It's been a long time between kitchen posts on this blog. Having finished my own kitchen back during the renovations a couple of years ago, I haven't felt the need to blog about them again. But something has been very much on my mind of late, and that is kitchen size.

 via Ivory Lane blog - double island benches, and a separate butler's pantry

This is because kitchens have in Australia, over the past 20 years, grown and grown and grown in size. Conversely, people cook less. If you look at the average commercial kitchen attached to a restaurant that seats 60 people, it's generally far smaller than the average home kitchen now. So it would seem that the size of the kitchen has no bearing on what is being produced in it.


Commercial kitchen - Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck with 4-5 chefs working in it. Image via


I see a lot of inspiration pictures in both my work, and that pinned by other Australians on Pinterest or Instagram featuring very, very large American-style kitchens. Traditionally Australian kitchens were modelled on European/ English kitchens in terms of size, and these are usually smaller due to apartment living.


Kitchens that often feature multiple sink stations and items like pot fillers (which are used in commercial kitchens locally, but were never considered a standard item to put in a domestic one until fairly recently) are now the aspiration. Kitchens with not one, but two enormous island benches to fill the space up between benches that would otherwise be acres apart. And don't forget the adjacent Butler's pantry with its own sink, fridge (or cool room if you really want to up the ante) and cooking equipment.


This can all lead to an interesting discussion about kitchens as the new status symbol of a house, but frankly, after past blog posts on luxury/ status symbols and the psychology behind it all, I just don't really feel like pointing this post in that direction and derailing the actual thrust I was trying to get across. That might make up a separate post involving kitchens/ dressing rooms/ outdoor kitchens/ home gyms and bars, all of which have seen a rise in popularity in Australian homes recently.

The point of this post is more to point out the following:

1. Large kitchens are difficult to work in

Ideally you should be able to walk a couple of steps between zones in the kitchen when cooking so as not to expend energy racing up and down meters of kitchen to grab something from the fridge or pantry or a pot. This is why commercial kitchens are actually fairly compact. Professional Chefs do not want to spend 8 hours on service running (literally) around a kitchen. Their job is exhausting enough as it is. This is something to bear in mind if you are working with a large kitchen area, and the fact that I have a small physical area is something I love about my own kitchen. I rarely have to move far to get what I need done.

Modern large residential kitchen design is overcoming this by including multiples of everything - multiple sink points (as you don't want to carry a saucepan full of pasta 5 metres to the sink to drain it, but rather dump the water in an area adjacent to your cooktop), multiple taps, multiple fridges. If you are currently designing your kitchen, and you are going the large kitchen route, then this is something you need to factor in and budget for. Otherwise your kitchen will give you no joy.

2. You do not need acres of cupboards to store all your stuff

If you're starting from scratch, or have an existing small/ normal kitchen that you're refitting, then consider looking to European kitchen design for inspiration on cupboard fittings. It's no surprise that the largest and best quality manufacturer of kitchen cupboard fittings and hinges are all German - Blum, Hettich and Hafele. They make all the clever pull out things that go into kitchen cupboards that help to maximise space and functionality. Ikea do a pretty good range too. But rather than just using these systems (which can add up if you start going really crazy on the kitchen organising) consider just using your existing basic cupboards more efficiently.

When I was designing my kitchen, I spent some time with my Aunt M, who is brilliant with design, going through my kitchen plans. M is not professionally trained, but is better than most designers I've ever come across with kitchens as she is an excellent cook, and very thoughtful regarding matters of design. Running through my layout and debating various different options was very beneficial for me as I had a tight space to work with and a lot to pack into it. After we'd caught up, M sent through some photos of her cupboards to show me what she'd meant with some of our discussion. I thought I'd i include some of her most helpful advice and images below.

Tip 1 - get lots more cupboard shelves cut up by a kitchen joinery company than you'd usually have and stack them as close to each other as possible. Then rather than creating Leaning Towers of Pisa with your platters or salad bowls or whatever, you can stack them neatly one to a shelf and maximise your space while making them easy to grab and get down when you need them.




Tip 2 - for deep cupboards, have the shelves cut with an arc on them so that you can access the back of the shelves easily and see what you have stored. An example can be seen at the top of M's cupboard in the image below.


