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Don’t forget about ergonomics when designing your new kitchen

Kitchens are designed around people. They have to, as otherwise they would be useless. Ergonomics is, therefore, one of the foremost considerations in kitchen design.

FORM Design Team

June 5, 2020

kitchen design

Kitchens are designed around people. They have to, as otherwise they would be useless. Ergonomics is, therefore, one of the foremost considerations in kitchen design. 

What is ergonomics, you ask? It is the common denominator behind all space planning and interior design decisions. It deals with the relationship between the human body and the objects, spaces, and objects in space that we all come into contact with every day. It acknowledges people's immediate physical needs and considers these in all aspects of a design. 

You guessed it, ergonomics is more important in the kitchen than in any other room in the home. In no other room are the same tasks carried out repeatedly, day in and day out, to quite the same extent. Not only this, but the range of tasks in question is also at its widest in the kitchen.

So how do you bring ergonomics into your kitchen design?

The layout of your kitchen, and the resulting flow through space, is the first thing to consider. We're not just talking circulation, but also the planning and zoning of the space. Don't limit your thinking to the 2D (plan) but also consider the 3D aspect of your kitchen. 

The second is storage. This has to be convenient and safe to use: both boxes can be ticked with our array of special storage solutions.

The third is customization. We don't do generic kitchens, but focus on designing for you as an individual. Much like clothes, a kitchen that fits is the best kitchen you can have.

Spatial decisions

Embarking on a kitchen renovation, you have probably heard of the kitchen triangle. The positioning of your sink, cooker and fridge plays a big part in dictating how your kitchen functions. 

You'll want a kitchen that allows you to be as efficient as possible while carrying out day-to-day tasks in the space. Eliminate the excess steps and reduce distances travelled. Working in the kitchen needn't be tiring. Save yourself for the gym.  

Following the golden rules of kitchen design means that your kitchen will also be safe and comfortable to use. No negotiating awkward corners and bends with a pot full of boiling water as you trek to the sink to drain your pasta. You get the drift, safety is pretty important in a kitchen.

The kitchen triangle is a great start, but it does not cover all the ergonomic considerations of your kitchen floor plan. More progressive ways of thinking about the layout go beyond the triangle, and include zoning and flow. 

Dividing your kitchen into zones such as Preparation, Cooking, Cleaning and more will result in a space that is logical and harmonious: everything fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Flow through the space covers the circulation aspect of kitchen design. Think about the routes in and through the kitchen: they have to feel natural, not awkward or impractical. What are the movements and actions taken at every step, and have they been considered?

A common question is the space needed between the units and island (tip: no less than 36"). But remember, optimal distances can vary depending on the number of cooks in the kitchen, and how you envisage the rest of the household using the space. After all, today's kitchens are so much more than a self-contained cooking space.

The footprint is not all there is to space planning. It's why designers prepare both plans and elevations, as well as 3D models when designing spaces.

How is the vertical dimension and volume relevant to ergonomics in the kitchen? Well, it just means that distances are not absolute: 45" would be too narrow of a gap to leave between two floor-to-ceiling units but fine between an island and base units.

Size and scale are important aspects of interior and kitchen design. On the one hand, there are real dimensions and on the other, there are relative dimensions. How do elements of the kitchen feel in relation to the human user of the space? Do they feel proportionate or over-powering? Is everything of 'human scale'?

We get how confusing all of this can sound, and how difficult it can be to picture yourself in the new kitchen. The good news is that with FORM, you don’t need to imagine. Our proprietary Hollywood-grade RealFORM™ renders show the space accurately and help you understand how YOU will fit within it.

Ergonomic storage solutions

Yes, kitchen storage is about fitting all your pots and pans in, smoothie machines and blenders, food and more. But if you're only thinking about quantity when planning your storage, then you’re missing a trick.

It's not enough to have lots of storage space in your kitchen. You need the right kind of storage. To begin with, you should plan your storage around your existing items. Not only do they need to fit in, they also need to be convenient and safe to access.

How much bending down is involved in getting to the things that you use the most? (Ideally, not much.) Where should you place the heaviest items? (In the most accessible units and at a comfortable height.)

Less needed heavy items should be kept low down. Less needed light items, high up. Frequently used items need to be placed centrally to avoid unnecessary strain in accessing them. It's common sense, really.

The biggest upgrade you can make in bringing your storage up to standard, when it comes to ergonomics, is to substitute your old kitchen cabinets with drawers. Take our word on this one. 

Drawers in FORM kitchens are precision-engineered to run smoothly. Roomy and fully opening, they are hugely practical. They are also versatile, thanks to a wide range of available configurations.

Do yourself a favor by cutting out the bending and kneeling that you’re so used to in the kitchen. We provide solutions that bring the items to you, rather than asking you to strain repeatedly in order to get to them.

Gone are the days of kitchens made of rows and rows of cabinets, with a single bank of drawers, and standard-height wall units. There is so much more to modern kitchens. At FORM, we have some pretty neat solutions to take your kitchen to the next level.

How easy is it to get things out of the back of your corner cabinet? Would a pull-out element help? (Definitely). Floor-to-ceiling storage is great for maximizing space but not so great for access. How do you get up there? Well, we have a neat foldable ladder that fits discreetly into its own special drawer.

Customized is always better

At FORM, we don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to kitchen design. We design around you and your lifestyle, and work with a wide array of special solutions to help us create a unique kitchen for each and every client.

Although the terminology sounds lofty, it is not all about theories and averages. Ergonomics, in the context of the design of your kitchen, is about YOU.

Ergonomics is based on anthropometric data i.e. an understanding of the range and diversity of human dimensions, and the resulting physical needs. We don’t all have the same capabilities, and that is important to consider in kitchen design.

Height is the most obvious, although not the only physical differentiator relevant to kitchen design. Did you know that our kitchens have options for different base unit heights, which you can even mix and match within the same space? Why should your countertop be at the same height as your neighbor’s, who is a foot taller than you? Just because something is standard, doesn’t mean that it’s right for everyone.

At FORM, we specialize in designing for each and every individual and specifically designing around our clients’ lifestyles. It is not just about your physical needs, but also your psychological needs.

What makes you tick? What are your rituals and routines? And how can we cater to these in the design of your kitchen? All this feeds into decisions directly related to ergonomics.

Your island is a good example. Is it intended for family-friendly seating? In which case you’ll want it to be counter-height with appropriate stools and plenty of width. Or is it for cocktail nights, in which case bar height and more intimate, with seating on both sides, might be better.

As ever in design, broad strokes are a good starting point but will only take you that far. It’s the details that make your kitchen truly yours.

Equally, some of the smallest elements can have a big impact on the ergonomics of your kitchen. Think of the cabinet handle. How able are you and others in your household to use the handle you have chosen? An integrated handle is ultra stylish and sleek, but might not be the best choice for the elderly or the very young.

The effort required of the user of the kitchen has to be reasonable and proportionate. Ideally, working in your kitchen would feel effortless in every way.

None of this is rocket science. In fact, a lot is just common sense. And yet, it is easy to get carried away when designing a kitchen, because of the multitude of decisions that all need to be made at once.

Working with an experienced kitchen designer ensures that you stay on track. From the layout, to the storage and customization potential, they will be there to guide you and help you stay on top of the ergonomics in your kitchen.

"We believe that good design improves people's lives. We focus on personalization, performance, and peace of mind."

Co-founders Danny and Tom

Danny Soos & Tom Sherman

FORM Co-Founders

© 2022, Form Remodel, Inc.

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