An ergonomic kitchen is a healthy kitchen. Ergonomics is the relationship between the human body and the objects and spaces with which we interact. It’s in the kitchen where ergonomic design comes into its own, perhaps more so than in any other room in the home.
Before redesigning and remodeling your kitchen, it’s essential to consider the ways ergonomic design can influence how you use and enjoy this important space. Doing so can make food prep and dining a more enjoyable experience and, perhaps most importantly, help you avoid long-term injuries associated with repetitive strains from poor design.
Here are the most crucial ergonomic factors to explore when designing and building your new kitchen.
Proper Heights for Work Surfaces and Appliances
The comfort we enjoy when preparing meals and cleaning up afterward is integral to a kitchen that works perfectly for our needs. If countertops and other surfaces are too high or too low, we can quickly find everyday kitchen activities filled with frustration, discomfort, and even mishaps.
This need for comfort and functionality is why it’s essential to ensure all your preparation surfaces, fixtures, and appliances are at an optimal working height. However, not all surfaces are created equal. For example, a countertop has different height rules than a stovetop or a sink, so various calculations are required.
The perfect height for a standard working surface is all connected to the angle of a person’s elbows when standing. When palms are down on the countertop, a cook’s forearms should be at a 45-degree angle from the surface.
Obviously, people in your family will be of different heights. It’s therefore sensible to carry out measurements based on those who most often prepare and serve meals in the household.
Regarding stovetops, a general rule is that the surface level is slightly lower than the surrounding food prep surface. This rule allows a clear line of sight into the pots and pans without straining to reach or peer inside.
As for sinks, the bottom of the sink is the guideline rather than the rim. To avoid the need to stoop, a person’s palms should be able to reach the bottom while maintaining a healthy, upright posture.
Where possible, design the kitchen so that much-used appliances such as ovens, refrigerators, and dishwashers are at chest height to avoid back strain from repetitive bending down. Likewise, with cabinets, it’s sensible to place lighter objects higher up and heavier objects further down where you can access them without straining and balancing.
Design Work Zones
Another vital element of a well-designed ergonomic kitchen is the space between the workstations. Traditionally, the “kitchen work triangle” was the go-to design philosophy that ensured a perfect amount of space between the three key areas in the kitchen – the refrigerator, the stove, and the sink.
However, nowadays, while the kitchen triangle concept remains a consideration during the remodeling process, it’s gradually being superseded by the concept of “work zones”.
Modern kitchens tend to be more diverse in design and scope than they were just a few decades ago. With more open-plan styles, multi-person cooking habits, and technological advances, the work zone concept is better suited to today’s designs and lifestyles.
When remodeling your kitchen, consider your typical routines and workflows when preparing and serving meals and cleaning up afterward. Part of this planning is determining what work is being done, by whom, and the various processes.
The person cooking should have fast and easy access to the essential features. This usually means grouping certain appliances and fixtures according to use, such as cookware being stored adjacent to an oven or range top. In another example, you would ideally place the sink and dishwasher together.
If many members of the household like to work in the kitchen at the same time, extra room and perhaps more work zones will need to be created in such a way that minimizes back-and-forth movement.
Organization of Consumables
The best ergonomically designed kitchens embrace excellent storage. With multiple foodstuffs, containers, smaller appliances, cookware, cleaning tools, and other utensils needing somewhere to go, it’s essential to plan where they will be stored.
Kitchen pantries are one of the best ways to organize these items together without impacting movement, accessibility, and aesthetics. There are a few different pantry types, the most popular two being pull-out pantries and walk-in pantries.
A pull-out pantry is built into your main kitchen units. It allows for easy access without the need to reach deep into a cupboard. There are a variety of designs to suit multiple different needs and uses.
Walk-in pantries afford the homeowner even more storage space. These pantries are little rooms in themselves and positively contribute to the flow of the kitchen, as long as they are placed in an optimum position.
When designing an ergonomic walk-in pantry, it’s essential to ensure they are easy to access, close to the main food prep area, spacious, have ample lighting, and all shelves are reachable.
Systematic Storage System Designs
Plenty of storage is vital, but it must be the right kind. When redesigning your kitchen, think about how to incorporate storage systems that are convenient for different localized tasks.
For example, cookware and bakeware are usually best stored near the primary cooking appliances. Likewise, cleaning-related items and plates/cutlery will naturally be better placed in the vicinity of the sink and dishwasher. Different items that fulfill certain roles will also likely require specific types of storage that might differ in size, arrangement, and shape.
When it comes to ergonomics, in particular, it’s essential to also consider items by weight, dimension, and frequency of use.
As noted previously, heavier items are usually best placed lower down to avoid injury, while less used items can be stored in the very highest or lowest of drawers and compartments.
If a family member has mobility issues, consider how you can incorporate specialist storage to fit with their ergonomic requirements.
Ergonomic Lighting and Flooring Considerations
Ergonomic design is all about our physical needs. Such design, therefore, encompasses how easily we can see what we are doing and our comfort level when using the space.
Good lighting is critical for a kitchen, more so than just about any other room in the home. It’s a space where we frequently use sharp utensils, handle hot cookware, and pour boiling water, so the placement of the right light fixtures is a fundamental part of a sound ergonomically optimized kitchen.
Task lighting is ideal for workspaces where localized intense light is required. LED strip lighting can illuminate the interior of cupboards and drawers. Downlights are excellent for highlighting general zones beneath wall-mount cabinets.
Then there are the benefits of natural daylight. For example, certain workstations will be best placed near windows to provide excellent lighting for morning and midday meal prep. Consider also how cabinets and appliances might block natural daylight in certain areas.
Flooring is important too. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen making delicious meals, entertaining brunch guests, or simply working from home, a comfortable floor helps prevent strain on your joints and muscles.
A sprung floor is made from a softer material than traditional kitchen flooring and helps absorb the shock from constant stepping and standing. Such materials include cork, bamboo, and even rubber.
Mats and rugs can also be positioned in high-use areas, such as by the stove and sink, to provide a little extra comfort.
Ergonomic Remodeling for Your Dallas Kitchen
Before embarking on a new kitchen remodeling project, it’s sensible to sit down with experienced building industry professionals who have experience with ergonomic design. With proper guidance and correct planning, you’ll be able to achieve the kitchen renovation of your dreams.
The design-build remodeling team here at Blackline Renovations in Dallas can help you with every aspect of your kitchen upgrade. From the initial meetings and evaluations to the design process and the construction phase, we’ll be by your side and guiding you through every step of the way.
We offer friendly and expert virtual or in-home consultations where we discuss your specific needs and ergonomic requirements, and provide you with the optimal design solutions to meet them.
Call us today at 214-827-3747 or schedule a virtual consultation.