Tip 3 - M also used pull out drawers in some of the cupboards, even up higher than below bench top level as is normal (above), to give good access to the back of shelf areas where things traditionally get lost due to inaccessibility. 

Tip 4 - following on from tip 3, drawers (deep for saucepans or shallow for cups) are far better in a kitchen than a traditional cupboards with shelves. One job I'm working on at the moment is just refitting an existing kitchen that my client finds frustrating to cook in. This is mostly because the lower level cupboards are standard shelved 600mm deep cupboards and she looses things up the back and can never get organised. As she doesn't want to replace the entire kitchen we are refitting the cupboards with internal drawers, similar to M's above in the photo to make access to items up the back easier. 

via Heather Bullard design


Tip 5 - work out exactly what you do have and create specific spaces for them. This is the interior of M's Thermomix storage drawer below.

thermomix drawer

Tray dividers via


Tip 6- point of use organisation. I wrote a blog post about it here

And for my own final tip - really consider what you actually use in your kitchen - equipment, crockery and cutlery wise and whittle it down. Most people do not need 8 saucepans. Perhaps you have partial dinner sets that you started off , didn't finish, and never use as a result because you are missing key pieces (wedding registry are good at creating this conundrum). The juicer you bought on a health kick that is gathering dust in a corner could go.

Now, naturally, if you're someone like Stephen Andrew Jones (who writes the best blog on my sidebar) and who collects multiple Le Creuset pots... but actually uses them all...  then this is not advice you should take to heart. It's more a message to all the people with good intentions that they will become a gourmet chef, or who want a perfectly matched set of saucepans that are never actually used. In my case, in order to get enough storage, I got rid of the microwave. We only used it to reheat food a couple of times a week if that, not to cook, and it's easy enough to reheat food on a stove top, in the oven or in the thermomix, and I haven't missed it at all. Keeping things compact means your back and legs will thank you when you are spending hours cooking in the kitchen, and if you are designing or building a large kitchen, then consider the point of use organisation very carefully and allow multiple zones for different activities so that you're not run of your feet and exhausted from the experience.

Previous kitchen posts:

My kitchen - finished
Kitchen cupboard finishes

27 comments:

  1. The Kitsch-In craze is silly nonsense and any celebrity chef post-dating Chef Boradee has little to no influence with GSL. I've had countless galpals try to enlist my keen eye for guidance on backsplash tiles, butler pantry shelving, or cabinet woodgrains and GSL just can't stand the heat. Let's go out to your fab garden shall we?

    Heston Blumenthal???

    Please!

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    1. Who on earth is Chef Boradee? His/ her fame has not reached me here in Oz...
      Kitchens are definitely the one thing that people spend a lot of time working through when they are about to put in a new one, so I'm not surprised you've been enlisted for opinions by friends, even if you are disinterested!

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    2. correct spelling is Chef Boyardee and his canned rations of ravioli, spaghetti, etc. as back in the '70s era of free range parenting, the telly kept the kids occupied and Chef Boyardee kept them overfed

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chef_Boyardee

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    3. Ahhh!! Now I get it. Have to say... that looks really awful! Orange sauce on canned pasta. Yum! Perhaps we should be grateful that not all features of American kitchens have reached Oz yet then :)

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    4. Julia Child wrote about her HORROR of those weird American meals in the 50s/60s - described in detail in at least one of her biographies. Probably why her book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" became such a hit - along with her television cooking shows. I bought that book in Cambridge after a super American woman in our shared student house cooked Julia's Normandy chicken recipe for us and recommended it. I could barely cook at the time and learned so much from this book (and had never before heard of Julia Child). Still have my original paperback held together with string as the pages are falling out. There are red wine and sauce stains all over the pages! You can always tell a much loved cook book. Now have a re-issued glam hard cover - but I still prefer the volume that is falling apart. Pammie

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    5. Sounds like there are lots of happy memories smeared on the pages P! x

