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As an Architect, I try to utilize the best means of design to make a house more efficient and well utilized for the square footage. In this article, I’m dealing with kitchen design, and how to make it more efficient in use and storage, make it feel more open than a standard kitchen, but do it in a smaller size (square footage costs money).

I am a big believer in the “Open Floor Plan” which has fewer walls and doors, with rooms tied together as open visual space. Keeping the Great Room, Dining Room and Kitchen “open” (meaning no walls between them) help make all the rooms “feel bigger”. The wall removal helps facilitate the open communications between the rooms. You don’t feel isolated in the kitchen when wall barriers are removed, and thus people don’t have to step into the kitchen to talk to you. They can do it from outside the kitchen zone.

Keep your ceilings tall by putting in scissors trusses. You can make your walls 8 foot tall, but by adding the scissors truss (peak at 13 to 14 feet) will give you lots of visual space and a less confined feeling. And get a skylight in the kitchen. The opening for a skylight can be much bigger than the skylight itself. Get the opening from the peak of the ceiling to the edge of the wall, and locate the skylight near a perpendicular wall so it will disperse the light throughout the kitchen. Put some “niches” in your tall walls above the 8′ line for greenery, or statues. Put “puck” lights in these niches for accent lighting.

Use tall, 2′ deep cabinets instead of overhead cabinets. 2 foot deep, 7 foot tall cabinets (or 8 foot tall) are also known as pantry or utility cabinets. With fixed shelves, they hold over 4 times as much stuff as an overhead cabinet. Put a line of tall cabinets along a back wall, and near the opening to the kitchen zone. By having a 2′ wide, 2′ deep, 7′ tall cabinet near the Kitchen opening (usually next to the Dining Area) it can store all the glasses, dishes, platters, and bowls that you use on a daily basis. People don’t have to enter the kitchen to get the dinnerware to set the table as you would with overhead cabinets.

By using just 3 tall cabinets (2′ deep 7′ tall) at the rear of the kitchen, and the open floor plan, this allows all the rest of the kitchen to have 36″ tall base cabinets and countertops, without overhead cabinets. Eliminating overhead cabinets (and the associated wall) just gives you an incredible open feeling. The kitchen isn’t as nearly as cramped. The windows and natural light come from the windows of the other rooms and skylights, meaning you don’t have to waste valuable kitchen wall space for windows. Place your sink and cooktop to face the open rooms.

In the corners of the kitchen, install cabinets at 45 degrees to the adjoining cabinets rather than a “blind” cabinet or “lazy susan”. While a 45 degree cabinet has some dead space, it utilizes more space than a “lazy susan”, mainly because the cabinet shelves and drawers are square, and a “lazy susan” is round.

Put a pantry in the corner between your tall cabinets. It doesn’t have to be very big (4′ x 4′) and being in the corner will utilize all the corner “dead” space. The pantry would have a 2′ opening at 45 degrees to the adjoining cabinets. The pantry walls could be 2×4 framed with drywall or 3/4″ MDF, but the wall shouldn’t be taller than the height of the tall cabinets. This allows for crown molding (if you use it) to also be used on the pantry. Have the pantry open at the top, especially if there is a skylight above, to allow daylight into the pantry. Have shelves from the floor to top of wall. Put a “cabinet door” (same as the rest of your tall cabinets) on the pantry entrance, not a frame door like you’d use in the bedroom. By having a cabinet door the pantry, and the pantry walls at the same height as the cabinets, the pantry looks like a cabinet rather than a drywall opening.

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