Illustration: Valeriy Nitkin
Q: We're a couple who both like to cook. How do we design a kitchen we can work in together without tripping over each other?

A: William Green, principal of William Green & Associates, a six-person design firm in New York City specializing in environmentally responsible architecture, anwers:

It would vastly simplify matters, of course, if one of you preferred the dinner shift and the other handled breakfast. But short of turning your living room into a second kitchen or flipping a coin to decide who gets privileges on a given day, there are some specific strategies you can consider to make a two-cook kitchen work. Here are the design guidelines I follow when preparing meals is a joint effort.

1. Counter Space

As a rule, the more counter space each of you has, the better. You don't want to be knocking elbows as you work. One way to avoid clashing, even in a tight space, is to designate different areas of the counter for different functions. Allocating a healthy portion as butcher block, for example, provides a dedicated prep area for slicing and dicing and leaves the remaining surfaces available for other cooking activities. Island and peninsulas are also wonderful work surfaces, which when made sufficiently deep (36 inches is optimal) allow you to "double-load" the counter so that two people can work across from each other at the same time. In addition to its cooking benefits, this also gives you the opportunity to gaze into each other's eyes and to easily pinch a taste of what the other is making.

2. Adequate Separation

Provide ample space on either side of each appliance, so that the two of you can work unimpeded and keep the cooking utensils and ingredients you need at the ready. It's also helpful to separate the cooking and preparation areas. When you're tossing that salad, you don't want to be in the way of someone taking a casserole out of a 400-degree oven.

I like to design kitchens with an additional prep station within the pantry area, complete with a sink if space allows. This kind of "bonus" area is a convenient staging spot for putting away groceries or assembling ingredients. Similarly, a butler's pantry between the kitchen and dining room is an excellent transitional area, where you can put the finishing touches on a dish before it's served. Include a sink, and you now have a place to stack dishes between courses, keeping your primary sink clear for cookware.
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