By Roger Hazard
Open shelving opens up space in this U-shaped kitchen.
A U-shaped kitchen configuration encourages high-efficiency cooking. The range, sink, and refrigerator are all just a pivot away, creating an obvious "work triangle" with a minimum of obstacles.
The U-shape configuration is particularly common in smaller kitchens. This is an efficient use of the available space, because base and upper cabinets can be placed on all three walls, wrapping around the workspace.
But while such a layout maximizes storage in a small kitchen, it creates problems from a design perspective. Surrounding the workspace with upper cabinets can create a claustrophobic feel. The solution is to take away a few of the upper cabinets. This breaks up the repetitive pattern of the cabinet doors and allows us to see a section of wall. The visual balance of the kitchen becomes less top-heavy, reducing the sense of claustrophobia and expanding the space.
While some may use this newly opened space to showcase artwork, I think that open shelving is a fantastic way to retain the lighter feel, add interest, and sneak in a bit of storage. Open shelving makes a wonderful home for frequently used glassware (If your drinking glasses are a jumble, consider picking up a dozen that match for maximum impact). To that, add a few large, bright mixing bowls to introduce color and free up valuable space elsewhere. You can add a decorative accessory or two, but don't go overboard - you'll be happier with the look if you don't fill every available inch of shelf space.
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Step three of the design process focuses on identifying a kitchen style. Whether you're working with an interior designer or taking on the project yourself, you will need to spend some time researching your options in order to choose the look that works best for your home.
After carefully considering how the layout, style, and purpose of your kitchen fits with the rest of the house, it's time to define your kitchen renovation project by assisting your unique priorities, identifying the spaces that will be impacted by the renovation, seeking opportunities to optimize your budget, and applying the information you gleaned from Step One.