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The Kitchen Project: Maximize Space, Minimize Waste

by Victoria on June 26, 2009 · 11 comments

in Design,kitchen

An update from our interns, Victoria and Megan, as they work to design a better kitchen for our homes.

One week down and many more to go on the way to the extreme green kitchen. In our first week of research and design we have come up with tons of features we would like to see in the kitchen that will maximize space while minimizing waste. First and foremost we have looked at a wide variety of cabinetry and shelving. Most cabinetry is built off of the wall, but we hope to incorporate internalized storage units being those that are either recessed or  “hidden”. Either of which would give the kitchen a lighter feel. We have also looked at slotted wall units,  that apply most readily to canned foods, thus freeing up space in the pantry. We also have been playing around with the idea of mobile base cabinets, which could slide out and lock in place along side the countertop to create additional space for food preparation, or could “unlock” and roll out to become an island. Another storage option could be open shelving above, below, or to the side (cantilevered fold down shelf) of existing cabinets, that is if cabinets were placed above the countertop.

When it comes to food you automatically think of the refrigerator, we love the idea of minimizing its physical and visual dominance so we have been looking at integrated refrigeration systems like Sub-Zero’s 700BR Refrigeration Drawers, they look amazing and fit easily into any kitchen decor by simply altering the face plating. Another plus is that they are energy star certified. The down side is that they are rather expensive so we are in the process of looking for similar models. If we succeed in minimizing the refrigerator then a “pantry”(additional storage for non perishable goods) could be added to take its place. While considering this we realized that smaller fridges are great for energy consumption but not so great for people buying locally, especially those who by meat from farmers markets to be stored in large quantities. So we are bouncing around the idea of “The Veg” or “The Meat” kitchen, which would offer different refrigerator and overall storage options based on the home owner’s needs.

In addition to energy conservation we have been looking at solutions to minimize wasted water. Most specifically when it comes to the faucet, there are a few options out there for the kitchen, less than the bathroom when it comes to water conservation mainly because low flow fixtures are less practical for the kitchen and greywater systems are usually shunned. So we have been setting our hopes high by seeking out foot pedal sinks and automatic faucets. Although both are appealing and both save tons of water throughout the year they are a bit pricy so we will continue to shop around. However we are gravitating toward an automatic sink with a manual override or timer, but we will see.

Last but not least we have been scooping out our waste management options, considering trash and recycling units, as well as composters. We hope to find a recycling unit that compresses plastics and papers but have yet to discover such an item that actually exists. Perhaps it only exists in our dreams but we will continue to be on the look out. As far as composters go there are a few options that seem viable and intriguing which are designed for the kitchen instead of the garden. But this decision comes with an essential discussion of nutrient rich soil for urban farming and or backyard gardens, which we hope will come into play, and which we will discuss further shortly. As for now we implore you to mull over what we have written, look over the following pictures and send any suggestions our way that you would like to see included in the new design.

If you enjoyed reading this post I can promise you'll love our new writing over at Postgreen Homes. Yeah, we know that's the same thing your favorite band said and their new album is nowhere near as good as their early stuff, but seriously, we are actually still getting better.

There also isn't much conversation to be had here . . . at least not with us. So come on over to the Postgreen Homes Blog and tell us what you think of our new(ish) digs and crazy ideas. We will be sure to tell you what we think of your opinion.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Todd Oskin June 26, 2009 at 9:11 pm

the foot-pedal sink sounds like a great idea to me, better than the automatic faucets which seem to have slower response needs electricity?

sounds very convenient when cutting up chicken or other raw stuff and not wanting to get that on the sink knobs… seems to be more sanitary than having knobs.. same goes for garbage cans…

2 Chris Russell June 26, 2009 at 11:44 pm

The tricky part with the internal storage idea is based on the floor plan. Being a passive house, you really would not want to cut into your exterior insulation. On the internal walls, I love the idea of reclaiming what is otherwise four inches of wasted space.

The rolling cabinets are a rather intriguing idea. The ability to create islands or move a cabinet over next to the fridge to get things out would really increase the flexibility and usability of kitchen space.

Being a CSA subscriber with hopes for my own garden, the refrigerator drawers would be a deal breaker. Even before I joined the CSA, I would (and still do) shop bulk stores which doesn’t work with refrigerator drawers. On the other hand, married with two kids does not seem to be your current market either. It so much depends or your buyer so I agree with working up the different options.

