Beware of Magazine Kitchens
Updated: Feb 11
(Originally published in the Napa Valley Register)
Do you ever long to have a kitchen just like the ones featured on the covers of shelter magazines? While I’ve swooned over many, myself, there’s reason to give them a second look. All that glitters is not necessarily gold (or stainless steel). Because of the occasional bad design or building code violation, I’ve wonder if these kitchens are really functioning or just vignettes meant to advertise product – particularly cabinetry and countertops.
A recent cover showed a kitchen with a beautiful professional range positioned at the end of a run of cabinets. The other side of the range did not have a countertop but was exposed to a walkway into the family room. Anyone passing by could knock over a pot of boiling water or a hot frying pan - an especially precarious situation for children.
Here are a few other design missteps to keep your eye out for:
1) Ranges too close to a window: There are building codes that require a range to be a minimum of 12 inches away from a window as a fire on the stove could jump to curtains. Or, a breeze from an open window could blow out the flame on a gas burner and allow gas to accumulate.
2) A range next to an exterior door: This opens up the same dangerous possibility as described above.
3) Upper cabinets extending out over empty space where there are no countertops or base cabinets below: The price of paying for this extra storage could be a fractured skull or at least a bruised forehead. It’s too easy to bend over and forget that the cabinets are there when you stand back up. (I speak from experience)
4) Cabinets that are less than 12 inches from an eight-foot ceiling: They should really reach the ceiling. If not, this vacant space becomes a dust collector and a health hazard for anyone suffering from respiratory issues. Besides, taking the cabinets all the way to the ceiling is a cleaner and more updated look. This extra effort will also make your ceilings look taller.
5) Here’s a scary one: Today’s powerful hoods, coupled with tightly sealed energy efficient homes, create negative pressure inside the home when the windows are closed in the winter and the exhaust fan is on. Without a heat/air exchanger or a heating system designed against negative pressure, the exhaust fan will pull carbon monoxide back down the water heater exhaust, the furnace chimney, or more even pull the smoke right out the customers fireplace into their home. Individual states are now beginning to pass building codes regulating this.
6) This one is almost no longer an issue but still exists: There must be a GFCI outlet within four feet of the sink but if the range is electric with spiral coil heating elements and the range is too close to a stainless steel sink, the 110 volt outlet issue will be benign in comparison to the 220 volt range, sink, and water shocker.
Shelter magazines are a wonderful source of inspiration to the public. I like to use them as a tool for clients who are hesitant to step outside their design and decorating comfort zone. The professional staging and photography help them to visualize and give them permission to take risks. But choose your photos wisely. Whether a kitchen or any other space, not all represent good design or follow safe practices.
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