On the Level

On the Level

In today’s marketplace, there are endless choices when it comes to kitchen counters, and it’s not all about choosing between colors and materials. It’s also important for homeowners to remember that one size doesn’t always fit all. A countertop height that works for most people can cause some to strain and others to hunch.

But experts say there’s no need to force the body to adapt. With a bit of planning, families can cook up a kitchen that meets its unique ergonomic needs. After all, in a room where family members spend most of their time, comfort really is key.

Alan Zielinski, an Illinois-based certified kitchen designer and 2012 president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, says the standard countertop height is 36 inches from the floor. Taller people, however, might benefit from placing additional wood beneath the countertop to raise it a couple inches – a change that can be modified for a later homeowner.

People significantly shorter, he says, might be more comfortable with a counter height of around 33 inches. Or, for more versatility, Zielinski suggests building a step stool into a kitchen toe kick. The person needing a boost could simply pop off a cover and flip open the stool.

When looking to accommodate various needs, Sarah Reep, Ann Arbor, Michigan, the director of designer relations and education for Masco Cabinetry, turns her attention to the kitchen island.

“The island [is] an opportunity to vary the height in a smart, economical way to adjust the kitchen but not affect resale,” Reep says. She suggests an island with one 36-inch-high level for food preparation and another at 42 inches, a height ideal for leaning, conversing and displaying food.

Families could even add a third, lower level only 30 inches high, enabling people to sit and work at the standard height of a desk.

“There are so many ways you can personalize the kitchen to the user and it doesn’t have to cost more money,” Reep says. “It’s just about asking the designer or acknowledging a particular need.”


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