Feng Shui Tips – The 10 Kitchen Commandments

One of the most important rooms in the home, from a Feng Shui perspective, is the kitchen. The kitchen is where food is prepared providing the occupants of the home with the essential nourishment they need to live a healthy and balanced life. In this article I cover some general tips, what I call my ten kitchen commandments, to ensure the energy in your kitchen flows in a harmonious and positive way.

Commandment 1

Your Kitchen should be filled with light

A light and airy kitchen fills the occupants of the home with joy, ensuring that the kitchen is a place in which people want to linger. The longer we spend in the kitchen the more likely we are to take care and attention over the meals that we prepare and cook. If your kitchen is in a small room or is narrow and dark you can easily lighten the space by adding lights, mirrors or by painting the walls or cupboards in a light colour. Excellent colours for the walls in a kitchen are white, cream or pale green, the white and cream will automatically lighten the space whilst green brings in the wood element, an important element that helps bring balance to the kitchen.

Commandment 2

Your Kitchen should not be an obstacle course

For energy to flow in harmony around your kitchen it should not encounter obstacles. The square design of kitchen furniture and appliances often make the kitchen a sharp room filled with angles that may not necessarily promote positive chi. We should therefore not create more problems by placing tables, island units and butchers blocks slap bang in the middle of the kitchen floor. If we do have items blocking the centre of the kitchen we may find that positive energy is blocked from flowing around the kitchen and we may find that we ourselves have difficulty in digesting our food.

Commandment 3

Your Kitchen should not be filled with poison arrows

In tandem with the point above, the nature of much kitchen furniture means that we may find one or two poison arrows in place in the kitchen. Poison arrows are angles that point outwards at 90 degrees and can cause the energy to be disruptive in the area in which it is pointing. The best cure for a poison arrow is to disguise or hide it. Plants, tubs filled with herbs or baskets filled with fruit and vegetables are all excellent ways in which a poison arrow can be disguised.

Commandment 4

Your Kitchen should not be seen from the front door

If your kitchen can be seen from the front door you are more likely to walk in to the kitchen when you enter your home and, if you are like me, head straight for the fridge. Ideally your kitchen should be well away from your front door. This however is easier said, or in this case written, than done. Assuming your kitchen can be seen from your front door and you do not want to completely remodel your home there is a very simple cure which is to keep the kitchen door shut. Proving my point that Feng Shui really doesn’t have to be complicated.

Commandment 5

Your Kitchen should be free of clutter

If truth be told, your whole house should be free of clutter. It is worth mentioning specifically with the kitchen in mind however as the kitchen, more than many other rooms, has a tendency to accumulate clutter. Many people make the mistake of thinking that clutter is rubbish, or stuff that you don’t need, but it isn’t. Clutter is anything that you don’t need right now. In the kitchen that includes weighing scales, the toaster, the empty fruit bowl, the pots draining by the sink and old bills and bank statements that haven’t been filed away. If you don’t need it right now then put it away until you do need it. Who wants to work in a kitchen where you are continually having to fight for workspace with an assortment of unused kitchen utensils?

Commandment 6

Your Kitchen should not create a surprise for the cook

Not even a pleasant one! When the cook is spending time preparing a meal they do not want to feel insecure, or not know what is going on behind their back. Ideally then when the cook is at the hob they should have an uninterrupted view of the door in to the kitchen. If the placement of your hob means that the cook has their back to the door you will need to place a mirror, or reflective screen on the wall at the back of the hob so that the cook can see behind them at all times when they are cooking.

Commandment 7

Your Kitchen should promote positive energy

A great way of balancing the energy and promoting positive chi is to add the wood element in to your kitchen. Adding wood creates a positive and harmonious link between the destructive elements of water and fire which are heavily represented in your kitchen. You can easily achieve this balance and harmony by such simple actions as adding wood units, painting your kitchen walls green, adding green crockery or introducing broad leaved plants in to the kitchen.

Commandment 8

Your Kitchen’s main purpose should be the preparing and cooking of food

In our modern day homes quite often rooms are used for a number of different purposes. In the UK and France it is very common for homes to have large kitchen cum dining areas. If this is the case in your home it is important that you create two very distinct areas. If you do not clearly define your kitchen space, which is after all one of the most important areas of your home, you are at risk of losing or diluting some of the benefits that this area brings. Meal preparation may end up being rushed or not taken care of, work surfaces may end up being used as storage areas and the cook’s attention may not be focused solely on cooking. A barrier with plants or a decorative screen can work well as a room divider, if this is not practical using two different but complimentary colour schemes in the two areas of the room can create the effect of two different areas.

