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For the modern kitchen, should size matter?

By JUDY STARK

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 8, 2001


At long last, somebody said it: Enough with the giant kitchens.

It's really a no-brainer. People who cook less and eat out more don't need enormous kitchens, says Cameron Snyder, a kitchen designer from the Boston suburbs.

When he and his wife, both busy professionals, moved into a condo, he realized, "If we eat in, it's a salad. We don't need a commercial range and a 4-foot refrigerator. There's no need for it in our lifestyle." There was also no way in their condo to steal space from the living area, which they used, to expand a kitchen that wasn't used.

Snyder installed a small convection oven and a half-size refrigerator, he told Home Remodeling magazine. "We're starting to see a trend away from large commercial-type cooking appliances and toward smaller, more efficient appliances."

A standard-size range and refrigerator will do very nicely for most of our cooking needs. I look forward to the day when we compete with our friends and neighbors on the basis of how many hours we devote to charitable or community efforts, or how much money we donate to them, rather than on how many BTUs our ovens blast or the price of our toys.

Small appliance clutter

Those smaller kitchens can benefit from careful editing, suggests designer and TV personality Chris Casson Madden.

"When was the last time you used the bread machine?" she asked in a recent column.

If your kitchen looks like the List of Christmas Past -- each season's must-have kitchen appliance lined up on the counter but seldom used -- it's time to get a grip. Does anyone still use the Salad Shooter, or those devices that make curly fries? If you want a Blooming Onion once a year, go to Outback, don't clutter your kitchen with the paraphernalia to make it.

Figure $100 per square foot for new construction. If unused kitchen devices, serving pieces and equipment are taking up 20 square feet, that's $2,000 worth of space. What would you rather do with that space, or that money?

Madden notes that many manufacturers make smaller-scaled appliances, but often they're not on display in stores. You have to ask, and check the catalogs. Five Star, she notes, makes a 24-inch-wide, stainless steel, pro-style range complete with four burners, two with simmer settings, a convection oven and a gas broiler. Kitchen Aid offers a 15-inch, two-burner electric cooktop for tighter space constraints.

Cozy's just fine

The National Association of Home Builders recently asked buyers which they'd prefer, within the same square footage: a larger than average kitchen and smaller living space, or a typical kitchen and living space. Seventy percent of all respondents opted for the typical kitchen; that figure rose to 73 percent in the South Central region, which includes Florida.

The most popular kitchen features were a walk-in pantry (78 percent), island work area (71 percent) and built-in microwave (50 percent). Least popular: a recycling center, white-front cabinets and a hot water dispenser, with fewer than 25 percent saying these were essential or desirable.

My mother is still living in the same house she and my father bought in 1952, and for 49 years she has coped with an unforgiving kitchen floor plan. The only place to put the refrigerator makes it hard to open several of the base cabinets and drawers and to reach some upper cabinets. That leaves her with about two feet of usable counter space to the right of the stove and maybe two feet more to the left. She has a huge porcelain sink with double drain boards, but she never installed a dishwasher. Doesn't have a microwave and doesn't want one. No island. The original wooden cabinets.

Somehow she managed to turn out three tasty meals a day for a family of five for many decades. Now, as a widow, it's all the kitchen she needs.

Proof that it isn't the size of the kitchen or the price of the appliances that put a good meal on the table, but the skill and creativity of the person doing the cooking.

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