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  2. The large kitchens have gone out of control here too Heidi. Also open plans, basically the main floor becoming a large space with a giant kitchen (all that running), islands, dining table and sitting area all in one large room. I put in a kitchen open to our dining area in our last house and it drove me crazy. We couldn't sit down to dinner without the kitchen and the mess in full view.
    In my current home we renovated the kitchen using the original 1915 size (it would have had a little breakfast nook originally). I do have a very large range but I cook three meals a day and I use every inch of that kitchen. If it was open to the dining area I'd be very unhappy (though people point out to me that I could have taken down walls and "opened it all up"... ugh to each his own I guess) it's lovely to serve dinner and then relax over meals with the mess and detritus out of sight.
    I so agree about drawers instead of lower cupboards! I have them in my kitchen and I love them. I also store two sets of dishes at a time in my kitchen (in deep drawers) and then switch them out seasonally, the extra sets are stored in an armoire in the dining room.
    Kitchens need to be ruthlessly de-cluttered and scrubbed on a regular basis, it's something I love doing. Nothing worse than not knowing what's in the back of a cupboard.
    I love your kitchen posts! Thank you Heidi xx

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    1. Well open plan is the way to go here in Australia Dani, and it's interesting but it's the absolute norm now, and I think there are a lot of pitfalls, as you've described, with it as a concept.
      Here a lot of people are scared not to have open plan as it will affect resale in the future. While we have open plan in our own casual living area, I do love having a bit of a wall between the kitchen and dining area so I don't have to look at the mess when I'm eating - as you said it's just not relaxing! But the other problem with the open plan concept is the noise. TV blaring away/ food processor and range hood running all at the same time etc...
      Your kitchen is beautiful Dani- it's clear you put so much thought into the design, and it looks like it functions so well as a result. xx

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    2. Heidi
      So many interesting concepts here. You have the perfect solution in your house: a semi-screened kitchen, large open plan area but also individual rooms like your beautiful library as a retreat that you'll come to appreciate more and more as your children all reach teenage years. Have a friend who bought a large open plan apartment on the Gold Coast as their weekend place. She came to hate the kitchen being totally open to the dining and living areas - and asked her husband (an architect) to design a separating wall which would contain cupboards and also shelving on the other side for books and display (they have wonderful collections of things, including ceramics by Picasso, from all over the world). Only then could she enjoy it. I tend to share her and Dani's views on this.
      It's interesting how open plan has affected furniture design too. Dining room table/chair settings tend to be designed with bigger and high backed chairs to help give definition to the dining area. We have a very small dining room, open on one side through an archway to the living room and when we were refurbishing it I wanted an extension table that would open to seat eight if necessary, but normally have it at a six setting. Could find nothing like it in normal shops. Eventually I found the perfect table, vintage French country cherrywood with a parquet top in the shop at the National Gallery during a blockbuster Impressionist Exhibition. I liked its patina and simple style. It was also considerably cheaper than some of the modern ones I'd looked at. Later found the chairs at an antique shop, vintage and English but they work well with the table. Also cheaper than many modern chairs. I've since worked some William Morris designs in tapestry to re-cover the seats - but haven't yet found a good upholsterer to do the job. Canberra is very short on such people - R is so lucky in Hobart with her brilliant man.
      In addition walls between rooms can help save on heating/cooling bills (and the environment) as you can zone off areas that are not being used. If it's all big open plan you have to heat call the whole area. This is particularly important in Canberra where night time winter temperatures can go to -8C and high summer to around 43C. Pammie

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  3. Such useful advice! When we were having our kitchen re-done over 10 years ago I had to get down on my hands and knees and then even lie down on the floor to empty the things at the back of the old bottom shelves. I hadn't seen most of these things for years because they were so hard to get at. So of course I replaced all of these cupboards with drawers - and gave away to Op Shops the things I hadn't seen for so long. Do so agree - drawers are absolutely brilliant - we have full extension so can pull them right out and see everything at a glance. Our kitchen designer purpose built them to the sizes we needed - one wide drawer just high enough for mugs and water glasses (the companion drawer for cutlery and sharp knives, another for my mixer and one for my large Le Creuset pots (unlike SAJ I have only two big ones). Everything is so easy to reach in a smallish kitchen. We also have two corner cupboards that are carousels - top and bottom shelves rotate separately and are marvellous too.
    When we lived in Colombo it was in a big house with a large kitchen (we had to entertain frequently, including sit down dinners for as many as 24 people at a time) there was also a separate butler's pantry closer to the dining room - but we actually had the equivalent of a real butler (only he called himself "headboy") who actually worked in there at times - so it made more sense than these giant home kitchens. We usually had as many as three people working in that kitchen - none of them me. They were all brilliant! I missed them so much for years and wish that I could have brought them home to Oz with me. So hard to leave them behind - and we loved them all. As we said a final goodbye we were all crying bucket loads, us and our son and all the household servants.
    Your aunt's kitchen looks superb - love the tray dividers too! And adore your kitchen! Pammie xx

