Every homeowner wants a hard-working kitchen, but the 21st century has brought a whole new dimension to the phrase. Many of today's kitchens are as likely to house computers as toaster ovens – and for good reason. With more people working from home today, a kitchen work center is often the best place to tackle the family finances, juggle schedules – even manage a career.
Few homeowners, however, have the luxury of a great deal of space to devote to a kitchen work station. "Incorporating high-tech equipment into the plan and decor of an existing kitchen can take a bit of effort and creativity," says Geno Benvenuti, president of Benvenuti and Stein Inc., an award-winning design-build firm in Evanston, Ill. "It's one thing to use a laptop at the kitchen table. It's another to fit in an entire office."
Homeowners considering a kitchen work station should assess their need for space and their tolerance for clutter, Benvenuti advises. "Ask them to think about how much storage and desktop they will need to get their work accomplished efficiently," he says.
Creating visual boundaries between the office and kitchen will help homeowners increase their productivity. A peninsula, half wall or column can define the office space as separate from the kitchen work area.
Benvenuti offers a number of other ideas to make a kitchen work center function well despite limited space:
Add enough power. Computers, fax machines and chargers for cell phones and PDAs need power sources. Hide outlets under upper cabinets for a streamlined look. Consider adding a narrow shelf to keep cell phones and PDAs off the desktop.
Use proper task lighting. Adequate glare-free lighting is arguably the most important consideration for any work area. Office spaces are no different. Under-cabinet lighting can keep the desktop as well-lit as the kitchen's counters.
Consider cabinetry with special storage options. Papers, supplies and equipment such as a computer tower, printer and fax machine should be kept handy but out of sight. A roll-top desk provides a quick "now you see it; now you don't" solution for the inevitable clutter. Homeowners can even use folding screens to hide disorder until they can straighten up, organize, and clean up.
Let built-ins do double duty. The same banquette used for seating for family breakfasts can feature deep drawers in the base to add storage for supplies and files. An island can be used for office-supply storage as well as for stashing pots and pans.
Use pullout shelves. Since doors take more room to open, pullout shelves are a good way to stow bulky equipment, such as printers and fax machines, and keep the workplace surfaces clear.
Hide office equipment in closets. A closet system can house the computer, printer, fax machine, phone and audio/video equipment—and make them all "disappear" when the closet door is closed.
Encourage the use of durable flooring. With an office in the kitchen, homeowners will spend even more time in that room. They will need flooring that will hold up to heavy traffic. Wood is a practical choice, especially for those with children or pets. It's aesthetically pleasing, easy to keep clean, and is softer and easier on the feet and back than tile.
Affordable laminate stands up to stains and scratches and is easy to clean.
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