Choosing Your Kitchen — Pros and Cons

Of all the hidden costs incurred when building a house, some of the more significant ones are related to the water and gas lines; ie, kitchen, shower, toilets, and radiant heating systems.

Replacing or reforming your kitchen in itself for example, is often a relatively straightforward process. However, the water and gas works can be a bit more complicated and may even require redoing the adjacent walls, floor and/or ceiling. Because of this – putting the probability of simply getting bored with your kitchen after many years aside – it’s important to plan patiently and try and get this part right.

If either you’re a housewife or just someone who enjoys cooking, you’ll in all likelihood spend a reasonable amount of time in the kitchen. Things like being able to socialize or watch TV while cooking and keeping an eye out for children playing or doing homework in the dining room, are factors certainly worth considering.

Unlike renovating an existing kitchen, if you design the floorplan of your kitchen area to the specs of the kitchen you’ve chosen, your constraints will more or less only be the cost price of the kitchen itself and the associated cost of installation. By comparison, renovation generally requires extensive demolition and rebuilding, on top of the kitchen’s cost price and installation.

Let’s take a look at the common kitchen types here in Japan, and their pros and cons:

Bare-bones Kitchens

One-wall – the most space efficient, if your needs don’t exceed what it offers. As per its name, this is simply the kitchen in its entirety lined up along one wall. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Ideal for small homes with limited space. A hanging wall cabinet along the length of the kitchen is probably nice to have in this situation. You can have a dining table and chairs as close as a meter from the kitchen and still have it functional.

L and U-shaped – this takes the one-wall kitchen a step further and is used when you’re still tight on space but simply must have that additional leg or 2 to complete your kitchen. And depending on how the L or U is oriented in relation to the adjacent dining room, these could both pass as a “social” type of kitchen as well. Social types however, eat up more space and defeat the purpose of the more space-efficient L-shaped design.

L-shaped Hybrid Kitchen

L-shaped Kitchen

Social Kitchens

*Assumed they all have cabinet systems or back-sets on the side opposite the dining room.

Taimen – this is the Japanese name for kitchens where a person standing in front of the sink/stove would be facing the dining room, typically from behind a waist-high wall and counter. It’s the equivalent of a galley kitchen with the stove/sink side open to the dining room. The section of the wall immediately in front of the stove extends to the ceiling in some cases so the range hood can be mounted on to it.

Taimen Kitchen

The upside to taimen is that because the stove is enclosed on 1 or 2 of 4 sides, exhaust fumes are captured more efficiently when compared to more “open” designs such as the island. The waist-high wall also provides a buffer against sink splash.

Peninsula – this is basically a taimen without the wall and counter. The range hood is mounted to the wall from which the peninsula extends perpendicularly, and because there’s no concealing wall, the dining room side of the peninsula is generally a built-in cabinet system with the counter or work top extending out and over it.

Peninsula Kitchen

In short, a peninsula is the slightly high-end version of the taimen, as the taimen simply replaces the cabinets and larger work top with a short wall and coping (counter) which allows a cheaper base unit.

Island – the most expensive of the options, at this point the name says it all. Of course, the island portion of your kitchen may just be a work top, or it may be your stove and sink. Obviously, the cost will depend heavily on this. But in this case we’ll assume the island is the stove and sink. Because the range hood will need to be hung from the ceiling – as opposed to mounted on a wall – the ceiling will need to be reinforced to accommodate this weight.

Island Kitchen

A downside to island kitchens is that due to being open on 4 sides, a higher portion of exhaust fumes escape into the room before being sucked out by the range hood. It’s not recommended for those who cook a lot of greasy foods. Also, island kitchens by definition allow access from all 4 sides, and in turn require space on all 4 sides. So not recommended for homes with limited space.

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