Commandment 9

Your Kitchen should ideally have the oven, fridge and sink at the three auspicious points

If you think of the points of a triangle, the oven, as the focal point of the kitchen should be at the top with the fridge and the sink at the other two points. This helps to create a harmonious flow of energy around your kitchen and ensures that natural barriers are in place between the fire and main water elements.

Commandment 10

Your Kitchen should always be kept clean and fresh

For positive energy to thrive it is important that your home is kept clean, fresh, well maintained and in good decorative order. In the kitchen this means that the floors, worktops and appliances should be kept free of crumbs and stains, the hob and appliances should be kept in good working order with any broken items quickly replaced, and old cooking smells should be got rid of as soon as possible. A good and completely natural way of getting rid of smells is to keep herbs and spices around the kitchen as they give out wonderful fresh kitcheny smells.

I hope that this article has given you a useful insight in to how you can ensure your kitchen promotes positive energy. If you would like more information on Feng Shui please check out my weekly blog which is published every Friday and is full of free Feng Shui tips

Kitchen Design – Is There a New Kitchen in Your Future? Take the First Steps to Success – Planning

INTRODUCTION

Many of my clients have, unfortunately, initiated the design of their kitchen without an understanding of the extent of what is actually involved in the process, in terms of design, budget, timeline and other issues. In these cases, our design process together, was frustrating for the client and for me. As a result, this article will clarify the process so that you will have the opportunity to become better informed before you begin your kitchen project, thereby avoiding uninformed decisions or possibly spending time and/or money needlessly.

This article is not about the specific design features of your kitchen and how to design it. There are many good resources available for that. Instead, it is about the process of designing your kitchen. It is meant to help in getting a head start and to expose anyone who is, or might be, embarking upon the design of a new or remodeled kitchen, to the first and most important step – Planning.

Designing a kitchen for a new or existing home is a big investment in time, money and energy and it is sometimes stressful and challenging. Unfortunately, some vendors and TV programs don’t like to dwell on this aspect and therefore mislead the consumer regarding the actual amount of time and effort that is required. Even though creating a new kitchen is challenging, most clients say that the results are more than worth the effort. I hope that the information provided herein will be a helpful contribution toward having you well on your way to a successful project.

Before you begin the process of designing your new kitchen, you will need to set the criteria for the design. I recommend that you engage a professional kitchen designer that not only designs the cabinet layout, but designs every element of the kitchen and is involved throughout the entire project, so that the final result will be a cohesive design that reflects optimum function and style. The designer will not only help you create a beautiful, efficient, kitchen but will save you significant time and money and you will both have fun developing your joint creation. I trust that what follows will get your energy flowing and thoughts racing, in preparation for actually embarking upon your journey. And, it “is” a journey!

THE KITCHEN OF TODAY

The kitchen has traditionally been the most important room in the house because cooking and sharing food has long been central to family life. Meals will always be important, but cooking has, in some cases, significantly changed. The grocery industry has focused on replacements for home meals and hundreds of restaurants have incorporated “to-go” in their business model. Whether we cook frequently or not, kitchens remain the foundation of family life because it is where we live and gather. It is where most of us start and end our days and share the information of our day.

Today’s kitchens serve more roles than ever before: entertainment center, home office, cooking and dining space. The electronics for an entertainment center may include TV, music and internet connection and the office area may have a desk, files, computer and bookshelves.

THE FIRST STEPS

Determine with your family, who uses your current kitchen and how, and discuss the conveniences you would like to have in the new version. Make a scrapbook of articles and notes on kitchens and kitchen features that interest you and photographs of kitchens you like. Evaluate how and when you cook, where you serve meals to whom and how often you entertain and how you entertain. Inventory your dishes, silverware, serving pieces, cookware, linens, and your typical grocery storage requirements so that you can be sure that the new design accommodates everything.

It seems that no matter how much time you budget for a remodeling project, it usually takes longer than you expected. For a complete remodel, the down time during construction can be at least two or three months and much longer, depending upon the size and extent of the project. Your family needs to eat in the meantime. So, before construction starts make arrangements to store, heat and clean up, enough to keep you going until the kitchen is back on-line. Many of my clients who have had the good fortune to have a bar sink in the family room, have moved in the old refrigerator and microwave near the bar sink and this combination becomes the interim kitchen during construction of the new one. The upside to this is that it provides a great rationale for eating out more often!

