Think about the time you spend in the kitchen: Do you find yourself having to do a lot of walking here and there, bending down, kneeling, stretching your limbs like Elastigirl to reach what you need, and rummaging through your cabinets with your body twisted in uncomfortable positions?
If the answer is yes, then you just don’t have a very ergonomic kitchen. Kitchen ergonomics looks at the way a kitchen should be designed, in all its elements, to optimize our movements and minimize the stress we put on our body while performing everyday kitchen activities.
Consider this: If you are an average kitchen user, cooking home meals twice or three times per day, every day you are likely to… …move between the dining table and kitchen over 30 times… …open and close drawers and cabinet doors over 80 times… …complete over 50 tasks between the main countertop and the sink.
Since the kitchen is one of the most used rooms of the home, its ergonomics are particularly important, regardless of how strong or healthy your body might be. In fact, kitchen ergonomics is all about prevention.
We might not talk about kitchen ergonomics very often (talking about aesthetic trends is admittedly a lot more fun!) but its principles should be at the heart of the design of every kitchen product and every kitchen layout. Knowing about ergonomics – and how you use the kitchen – can help you understand:
- if your kitchen designer is doing a good job ensuring that your kitchen will be very easy to use;
- how to look for the right kitchen accessories to invest in.
Now, there are tasks that everyone performs in the kitchen, no matter their habits, so every kitchen should be optimized to facilitate such activities. And then there are functional features that must be chosen based on your personal way to work and live in the kitchen.
Kitchen ergonomics is all about shortening the distances you have to cover
Every kitchen can be divided into five zones, regardless of size or layout.
- A food storage area (including refrigerator, freezer and cabinets to store non-perishable food).
Tip: Having a counter surface next to the refrigerator helps you store your groceries or take food out without keeping the fridge open for long (or having to open and close a heavy refrigerator door a gazillion times).
- A main storage area for all non food items, like dishes, serving plates, glasses, cutlery and containers.
Tip: Ideally, this storage area should be close to the dishwasher and the dining table.
- A cleaning area with dishwasher and sink.
Tip: This area should have all cleaning supplies right at hand and well-organized (so you can immediately spot what you need without over-reaching).
- A food preparation zone.
Tip: All the items needed to prepare food (like utensils, chopping blocks, oils and spices) should be stored and organized within this area.
- A cooking area with cooktop and hood.
Tip: There should be enough space for pots, pans, lids, and cooking utensils to be stored neatly close to the cooktop (for example, just underneath it).
The classic “Kitchen Triangle” is the imaginary shape created by the position of the food preparation, cooking and cleaning areas relative to one another. The ideal length of the imaginary line that unites these three areas should be no more than about 19 feet. The length of the individual sides of the triangle can vary based on the size and shape of the room. Too much distance between these areas will cause you to waste too much energy walking back and forth but too little distance will make the space crammed and uncomfortable.
There is a reason why the Kitchen Triangle is so famous: it’s because it’s a great ergonomic solution and it can pretty much fit any layout. Obviously, if your kitchen has a linear layout (with all the elements positioned against a single wall), you can’t create the Kitchen Triangle. However, there are still “rules” you should try to follow. For example:
- the three zones should be separated by a countertop surface;
- the distance between each zone should be at least 3 feet to make your life easier;
- the countertop for food preparation should be at least 3 feet long and always placed between the cooking and cleaning areas.
Kitchen ergonomics is all about limiting the bending, kneeling, and over-reaching
In this case, the trick is knowing how often you use different items and how to select the right accessories.
- Knowing what items are used on a regular basis – and the ones used only occasionally - will help choose you what types of cabinets you need and where.
- For the base cabinets, use organized full pull-out drawers to get an easy view inside and reach all the stored items without too much stress on your body.
- Divide up all your kitchen items and food in three groups, based on use (daily, frequent, rare). Store the items that are used daily closer to the countertop level, seldom used items in the top or very bottom row of cabinets, and frequently used items in-between.
- For upper cabinets, use lift systems that open/close automatically (through a light push/button).
- For heavy cabinet doors use the Blum Servo-drive/Blumotion combination, which opens with a light touch and closes with an equally light push.
Designing the space with kitchen ergonomics in mind is the gift that keeps on giving for your body.