RE: design of kitchen area
From: Deborah Behrens (
Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 14:50:50 -0600
Stephanie - 

The following is a mishmash of my opinions about our common house
kitchen and dining room design.  Others in my community may have
different opinions, and they're welcome to speak up.  Some of our
problems were necessitated by budget constraints, some of them were
miscommunication amongst us, the subcontractors, the builder, and the
architects.  Some were just lack of foresight on our part.  Much of this
I've mentioned on coho-l in the past.  Sorry I don't have the details
you want about amounts of shelf space, etc.

We only do 2 meals a week, generally so far, but sometimes it's hard to
get cooks to sign up, so often they're potlucks.  We shop for each chef
prepared meal, and only keep staples on hand - but not generally bulk
stuff like rice or flour.  If we have leftovers, we sell them after the
meal.  We try not to have left overs hang around - except condiments and
maybe icecream in the freezer.  Our staples include napkins, condiments,
spices, dish soap, plastic wrap, garbage bags, etc.  We do keep a supply
of various soda pops in the refrigerator for sale at 25 cents each.
Meal prices are usually $2.50 residents, $1? kids, $4 guests.  Cooks
have a $2.25 /person budget, the other 25 cents goes towards staples and
breakage.  If an expensive meal has been planned, they can raise the
prices, but some marvelous meals have been prepared within budget.  We
occasionally do vegetarian meals, but not often.

Our pantry has some problems.  They put in wire shelves, which would be
ok, except that they're not adjustable.  It's going to be a real pain to
move to optimal useable heights (they've been there 3 years, and we
still haven't tackled it.  For instance there's no shelf space high
enough for a popcorn tin - not even under the bottom shelf.  We have had
mice problems in the past, and popcorn tins are useful for bulk storage
of things mice like, what little bulk food we have.  They left room for
us to put a freezer in there, but didn't include a vent fan in the
design.  There's no separate janitorial closet, so our cleaning supplies
such as mops, etc, are stored in there too (not very sanitary IMO).

The dishwasher - the choices for commercial included either chemical or
heat boost sterilization.  We chose heat boost as being more
environmentally friendly.  There was no place in the cabinet next to the
dishwasher that the heat boost piece would fit.  In order to keep it
within required 3? feet of the dishwasher, we had to go thru the floor
and install it near the ceiling of the laundry room underneath.  It's
very heavy, needed very secure installation.   You can't dishwash some
plastics with the heat boost tho - they soften/melt.  

The placement of our dishwasher / cleanup area is right out in the open,
between the kitchen and dining room.  Very noisy, can't do cleanup when
meetings going on.  A walled in area with a pass-thru would have been
quieter.  We still haven't gotten the washup organized well.  some
communities have well positioned soaking tubs that diners put their
plates, etc in after a meal.  Our dirty dishes just go willy nilly
somewhere on the counters around the sink/dishwasher.  We've got soaking
tubs, but no really good place to put them.  Allow space near the
dishwasher for spare racks.

Recycling, trash - make sure to allow space for a number of wastebaskets
in the kitchen, and also in the dining room.   Shouldn't need to go into
the kitchen just to throw away a paper napkin or pop can.

Cabinet doors make the kitchen look neater, but at the expense of
difficulty finding things.  Put labels on drawers, etc so things
generally end up in the same location most of the time.  

Crockery - some people really don't like corelle, but it's VERY
lightweight, takes up little space on a shelf, and is less breakable
than other types of crockery.  60 plates, in a couple different sizes,
60 bowls in a couple different sizes, etc,  can take up LOTS of room.
So can the glasses, especially if you've more than one size.  (We've
used small glasses or coffee cups as icecream bowls, because we don't
have small bowls yet.)  Portable bins/boxes to put the flatware in are
handy.   Dishwasher safe bins, that you could stand the flatware in
would be even better.  Stored very near the dishwasher and yet
accessible to the dining room would be great.

Pay attention to little things like salt/pepper shakers - make sure
they're not just pretty, but functional too.  Ours are pretty but the
holes are way too big.  Our water pitchers and some serving bowls and
utensils are not dishwasher safe.  How many of what size casseroles can
you fit in the oven?

Refrigerator - we have a donated one from a resident.  It's a
side-by-side which is good because the location where it is hasn't
really got room for a full width door to open.  It has a built in ice
maker which is also good because even tho ice makers are prone to
trouble, it's easier than doing trays - less likely that people will
remember to fill trays.  (but I think our ice maker might be broken at
the moment)  We have someone delegated as 'Rot Patrol' to make sure
nothing stays in the fridge too long and gets too disgusting.