THE KITCHEN FOOTPRINT

Let’s start with the space you have available for the kitchen. Whether you are designing for a new home, or remodeling in an existing one, you are limited by how much space you have available in which to create your dream. If the space is fairly small, you will want to consider whether or not you have the option of expanding. You may be able to accomplish this in your existing home and, in a new home, very often you still have time to alter the architectural plan, if needed. In either case, if you can eliminate or relocate a wall or walls or add to the house to create more space for the kitchen, it will improve the function and value of the room significantly.

Of course, if you don’t create an addition to the house, and just remove or relocate a wall(s), you then have infringed upon a contiguous space and decreased its size, so you have to weigh which option is the best for you. Is it worth giving up the other space to increase the size of the kitchen? In my experience, if you can do without the adjoining space, it is much better to devote that extra space to the kitchen.

When you plan to remove or relocate a wall(s), the key factor to determine is, by so doing, will you encounter a load-bearing situation? This occurs when the wall(s) is part of the support system for the structure of the house. Usually a contractor can determine this. If the contractor is uncertain, you will need to have a structural engineer examine the structure to make that determination. If it is non load-bearing, when you are ready to start construction, the contractor can proceed to build out the space per the new plan. If it is a load-bearing issue, your local building authority will require that you retain a structural engineer or an architect to design a structural solution for removing or relocating the wall(s).

He or she will submit design drawings and calculations of the solution, to the building authority for approval and permit. Upon receiving the permit, when you are ready to begin construction, the contractor can then proceed to build-out the structure per the engineer’s or architect’s specifications. This is the process in California, based upon the state building standards, Title 24. The process in the other states is very similar.

In any case, once you have made the decision of whether or not to expand or re-configure, you will know the size and shape (footprint) of the space that you have available from a horizontal standpoint – Plan View.

VERTICAL SPACE

You should also consider what size and shape the room will be from a vertical standpoint as well. If it is possible to increase the height of the room by raising, eliminating or altering an existing low ceiling or soffit, you should seriously consider taking advantage of this option. The additional height will provide more cabinet storage from the increased height of wall cabinets and the room will become more voluminous which is always more visually impressive and comfortable. From a construction standpoint, the load-bearing issues will apply to increasing the room height just as it applies to moving or eliminating walls.

Of course, in dealing with all of these design and construction issues and decisions that need to be made, you will not be alone. Your designer will be the pivotal person who will help you evaluate the choices you have available. He or she will produce drawings in order to visually demonstrate these options and will offer advice on which options are best and why.

I understand that this all sounds very tedious and problematic. In some sense these two words are a good description of the design/construction process. However, what I have outlined above is done thousands of times every day and most of those homeowners have survived and, as a result, now have the new, beautiful, functional, kitchen of their dreams. You notice I said “most”! Seriously, the project will be challenging and there will be some problems. This is just the nature of design and construction and that is why you should not proceed without experienced professional help throughout the process from the very beginning to the end.

UTILIZING YOUR KITCHEN

Are you an expert chef, who does it all: cooking, baking, barbecuing, or are you a minimal cook whose main goal is to just get a meal on the table for the family as expeditiously as possible, or are you somewhere in between? Do you always cook by yourself or do you often have family and friends help with the cooking? Do you often entertain and all flow into the kitchen while munching on your Brie between sips of chardonnay? Do you bake often and want a marble surface for that purpose? The questions can go on and on.

Some clients have large, prestigious, homes and entertain frequently and/or have large families. They may have someone do the cooking for them. Some of these types of projects may need the full treatment, such as a butler’s pantry or walk-in pantry, two islands, two refrigerators, two dishwashers, two microwave ovens, a wine cooler, a separate beverage cooler, a built-in espresso machine, sink, prep-sink and bar sink and glass-door cabinets to display the family heirloom china, etc.

Most clients require something substantially less than all of this, but I bring it up just to emphasize that how you utilize your kitchen has a strong influence on the design and therefore, as I mentioned, you should think about how you want to operate and what you want to accommodate in your kitchen. You can start to think about what type of appliances and features you would like. Think of the three major work areas of a kitchen: Food Prep (refrigerator and sink), Cooking (cook top, oven and microwave) and Cleanup (sink, dishwasher and recycling). You will find a myriad of styles and options available which you and your designer will need to carefully consider. More planning, of course!

