The first thing to think about is what hasn't worked for you in previous kitchens, and take that into account when plotting out your new zone. Keep the traditional ‘work triangle' in mind for efficient kitchen use. “The fridge, cooking zone and sink zone should be in reach of one another but never directly adjacent,” explains interior designer Laura Stucken of JAWS Architects.
“You should be able to turn around from any of these zones and have clear bench space, so this typically results in the sink being opposite the fridge and cooktop/oven.”
Seek inspiration but be realistic with your own room. Lisa Mayski, marketing manager at Kaboodle Kitchen, cautions: “Be smart with your kitchen configuration by moulding your design to the space you actually have to work with, not what you wish you had. And consider a layout that works best for how you intend on using your kitchen to ensure a future-proof design.”
Before you start drawing up plans, consider your space. Firstly, measure the longest wall – this is most likely where the cooktop will be positioned, and will act as an anchor for the rest of the design. If you'd like an island bench, you'll need 900mm to 1200mm between the island and the main bench, and islands work best if they're broader than a standard bench, perhaps 800mm to 1200mm wide. Ask yourself if there is enough space for a return – that is, a bench and cabinetry along a second wall.
There are a number of standard kitchen layouts that could inspire your own design.
Arranged as two rows of units with a central corridor, galley kitchens suit more compact rooms with the added plus of having no corner units in which you can lose essentials. They deliver lots of bench space and, as everything is in easy reach, are super-functional.
Wall cabinets on both sides can feel claustrophobic, so consider open shelving or glass-fronted cabinets on one side. Also try to maximise the space between the benches. “Making the circulation space wider than normal is critical for ease of use in galley kitchens,” says Laura. “Two people should be able to work comfortably, being able to open cupboards, drawers and ovens with someone being able to pass by. I would suggest 1200mm, if possible.” In smaller galleys, opt for as many drawers as you can to maximise storage options, and consider compact appliances. If the kitchen faces an open-plan area, position appliances like the dishwasher on the inner side of the facing run to screen them from view.
As it sounds, this design has benches around three walls of the room. “U-shaped kitchens provide plenty of storage options for small and medium-sized spaces,” says Lisa Mayski. Be aware that a U-shape will mean only one entry/exit point (this can be a bonus if you don't want the kitchen to be a thoroughfare), and will have two lots of corner cabinetry, which means adding smart storage systems to make them completely functional.
If the room footprint is small, this layout can feel cramped, and having more than one person working in the kitchen will be difficult. Consider open shelving for one wall, which will open up the room at head height and enhance the sense of space. On the plus side, the U-shape delivers lots of storage and bench space (perfect when cooking for a crowd) and, if not too large, an efficient working triangle. If the kitchen is to be part of an open-plan space, the open-facing side could be made wider to accommodate 300mm cupboards to hold tableware, or given a deeper benchtop to create a breakfast bar. A G-shaped layout is similar to the U-shape, but with a peninsular bench across part of the fourth wall or opening, great for casual dining.
Two banks of units hug adjacent walls around the corner of the room, which can work well in a smaller home with a combined kitchen-living zone.
“An open-plan kitchen works best when entertaining family and friends,” says Lisa, who suggests adding an island if possible. “Single-line or L-shaped kitchens with an island offer accessibility from all sides of the kitchen, and work as a hub for people to gather around.” This is also a useful floor plan if two people are likely to be working in the kitchen at once, as you can position the cook zone and sink on different runs of units. However in a large L-shape, be wary of spreading the work triangle out too far. Make the best use of the corner by investing in internal mechanisms that will allow you to access the whole cupboard. “There's a perception of dead space in those awkward kitchen corners,” says Lisa, “but you can be clever with your cabinet configuration and incorporate internal wireware accessories to ensure all areas are accessible.” Look to solutions like pull-out or rotating corner baskets.
“The most efficient layout we use for all budgets and sizes is a back wall with cooking, fridge, appliances and an island bench with sink,” says Laura Stucken. “If there is a lot of space, the option for a butler's pantry behind or adjacent to the back bench helps tidy up a kitchen and opens up more bench space.” In a small zone, everything has to work hard. A single-line run could lack bench space, so a sturdy dining table may double as a spillover prep zone. Look for a sink that comes with a fitted cover to give you extra work space, and an induction cooktop, which has a low profile for less visual noise. As they're on show, see if you can stretch the budget to buy appliances that work together visually, such as all black or steel.
Now you know some of your options, head into your local Bunnings and speak to one of our kitchen experts to get your kitchen makeover underway.
Photo credit: Interiors/Piotr Gesicki, Kaboodle, Getty Images, (left) Kaboodle and Gap Interiors/Marcin Grabowiecki.