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    1. The sad part about the Butler's pantry in houses in Australia is that they don't come with a Butler! We are all our own staff here...
      I know exactly what you mean about crawling around to get at things at the back of cupboards - this is my client's problem at the moment. She does a big tidy up and organises everything, but it's so hard to keep that way as accessibility makes pulling anything out a chore. And then you find all sorts of stuff up the back of cupboards you'd forgotten about as you said! xx

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  4. I've recently sold my big house with its big kitchen, and I'm temporarily renting a very small flat with a compact alcove kitchen. I'm amazed how easy it to use this little kitchen - so quick and easy to unpack the dishwasher when the storage is within arms length!
    Kathryn.

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    1. Have you also found that you don't need most of your stuff while it's in storage Kathryn? I found when we packed up most of our kitchen while we were renovating that I could easily live without a lot of it. It's quite an eye opener! There are definitely some benefits to a small kitchen, as you noted - much quicker to clean and tidy up too!

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  5. I love my small kitchen and keep it organised by storing rarely used china elsewhere. I have a set of 4 Le Creuset saucepans and 2 casseroles, the only other saucepan I own is a stock pot! I have drawers in my pantry and they only hold what I use on a regular basis. My storage of multiple packets and tins that I tend to stock up on when they are on special are kept in a small cupboard in the hall just around the corner. Great post thank you.

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    1. I use our cellar for overflow of pantry items, but really, our pantry is pretty large, so it's really just when I've done a bulk shop of something or another (like tins of tomatoes). I also store some of my china elsewhere - the cabbageware, which I don't use so often, is in one of the laundry cupboards. Sounds like we're on the same wavelength!

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  6. Thanks Heidi - this is wonderfully timed.
    I had just told a friend that she must dig out your kitchen posts as she's planning her own new kitchen and doesn't know where to start. I think your tip for extra shelves to slot in platters, bowls etc is such a good idea. Mine do threaten to crash down on my head as I never stack them back properly.
    I love drawers in cupboards too - had a wonderful wall of concertina cupboards in my Auckland kitchen with drawers inside to waist level- so handy. The top half was that half moon shelving you mentioned - it worked brilliantly. I'll definitely do it again one day.

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    1. Oh that is very handy then if you've told a friend to read up on the old kitchen posts that I've finally posted a new one! I'd forgotten how popular kitchen posts are on this blog... I'd say it's the room most people put the most thought and research into, judging by my stats on this topic! x

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  7. I did a down to the studs and joists kitchen remodel three years ago.My original U-shape kitchen was turned into a galley style. My original space was 10 x 19. It was always about 4' too narrow. No way around without costly new foundation work....so, I stole half of my little used living room. Now I have room for a work table/eat-in casual. It's my baking center and it's good to have those tasks out of the kitchen central. We are empty nesters and my husband doesn't cook, and we plan to retire in this house. I used most open storage so my husband can see where things go when he helps with the dishes. I have all drawers and I love them. I did away with hardware on the drawers and have simply cut outs. BTW, near the end of my planning, I did away with installing a Wolf range and went with double ovens (placed between the cook/baking area) and am using induction hobs kept as portables! I am in deep swoon over the Breville Smart Freak!

    The things I love about my kitchen: large sink which is a turn to the cutting board section of my island.To get space for the island I used 14" deep metro shelves to store cookware and pantry items. I say some people have walk-in pantries; I have a walk-by!

    I have collected cookware and cookbooks for over 45 years—a life-long passion. I view my kitchen as a work space. It is not decorated. It is used!

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    1. How interesting that you did away with a cooktop and are using portable ones!! I will have to look up the Breville Smart Freak and see if they're available here - haven't heard of them before, but I have seen portable induction rings at Ikea of all places.
      Love your tips on what you've found useful, and have to agree with you about how I view my kitchen - it's a working space. I can't abide clutter as it just makes me think there's some stray crumbs lurking behind them. I see kitchens with lamps and ornamental things out and wonder why?! But each to their own I guess...!

