U-shape kitchens were once the most efficient of all kitchen layouts. The ideal "U" surrounded the cook, keeping traffic flow away from the work area.
Everything was handy, within easy reach, and the work triangle ascended to new heights of glory. The kitchen pictured above fits the ideal of U-shape.
But, as houses are often built smaller now, the U-shape got smaller with them...and less convenient.
The fridge and pantry were often forced out of the "U" to fend for themselves on another wall, as in the kitchen layout shown below. The "U" lost some of its original design beauty because traffic flow now interrupts the work space.
Here the "U" is so small, the owner of this kitchen has to be a contortionist just to rinse and load dirty dishes into the dishwasher to the right of the sink.
There she is, scrunched into the corner, bending and reaching over the dishwasher's open door to load dishes.
"Ooh, my aching back!"
OR she has to rinse and then pile dirty dishes on the counter above the dishwasher and stand out in the room to load them. DUMB!
A solution to this problem is to change the angle of the breakfast bar and the dishwasher under it.
The homeowner rarely sits at the bar because this kitchen opens to a small dining room to its right.
Changing the angle of the dishwasher allows her to just turn from the sink to load dirty dishes.
Another plus to this kind of change is the increased openness of the room. Lowering the breakfast bar to countertop height removes an "obstacle" that encloses the space.
She's even gained a little counter space! Now the entire dishwasher wing of the "U" is a larger expanse of countertop.
order to make this layout change, the homeowner would likely need a new
countertop, but the dishwasher is moving so little the plumbing can
easily be re-piped - or may not need anything changed. And the cabinets
can be reworked so no new ones would be needed!
The one complaint I hear the most about U-shape kitchens?
"My back is always turned to my guests!"
The U is usually open to another area, like the eat-in kitchen shown here.
One solution is to change the layout to an island style.
You'll sacrifice a lot of cabinet space, though...
...here I've added 12" deep wall cabinets stacked to create two big walls of cabinetry on each side of the table. (If you have room, use 15" deep cabs for better storage.)
Changing the U-shape to a galley using a peninsula adds a bit more cabinet space than the island re-do.
The stove is the best choice to face outward. Because cooking takes tending to over a period of time, it's more fun than clean-up while chatting with family or friends.
You'll want to add a stove hood over the peninsula for venting.
It's a tough decision to give up the wonderful efficiency of U-shape kitchens. You just have to wrestle with your own priorities.
Some can be enhanced by adding a center island - if you have the room...as long as it doesn't cut too much into the work triangle, making more work for you.
Thinking of remodeling?
Keep a notebook or scrapbook of notes, clippings and ideas.
Kitchen magazines are expensive - look through them in the grocery checkout line. If you see pix of a kitchen you really like, buy that magazine.
Stop in at home centers and pick up any free cabinet manufacturers' catalogs.
See our DIY section...
...for how-to on kitchen remodeling - including
How To Tile a Backsplash.