Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Kitchen Island: Mise en Place & More!

If you're a serious home cook, you probably have a healthy respect for mise en place, a French term that means "to put in place." The term is used in culinary schools and professional kitchens to illustrate an essential cooking practice: the organization of ingredients and utensils that a cook requires for each given meal.

If you've ever watched a cooking show, you've undoubtedly seen mise en place in action. Just think of Emeril's little dishes of pre-chopped herbs or precisely measured spices. Performing all of this work in advance eases the cooking experience, and minimizes mistakes.

Some cooks might dispute the value of mise en place, but no serious cook disputes the value of organization. And to be organized, a cook needs space!

Unfortunately, if you're like most home cooks you wage a never-ending war for kitchen counter space. Too often, children and spouses fill the kitchen with bags and purses and basketballs--items that have nothing to do with your cooking aspirations.

So what to do?

At Master Kitchen & Bath Design, we've helped many homeowners solve the space dilemma with simple changes to the kitchen layout. Check out "Kitchen Remodeling Costs: Four Key Questions" for a brief view of common kitchen layouts.

Believe it or not, many home kitchens are poorly-designed, and certainly not at all optimized for maximum efficiency.

By maximizing efficiency you necessarily maximize available space--although you still might have to fight that war for space! Now, of course, a home cook will probably always fight for all available space, but a kitchen renovation can also offer a painless solution: more space!

Need More Prep Space? How About a Kitchen Island?

If you have sufficient floor space, a kitchen island just might be the easiest solution to the space dilemma. A kitchen island provides an abundance of prep space with enough left over to store the occasional bag or two--not that you'd allow that!

Better yet, a kitchen island divides the kitchen in two, creating a space away from the action for family and friends to relax while the home cook works without interference.

In this simple kitchen renovation, MKBD built a kitchen island with a range to accommodate the needs of a family who share cooking duties and do not need a perfect work triangle (see below).

The Kitchen Island and the Work Triangle

A kitchen island works best with the U-shaped or L-shaped designs or the open-floor plan. Each plan can easily provide the space for a kitchen island, and each is amenable to accommodating or changing the traditional notion of the work triangle.

The work triangle is defined as a three-point work station, from the sink, to range, to refrigerator and back to the sink. You might've heard that the work triangle is an essential feature of most kitchen remodeling projects, but more and more kitchen designs are challenging the doctrine of the triangle for a more expansive view of work space. As writes:

"The work triangle isn't without its flaws though...It assumes that a kitchen will only have three major work stations and one person cooking. As kitchens grow in size, and feature more than three workspaces, the regular work triangle isn't always practical. And in many households today, two or more people share cooking duties. Because of these issues, designers do not always play by the triangle's rules when it comes to drafting kitchen plans."

So a kitchen island might help to create a perfect kitchen triangle:

Image courtesy of

But a kitchen island might otherwise actually disrupt the equanimity of a perfect work triangle--as in the MKBD photo above. In the above MKBD project, you might notice that the refrigerator is not seen in the photo, but the island nevertheless creates a triangle with the sink and adjacent countertop.

In reality, in this case, the island creates multiple work stations with multiple traffic patterns--like a mini professional kitchen. And this could be a good thing if you share cooking duties with other family members.

So when considering how a kitchen island for your space, ask yourself: Do I cook alone or with other family members? If you cook alone, try to ensure that the island maintains the integrity of the work triangle. If you cook with others, forget the triangle!

 Additional Benefits of the Kitchen Island

A kitchen island can offer much more than additional work space. Just look at the range in the MKBD project above. Beyond a space for a cooking range (or dishwasher or wine fridge), an island can also provide extra storage space.

In this MKBD project, we built an island with a wine fridge and multiple drawers for storage!

Kitchen islands also offer the ability to increase electrical outlets. According to the electrical code, for example, all countertops must include two or more outlets. And with more outlets comes more appliances. Pay heed appliance junkies!

Finally, the choice to add additions like an oven range or sink is dependent on the cook's needs. Many cooks relish the opportunity to use a new countertop exclusively for prep space. Imagine the mise en place possibilities!

FREE In-Home Remodeling Estimate!

If you have any questions about your next kitchen remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. Let's talk budget and more! Call now! 215-355-4747.

Better yet, check out our Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate on this very blog!

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