If you are dreaming of a new kitchen, you have probably spent time online looking at the latest design ideas. Sites such as Pinterest and Houzz are wonderful for gathering ideas, discovering new color trends and creating a wish book of ideas. But a well-designed kitchen goes far beyond the color of cabinets and layout.
Features that are available to you include energy-efficient appliances, surfaces that are durable and easy to keep clean, automated faucets with touch controls, LED lighting, electrical outlets with USB ports and automated electronic controls.
Darren Moore, chief architectural designer for Ecovations Lifestyle in Los Angeles, encourages his clients to detox their kitchens by using sustainable materials.
“Sustainable materials are the future, and we can make a difference in the world around us by selecting these products,” he said. “Making responsible, educated choices when it comes to what we put in our home and in our kitchens is good for everyone.”
Energy-efficient appliances are key to responsible kitchen design, but bigger is not always better. Each appliance should be sized to fit your needs. Huge, dual-fuel ranges may look sexy in magazine ads and showrooms, but do you ever have six pots going at once? If you don’t, then don’t go bigger. Go more efficient.
The refrigerator is the biggest energy user in the kitchen. Consider counter-depth upright refrigerators or smaller under-counter units to cut down on energy consumption and provide convenient access.
One of the largest surfaces in a kitchen is the countertop. It can be hard to keep sealed and clean. Granite and marble are porous, which means the surfaces may have the potential to harbor bacteria. Countertop manufacturer Silestone has developed surfaces that contain a bacteriostatic formula developed by Cosentino. Silver ions help prevent the propagation of bacteria. The countertops are available in a variety of colors and patterns and keep their seal.
Touch-free faucets and automated electronic controls can be used to reduce water and energy use and the spread of harmful bacteria. The Sensate touchless faucet by Kohler frees your hands to reduce the chances of spreading germs throughout the kitchen as you prepare and cook meals. Pass your hand under the faucet to turn on the water.
Electronic motion controls such as those designed by Eaton can turn kitchen and pantry lights on or off when you enter or leave the room. Hands-free lighting control can also create a safer environment. No more walking into a dark space as you juggle grocery bags. LED lighting saves energy and also provides a safer work environment. LED lighting tape strips can be placed under the edge of counter tops to light the insides of drawers and cabinets.
Keeping a kitchen clean and sanitary should be at the top of your planning list when designing your new kitchen. Before you buy a product, ask yourself how easy it will be to clean and disinfect. If harsh chemicals will be needed to keep it clean and looking good, then find a replacement. Look for products that can be cleaned with vinegar, baking soda and lemon.
You don’t have to wait for a new kitchen to take advantage of some of these innovations. By incorporating just a few into your existing kitchen, you will be one step closer to a healthy, energy-efficient kitchen.
Designer and home improvement expert Vicki Payne is host and producer of “For Your Home,” available on PBS, Create TV and in national and international syndication. Reach her at ForYourHome.com.