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How to Design a Kitchen for People Who Cook Often versus Those Who Don’t

Whether you are a regular home cook or a novice whose idea of a home-cooked meal constitutes ripping open a pack of instant noodles into a pot of boiling water, a kitchen is still a necessity. To make the most of your space and to ensure that it suits your needs, a kitchen that is often used and a kitchen that is less frequently accessed ought to be designed differently.

Here, we break down the essentials for a well-used kitchen versus what’s needed in a less-used kitchen. The former strives to be both practical and efficient, while the latter is stripped to the bare basics without forgoing functionality.

A Hardworking Kitchen for the Regular Home Cook

1. Layout

The ‘Work Triangle’
When it comes to designing your kitchen, plenty of homeowners prefer to adopt the aged-old Work Triangle theory. This theory posits that the placement of your refrigerator, sink and stove/oven (cooking areas) in the kitchen should form a triangle. It recommends a distance of at least 120cm between the three points, with no obstruction in between to facilitate a smooth traffic flow. This concept is a great way to plan a heavily used kitchen since it promotes efficiency.

Work Zone Design
If the work triangle isn’t quite your kitchen style, you can opt to design your kitchen in terms of work zones. In a kitchen that is organised by work zones, fixtures and appliances are placed according to their use. In other words, a kitchen is sectioned off into different zones for various tasks. For instance, if you do a lot of baking, plan for your stand mixer, baking tools and oven to be placed close to each other. The trash and sink can be placed side by side in order to minimise clean-up.

L-shaped, U-shaped or Galley?
Is L-shaped, U-shaped or galley better for the busy kitchen? We say neither. There are pros and cons for each, and what you choose is determined by how you use your space.

An L-shaped kitchen works well if you like having an island, whether for food prep or for entertaining. If you like an eat-in kitchen, this is the layout to go for. It’s a friendly layout that feels welcoming since there’s usually multiple points of entry into the space.

Design: Fuse Concept

U-shaped kitchens are great if you can afford the space since they tend to take up a bigger area. It’s a very efficient layout that works for home cooks, as there is less ground to cover from one place to another. It works with either a closed or open concept, although it tends to create a more isolated zone away from the rest of the home.

Design: Story of Us

Galley shapes would be suitable for smaller kitchens and they can be closed or open, depending on which you prefer. They tend to be quite restrictive, like the U-shaped, and it would mean your kitchen will be single-purpose (just for cooking) rather than multipurpose (cooking/entertaining/working).

Design: Lemonfridge Studio

Should you place the hob and sink on your island?
If you have an island, avoid placing your hob on it. Your cooking area should preferably be placed near a wall. This not only makes installing your hood a lot easier, it will also help to contain oil splatter and grease since you will have a backsplash to contain them. You can also build a shelf right above your hob to hold your condiments and sauces, making your cooking process a lot more streamlined. Your sink, however, can be placed on your island. And it makes sense too, especially if you use your island as the main food prep station.

Design: Artistroom

Storage, storage, storage
For master chef aspirants, storage is crucial. You will tend to amass numerous wares over the years, so having plenty of space to keep them is important. Think vertical and make use of unexpected nooks and crannies like that space above the refrigerator that no one ever thinks of using. Make full use of your island by installing cabinets. Opt for a couple see-through cabinets that lets you see what you have at a glance. Mix around with open cubbies and closed cabinets that serve different purposes. If you prefer a more spacious environment to cook in, avoid mounting top cabinets. Instead, go for open shelves which offer you storage space without cramping your style.

Design: 19EightyThree

Your cabinet’s inner mechanisms are also important. Pull-out pantries make it easier to reach for things in deeper cabinets, while pull-down cabinets help you reach for things in your upper cupboards.

Design: Lemonfridge Studio


2. Materials

When it comes to selecting materials, make sure you’re getting ones that are durable and easy to maintain. While there is no perfect material, there are some that are better than others. Here’s what to pick for each kitchen surface:

Quartz: While not the cheapest option, this manmade material is hardy, scratch resistant and less likely to stain compared to other materials (although still possible if you leave spills for too long). A great material that can take the clatter and clunk of a busy kitchen.

Design: The Local Inn.terior

KompacPlus: One of the most fuss-free materials out there, KompacPlus is an engineered material made from layers of resin and Kraft paper to create a non-porous, stain-resistant, waterproof and bacteria-resistant material. It tends to be on the pricey side though.

Design: The Local Inn.terior

Tiles: This material is fuss-free, easy to maintain and clean and inexpensive. It’s also moisture resistant, which is crucial for a kitchen space.

High-pressure laminates: Most kitchen cabinets in Singapore are covered in laminates, and it’s no wonder. Laminates are durable, affordable and cleaning is often a breeze as they are treated with a thin plastic coating. Good quality laminates are also resistant to moisture. It can, however, be damaged by overexposure to heat, so make sure your cabinets aren’t too close to a hob or an oven.

Design: M3 Studio

Glass: Glass backsplashes usually come in one large piece, making it easier to wipe down after cooking a storm. A good quality glass backsplash—tempered glass—is durable and resistant to heat. They can also be back-painted to suit the colour of your kitchen.

Stainless steel: This hardy, heat- and water-resistant material is often seen in commercial kitchens. But they tend to be prone to dents, scratches and fingerprints which makes them unsuitable for a countertop or a cabinet material. However, it works well as a backsplash material.

