The HF of Renovations that Reality TV Shows May Not Tell You
Mini-Series Part 1: The Kitchen
Long before I worked at HSI®, a human factors (HF) research consulting firm, I paid the bills by working at a kitchen and bath showroom. Laugh as you might (my friends certainly did), I was the go-to person for anything from self-opening toilet seats, air bubble bathtubs, and electronic rainshower controls, to $900 pot fillers. Granted, it was considered a “luxury” showroom. But we also sold the basic stuff – standard chrome faucets, shower drains, and even – gasp – non-slow-closing toilet seats. Have I lost you? If so, it’s because there are literally thousands of different options out there for kitchen and bath products. And with the booming renovation business (HGTV anyone?), I thought perhaps it made sense to write a blog on my experience with those products – what works best, what doesn’t, and what looks nice yet is still functional. This blog will be one of many in what I like to call my mini-series on renovations and human factors.
This first blog is a simple overview of products available out there. To those who have done a renovation, and went beyond just the basic IKEA concept, many of these will be familiar. However, in my experience, most people are unaware that many products even exist – many of which are exceptionally user-friendly and can enrich the kitchen and bathroom experience. (Yes, I read how awkward that latter part sounds – it’s true nonetheless.)
We’ll cover the kitchen first. Ever heard of a pot filler? A pot filler is literally a fancy faucet installed directly above your stovetop, usually from the wall (like the one shown here). Ignore for a moment that they do tend to cost several hundreds of dollars, not including the additional piping required to install them. Pot fillers really do help ease the kitchen experience for a dedicated cook. Imagine never again having to lift a heavy pot of water from the sink to the stove. If a pot filler is out of your price range, install a pull-out kitchen faucet. This enables you to pull out the faucet spout and fill your pot on the countertop beside the sink, which avoids lifting the pot in and out of the sink.
There is also something called a hot water tap. Many people, especially in southwestern Ontario, have two faucets at their kitchen sink – one for hard (drinking/cold) water and one for soft water. You can also have a hard water tap which instantly spits out near-boiling water. In fact, InSinkErator offers a combined hard water/hot water tap, so that you need only one additional faucet at your sink. Having hot water at your fingertips means no kettle on your countertop and having a cup of tea at the ready. It’s also an effective way to warm up baby bottles, without having to wait until the regular hot water finally kicks in at your regular tap. (The way this works is that the hot water tap has its own mini water heater directly below your sink. It’s small, so low-cost to run, but still effective enough for small amounts of hot water needed at a moment’s notice.)
Other products that enrich the kitchen experience include:
- Touch technology faucets (no handle required; Delta offers a few models),
- Switch-activated garburators (waste disposal units attached to your sink drain),
- Soap dispensers installed into your countertop (most manufacturers offer an exact matched design to whatever faucet you choose – in fact, they are often sold as a package deal),
- Colanders made-to-fit certain sink models, which sit nicely on the sink while you drain your pasta or veggies, like the one shown here.
Finally, there are simply some fun things you can do with your renovation. For example, some households have sinks in a butler pantry or bar area; this one from Elkay is pretty neat – in the shape of a martini glass! Only opt for this if you are willing to pay up though – specialty sinks don’t come cheap.
In the next blog of this mini-series, I’ll give you HF tips for bathroom products that you may not know about. Following that, and in line with HSI®’s interest in encouraging compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), I will talk about accessibility considerations in kitchen and bathroom renovations.