For most families today, a kitchen separate from the rest of the house creates a serious inconvenience, according to architect and interior designer Sarah Susanka. Two-income families, for instance, may not spend time together until the family cooks dinner. A kitchen/family room facilitates combined socialising and meal preparation. A well-planned kitchen/family room combines two activities, but provides separation where needed.
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Good organisation determines the usefulness of a kitchen/family room, but good ventilation takes precedence over almost anything else. Cooking odours can make the room unpleasant. Ventilation, in this instance, has two roles. First, you need good overall ventilation--according to the EPA, a complete change of indoor air about once every three hours. Second, you need an exhaust system to carry away cooking odours--either a vented stove hood or a downdraft ventilation system that pulls the air downward into the hob to an underfloor exhaust duct.
The Crowd Control Problem
One common problem with kitchen/family rooms is the centre island. Family members tend to enter the kitchen during meal preparation, and they often walk around both sides. When they walk around the side of the island nearest a counter, they effectively cut off a portion of the cook's work triangle--the triangular area with stove, sink and refrigerator at its three corners, according to "The Thirty One Kitchen Design Rules" from Star Craft Custom Builders. The part of the kitchen/family room designed for cooking then becomes part of the family's social area. A peninsula kitchen design solves this problem. It extends the end of the kitchen island nearer the counter until it meets it. The island becomes a peninsula, assuring an area accessible only from the other side of the island, and away from the cook's working area.
Creating a bi-level kitchen island provides needed separation between the cook's use of the island, which usually has a stove or sink on the inside of the island (the side nearer the counter), and countertop meal service. The cook's side of a 48- to 52-inch wide island remains at the usual counter height--around 34.5 inches. But the last 15- to 18 inches on the other side of the island has a counter about 6 or 8 inches higher where family members eat sitting at barstools. The cook really doesn't lose that much of this space. Frequently used spices and utensils store nicely in the open cabinet under the higher counter.
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