What you’re about to read are some of our ideas of what an ideal permaculture kitchen looks like. It is not the only way to do things and most likely, you will have preferences that aren’t the same as ours. This post is simply to get you thinking about your own kitchen (or dream kitchen) and how you can apply permaculture principles into the design of a kitchen. The post is not all-inclusive and there are bound to be other fantastic options, but the ideas here should stay the same, regardless of changes in technology or technique.
Image from TheKitchn.
So you have a normal sized kitchen and you’re deciding how to arrange it. Have you considered a keyhole design? Normally, a keyhole design is applied to herb gardens and similar small gardens, but it’s actually an incredibly efficient design for a kitchen as well. Instead of being able to walk around the outside and inside portion of the garden, you have counter and work space on the outside and inside, giving plenty of space on the outside counters for people to work on dishes individually, while having one common work space in the centre for everyone to share. An example of this kind of general design is the photos above, that come from a design article on The Kitchn. It’s important to think about the pattern you work in, if multiple people must use the stove, then you should have counter space in multiple areas, so that there isn’t congested stove traffic. The same should go for the refrigerator and sink. Having extra space for people to manoeuvre or having multiple angles to approach these congested areas is a great way to avoid frustration for cooking in groups.
Image from TheKitchn. Excellent keyhole kitchen design.
Pattern to Detail
You have a general design and you’ve thought through high traffic areas. Now it’s time to focus on some details. There are all kinds of things that you can do to add details to your kitchen, from using renewable energy sources to power all your appliances to using reclaimed wood for your floors and counters. We’ll focus on three easy changes you can make, even if you aren’t building a kitchen from scratch.
Shelves and Open Cabinets
There are a number of reasons to consider open cabinets and shelves instead of a standard cabinet.
- When done right, they can be incredibly aesthetically pleasing.
- You can get to all your bowls, cups, spoons and cutting boards without digging through a cabinet or getting raw egg on the cupboard handles.
- Cleaning them is significantly easier. Move your dishes a little bit and wipe. It takes a few minutes instead of the better part of your day.
- UV light from the sun combined with free flowing air can help keep nasty mold and other gross things at bay. Dark cabinets? Less so.
- Everyone can see your bowls and plates and so you’ll never have to hear the question, “Where are your glasses?” again.
The first one is rather subjective and people who are ashamed of their dishes might have mixed feelings about the last point, but it’s difficult to argue with the other three. One of the goals of cooking using permaculture techniques is to make the entire process as easy as possible, by working with your kitchen rather than against it. You might not be a fan of open cabinets or shelves; you should evaluate your kitchen to see what storage makes the most sense for you and how you cook.
You have walls and they’re not contributing. Well, they might be keeping the elements at bay and generally holding your roof above your head, but they’re still being under-utilised. This is your opportunity to make them work for you. Your walls should hold recipes and measuring spoons. Pots and pans. Teaspoons and towels. It frees up counter space to work and if you wanted, a smaller countertop. It’s perfect if you have a limited kitchen footprint too (i.e. an apartment). It also makes it easier for other people to work in your kitchen since it means they don’t have to go hunting in drawers and cupboards to find your lost spatula.
There are all kinds of hidden spaces in your kitchen that you can use for storage. I’m not actually referring to the trapdoor under your carpet or the graveyard of failed pancakes under the stove; I mean places you might normally not think of. For example, your refrigerator. Normally a repository for decade old, embarrassing photos of friends or children, your refrigerator door can be a fantastic spice storage unit. The refrigerator is just the start though. Almost any area can be turned into a storage solution, to the point where you can pack the vast majority of your kitchen tools and ingredients into a very small space, or spread them around to be more efficient than how they are currently arranged.