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

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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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