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You may have heard the term “kitchen ergonomics”
and wondered what the term meant. Generally speaking, ergonomics refers to how
humans interact with their environment. This covers every aspect of interaction
from movement, to sight, to sound, and beyond.

A kitchen or other environment that is designed
ergonomically means that a lot of thought has been put into the user of that
space, and that efforts have been made to ensure maximum comfort and usability.
In other words, an ergonomic space is not designed around
your house, but rather it is designed around you. Think of it this way: are
there areas of your kitchen that seem unusable? Perhaps they are hard to reach,
or awkwardly laid out? An ergonomic redesign would address all of these
concerns and maximize the amount of use you get out of your space.
So what could you expect to see in an ergonomic kitchen?
Take a look… 

The Work
Triangle

The ideal kitchen layout will create what is known as the
“work triangle.” What this means is that the three main appliances
that come into play during food preparation – namely the refrigerator, the
oven, and the sink – will form points of a triangle with only a few steps
between them.
You may not have noticed how important this work triangle
is, unless of course you have ever tried to work in a kitchen without one. If
you’ve struggled to carry a 25 pound turkey in a roasting pan clear across your
kitchen, then you do not have an ergonomic set up. Likewise, if you count more
than three steps between the place where you fill the teakettle and the place
where you heat it up, then that you might want to talk to a remodeling contractor.

Varied Counter
Heights

This is especially important if there is more than one
“cook” using the kitchen. Unless the two of you stand at exactly the
same height, and have the exact same physical capabilities and limitations,
chances are good that one of you feels less comfortable in that kitchen than
the other.

One of the easiest ways to address this is by installing
varied counter heights. A lower counter is more comfortable for a shorter
person, whereas a taller person would need to stoop uncomfortably to work in
that same space.
Of course, varied counter heights can be helpful even in
kitchens with a single cook. It can help create a discernible difference
between prep space and workspace, or provide an elevated area on which to place
utensils or small appliances easily within reach. 

Smart Cabinet
Design

Kitchen cabinets have
progressed
a long way beyond rectangular boxes with rectangular shelves.
Ergonomic cabinets often feature slide out storage, making it far less likely
that you will find yourself on your hands and knees digging for a skillet way
at the back.
Heavier kitchen appliances such as stand mixers or food
processors can be placed on lifts that are installed into ergonomic cabinets. A
button or lever gently lifts the appliance and the surface it is on out of the
cabinet, not only saving you from dragging it out yourself, but also providing
you with a little extra workspace.
Storage in ergonomic cabinets has also been maximized.
Ideally, you should be able to look into your pantry and take inventory of
everything you have at a glance. If that is not the case, then you are probably
using standard cabinet shelves that did not take the user into account when
they were designed.
For upper-level cabinets, they can be designed so that the
doors fold up, rather than swing out. This keeps them high and out of your way
while you are working at the counter. 

Varied Lighting
Options

For a long time, kitchens were outfitted with overhead
lighting, and that was that. Of course, there are many times where you could
benefit from a little extra light in your workspace.
An ergonomic kitchen will feature many different lighting
options. There will still be overhead lighting of course, but there will also
be extra bright lighting concentrated specifically on the countertop.
Ergonomics has helped us better understand how we use our
spaces. A kitchen that has been redesigned ergonomically will be extremely
user-friendly, and altogether a more pleasant place to spend your time.

Niv Orlian is an online marketer and the Co-Founder of DO
Online Marketing, a Chicago based company that helps local businesses such as Planet Cabinets, acquire, manage, and
retain local customers online.