Designing a new kitchen with new countertops, one of the most important things to consider is traffic. A busy family that flows constantly through the kitchen and holds big family events should have a kitchen designed for more than one person. There are plenty of cute little one-chef kitchens designed in tidy spaces, but planning for a busy family kitchen requires a different approach.
Rather than cabinets that all open toward one chef, you want to think in avenues and workstations. You want room for two people to move between the countertops – at least – and for each station to be a comfortable position for multiple chefs to work together – or for family to keep each other company during the cooking process.
Here at Arch City Granite & Marble, we’ve designed many different kitchens and know all about the ergonomics of family kitchen design. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the best countertop designs for a busy family kitchen.
1. Island and Breakfast Bar
If your kitchen has room for an island, make it multi-purpose. You can absorb the breakfast nook and build your island countertop as a breakfast bar. To do this, replace the lower cabinets on one half for an overhanging stone countertop with a rounded edge. Combined with comfortable chair-backed barstools, family can join you in the kitchen, hanging around enjoying snacks and meals together.
During active times, an island bar becomes an action station. Kids can do homework there, teens can work on projects, and adults can set up with their laptop. Lunches can be packed there, papers checked, and the island can be used as a sidebar for parties and family dinners.
2. Diagonal Cut Countertop Corners
What makes a kitchen easier to move through? How can you make the most of both your countertop space and your walkway space in any sized kitchen? Cut the corners. We don’t mean a drop in quality, but literally cutting 45-degree angles into the corners of your island and wall-mounted countertops.
Consider an island that goes from a rectangle to a hexagon, and those hip-clipping countertop corners become a smooth, easy glide that will soon become second nature to the family. Angled countertop corners can make your kitchen much friendlier to high traffic and create an elegant, unique look that few kitchens will share.
3. Two-level Countertop Risers
What about countertops that offer their own storage and/or riser shelves? Where your backsplash connects, you can add a right-angle riser step at the back of your countertops or a floating shelf at the backsplash point to act as a spice rack. Two-level islands have already been found to have great utility and stylistic elegance in kitchen design.
Building a riser into your island provides a subtle space for extra storage and to keep your at-hand items looking tidy. Doing the same with your wall-mounted countertops will give you a unique look and added utility for a busy and often-used kitchen.
4. Waterfall Backsplash Design
A busy kitchen sometimes means fast cooking and teaching new members of family to cook – which means splashes. That is exactly what your countertop backsplash is designed for. The number one easiest-to-clean type of backsplash is a waterfall backsplash. This is when your countertop stone continues up the adjoining wall.
It is a very graceful way to design a backsplash and is currently quite popular in kitchen design trends. More importantly to family kitchen design, waterfall backsplashes are as easy to clean as the countertop itself, with no tile grout or special surface to worry about.
5. Kitchen Pathway Design
Build your entire kitchen with pathways in mind. Look at your kitchen floorplan from the top down and consider how family and chefs will move through the space. Consider how wide a space you need for comfortable passage behind someone who is at a workstation, and how to arrange your workstations to alternate along pathways instead of two chefs standing back-to-back.
Consider your golden triangle, with most ergonomic pathway between the refrigerator, stove, and sink. Consider how traffic will flow from the doors into and out of your kitchen.
6. Border Kitchen Stations
In a busy family, often people need something while dinner is in-progress. Designing peripheral stations can make this easy and fun for everyone. A bar sink at one edge of the kitchen with a beverage station can help the family get and make drinks without disturbing the cooking area. Kitchens often have a laundry station nearby or in an adjoining small room.
Some kitchens designed for big holiday meal prep have a baking station for mixing, pouring, and rolling on the other side of the oven from the stove. Some have an additional under-counter refrigerator, a second dishwasher, or a dish cabinet separate from the primary cooking area so that it’s easier for the entire family to get involved in mealtime with comfortable elbow room for everyone.
7. Pass-Through Window Counter
In some home designs, a pass-through window from the kitchen to the living room is a delightful thing to have. But did you know it can have a countertop? Placing a strip of polished granite on your passthrough makes this a sidebar and a heat-resistant kitchen surface, as well as an extension of the kitchen into the living area. The pass-through can actually become your chef’s pass when distributing food and drinks at family events, and can become a convenient place to stack dishes on their way back to the sink.
8. Rounded Counter Ends
We have all met the difference between a kitchen with sharp corners and one with rounded corners. A sharp-cornered kitchen catches belt loops and hip-bones as family try to get past each other through the pathways. A round-cornered countertop is easy to slip by and no one catches a sharp corner to the hip to avoid a human collision.
The busier your kitchen, the rounder your corners should be, both down from the top and around the ends. A recent trend is a complete semi-circule at the ends of islands or a quarter-circle at the ends of countertops. This is a curving evolution of the 45-degree angle approach.
9. Butcher Block Counter Ends
Two-material countertops are coming into style, most often combined with the warmth of butcherblock wood counter sections. One option is the dining table island, where a central stone island is wrapped in a wood table for the family. Another is the prep station, where one end of your island or countertop is tipped with a rounded butcher block.
These create responsive and more replaceable pieces of your counter that can even be set at different prep heights in different areas of the kitchen. Some butcher block countertops are also pull-out or fold-out to enable differently weighted and extended family prep.
10. Dish Draining Grooves
Lastly, consider that the countertop itself can contribute to keeping it clean. Subtle sloping and dish draining grooves near the sink aperture can save you hours a week and days in a year keeping the counter dry. You can, effectively, have a splash zone near the sink that is designed to quick-drain back into the sink itself. Dish draining grooves are especially useful in a busy family kitchen because younger family members can help with the dishes without making as much of a mess, and near-sink experiments help to clean themselves up.
Designing a family kitchen is all part of designing the perfect family home. Here at Arch City Granite, we are passionate about kitchens that are both beautiful and breathtakingly functional. Contact us today to plan your ideal kitchen countertops for a busy family kitchen.