Reflections on January, 2015

Reflections on January 2015: Thinking Outside the Box-Kitchen

A new year.  I have never really agreed with the calendar that the middle of winter marks the new year.  Maybe its the new year for the commercial world or the Gregorian calendar, but for me, the new year is when I can begin to smell Spring in the air.  This last week of January has been very “Springy,” with bright green grasses popping up here and there, and temps in the 70’s.  I hung clothes out on the line today and broke a sweat!

It’s a blessing and a curse that Aaron has been working on fences with his dad.  We haven’t been able to work on the house, the garden, or any part of our farm this whole month.  Unless you count Googling images of earthen homes and making a wish list of design ideas in my head.

No, this month has been the most relaxing one we’ve had since we moved here.  We got caught up on movies we’d kept hearing about, read books (for the fun of it!), attended 4 birthday parties, helped build and race a pinewood derby car for boy-scouts, and just plain enjoyed each other’s company.    I have also immensely enjoyed and appreciated the indoor kitchen, with all its handy gadgets, stove, refrigerator, cabinets that dogs and chickens have absolutely no access to, and the dry, climate-controlled environment.  It makes cooking comfortable and allows my creativity to blossom.    I have baked cookies, waffles and breads with soaked grains, made delicious stews, tossed scrumptious salads, attempted exotic drinks with coconut milk, and concocted some exquisite and healthy beef dishes, thanks to the rancher-man.  Ah, I simply cannot wait until I have my own kitchen.

Raspberry Cheesecake

Raspberry Cheesecake

Sprouted Mung Bean, Asparagus.Bacon with White Sauce

Sprouted Mung Bean, Asparagus & Bacon with White Sauce

Nonetheless, I still can’t find time to do the more intensive projects.  Our youngest is crawling and is quite a handful.  Fortunately, he is finally sleeping through the night!  I hadn’t had an uninterrupted night of sleep for 7 months, so I have been very grateful this past week.

With that being said, this post isn’t going to be much of a Reflecting on the Month post, rather it will be a post looking to the future.

In the (hopefully) near future, we will be embarking on a distinctly unique way of living.  I’m not talking about growing our food, using cloth diapers, or building our home out of dirt, though these things do set us apart from so many of our peers.  I’m talking about a way of life that I cannot remember ever having experienced before.  Even Google searches on the subject are scarce.  This phenomena will make rearranging the room a daunting task.  It will bring forth the conundrum of hanging pictures, where to place flat-backed furniture, and what about time-outs?  There are no corners, for crying out loud!  I’m talking of course, about living in a round room.  Three round rooms, actually.

The room I am most concerned about is the kitchen.  There are so many guidelines and “rules” to follow in kitchen design.  They are further complicated by the multiple windows, doors, and archways, and by the circular shape of the room.  From the research I have done on kitchen design, these are the tips that keep showing up:

The Work Triangle     The most efficient way to move about in the kitchen is to have a triangular path from the most used areas.  These are the sink, fridge and stove.  But, the work counter is just as important, so that has to be factored in as well.

Fridge set back from Sunlight     Refrigerators have a tough job to do; keeping food cold, even when the air temperature is very warm.  Refrigerators sitting in sunlight have to work harder.  The fridge should not be placed in direct sunlight.

Separation between Range and Fridge     The range creates heat.  The fridge aims to keep things cold.  These appliances should have a large counter between them and never be touching each other.

The Sink Looking Outside     We see this set up all the time; the person washing dishes at the sink is able to look outside the window.  It is a tried-and-true aesthetic kitchen design element.

Counter Space     According to A Pattern Language, counter space should be a minimum of 12 feet in length, with separations in it not exceeding 10 feet and no one section of it less than 4 feet.  And, this counter space can include the table, as it is often used for homework, chopping vegetables, and other social kitchen activities.

Cupboards and Open Shelves     Organized and efficient kitchens have many cupboards and cabinets, but they can’t be too deep, or items will get lost or crammed in the back.  Shallow cabinets and open shelves take care of this problem.  They should be considered a top priority.

