While watching the house construction, I discovered there are always things going on behind the scenes. Not everything happens on site. I could see lots of activity in the kitchen area as electricians and plumbers installed the utilities.
Next the plasterer and brickies did their bit with the walls. However, it’s still just a space where a kitchen should be.
We heard rumours that our joinery expert, Russell, was busy in his Buxton workshop building cupboards and benches. During a lull in the interior work, Russell arrived to put together the main parts of the kitchen.
Our objective for the kitchen was a functional, attractive space that included sustainable design principles wherever possible. How did we go? Let’s check the list.
A functional kitchen is a pleasant experience.
Before going on, I need to point out how much I relied on Libby for the kitchen design. My sole input was a request for a space where I could easily wield a sharp knife on a chopping board. For meal preparation, I like to slice ingredients into smaller pieces. Libby knows what works for all the other activities in this important space.
Our design evolved from the traditional work triangle concept. It makes sense to have clearly defined work areas that aren’t too far apart but with sufficient space for two people to work comfortably together.
The kitchen fits into an L-shaped wall arrangement with an island bench in the middle. The induction cooktop and double sinks sit in a bench along the northern wall. A fridge/freezer and an oven are slotted into the cupboards on the western wall.
Our island bench serves a variety of purposes. It’s a large, open workbench or just a place to sit and eat a meal. Cupboards and drawers under the bench provide easily accessible storage.
Windows on the northern wall provide plenty of natural light into the kitchen during the day. At night, LED downlights over the work spaces ensure we can easily see what we’re doing.
Adding a few sustainability features.
One way of including sustainable design principles is to consider residents’ future needs. As we age, our needs and physical abilities change. A kitchen design that is easily modified to cope with residents’ changing needs is more sustainable than ripping out a kitchen and replacing it with something more appropriate.
Livable Housing is a useful source of ideas for future proofing a house design. We included several of their suggestions. A good example is providing at least 1200 mm of clearance in front of fixed benches and appliances to ensure easy access (even if a walking frame is required to move around). Libby included a few of her own ideas to ensure the kitchen coped a decline in our abilities. Putting in a wall oven at waist height means less bending. Adding drawers as storage space makes it easier to access items.
The stainless steel bench top is another sustainability feature because it is easily reused or recycled at the end of its useful life in this house. A bonus feature with the steel top is in-built sinks which makes cleaning so much easier. No nasty little nooks and crannies where gunk accumulates.
Reducing the need for new materials is another sustainability feature. We used reclaimed messmate timber for the island bench top and feature panelling. Russell did a great job on the bench top but it did come at an unexpected cost. One sneaky nail hiding deep within the timber ruined the blade in his circular saw.
Functionally beautiful or functional and beautiful?
Whenever Libby looks askance at something I’ve created for the house or garden, my response is always that it’s “functionally beautiful”. In other words, the device isn’t pretty but it does the job. Well, that was never going to be enough for this kitchen. Would the result work well as a kitchen and be an attractive room?
We think the work done so far suggests the finished product will be functional and beautiful.
The limestone-like Timbercrete walls, white joinery and polished concrete floor provide a muted background for the clean, crisp lines of the stainless steel bench, along with the oiled wood colour in the island bench and window frames.
Hopefully anyone who visits the kitchen will get the same feeling we do. It’s a warm, welcoming space for people to prepare and share meals.