colorado kitchen designer

Planning for Switches and Outlets in Your Kitchen Design

It is quite easy to overlook the placement of GFCI receptacles (outlets) and light switches in your kitchen design.  We use these items so often that they become an oversight because they're always just "there" when you need them.  However, somebody had to think about where to put that light switch or that GFCI outlet.  It didn't just appear there...

I use a few simple guidelines for switch and outlet placement when designing my clients' spaces.  Simply spending a few minutes in the design phase to lay out these items can make a big difference in the overall function of a finished space.

Outlet Specification and Placement

Have you ever heard of a "decora" style switch or receptacle but were unsure of what it meant?  It refers to a line of outlets and switches manufactured by Leviton.  The "rocker-style" switches and square styled receptacles look more modern and have more features than the old school style of outlets, so they are preferred by most homeowners.  

Each municipality has its own requirements and codes for the placement of GFCI receptacles in the kitchen.  So you'll need to ask your electrician what the exact distances are for your town.  However, I can tell you that in its most general sense, you will need GFCI receptacles in the following locations in every kitchen:

  • Within approximately 2 feet of the outside edge of any sink located along a wall
  • On an island: one receptacle on each end of the island
  • On a peninsula: one receptacle on the end of the peninsula
  • On the kitchen walls: one receptacle every 2 feet (approximate.  Again, check with your electrician for the exact dimensions required by your town's codes)

If you don't want to see GFCI receptacles in your kitchen backsplash, you can also use what's called "plug mold".  Plug mold is more costly than standard outlets and more difficult to plan for and install, but it's very convenient and it completely hides your required outlets up under the wall cabinets.  

Plug mold is a great alternative to standard outlets in the kitchen backsplash.  There are several manufacturers of plug mold.  

Plug mold is a great alternative to standard outlets in the kitchen backsplash.  There are several manufacturers of plug mold.  

Another option I love for new kitchen outlets is the new Adorne line of receptacles and switches by Legrand.

The pop out outlet from Legrand is a great look in every kitchen

The pop out outlet from Legrand is a great look in every kitchen

Outlets are a necessary eye-sore in every room, but most important in the kitchen.  When planning your kitchen outlets, think about where you will place your small countertop appliances and where you'd like to have them plugged in.  When in doubt, add an outlet.  

You'll also want to think about where you'll charge your phone, tablet, and other mobile devices.  When space allows, I always plan for a charging station in the kitchen.  Not every kitchen has the room for it, but most do.  Having a spot to charge your devices away from where food preparation occurs is a very nice thing.  So don't forget to think about that aspect as well.  

Switch Placement in the Kitchen

When laying out the switch placement in a kitchen, I always start by looking at the traffic patterns of the space.  Most kitchens have 2 main entrances, sometimes three.  I will identify those spots and locate my switches for the main ceiling lighting (most of the time it's the recessed cans) in a spot where they are easily accessed by those entrances.  I almost always specify dimmers for the main can lighting.  

The undercabinet lighting is usually switched somewhere in the kitchen backsplash.  It is helpful to label the switches so that guests know what they're looking for when trying to turn on lights.  

Accent lighting can be switched almost anywhere.  (Accent lighting refers to the interior cabinet lights, or perhaps downlighting under the toekick).   Just make sure you think about it before the electrician shows up and decides for himself where it should go without consulting you first!

Whisper Switch from Legrand

Whisper Switch from Legrand

The main guidelines to follow are below.  Sometimes, giving an unglamorous subject (such as switches and outlets) just a few minutes of thought is all it takes to really save yourself some major headaches down the road!  

  1. Ensure that all GFCI requirements are met in your kitchen.  This means you will need outlets near the sinks, on the ends of the island or peninsula, and also above any courter surface - in the wall.
  2. Think about what sort of receptacles you want to see.  Are you OK with the old style outlets and switches?  Or would you prefer to spend a little more and get some modern outlets that have a better look?
  3. Identify the major entrances / exits to the kitchen.  Place switches for the main ceiling lighting at these locations.  Use a three way switch that will allow you to operate the lights from more than one entrance for best convenience.  Identify which lights should have dimmers and communicate to electrician.
  4. The switch placement for undercabinet or accent lighting can be placed anywhere you choose.  However, ensure that you think about this prior to the work being commenced.
  5. Spend a little bit of time thinking about what sort of phones or tablets you might want to keep in the kitchen and where you will charge them.  Do you want an exposed countertop area where your devices will be out in the open for everyone to see?  Or would you prefer to hide them behind doors?  Both of these options are available to you, it is really a matter of deciding which you prefer early in the design process and then planning accordingly.  