Tables, chairs - mismatched is ok to start with, even if it looks funky.
When replacing with new, replace the chairs first - table cloths will
cover a multitude of sins on the tables.  Stackable/foldable tables and
chairs are great, otherwise you end up with tables and chairs lining the
sides of the room when you want the center clear.  You may need to go
with more than one style of chair to suit everyone's comfort level.  OK
to get some non stackable, but make sure the majority are stackable or
foldable.  A storage closet big enough for some table/chair storage, on
the same floor as the dining room would be handy too. 

Lighting  - Lots of separate circuits for different areas of the dining
room - flexibility.  Track lighting is great for flexibility.  You can
even get hanging lights for tracks.  Dimmers to lower the light level
helps keep noise down, but you need to make sure that the light bulbs
are suitable for dimmers.

Outlets - lots.  If there's a possibility that you might set up buffet
service somewhere in the dining room, make sure there are outlets nearby
- at table height if the buffet might be against a wall; in the middle
of the floor if the serving table might be out in the open.  (Being
careful of the manner the floor needs cleaning tho - wet mopping might
not be good for a floor outlet)

Holidays - If you're planning on decorating with lights and such, you
might want extra outlets at unusual places to accomodate them.  

Stove - we have a Viking,  I haven't worked with the stove as often as
some others in the community, but we've had major problems.  The model
we ended up with is a 4 burner gas with center griddle, high-end
residential stove.  I'm not sure what the model number is, or BTUs.  It
was a (used) floor model.  Among our Viking problems - 
1. Oven Thermostat not reliable - can't keep to the desired temp - it
always takes much longer to cook anything in our Viking oven than even
in our home ovens.  Sometimes, in a panic, we've had to ferry stuff back
to home ovens.  We've had the thermostat replaced a couple times.  I
would say this is a sample defect, if we hadn't replaced the thermostat.
2. Oven doesn't have much more capacity than a regular home oven - much
of the additional width is taken up in insulation.
3. Stove top burners - at ignition gas flame starts with a big woosh
that has burnt the edges of the laminate counter next to the burners.
There's insufficient lip on the sides of the stove to protect the
4. Griddle is a pain to clean (but so would any griddle I suppose),
grease drips down thru the cracks, etc. into parts of the stove that are
hard to reach.
5. Don't know what the BTUs are of this stove, but think takes a long
time for water to boil in big pots.  We don't have pots big enough to
straddle 2 burners.
6. Don't hang your utensils behind the stove - the heat vents up the
back and they'll get real hot.
7. The vent fan is soooo noisy.
Having seen a few other common house kitchens, there are things I
personally wish we'd done differently with the stove (but others in the
community may have other opinions):
1. Separate out the stove top from the oven.
2. Get two (stacked?) ovens, residential ok, if reliable brand and
fairly high BTU capacity.  
3. You'll be able to fit more in two residential ovens than one Viking
commercial or residential unit.  And you'll have more flexibility for
different temperature needs.  They probably won't get used that much
that you'll need extra insulation.  Or you could put insulation in the
walls next to the ovens.  Or one oven and a microwave.
4. A four or six burner residential stove top (high BTU).  Only get a
griddle if it's easy to clean around / under / behind it.  Make sure the
burners are close enough to straddle a large roaster or other big pot
over two burners.  Easier to boil huge quantities of water for spaghetti
or soup, etc.  You can store big pots and pans under it.
5. Put a durable countertop next to the stove - something you can put
hot pots and pans directly on - steel, butcher block, etc, something
that doesn't matter if the burner igniting or the hot pots will scorch
the edge.  
6. Don't get commercial equipment unless you want to deal with the code
requirements of a commercial kitchen - venting, fire suppression, etc.
We got around it by getting high-end residential, and assuring them that
we don't keep our stove/oven going all day - we generally cook twice a
week at the most.  We had to go thru a lot of hoops tho, to convince
them not to zone us commercial.  Our vent/fan is almost commercial
grade, however, and VERY NOISY.  We hardly ever turn it on because of
the noise.  
7. Big double boiler pots would be very handy for cooking stuff that you
don't want to burn at the bottom - spag sauce, etc.  Not cheap tho.
8. For BBQ just have the neighbors bring their gas grills over, and use
them outside. - alot easier to clean than the stove broiler.

I could think of tons more to say, but others probably could say it

                         (0 0)
 | Debbie Behrens               debbeh [at]  |
 | Highline Crossing Cohousing     H: (303) 797-7779  |
 | 1611 W Canal Ct                 W: (303) 252-2215  |
 | Littleton CO 80120              Fx:(303) 252-2249  |
 |       Rocky Mountain Cohousing Association         |

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