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  8. Brilliant, brilliant post, Heidi!
    Such sage and helpful advice. So many great ideas here.
    Why on earth didn't I think of getting extra shelves made for my cupboards? Such an inexpensive and easy adjustment to make. I certainly have the aforementioned 'Leaning Tower of Platters'! I do use them a lot (large family - lots of informal gatherings/buffet style dinners, etc) and I carefully pull them all down to access one (or, even worse, risk a 'pick-up-sticks' style plucking from somewhere in the pile with bated breath!!) Then pull them all out and fit them inside each other like a jigsaw puzzle to put them back again! What have I been thinking?!
    Also love the idea of retro=fitting my cupboards with internal drawers. I'm on to it today!
    Keep the posts coming - your blog is the only one I actually fully read and devour!
    x Caroline

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    1. Hi Caroline, so glad you got some ideas to help out on the falling platter pile! It's a logical and cheap fix, but it hadn't occurred to me either until my Aunt mentioned it and sent through her photos. Sometimes the most obvious things are like that!
      I'm afraid the blogging has taken a back seat this year - I always feel guilty that I have work to get out to clients, or tax to do or something or another... but I will try and churn out a few over the next few months and get back into it! xx

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  9. Great post Heidi! I know what you mean about large kitchens being difficult to work in. My kitchen is on the large side and although I have lots of drawers and storage and heaps of counter space, my pantry is at the other end of the kitchen to the sink, ovens and stove top. It means being super organised when starting a recipe or doing many trips to the pantry to retrieve forgotten ingredients! Expansive black granite counter tops = constant cleaning, especially as my husband and son would never think to wipe up anything they spilled on it! Plus, the more cupboards and drawers one has, the more they seem to accumulate. My oldest son is moving back from Sydney this week and has bought a house - I will be able to completely deck out his kitchen and still have plenty of stuff left! Love your Aunt's clever storage ideas. Have a great week. Jo xx

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    1. I think Black (or dark in general) countertops with shiny surfaces are the most difficult to keep looking clean - a spec of dust or crumb really stands out, so I feel your pain!
      You're also spot on about cupboards and drawers and accumulation. I was recently chatting with one of the school mums who has just been divorced and moved from a very large house to a smaller one with her three children. She commented that the sorting through of "stuff" was the most challenging as she'd never had to throw anything out or move anything on... there were cupboards galore to shove things in to sort out later. It's a bit of a trap in many ways.
      That's so exciting re your son moving home - you must be thrilled he's going to be not far from the nest. xx

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  10. Heidi - somehow I missed this post (I thought that i had subscribed for updates). Perfect timing for me as I am about to submit my final kitchen plans to the cabinet makers. I have thought long and hard about layout and function, I am really hoping that it works out well! I certainly feel like I learned a lot from your previous design posts. The current design is terrible and i have to walk miles to get a simple meal made up, so I have really tried to focus on how I use the space. I have actually really enjoyed the design process and, like you, have got rid of the microwave. I am also adding a very shallow dresser-type tall unit which will have the bottom part coming out slightly further than the top, bifold doors on the top half and counter inside. The plan is to have it as the family hub/clutter areas which I can just shut off and it will house chargers, ipads, keys, mail, letters from school, etc. I am just being practical about the fact that I need a design solution for all the clutter that comes with a family of five! Great to see you blogging again - I don't know how you manage to squeeze it in but I always enjoy reading your posts. x

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    1. I really do think you're a frustrated designer at heart Charlotte! But you're probably in a more lucrative industry, so don't quit your day job ;)
      I love the sound of the dresser for all the household bits and pieces. This is something I try to think about when I'm designing as where to stick your bag and keys and bills etc is always a challenge, especially with so many things requiring to be plugged in now.
      The blogging is suffering I'm afraid. I have so many blog posts in my head, but just don't want to be on the computer after a full day of work/ drafting etc. Plus life just gets busier as the children get older, have more sporting activities and stay up later and later! xx

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  11. Great post as usual!
    Thank you. Linda C.

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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