Creating a Smart Kitchen

Remodeling a kitchen or planning a new one gives you an opportunity to combine the latest cooking technologies and the best design ideas into a space that embraces your love of food. From efficient design to intelligent appliance performance, the result can be the smart kitchen you want, consistent with your style and responsive to your every need. Start with how you cook and how you define your family, refining your design through these details.

Layout & Design

To make a kitchen smart, start by making it efficient. Exactly what "efficient" means depends on your available space and your family's expectations. Marc Dunham, Director of Culinary Arts at Francis Tuttle Technology Center, points to the design phase as the time to think through your personal specifics before you look at finishes, appliances or cabinets. "The key to efficiency is all in the details," he says. "Thinking through workflow is essential, as is knowing your needs and the needs of your family."

To assess your needs intelligently, ask family members to write out what they like and dislike about your current kitchen and what they wish it could do differently. Suggest that they use their smartphones and tablet devices to send you pictures of kitchens they like, including images they find on the Internet and photos they take themselves. If you want to create your own kitchen layout, or at least put together floor plans to present to an architect or general contractor, use your home computer to draft, revise and finesse your drawings.

Appliance Selection

Look for appliances that help you improve the quality of your food and reduce the amount of effort you put into producing it. A range with convection cooking capabilities cuts baking and roasting time while it enhances the results you achieve in the oven. Flexible oven cavities make it possible to cook two separate dishes in the same range at the same time, each at a different temperature, without the smell of your roast pervading your cherry pie. Touch-screen controls ease the task of setting refrigerator temperatures and give you Wi-Fi®–enabled access to the Internet so you can research ingredients or recipes and post photos of your culinary output to social media.

Dunham encourages home cooks to look for equipment that fosters their abilities. "I would appeal to everyone's desire to improve their life and connection to each other, empower them to cook 'chef' quality food, while reducing time spent in the kitchen, all at an exceptional value," he says. He also recommends emphasizing energy efficiency in appliance choices. "ENERGY STAR is the 'gold' standard that I hope we continue to improve. Conserving and being responsible with energy is all of our jobs. Sustainability is key."

Clean & Smart

The classic work triangle—sink, refrigerator and range—forms the focus of many kitchen designs. Dunham likes these concepts when they're efficient but sees flaws in their basic premise. "I believe that many 'triangle' layouts are a waste of space and cause too many steps in the cooking process. If I were to design something based on the triangle layout, I would suggest minimizing the triangle to a few feet. But I also like the idea of multiple 'work areas' and linear design."

Because sink placement can determine dishwasher placement in kitchens that locate one set of piping to handle all water sources, your sink can form the center point of the design. Today's ultraquiet dishwashers mean that you can place this essential appliance front and center without worrying about trying to converse over its operating noise.

Lighting Choices

If your kitchen space includes windows that provide great natural views and light, they enhance the look of the room and minimize some of its energy needs. Energy-efficient LED lighting increases the smartness of your kitchen and your lighting options. Dunham recommends using a combination of lamps, recessed fixtures and LED tape. "I love natural light the most, but recessed LED coverage from above is great, too," he says. "In addition to recessed lighting in the ceiling, I also like additional LED lighting to enhance specific work areas: for example, an LED pendant over the 'butcher area' to add lighting."

He likes the quality of LED lighting and its cool operation, which limits the role of light sources in raising kitchen temperatures. "I feel like most people that I have talked to when I say that LED doesn't give me that harsh feel and shadow that I don't like from incandescent and CFLs. They also don't burn as hot."

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