Made to Order

Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles, January 2003 Issue

The Ins and Outs of Designing a Specialty Kitchen

By Elizabeth McDonald

When designing a kitchen renovation – or a new kitchen – the cook gets the majority of consideration in planning. But what if the kitchen must accommodate special needs? What if the cook is physically challenged, or the family strictly kosher? What if the kitchen must feed seven hungry mouths nightly? Then it’s time to do a little extra research and careful planning to make sure that every detail in the new kitchen is in perfect sync with the needs of those who will use it.

Here are some tips and ideas to get you started on a specialty kitchen. The Web is also a useful tool for research, and a certified kitchen designer will provide invaluable assistance in addressing specific needs.

Kosher Kitchens

A basic rule in a kosher kitchen is the separation of meat and dairy. The design challenge in this case is to completely separate the preparation, cooking and cleanup areas for each of these food groups – and to do that attractively and functionally. Storage areas must also be taken into account so that double sets of utensils and dishes can be stored away.

Other options include a mirror above the cooking area to allow vision into pots for seated cooks; sliding or retractable doors on cabinets; and easy-to-see and -grip pulls for doors and drawers.

Accessible Environments

When the kitchen’s main cook has a physical impairment of limited mobility, storage and appliance placement are of particular importance.

Motorized, adjustable-height sinks and cabinets make kitchen tasks and tools reachable for those in wheelchairs. Rounded countertop corners at comfortable heights, pullout shelving, drawer organizers and Lazy Susan’s installed in corner cabinets are also practical.

The space’s layout is extremely important for maintaining accessibility and functionality. Floor and toe space (for foot rests on a wheelchair), knee room (for cooking or washing dishes while seated), and wheelchair-turning capacity are things to keep in mind in the design stages.

Kiddie Cooktale

Children love to cook – especially when Mom and Dad enjoy it too. But the kitchen can be a dangerous place for youngsters. Hot stoves and pots, sharp knives and fast-moving appliances make the kitchen especially hazardous to small children, so the obvious rules of supervision and careful storage should certainly apply.

Once the safety concerns are dealt with, welcome your child into the kitchen. A stool is especially handy for younger children, so they can sit and watch – at counter level. Or, a footstool will allow then to stand next to the main cook and give some hands-on assistance. Having a small, kid-sized table and chairs in or near the kitchen is also a brilliant idea. They’ll relish a work area of their own for sitting down to whisk a bowl of cream or knead bread dough.

Having children in the kitchen can be extremely rewarding – and you never know when you might be influencing the cooking genius behind tomorrow’s Thomas Keller or Charlie Trotter.