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Sarah Susanka's Kitchen Remodeling Tips


We’re delighted to have architect and author Sarah Susanka as a guest of Marvin Windows and Doors at this year’s Remodeling Show. Here are some tips from Sarah’s latest book, “Not So Big Remodeling,” written with Marc Vassallo.

1. Borrow Before Building. If the existing kitchen is too cramped, consider borrowing space from adjacent spaces. Often, there is space available in places that get overlooked, such as an oversized living room, a rarely used dining room, a butler’s pantry or a poorly laid-out back entry.

2. Leave Well Enough Alone. Where possible, leave the utility hook-ups where they are, especially if budget is a concern. Limiting the number of utilities to relocate will help keep costs contained.

3. Consolidate Entrances. Attempt to locate all the doorways to the kitchen on one side of the room and eliminate any that are not absolutely necessary. This leaves the rest of the kitchen for continuous countertop and appliance arrangement, while limiting foot traffic through the work area.

4. Pick Out the Pieces. Select major appliances early in the design process so the evolving plan can be tailored to their specific dimensions. The difference of a few inches in any direction can be crucial.

5. Work Triangle Basics. The path linking the centers of the sink, cook top and refrigerator should not exceed 26 feet. No leg of the triangle should be longer than 9 feet or shorter than 4 feet, and no major traffic pattern should intersect it.

6. Bridging the Distance. If the kitchen is more than 12 feet wide, consider adding an island in the center. Make sure any walkways between cabinetry and island are at least 36 inches wide or the kitchen will feel too cramped — 42 inches is better yet.

7. Keep it Flowing. Place large vertical objects such as the refrigerator or a double oven at the end of a stretch of countertop, rather than in the middle, to maximize usable work surface.

8. Maximize Interaction, Minimize Interruption. A successful kitchen remodeling encourages interaction between household members while minimizing the amount of movement through the space by non-cooks. Eliminate the frustrations of a crowded work space while improving the opportunities to socialize by creating a layout that is open to adjacent spaces but still clearly defined as a separate room.