7 Ways to Enjoy Your Kitchen Remodeling Experience

It's been a little over four years since I wrote, "8 Steps for a Successful Kitchen Remodel".  I received a lot of positive feedback about it.  That article was meant to provide a very basic look at what to expect during a kitchen (or bathroom) remodel.  There is a lot of information pertaining to expectations, responsibilities, and order of events.  So if you have never remodeled before - OR perhaps you just want to find out a little bit about my process, click on that link above to access that article.

This post is more geared towards providing some positive insights into how you and your family can not only survive, but ENJOY your remodeling experience.  There is a misconception that every remodel has to be a stressful, drawn out process with absolutely no joy in it.  And while ripping out your kitchen (or bath) can be anxiety-inducing; it shouldn't keep you up at night.  

7 Ways to Enjoy Your Kitchen Remodeling Experience 

1. Document everything with the idea that you will create a picture book about the experience once complete.  Check out, or you can use the iPhoto Print Services online if you are an Apple junky like me.  Take detailed before pictures.  Try to take photos of every conceivable angle and if you can, envision where the most dramatic view points will be when the project is complete.  Taking a shot every single day isn't totally necessary, but I always take a quick photo of the major progress items, (cabinets, countertops, appliances, etc...)  Take the "after" shots keeping in mind where you took your "before" shots.  If you can stand in the same location-even better!  Put the before/after shots side by side for a dramatic effect.  This documentary of the progress of work can be really fun to look through a year or two after completion.

Well planned out temp kitchens make life much nicer for you when your real kitchen is ripped apart.

Well planned out temp kitchens make life much nicer for you when your real kitchen is ripped apart.

2. Plan your temporary kitchen space ahead of time.  So important!  Here's what you'll need: 

  • Cooking Appliances:  For about $50-$100 you can buy a couple of electric or induction table top burners that plug into a regular outlet.  In addition to your burners, set up a small microwave in a convenient location.  You'll use the microwave a LOT over the next few months.  
  • 6 foot folding table.  If you have room for two of these, even better.  You'll need a surface for your table top burners, microwave, etc.  
  • Trash can
  • Disposable dinnerware.  I know it is wasteful, but you're not a terrible person if you use disposable plates and forks for a few months.  There are several options that are recyclable as well.  Try to minimize the dishes you have to do after your meals. 
  • Get a bus box from a restaurant supply store.  Use it as as catch-all for dirty dishes.  

3. Plan Dinners with Friends You Haven't Seen in a While.  How long have you been planning to have dinner with that couple you love but haven't seen in 6 months?  In fact, how many friends do you need to catch up with?  If you are like me, then it's probably quite a few.  What better way to get away from the construction zone AND get a free dinner than going over to your friend's house???  You'll have some fantastic conversation topics to talk about over dinner.  It's OK to have an extra glass of wine too. You deserve it after living through this remodel...

4. Take Weekend Excursions.  What?  Go on a vacation during a remodel?  Well, a lot of us can't afford to take a big vacation while simultaneously paying for a big kitchen renovation.  For those of you that CAN - this is the best way to survive in style.  I hear Cabo is great this time of year...But for those of us that need to be a little bit more frugal during the renovation, taking a weekend excursion to that mountain town you haven't explored is a great way to get away.  Go camping, take a trip to see relatives.  In short - just get out and do something that requires you to stop thinking about what type of granite you should decide on for one weekend!

5. Watch a Tradesmen Do His (or her) Work for About 30 Minutes.  Most tradesmen would probably be cool with you taking an interest in their job.  This tip is not for everyone.  But for those of you that are interested in residential construction, it is a great way to learn something new while also getting on the good side of your subcontractors.

6. Use the Grill!  The grill is still my favorite cooking surface.  My family grills year round.  Yep.  Not uncommon to see me in boot deep snow firing up the grill in January.  A) minimal clean up, B) great flavor, C) large cooking surface.  Have a BBQ & tell your friends to bring a side.  You can cook anything on the grill and show off the progress of your kitchen renovation to everyone.

7. Create a Time Capsule with Your Children.  It's amazing what you pull out of old houses during a renovation.  50 year old newspapers, family photos, etc.  Well, why not leave a little something for the next family that lives in your home and decides to remodel?  Kids will probably really enjoy this exercise (unless they're teenagers, in which case they probably hate everything).  Ask them to grab one or two small items or photographs.  Add a current newspaper article or this month's 5280 Magazine.  Stuff it all into a mason jar and maybe include a nice note wishing the next homeowners luck.  You might stuff it into the new wall you're framing out or perhaps put it in the crawlspace in a corner where nobody will find it for a very long time.  Either way, it will be fun for your next homeowners.