Design: Free Space Intent

Bonus Tip: Light colours are a lot harder to maintain and they tend to show up grease stains. Opt for darker hues or prints to hide imperfections. Also, gloss over matte surfaces (unless it’s the flooring) for hardworking kitchens, as the former is a lot easier to clean.


3. Appliances

For washing up
When you cook a great deal, dishes tend to pile up. Either invest in a dishwasher to ease the chore of cleaning up by half, or install a large sink that can accommodate your dirty wares. We like integrated sinks that are joined together seamlessly with the countertop. They make cleaning up a lot easier since there are no joints or sink edges to wipe down.

For cooking
Invest in a good range hood (with an extraction rate of over 600m3/hr) to reduce fumes and grease in your kitchen. For HDB dwellers, only ductless hoods – which suck the grease and grime through a filter and then re-circulates the air back in the kitchen – are allowed. Ducted hoods, which expels the air to the outside, is only allowed on private housing.

Design: Free Space Intent

When choosing a hob, make sure it has enough burners. We would recommend at least three burners for the heavily used kitchen. Whether you choose induction or gas largely depends on what you cook. Asian style cooking, which often requires the use of a wok, is more suited with a gas hob, as a traditional wok cannot be used on an induction cooker. If you prefer to have both cooker types for more flexibility, invest in models such as Bosch’s domino hobs or Techno’s hybrid hobs which allow you to have an induction cooker alongside a gas hob.

Design: Icon Interior Design

A large capacity refrigerator such as a double-door/side-by-side should be your go-to choice as you will need more space to store your produce. However, what size refrigerator to get is also primarily dependent on the size of your household and how often you go grocery shopping. If you prefer a small refrigerator, invest in a top-freezer one, as it’s more efficient compared to a bottom-freezer refrigerator.

The Bare Essentials for the Cooking Novice

1. Layout

The One Wall Kitchen
If you don’t cook often, a one-wall kitchen might be just enough for you. It lines all the important appliances—refrigerator, cooktop and sink—against a single wall, keeping things neat and tidy without taking unnecessary floor space. Keeping your one-wall kitchen has it benefits, as it allows you to throw in a dining or bar table, turning it into an eat-in kitchen.

Design: VOILÀ

Just an island will do, thanks
If the extent of your cooking is mostly limited to boiling water and making coffee, you might want to consider just installing an island. Splurge instead on a pantry area (or a home bar) with full-height cabinets for storage, where you can store appliances that you would really use, such as your coffee maker or juicer.

Design: The Monocot Studio

Workstation combination
Have your kitchen do double duty as your home office. A big island table can work as your study table. Make sure there are power sockets installed on your island to plug in or charge your laptops. Also ensure that there are proper task lightings so you can make the most of your space.

Design: Liid Studio


2. Materials

For the low-key kitchen, affordability is well, key. But make sure low-cost doesn’t equate to poor quality. Make sure your space is still functional to handle the basics.

Whatever catches your fancy: If your kitchen doubles as a home bar, make sure you go for a material that is resistant against stains and is non-porous. A good material is granite, which tends to be expensive. But if you don’t have a lot of surface to cover, granite is a good option.

Laminate: It’s incredibly affordable, plus it’s resistant to stains and scratches. Not the best for hot pans, but if you don’t cook much, there’s probably no hot pan to contend with. Wiping a laminate countertop is also a breeze since there are no grout lines.

Design: Azrul Yusoff Interior Studio | Featured on kitchen countertop: Edl’s Compact Nero Moraine laminate

Vinyl: While tiles are affordable, vinyl is even more so. This low-cost material is waterproof and easy to install. Since traffic would be less heavy in a basic kitchen, scratches – which unfortunately vinyl is sort of prone to – aren’t going to be a huge concern.

Design: Meter Square

Laminates: The wide variety of colours and patterns for laminates make this the top choice for your frills-free kitchen. As we’ve mentioned earlier, this is a durable, low-cost and easy to maintain material and works for both heavily used kitchens as well as less utilised ones.

Design: UNO Interior

Glass: While oil splatters aren’t going to pose a huge problem in a low-key kitchen, you should still invest in a durable backsplash to guard against water splashes. Glass, an ultra-trendy and modern option, is your best bet since it is very easy to wipe away spills.


3. Appliances

A dishwasher comes highly recommended even if you don’t have that many dishes to wash. With a dishwasher, you don’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen, and having one means you can reduce the size of your sink. It also reduces the chances of water splashes ruining your countertops or cabinets.

Induction hob
An induction hob would serve your needs well enough. It takes up a lot less space and it’s much easier to clean compared to a gas hob.

Design: LU+C Studio

Hood not necessary
A range hood isn’t quite necessary if you don’t cook very much. So avoid splurging on this expensive appliance.

Design: Dezzo

You probably shouldn’t do away with a refrigerator. With a humid climate like Singapore, refrigerators are life (and food) savers. Go for an energy-efficient refrigerator that doesn’t take up a lot of space like a top-freezer.

Design: The Local Inn.terior

While this serves as a good guide to get you thinking about what you may (or may not) need in your kitchen depending on how often you cook, it’s by no means a be all and end all. Ultimately, curate, edit and decide what you would deem as necessary.


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