As you say, automatic faucets are really nice but quite pricey. I look forward to seeing what you find.

I have not seen a compacting recycling unit in my wanderings on the web. For composting, I am looking at using an automatic composter (

The only thing I can offer (at the risk of starting a long discussion) is that for counters you look at a product called TrendQ ( It has all the look of other recycled counter tops or quartz but is lower cost than even Corian because of its reduced thickness (which gets installed on top of a plywood layer).

Being in the midst of my own new construction, I too pondered long over the kitchen. I will keep watching to see if I can garner any more ideas. Good luck.

3 Asa June 27, 2009 at 11:31 pm

I’d think that for shopping locally and seasonally you’d want a small fridge (because you’d be eating fresh, local stuff acquired within the last few days), plus maybe a separate small freezer (chest, not upright, for energy’s sake) for your 1/4 lamb, your stored bags of tomato sauce (made in season for enjoyment later), or whatever. I guess fridge use is something which has various patterns which vary widely across the population, and custom kitchen design should take into account the pattern of the occupants they’re designing for.

4 Jim Wild June 29, 2009 at 9:36 am

To kind of move away from the small fridge and consider those who want to store their home grown long term, and thinking about energy.
I’ve always thought of how to improve the old house pantry model with new technology. With this in mind the earth sheltered cold room at CAT is one model. Though not good enough for me, i want it possible to do on the inside of a house, small enough, colder and more controlled. It must be possible.
Well with high levels of insulation and lots of thermal mass, a bit of electronics to control air movement and it should be easy to get below annual average temperatures, but how far is really only from experimentation.

5 Alison Moore Smith June 30, 2009 at 3:53 am

Enjoyable to read about all your ideas here.

I’m wondering about the recessed cabinet idea–particularly how it affects noise in adjacent rooms. One of the things we are working toward is a quiet house. That’s important with six kids.

And, as you can guess, a small fridge would never work. When I was 19 I lived in England with my parents while my dad was on sabbatical at a university there. Even with the three of us, the small fridge was a challenge. With my brood, I’d never make it. In fact, I have (and will have in the new house as well), two full-size fridges and a large freezer.

I’m interested in how an automatic or pedestal sink functions. I especially like the idea of a pedestal, but would need the option of locking it on when necessary. Do you have any sources for these?

6 Victoria June 30, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Thank you for all of your comments we will definitely take them into consideration as we move ahead.

7 jason June 30, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Big fan of the foot pedal idea. i fantasize about that EVERY TIME i do the dishes. i waste a lot of water washing dishes.
i have seen fridges that are not so deep. i don’t keep much in the fridge myself and i can’t stand how they stick out so far.
with most cabinets i think they are also deeper than they need to be. if you plan not only the lay out of the cabinets but what is being put in them you can make some just deep enough for the larger plates. and shallower for glasses which for some reason many of us keep too many of. people just need to cut the clutter when it comes to the kitchen. if you have a deep fridge it makes sense to put a deep pantry next to it but have every thing else shallower. the counter should be on the high side with a pull out island/storage unit. i dig that.

8 steven leighton July 3, 2009 at 12:37 pm

A friend of mine has just got a 6v or 12 v DC chest fridge (not freezer) for his veggies and fruit. The power source is a small roof mounted PV module the back up battery is part of the chest;you can also recharge off the 120v if there is no sun. He put it in the middle of his kitchen with a nice hardwood top and uses it as his food prep island.
He has had a 6/12v freezer for a few years for meat (seasonal hunting).
The kitchen is and is becoming more important for us all.
KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK ..innovate and keep it cheap.

9 Zeke Fox July 5, 2009 at 9:55 am

Check out the Sun Frost Refrigerator, also consider recessing the framing behind the refrigerator so that it does not stick out past the cabinets.

10 Megan July 5, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Thanks guys for all of the great comments. They are extremely helpful. Zeke–thanks for the information on the Sun Frost Refrigerator–it looks great!

11 Megan July 5, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Thanks everyone for all of the great comments. They have been extremely helpful. Zeke–thanks for the information on the Sun Frost Refrigerator–it looks awesome!

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