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The Risks of Overlooking Ergonomics in Kitchen Design

Updated: Mar 18


Kitchens, being one of the most important rooms of a home, occupy a significant portion of your daily routine. A study has, in fact, found that the average person spends around 3 years of their life cooking — and this reinforces why the kitchen is worth all the extra attention when it comes to interior design. So, once you’ve decided on the best place for your kitchen, it’s time to make important choices for the interior of the kitchen — including its layout and ergonomics.  In this article, we’ve rounded up the dangers of ignoring kitchen ergonomics, along with tips on how to incorporate them to ensure that your kitchen is a practical, safe, and comfortable space.

Kitchens, being one of the most important rooms of a home, occupy a significant portion of your daily routine. A study has, in fact, found that the average person spends around 3 years of their life cooking — and this reinforces why the kitchen is worth all the extra attention when it comes to interior design. So, once you’ve decided on the best place for your kitchen, it’s time to make important choices for the interior of the kitchen — including its layout and ergonomics.


In this article, we’ve rounded up the dangers of ignoring kitchen ergonomics, along with tips on how to incorporate them to ensure that your kitchen is a practical, safe, and comfortable space.


What are Kitchen Ergonomics?


In general terms, ergonomics or “work laws” is the process of bringing improvements to the design of any space to optimise it for human use. When applied to kitchens, the main aim is to create an atmosphere that is pleasant for working, stress-free, and incurs the least waste of energy and time. Additionally, an ergonomically designed kitchen aims at practically training you to maintain good posture by preventing unnecessary twisting, bending, or turning to reach out for any required items.

In general terms, ergonomics or “work laws” is the process of bringing improvements to the design of any space to optimise it for human use. When applied to kitchens, the main aim is to create an atmosphere that is pleasant for working, stress-free, and incurs the least waste of energy and time. Additionally, an ergonomically designed kitchen aims at practically training you to maintain good posture by preventing unnecessary twisting, bending, or turning to reach out for any required items.


How to Determine the Correct Working Height for Your Kitchen?


To fully achieve good ergonomics, it is essential to be aware of (and adjust) the working height according to your needs. This can be done by measuring the height of your elbow. Start by bending your arm and pretending to stir a pot. Measure the distance between your bent arm and the floor and minus 10 to 15 centimetres. The result will be the optimal working height for you.  Although there are average working height values (which fall between 85 to 95 centimetres), they may vary according to your size. Therefore, it is best to amend them with accurate and personalised measurements.

To fully achieve good ergonomics, it is essential to be aware of (and adjust) the working height according to your needs. This can be done by measuring the height of your elbow. Start by bending your arm and pretending to stir a pot. Measure the distance between your bent arm and the floor and minus 10 to 15 centimetres. The result will be the optimal working height for you.


Although there are average working height values (which fall between 85 to 95 centimetres), they may vary according to your size. Therefore, it is best to amend them with accurate and personalised measurements.


Dangers of Ignoring Kitchen Ergonomics


Now that you’re familiar with what kitchen ergonomics are and how you’re supposed to determine the correct working height, let’s take a look at the potential dangers (and solutions) of ignoring kitchen ergonomics.


Makes Cooking and Cleaning Difficult


Danger: The incorrect height of a hob and a sink can spark long-term health issues, including back pains or, even worse, safety hazards like burning yourself by accidental spillages from the pot.  Solution: Lower the hob to make cooking easier. From an ergonomic point of view, it’d be best to install the stove about 10 to 15 cm lower than the worktop. For the sink, consider keeping it 10 to 15 cm higher than the worktop, so you don’t have to bend over excessively when washing the dishes.  Pro Tip: The height of the sink varies with the type of bowl you choose. For example, a vessel sink or a top-mounted bowl features a surface that rests on the worktop, allowing you to gain approximately 10 cm of height. You can also find automatic lifting systems for sink cabinets that facilitate setting a custom bowl height.

Danger: The incorrect height of a hob and a sink can spark long-term health issues, including back pains or, even worse, safety hazards like burning yourself by accidental spillages from the pot.


Solution: Lower the hob to make cooking easier. From an ergonomic point of view, it’d be best to install the stove about 10 to 15 cm lower than the worktop. For the sink, consider keeping it 10 to 15 cm higher than the worktop, so you don’t have to bend over excessively when washing the dishes.


Pro Tip: The height of the sink varies with the type of bowl you choose. For example, a vessel sink or a top-mounted bowl features a surface that rests on the worktop, allowing you to gain approximately 10 cm of height. You can also find automatic lifting systems for sink cabinets that facilitate setting a custom bowl height.


Causes Unnecessary Bending & Stretching


Danger: Installing kitchen cabinets too high can make simple tasks, like accessing utensils, a challenge. Since you perform many tasks repeatedly, inappropriate cabinet positions can result in unnecessary bending and stretching, which can cause muscle spasms and lower back strain. And, of course, you also wouldn’t appreciate the idea of climbing a stepladder each time you need a hand blender or a frying pan.  Solution: “To find the best cabinet height, stand straight, bend your arms at 90 degrees, then drop them around 4-5 inches. That will be a good ergonomic work-surface height for you,” says Interior designer Victoria Sass, owner of Prospect Refuge Studio. When in doubt, sticking to cabinets installed 18 inches above your countertops is a safe bet. It’ll make your home suitable for resale, and it generally works with families with people of various sizes, and guests who like to lend a helping hand in cooking.

