When meeting clients, it seems that their kitchen is often the toughest part of the home to reimagine. San Francisco clients in particular, are so used to their shallow cabinets, tile countertops and old school gas appliances that it can be hard to wrap their mind around the idea of having a beautiful, functional space to cook in. Quickly it can become one of life’s biggest questions to figure out which cabinet filler will be used for utensils, or how much pantry space their family really needs. But, if we ask ourselves the right questions it should be a whole lot more simple. Let’s start with the basics: appliances, where should they go? What are some questions we must ask to find out?

1. Do you Cook?
While it may seem like a silly question to ask someone remodeling a kitchen, it is certainly the most important. Particularly here in the Bay Area, where Grubhub and Postmates have made it so easy to avoid cooking altogether. When it comes to appliances we have had plenty of clients whose primary concern is finding a prime spot for the microwave, leaving any other thoughts around functionality seemingly insignificant. For these clients, we like to turn to the Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule, or working triangle, was a theory developed in the 1920’s by psychologist and engineer Lillian Moller Gilbreth who sought to establish the most effective kitchen layout. With this layout the sink, range and refrigerator are installed in a triangle configuration, having a perimeter of 26 ft or less. With this configuration, Lilian figured she’d found the perfect formula to an efficient kitchen: each workstation lined up one after the next to minimize the amount of steps she’d have to take while baking her famous cake. As a busy career woman with 12 kids, Lillian certainly did not have time to waste in the kitchen! For the most part, this rule provides great guidance. Particularly when we are talking about homeowners who will not be doing the cooking themselves, and are more concerned with considering function for a hypothetical buyer who may live there someday down the line.

2. What do you cook?
When you can think deeply about what you cook, you can more thoughtfully consider the processes involved. We are so fortunate to meet so many wonderful people from so many wonderful diverse backgrounds. And through home remodeling we have learned so much about the different cuisines of each home and the adjustments they require for a truly functional kitchen. Sometimes, we have learned, the Golden Rule must be broken…

When thinking about where our appliances should go, we need to decide where we need the workspace the most. Despite being so essential to the kitchen, appliances take away from storage and the workspace you have, so it is important that we are thoughtful in considering where they should go. A few years ago, we had some clients that had recently migrated to the US from India. When I asked what kinds of things they like to cook, the wife responded with a thoughtful explanation of how each morning her mother-in-law (who also lived with them and helped take care of the house and the new baby) would make a sort of bread called Roti. She explained that she wanted as much room as she could have on either side of the range, because the process of making Roti would become most efficient if she had workspace for the steps before the Roti went on the stove and space to collect the Roti once it was cooked. It was important to her that the refrigerator be moved as far away as possible, thus pushing the boundaries on the kitchen work triangle.

3. Who do you cook for?
If you have kids…

It is important to consider how they play a role in the placement of appliances. Creating a small appliance garage where kids have easy access to a microwave or a toaster oven can be a great way to foster some independence when making breakfast in the morning or preparing their lunches for the next day.

If you are the hostess with the mostess…

If you love to host parties and holidays, it is important to think about how many people you will be cooking for on the occasion that you are hosting–even if it is just a few times a year. Perhaps you need a second oven so you have room to bake a main course and some desert.. Perhaps you need a second sink for all the dishes that will pile up over the course of the evening.. Perhaps your single door refrigerator will simply not cut it once the leftovers start to pile up..

If you are a minimalist…

If you live alone, or have a smaller space to work with, it may be worth it to downsize appliances for the sake of cabinet and countertop space. Maybe it means trading in your french door fridge for a small european one and a pantry.

Now you have started thinking about your appliances and where they should go. Over the next few posts we will dive deeper into other functional components as well as how to consider the kitchen’s aesthetic. I know it can be tough to reimagine a space in a way you’ve never known it to exist, but our goal is to help you understand your needs and wants so that you can make the best decisions when remodeling your house to feel more like home.