Are You Driving a 1940s Car? Why Are We Still Designing Kitchens from the 1940s?


I know that many of us who went to school for Interior Design were taught, drilled and tested endlessly on the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s kitchen work triangle guideline. We were taught that good kitchen design–a truly functional space– adheres to this guideline without fail. Breaking or ignoring this guideline was tantamount to sacrilege and you were severely graded down for non compliance. Never mind that the textbook that we used in our Kitchen & Bath Design class was written by Mary Fischer, a renowned designer with many, many years of experience, who does not subscribe to the triangle but to another methodology.

As you can imagine, being the quiet wallflower that I am, I bristled against this guideline–it just seemed too limiting in its scope and did not include design that was UnAmerican. I came to interior design having been in graphic design (marketing and advertising) for almost 25 years. So I thought/think I know some things about user experience. On top of that, I’m a would-be chef (although my son would claim otherwise). Add to that that I lived abroad (where there is no NKBA) were most kitchens take on that sleek European layout and design (and they are fully functional), and I knew in my heart, that there was room for alternative interpretations.

Then the other night, I read this article in Scottsdale Living magazine whereby two kitchen design firms weighed in on this topic. Basically, they, like Mary Fisher, subscribe to the “work centers” or multiple work triangles approach to kitchen design. For all three it seems that the 1940s standard guideline has been obsolete for a long, long time. You could say that I felt vindicated by the article (I love being right, or righteous, not sure which it is.)

So if these three successful kitchen designers are saying that the old way is very much outdated, tell me why are schools, designers, and builders still teaching this guideline and building kitchens to these specs? It’s just like toe kicks. I hate ’em. If I had my druthers, all kitchen base cabinetry would be furniture-like with legs, or better yet…floating. I also like flush countertops (man o man did this cause one of my instructors apoplexy when I designed a kitchen with flush doors and drawers, flush countertops, and legs. Like a Poggenpohl kitchen…)

I liked this line from the article, “When plotting a kitchen remodel (read: design), the homeowner should focus on what is necessary and how the space will be used.” I LOVE IT! Empower the homeowner to know how he/she uses her space instead of dictating to her that her appliances MUST be located here and here and no further than 9′ apart, etc, etc,. Agreed: Eliminating the triangle so one can be “trendy” is stupid, too. But so too is designing a 1940s kitchen in the year 2012. None of us are driving a 1940s car to work every day, are we?

Nuff said! Getting off my soap box now!

By the way, the image in this blog is a sketchup drawing I did of a kitchen remodel. You’ll note that the kitchen work triangle legs ARE NOT in keeping with the NKBA guidelines (broke other guidelines, too)…yes, yes, I’m a rebel!


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