Danger: Installing kitchen cabinets too high can make simple tasks, like accessing utensils, a challenge. Since you perform many tasks repeatedly, inappropriate cabinet positions can result in unnecessary bending and stretching, which can cause muscle spasms and lower back strain. And, of course, you also wouldn’t appreciate the idea of climbing a stepladder each time you need a hand blender or a frying pan.


Solution: “To find the best cabinet height, stand straight, bend your arms at 90 degrees, then drop them around 4-5 inches. That will be a good ergonomic work-surface height for you,” says Interior designer Victoria Sass, owner of Prospect Refuge Studio. When in doubt, sticking to cabinets installed 18 inches above your countertops is a safe bet. It’ll make your home suitable for resale, and it generally works with families with people of various sizes, and guests who like to lend a helping hand in cooking.


Creates Disruptive Routes Across the Kitchen


Danger: Ignoring ergonomics can result in a disruptive route across the kitchen. For instance, if preparing dinner tends to be the job of more than one person in your home, a kitchen design that ignores ergonomics will end up creating a troublesome route, with your helpers crossing each other’s paths and getting into each other’s way.  Solution: Consider paying attention to the importance and incorporation of a kitchen triangle. This concept is based on creating three work areas: the refrigerator, the sink, and the stove. It helps design an efficient layout that is both functional and aesthetic.

Danger: Ignoring ergonomics can result in a disruptive route across the kitchen. For instance, if preparing dinner tends to be the job of more than one person in your home, a kitchen design that ignores ergonomics will end up creating a troublesome route, with your helpers crossing each other’s paths and getting into each other’s way.


Solution: Consider paying attention to the importance and incorporation of a kitchen triangle. This concept is based on creating three work areas: the refrigerator, the sink, and the stove. It helps design an efficient layout that is both functional and aesthetic.


Results in Insufficient Storage & Inconvenient Utensil Placement


Danger: A kitchen that skimps on appropriate storage spots for every item makes cooking much more challenging — you might even end up burning your food while trying to look for a spatula. So whether it’s something as small as spices or something as significant as a cooking pot, the correct placement and storage of each utensil creates a huge difference in the comfort of your kitchen.  Solution: Think of how and when each item is used and store it accordingly in the kitchen in a specific aligned spot. Things like spices, cooking spoons, pans, pots, and oil should be stored near the stove; sponges, dishcloths, and washing-up liquid near the sink, along with peelers and knives to prepare vegetables and fruit for cooking, and so on. Similarly, putting your waste disposals near the sink is a great idea to immediately toss vegetable scrapings, potato peels, or leftovers from plates for composting rather than accidentally blocking your sink drain with them.  If you’re still in the process of designing your kitchen, consider embedding good storage into your plan. Ideas you can take inspiration from include:  Install dividers to give cabinets order Use pull-out drawer organisers  Consider a rolling can holder Incorporate risers in cabinets to increase the storage in each shelf  Employ Lazy Susans Add small racks on the inside of cabinet doors

Credit: Ida Blooms


Danger: A kitchen that skimps on appropriate storage spots for every item makes cooking much more challenging — you might even end up burning your food while trying to look for a spatula. So whether it’s something as small as spices or something as significant as a cooking pot, the correct placement and storage of each utensil creates a huge difference in the comfort of your kitchen.


Solution: Think of how and when each item is used and store it accordingly in the kitchen in a specific aligned spot. Things like spices, cooking spoons, pans, pots, and oil should be stored near the stove; sponges, dishcloths, and washing-up liquid near the sink, along with peelers and knives to prepare vegetables and fruit for cooking, and so on. Similarly, putting your waste disposals near the sink is a great idea to immediately toss vegetable scrapings, potato peels, or leftovers from plates for composting rather than accidentally blocking your sink drain with them.


If you’re still in the process of designing your kitchen, consider embedding good storage into your plan. Ideas you can take inspiration from include:

  • Install dividers to give cabinets order

  • Use pull-out drawer organisers

  • Consider a rolling can holder

  • Incorporate risers in cabinets to increase the storage in each shelf

  • Employ Lazy Susans

  • Add small racks on the inside of cabinet doors


Conclusion


Tired of your impractical and uninviting kitchen? It’s time to think and plan differently, with a revamp that focuses on ergonomics and practicality by including all the aspects that promote your ease and comfort.


So, apart from the basic kitchen remodelling ideas that can help you make the most of your space, it is important to keep in mind kitchen ergonomics to create a space that makes ticking off chores much more enjoyable and relaxing!


Our Interior Design Gurus are here to assist you in designing a kitchen that you will love, with careful consideration of your lifestyle needs to ensure optimal ergonomics. Book a video call today to get started!






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