Although many designers no longer adhere to the Kitchen Work Triangle concept, another organisation technique that your kitchen designer may suggest is the Five Kitchen Zones. Planning a kitchen into zones – consumables, non-consumables, cleaning, preparation and cooking – minimises walking back and forth and allows items to be nearby, creating better work flow and saving precious time and energy.
Another key kitchen design principle is to position wall-mounted appliances above your head height – no one wants to bump their head each time they are at the cooktop. The minimum clearance in Australia between stove and rangehood is 600mm for an electric stovetop or 650mm for a gas stove, although most manufacturers recommend a distance between 700mm and 750mm. If you’re tall, or have a tall family, you may need to ask your kitchen designer to raise the height of the rangehood.
The position of wall-mounted cabinets above benchtops also needs to be considered to avoid head bumps. Although overhead cabinetry maximises storage, anther option when planning storage is to consider deep drawers for access to pots, pans and crockery. Top-lift cupboards are another clever option.
Ready to get started on your kitchen renovation?
Contact the expert kitchen designers at Mint Kitchen Group to create an ergonomic and well-planned kitchen that suits your specific needs.