The U-shape – or horseshoe-shape – is one of the most versatile configurations for the small- to medium-sized kitchen.
The U-shape – or horseshoe-shape – is one of the most versatile configurations for the small- to medium-sized kitchen. Often, the fourth side of one of these kitchens is a pass-through from the back door into the rest of the home via the kitchen. Or, in some cases, the fourth side is defined by an island or breakfast counter that separates the kitchen from dining or family rooms.
A U-shaped kitchen generally features contiguous countertops set with appliances and the sink in various configurations, lining three walls in an unbroken flow. This kitchen shape is ideal for giving the cook easy access to surface space, cabinets, sink, fridge, oven, and range, all within reach of the central floor space.
In a very useful HomeTime article called Remodeling Kitchens: Getting Started, the three basic functions of the kitchen are discussed. These are Storage, Preparation, and Clean-Up. The article reports that for the past several decades, kitchen designs have been based on three basic layouts – the U-shape, the L-shape, and the galley. All three designs support the "classic work triangle concept that basically positions the three major kitchen components (refrigerator, stove, and sink) in a triangular pattern."
These days, with more women working outside the home and kitchen activities being shared by multiple family members, kitchen designers tend to think in terms of work centers or work stations within the kitchen in order to allow more than one person to work efficiently without getting in anyone else's way. In the U-shaped kitchen, work centers are often the corner countertop spaces, which are always next to a major appliance or sink. At least two people can work together easily in a U-shaped kitchen, making this design retain its popularity.
Adding an island is common in U-shaped kitchens as well. The island can be placed permanently in the center of the U if the kitchen is large enough. In the event that space is sparse, a narrow island cart on wheels can tuck against the fourth wall when not in use, and be moved into the kitchen proper for busy preparation times.
In The Smart Approach to Kitchen Design, author Susan Maney Lovett says, "Some experts believe the U-shaped kitchen is the most efficient design. Generally speaking, in a U-shaped kitchen it's possible to keep the traffic that's passing through the kitchen from encroaching on the cook's workspace – an important asset in a busy household."
If you're planning a kitchen remodel, one of the best sources for information and advice will be your local kitchen contractor's consult – one who specializes in kitchens, of course. In many cases, contractors work with designers and you can avail yourself of the designer's expertise when you meet with the contractor. These professionals can help you create the U-shaped kitchen of your dreams.
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