Grey water System     Earthen homes often have functional (grey water) planters that serve as water recycling cells.  These planters allow water from the kitchen sink to flow through the plant system, watering the plants, and recycling the water.  The size of such a grey water system varies greatly, and depends on the amount of water you use.  This has to be factored into the design phase, because the bottom of the planters need to be sloped about a 1/4″ per horizontal foot of travel.

Oven Hood     This must be considered in early in the design phase as well so that proper ventilation can take place.  In our case, leaving a whole, by means of a plastic pipe, in the wall is no big deal.  But if the ventilation will go through the roof, we’ll have to factor that in as well.

Kid-Friendly     In A Pattern Language, we are reminded that kids need creative spaces just for kids.  The author refers to these as “kid caves.”  I cam imagine an area under a counter, where cabinets would normally be, but instead the space is left open for a kid cave.  Whether this will come to fruition in the larger plan, is up in the air.  However, we do need to keep in mind that knives and sharp utensils need a safe place, hooks and knobs should not be sticking out precariously, and if the stove is on an island which is also intended for eating, enough space needs to be reserved for safety.

There are many other factors to be considered of course, such as flow through the room, the open-ness of the room itself, an area near the door for keys and mail, track lighting over the counters, a space for trash and recycling bins, and where outlets will be the most functional.  It really takes a lot of planning to design a kitchen that will be efficient, functional, and beautiful.  I have so many visions and ideas for the perfect kitchen, but it will be challenging to make them work.  Here is a rough drawing of a possible layout for the middle room:

Rough Sketch of the main Kitchen Elements

Rough Sketch of the main Kitchen Elements (South-facing windows are at the top)

Things you may notice about this sketch:

20 feet diameter is fairly small for a kitchen and living room space.

There is no kitchen table.  Our table is 4’x6′ and it just doesn’t seem to fit!

There is just barely 12′ of counter space with this set up.

There is no grey water planter.  I’m just not clear about where it will go yet.

I wonder how different it will be to live in a round space?  According to psychologist Oshin Vartanian and his research team of the University of Toronto at Scarborough, rooms with curves are considered more beautiful than rooms with sharp edges and corners.  Apparently, people looking at images of rooms with rounded shapes and curves had significant brain activity in the ‘anterior cingulate cortex,’ a part of the brain associated with emotions.  Another study at Harvard showed that looking at images of sharp, pointy objects activated the ‘amygdala,’ a part of the brain associated with threat.  So, my round rooms should, hypothetically, evoke a sense of security and comfort.  And who doesn’t function well in that kind of atmosphere?  I think our round rooms will be challenging, but ultimately, satisfying and beautiful.

For progress’s sake, here is a photo from this time, one year ago:

January 2014

January 2014

Here’s to another year of progress!

 

References:

A Pattern Language. Oxford University Press. New York. 1977

Jaffe, Eric. “Why Our Brains Love Curvy Architecture.” Fast Company: Design. Oct 17, 2013. http://www.fastcodesign.com/3020075/why-our-brains-love-curvy-architecture

2 comments to Reflections on January, 2015

  • Leslie

    It is my opinion that you will be sorry if your kitchen becomes the corridor. Try setting it up so that people don’t walk through your work space to get to somewhere else.

    I think I would set it up so that the counter is along the long bottom wall and the island would curve the opposite way from the way your drawing is now. That way the traffic from the front door could go into the living room (I assume) or to the bedroom without disturbing you. Also, if you were in that work area, you could easily face the door when someone entered. I think it would look much nicer too. And more counter space. And a rural kitchen is a much used kitchen and needs the space.

    I’d put the couch where the sink is now. My current kitchen does not look out a window and I don’t miss it.

    Nice blog – I just found it!

    Good luck!

    Cheers,

    Leslie

    • Leslie, first, thank you for your insight. We never really were sold on that previous kitchen layout. I think your idea sounds great and will allow better usage of space. I’ll get another drawing up soon.

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