HOW & WHERE YOU WILL EAT

You may prefer to be able to eat in the kitchen by having an island with seating. The size of the island that the room will accommodate will determine how many persons you can seat. Seating at an island reduces the storage space available in the island, so the balance of the kitchen storage will need to absorb this loss. You can basically sit at three counter heights: chair height (29-30″), counter height (36″) and bar height (42″).

If you have an adjacent breakfast room, you may want to eat there in the interest of having more storage space in the island. If the room will accommodate it, you may like the idea of a built-in booth in the breakfast room or kitchen, in lieu of a typical table and chairs. Many clients like to have the option of eating in both the breakfast room and at the island in the kitchen. In some cases there is no breakfast room and the dining room serves as both breakfast room and dining room. In any case, you should give these and other possibilities careful consideration.

THE DESIGN STYLE

There are many design motifs available to you: Traditional, Modern, Contemporary, Country, Craftsman, Cape Cod, etc. The design motif that you select will obviously heavily influence the selection of all of the other elements in the kitchen. The cabinet style and finish have the strongest influence on the design style of the kitchen. As I mentioned, you can start by collecting magazine photos of kitchens to get a feel for what you do and don’t like. They will give you great ideas for all things kitchen. Stock, semi-custom or custom cabinets have many different styles and finishes to offer and of course, custom cabinets can provide any design and finish.

REMAINING ISSUES

The planning process will continue until every aspect of the total kitchen design is selected and specified. However, once you have established your footprint and vertical space, how you want to utilize your kitchen, how and where you want to eat, and your design motif, you are more than half way there. The planning process continues, on a smaller scale, as you are making more decisions about all of the items and issues that make up a total kitchen design.

Examples: Do you often make spaghetti and pasta, which requires filling a large pot with about four to six quarts of water? If so, you should have a pot-filler over the cook top or range top. Since there are only two of you and it takes a long time to fill up the dishwasher before you can wash the dishes, you should consider a two drawer dishwasher which enables you to wash one drawer at a time, thereby saving energy and providing you with clean dishes more often. Do you prefer an air switch in the countertop for the disposal or do you want the switch to be on the backsplash? Do you want a garbage disposal in the prep sink as well as the main sink? Do you want soft close on your cabinet drawers? Do you like the idea of pendant lighting above the island? Do you want a filtered water system? The questions go on and on!

The various categories you will be encountering in designing your new kitchen are as follows. This listing of categories will give you an idea of what is to come. I didn’t say it was easy!

APPLIANCES, CABINETS, HARDWARE, FLOORING, PLUMBING, COUNTERTOP, BACKSPLASH, LIGHTING/ELECTRICAL, WALL FINISH, FURNITURE, WINDOW TREATMENTS, ART WORK, ACCESSORIES AND CONSTRUCTION.

CONCLUSION

I trust that by reading this article, you now have an appreciation of how important careful planning is to the successful design of your kitchen. The more thought and quality time you devote to it, the better prepared you will be when you begin with your designer and the process will become easier and more efficient, which everyone involved will greatly appreciate.

Once you have made most of these macro-decisions that I have mentioned, you will be ready to tackle the micro-decisions that are coming next. As you can see by the examples I have mentioned and the listing of categories above, you have a lot more planning to do, but remember you are now over half way there. Be strong and resolute and I am sure that you will get through the entire process virtually unscathed. And, if you are thoughtful, organized and work in the spirit of mutual cooperation, you will probably have some fun too! Remember that not all of this is on your shoulders. Your professional designer will be by your side for the whole trip.

I sincerely hope that you have found this information helpful and I wish you the best of luck on your journey.

Kitchen Cabinets – Planning a Makeover?

Considering remodeling your kitchen cabinets or layout in the near future? Depending on what’s needed and what you decide to do, re-designing your kitchen can be one of the biggest home improvement projects most owner-occupiers will do. I’m not just referring to kitchen DIY, where you might make a few additions or replacements to personalize the design with a few decorative kitchen tiles, or add convenience items such as a kitchen towel dispenser or kitchen cabinet organizers. (Although it’s amazing how easy it can be to give your kitchen cabinets and doors a new look with new pulls and knobs!).

