The Journey Into Design

Proper Countertop Overhang Can Save an ER Trip

Proper Countertop Overhang Can Save an ER Trip

My oldest daughter recently had her 16th birthday.  I had to take pause, as she is almost officially an adult, which makes me almost officially an old guy.  Man, they grow up so fast.

We all have heard and probably said the same thing many times. It seems like kids will grow an inch overnight. When my grandma said that to me, I was like, “Nah, a full inch is impossible.” However, I now have proof that it is possible.

Below is a cabinet layout of my old kitchen from when we lived in Portland, Oregon.  For the record, it came with the house (I indeed would have devised a better layout).  Note the unusually large overhang on the North bank of cabinets.  The heavyweight black line is the path the kids would run through the kitchen on their way to the backyard.  They would run right under that overhang.

Deadly Floor plan

For years I never thought about it, nor did my daughter as she had flown right under it year after year all summer long.

Just Got Lucky kitchen Floor Plan

Then, one midsummer day, it happened.  I heard a thump, followed by a thud, followed by dead silence and, finally, the bloody murder screaming and crying.  As a parent, you develop the 2nd language of your child’s cry.  They are subtle, but there are differences.  There is the. I’m hungry cry, the I want attention cry, the I kind of hurt myself, but I know I will be fine cry.  All these different cries, and you don’t bat an eye when you hear them.  You simply offer a kiss on their booboo or offer to call the “wam” balance.  But then, there is the cry you never want to hear, the one that you know we may be going to the ER, the one that something is terribly wrong.  This is the cry I heard.

My daughter didn’t make it under the counter. She had the day before, but not today.  The night before, she had grown a full inch, and as she approached the counter at full speed, she clipped the top of her head on the bottom edge of the counter.  The rest of her body stayed in motion as she fell backward onto the floor, letting out that unmistakable bloody murder cry.

Kitchen floor plan that will send you the the ER

We didn’t actually end up going to the ER, aside from a big welt on the top of her head, she was fine and made a full recovery.  However, the experience got my thinking about the kitchen design.  Most of the time, we think about workflow in the kitchen, making sure we have a triangle path between the various workstations/appliances, one that creates an efficient workflow when preparing a meal.  However, we should also consider the flow of traffic through the kitchen, not only for adults but for kids.  If we are going to have a large overhang to add countertop space, we may want to consider if this will create a potentially deadly traffic flow pattern.

Below are a few things my daughter wished the original designer would have considered.

Proper overhang for a kitchen counter top

Below is a revised kitchen floor plan.  This was a 5-minute revision, as I didn’t want to take the time to redesign a kitchen floor plan for a house I no longer live in, but this illustrates the point pretty well.  There is no deadly overhang, and I added additional countertop space on the SE corner.  This also adds a little hang-out space.  Open floor plans are all the rage these days, even though this house did not have an open floor plan that little hangout bar creates a space for guests to hang out while you cook, accomplishing the main purpose of having an open floor plan.  If I wanted to spend some more time on it, I for sure would find a nice spot for a window.  Believe it or not, my old house did not have a flipping window in the kitchen.

Kitchen Floor Plan



I’m the owner of Benham Design Concepts, a mixed media art studio where I design and build custom furniture and other works of art using wood, glass, stone, and various metals.
In this blog, I talk about the art I create, my journey, and the things I learn along the way.