The process of planning a kitchen is basically determined by how you intend to use your kitchen and what features you most want therein.
Will the kitchen primarily be used for one cook or two? Do you entertain larger groups or is the kitchen to be used by just your immediate family?
Will you want a griddle in your range top or will burners do? Is your favorite cooking surface gas or electric? How many ovens will you need?
Just about anything you can imagine can be done to a kitchen -- walls can be moved, plumbing can be changed, and electrical service can be added or modified. Moving walls can be expensive, so be sure that you have a cushy budget if you decide to move a structural wall.
Planning is the least expensive part of the project. To plan and change is a far less expensive scenario than to build and change. Moving a wall with pencil and eraser is as cost-effective as it gets. Work to make all decisions before the project begins. Keep in mind that each decision you make may have an affect on some other part of the project.
How many people will use the kitchen? Your answer will determine how much use your kitchen will get, and how much traffic to expect at any one time. Do two or more cooks typically work at the same time? If so, you may want extra counter space or an extra oven, sink or dishwasher.
Do you entertain frequently -- and do you typically have formal or informal gatherings? If you entertain a lot, you may want to open up the kitchen into a great room that lets you be part of the party while you're working.
What other activities will commonly occur in your kitchen? Some homes have a laundry room within or adjacent to the kitchen. Some people want a wet bar, a breakfast bar or even a small office area or a desk for writing or computer work.
This, obviously, is not a complete list of considerations necessary to properly plan your kitchen; the list can be infinite. In any event, before you begin designing, think about who uses the kitchen, how it will be used and what features you will want.
Do you want an island, a peninsula or a breakfast table area? This one will take lots of space. Be sure that you have lots of room before planning an island area. Would you prefer a pantry instead of more cabinets?
Would you rather have a stainless steel sink, a composite one or enameled cast iron?
Do you use a microwave for major cooking or just to heat things up? How about a warmer drawer?
Do you prefer cooking with gas or electricity?
Do you want a combination oven and range or a cooktop and a wall oven?
The fewer structural and mechanical changes you make, the less you'll spend. But that doesn't mean that all those changes cost a lot of money or that you shouldn't consider doing them. You may need the advice of an experienced professional to make many of these decisions. You can at least get a rough idea of how much extra cost will be involved by answering the following questions:
Is the wall you want to move a load-bearing wall? Load-bearing walls support the structure of the house, and moving them is a complex job and should be left to a professional.
What rooms are directly above and below the kitchen? If the rooms above and below are finished, it will be a lot more difficult to reroute plumbing pipes, heating ducts and electrical wires.
Does your new design require that you move existing doors and/or windows? If so, this makes the job more difficult, because exterior walls are always load-bearing. And exterior modifications can be extremely costly.
The next step -- and the most fun -- is to think about style. Chances are you've seen kitchens that you like, in magazines or friends' homes. Will the style you like best fit with your home? You may have loved European cabinets in the magazine, but they might not look as good in your Queen Anne Victorian.
Also, consider what kind of color changes you'd like to make -- and whether your ideal colors would necessitate buying new appliances. When you choose colors, think of them in relation to surrounding rooms and try to find colors that complement the rest of the house.
Finally, consider your budget and any other remodeling that you might want to do. Sometimes, related projects are easier and cheaper when done at the same time as the kitchen.
Here are a few design ideas to keep in mind:
* Sink. The area around the sink should have at least 18 to 30 inches of lay-down space on one side, and 48 to 54 inches of lay-down space on the other, to allow room to stack dishes, pans and utensils. Always plan for at least 12 inches between the sink and the nearest corner, measured from the front of the counter.
* Range. The area surrounding the range requires 12 inches minimum on one side of the range, and 15 to 24 inches on the other side, again with 12-inch minimum to the nearest corner. Microwaves and built-in ovens should have at least 15 to 18 inches of counter space on the right side (assuming the door is hinged on the left side).
* Your refrigerator: The area around the refrigerator needs 15 to 18 inches on the handle side of the refrigerator, to place food while loading or unloading.
* Your countertop: The preparation area of the countertop should be handy to pans, bowls and utensils, and should consist of at least 42 to 84 inches of free counter space. An additional 36 inches to 84 inches of free counter space can also be considered to place trays and platters for buffet service.
As you design, you'll also want to plan for the following minimum clearances so you'll have room to work:
* There should be at least 42 inches of clearance from the front edge of the counter to the nearest table or island or another counter.
* Leave at least 20 inches from the front edge of the dishwasher door (when open) to the nearest obstruction, so you'll have room to load and unload.
* Plan for at least 26 inches between the kitchen work area and the nearest traffic path. Allow 36 inches between the nearest obstruction and an eating table, so there is room to pull a chair away from the table.
* A good kitchen layout is usually based on a design concept known as the "work triangle." The work triangle consists of imaginary lines that connect the refrigerator, the range and the sink. For maximum comfort and efficiency, the three legs of the work triangle should total between 23 feet and 26 feet.