Let’s consider what you should include in your kitchen plans…

To make it easier to remember, I’ll group topics under 3 main headings – facilities, space, and design. We’ll wrap up with a few comments about the practicalities of “making it happen”. Thinking through each of these will help make sure you develop a complete specification, and therefore a comprehensive remodel kitchen cost. Here we go…

Facilities

What do you need to include within the kitchen? That’ll depend on what you want from your kitchen.

For example, is you kitchen to be used only for food preparation and serving?
Then the minimum for most family kitchens would be:

  • cooker
  • hob
  • sink
  • refrigerator
  • table or countertops
  • storage for food and cooking ingredients
  • storage for cooking utensils such as pots, pans, casseroles, etc
  • storage for kitchen cutlery
  • garbage container(s)

Other common items to remember:

  • dishwasher
  • freezer
  • microwave oven
  • kettle
  • tea or coffee maker
  • drinks dispenser
  • toaster

What about family dining? Will that usually take place in the kitchen?

  • dining table and chairs
  • storage for dining crockery & cutlery

Does your home have a separate laundry or utility room? If not, you’ll need to plan space for items such as

  • washing machine
  • tumble dryer, or other means of clothes drying

Space

Once you’ve listed all the essential appliances and convenience items you want to have in your kitchen, the next step is to check that there is enough floor space available for them all. Remember too – unless you are planning to do major re-building work, you’ll need to accept a few “givens”, such as:

  • sink position is limited by location of water supply and drains plumbing, and probably windows
  • same with dishwasher or clothes washing machine
  • cooker & hob positions are limited by gas and/or electricity supply connections and controls

You’ll see a repeated theme in the list above – “storage” – for all sorts of items from food to cleaning materials. That’s why kitchen storage cabinets play such a large part in the space allocation and costs. In fact, the largest component of cost in most kitchen re-design projects is the cost of kitchen cabinets and countertops, especially if you’ve chosen granite countertops.

Without already having good experience in kitchen cabinet design, you’d be well advised to select a local kitchen contractor, or at least visit a reputable kitchen showroom to get ideas on how best to use the available space, and develop practical ideas for possible kitchen floor plans.

Design

Along with developing potential floor plans, now is the time to bring the overall design of your kitchen together. What styles do you prefer – that would complement your home? Something contemporary – crisp, clean lines, bright and airy, maybe lots of shiny metal? Or would a warmer, natural or stained wood grain suit better – for example an elegant French kitchen, or perhaps a simpler, country style kitchen?

At this stage you should consider all aspects of your kitchen – materials, colors, texture and styles to make sure you have a coherent look:

  • appliances – “white goods”, or built-in
  • cabinets
  • countertops
  • floor covering
  • walls
  • lighting
  • ventilation
  • work flow

Making it Happen

The first question to ask (unless money is no object) is how much of your existing kitchen – appliances and cabinets – could be re-used, and still let you create your dream kitchen?

For example, if your cabinet frames are basically sound, and the existing floor layout is good for you, then you could avoid spending far more than necessary by simply refinishing kitchen cabinets, floors, walls, replacing aging appliances, and fitting contemporary kitchen light fixtures.

At the other end of the cost (and disruption) scale, you could have an expert cabinet maker building kitchen cabinets, fully customized to your design and style preferences, with brand new integrated appliances throughout, decorative kitchen tiles for the floor, and personalized picture kitchen backsplash designs on the walls. There would also be a modern kitchen island design featured in the center, and an elegant family dining space of course.

For many of us however, there will be trade-offs we need to make to get as close as possible to our ideal kitchen, while keeping within the bounds of affordability.

If this is your case, you could consider several lower cost approaches to kitchen construction, and especially cabinet installation:

  • factory-built cabinets – can be installed by a kitchen fitter (not as highly skilled as a cabinet maker)
  • flat-pack, or ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets – can be DIY installed, or by a kitchen fitter
  • refacing your existing cabinet doors and drawers – specialist task, but probably less costly than rebuilding all your kitchen storage cabinets.

But what if you’ve completed your dream kitchen specification, developed a practical layout design, selected your style preference, and chosen the best value installation approach, and its still way over your budget?

Then you’ve probably only 3 options:

  • Phase it – split the project into a series of sub-projects, and complete each as they are affordable
  • Finance it – take a loan to finance the project
  • Forget it – for now at least… postpone your plans until you can afford it.