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Design Considerations in Kitchens

Worksite Redesign Technical Advisory Project

Home kitchens are multiple use areas. First, identify all intended uses and users, and then design the kitchen with good natural light, ventilation, adequate space for movement and turning, visual access to other living areas of the house and adequate, appropriate storage.

  • Provide for:
    • Storage based on a comprehensive needs and task evaluation
    • Locked storage for medications, cleaning supplies and sharps
    • Adequate and appropriate task lighting and ventilation for all functions
    • Post-form countertops that eliminate the hard-to-maintain joints between countertops and backsplashes
    • Wall-mounted B.C. class fire extinguishers
    • Garbage disposals operated with a keyed switch or batch style
    • Rate of rise smoke detectors that measure sudden change in temperature
    • Adequate counter space for all functions must be planned around client and provider needs
  • Design must accommodate a separation of food preparation and other competing functions
  • Provide counter space beside refrigerator to facilitate loading and unloading
  • Round corners of countertops and avoid overhead projections
  • Specify recessed or low-profile pulls on all doors and drawers, and use full extension glides on drawers
  • Specify finish materials, hardware and appliances that are work savers, durable, and easily cleaned, disinfected and maintained:
    • Self-defrosting refrigerators, ice makers, and pull-out shelves with guides
    • Self-cleaning ovens and ranges with controls on the front or, better yet, on the side-installation to include tip-preventers
    • Locate the sink near the range to reduce carrying distance
    • Plastic laminate for cabinets and shelving for ease of cleaning
    • A washable paint on walls and ceilings
    • Adjustable shelving
The safe design of the group home kitchen must begin with the identification of resident abilities, and all functions to be performed in the space. Food storage, meal preparation and clean-up, as well as medication distribution, storage and recordkeeping may occur here. These competing activities can produce unsafe conditions. Separation of the food-related activities and medication functions requires careful separation in design.

The purchase, delivery, storage, preparation and clean-up related to food must be accommodated safely. Food storage should be adequate and flexible. Cabinets need to be cleanable and light-colored with safety-minded operation and hardware choices, such as recessed or flush drawer pulls that reduce pinch points. Full-extension drawer guides make retrieving and storing even heavy objects easier. Drawers and doors must operate without pinch points, overhead projections and other obstructions. Locked storage space must be provided for medicines, cleaning agents and confidential information.

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Countertops should be easily cleaned and light-colored. Post-formed countertops eliminate the hard-to-maintain joint created when the backsplash is a separate piece. Provide counters alongside all fixtures and appliances. All outside corners should be rounded or bull-nosed.

Thoughtful selection and placement of appliances and fixtures can help prevent accidents. Range tops with controls on the side eliminate the need to reach across burners or pots. Disconnects that shut the stove down in one operation help staff to respond quickly to an emergency. Key-operated garbage disposals eliminate surprise operation. Elevated ovens or microwaves reduce back strain from bending over and support use by seated persons. Self-cleaning ovens, self-defrosting refrigerators and other labor-saving features should be selected.

Kitchens are natural gathering places. The design must accommodate the vital need of the staff to remain visually connected to the residents' activity in the house, while also allowing residents appropriate access to the kitchen. Homes with seated or gait-impaired residents must have kitchens sized accordingly. Care needs to be taken to prevent range top burns and spills. Fitting clear shields to the backs of ranges in islands may be required. If residents are a risk in the kitchen, doors separating the kitchen from other living spaces may be needed. Egress openings and entries must be carefully evaluated in these cases to safeguard the health and safety of both staff and the residents.

Often storage, distribution and recordkeeping associated with medications are done in group home kitchens. These tasks must be kept separate from food functions. Lockable storage, counter space, adequate task lighting and recordkeeping space must also be provided.

Other essential elements in the design of a safe kitchen are adequate natural and artificial light, good ventilation, easily-serviced floor coverings (such as sheet vinyl or vinyl composition tile), B.C.-rated fire extinguishers (appropriately mounted, visible and easily reached) and rate of rise smoke detectors.

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48th Street
  • Windows provide natural light, ventilation and outside visibility
  • Rate of rise smoke detector
  • Room is free of overhead projections
  • Adequate storage
  • Self-defrosting refrigerator
  • Counter edges rounded
  • Generous work and counter space
  • Adequate space for movement and turning


48th Street
  • Extensive area lighting and task lighting
  • Large exhaust fan
  • Medicine storage and distribution area is removed from food prep area (see page 35, figure 4)
  • Range is self-cleaning
  • Drawer and door pulls are flush
  • Retractable room screen permits access control (see page 35, figure 1)

Abundant natural light
Sink/stove proximity
Efficient work triangle
Generous storage and counter space
Medicine distribution separate from food preparation area



Participatory food preparation

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