*This article first appeared in our latest Home Improver digital magazine
Real-life stories about kitchen wins and disasters are the best place to find out if an idea works well.
For this article, we are happy to team up with Renovating Moms (Cape Town and Joburg) – a Facebook group of women with a membership of more than 65 000, full of useful ideas, tips and advice.
Read the latest Home Improver’s digital magazine below
Here are some dos and don’ts from moms who have tried and tested them.
Will you have a separate scullery-cum-laundry? If you do, have the dishwasher in the kitchen or you’ll be carrying dirty dishes and crockery into the scullery and then clean dishes back into the kitchen, says one mom. It’s much easier to pack and unpack if the dishwasher is near the crockery cupboard.
A wall-mounted drying rack above the sink in the scullery can accommodate larger dishes that don’t fit into the dishwasher. If you have both a washing machine and a tumble dryer, the dryer can be mounted on the wall above the washing machine, saving floor space.
Is it necessary to have a prep bowl in the kitchen if you have a scullery? There were mixed feelings on this one, but having one won out. However, do ensure you have a hot as well as a cold tap.
“The plumber who said I needed only a cold tap on the prep bowl obviously didn’t do the cooking in his home,” said one mom. Another mom says if both the main sinks are full of dirty dishes, a prep bowl can be “invaluable” and if your main sinks are in a separate scullery, a prep bowl in the kitchen “proper” saves a lot of walking.
For those who don’t have much counter space, place a glass cutting board on top of a prep bowl and voila! extra space.
One mom says it’s a good idea to have a free-standing fridge rather than one tucked away surrounded by cupboards. Should you buy a bigger fridge at some point, it won’t fit in the gap.
What sort of oven are you wanting? Many people swear by eye-level ovens, rather than an under-hob version which requires bending every time you want to check on the progress of the roast or cake.
If you’re going to have a gas hob, figure out where you’re going to put the gas cylinder. There are compliance rules about this, so check with the installer.
And whatever you do, say, two moms, do not go for stoves and ovens with touch displays, especially not one with a hob above. “I am constantly inadvertently making the oven beep, and once even turning it on, while I stand and use the hob. Biggest pain ever. I hate it.”
Another mom agrees: “We had one and would often use the countertop to drop groceries on when coming home – and a few times the hob would turn on and melt the bags before I noticed.” Create a built-in niche for the microwave which means it doesn’t take up counter space.
Do you have room for a pantry or at least a decent-sized pantry cupboard? If you go for a pantry cupboard, make sure it has a light. You’ll need plenty of storage – more than you think.
The same goes for plug points. You want lots. “There is a new life-changing electrical appliance every year which you’ll have to plugin.” Another mom says: “You get plug points with two-point plugs in them. I am going to change some of mine as most appliances come with two-point plugs. Also, plugs with USB charger points. Life changer.”
Will, you have an island? “We’ve got a huge island and got rid of our dining table which was the best decision. The dining room was a wasted space as we never used it. Nowadays we sit as a family at the island,” said an on-trend mom. Another suggested extra cupboards under the island.
“I would recommend – if you can – putting cupboards underneath the island on the ‘outside’ – the side that you normally have the seating. “Your island obviously needs to be deep enough and the overhang far enough to accommodate this, but it is great for extra storage for all the random things that one does not use every day – tablecloths, extra glasses, wine decanters, fancy cutlery, etc etc. It doesn’t detract from the look of the island at all, so it is basically bonus space.”
Will you have room for an appliance cupboard? These allow you to put away things like the toaster and food mixer so they are not occupying valuable counter space. Or you could build, as one mom suggests, “a waist-high shelf in the pantry for all appliances with plug points so you can use them immediately and not have to climb a ladder, drop a lid or trip over your feet”.
Plan where the dustbin and recycling bin will go.
Do open shelves work better than storage cupboards? The moms are pretty dubious. Says one: “Open shelving is a design feature, not a storage solution. You’ll find you have dust everywhere.”
Says another: “Open shelving is great for plants and recipe books and glass storage containers, but they need constant styling, and cleaning, and they’re more hassle than they’re worth. If you are considering open shelving, take your cupboard doors off for a few weeks and see how that works for you before you commit.”
Storage and cabinetry
Cupboard units should go all the way to the floor or you’ll spend your life cleaning under them, says one mom. And take them right up to the ceiling too, or you’ll end with dust and unsightly clutter on top of them. Large pot drawers are the storage solution for everything you keep below counter height. Obviously, they are good for pots, but also for Tupperware and other plastic containers, as well as a casserole and other cooking and serving dishes.
Another mom suggests a drawer for spices. She advises you consider the height of items you have to store in cupboards. Sometimes two shelves are better than three for tall items like vases and olive oil, fabric softener and so forth. Avoid corner cupboards, unless they are tall, walk-in ones.
Or, as one mom says, “Corner cupboards are where things go to die.” And think carefully about your countertops. One mom said: “Wish I hadn’t put in black countertops. Yes, we were at the end of our budget and I didn’t care too much about the colour as long as it was granite… But it’s difficult to tell how clean they are (and to spot any lurking ants).”