When designing a new kitchen, people generally focus on the way it looks and the features of the appliances. It’s not until you’re standing in a kitchen that you realise how important ergonomic design actually is. An interview with customer advisor Carmen Wagner.
Many modern appliances have features that make household tasks more ergonomic. How important are these features?
For some customers they are indispensable, for others they’re a nice additional benefit.
The V-ZUG range now includes a dishwasher with a feature that raises the lower basket when it’s pulled out. Who would you recommend this OptiLift feature to?
I recently had a customer with a slipped disc, and she was really happy to discover that we sell dishwashers with this added benefit. We advise a lot of people who have back problems, and it makes their lives much easier if appliances are designed so they don’t need to bend.
So how does OptiLift work?
The lower basket lifts up gently when you pull it out, then goes back down again gently when you push it in. OptiLift doesn’t need a motor – it uses pressurized gas struts. When the user begins to move the basket in or out, the pressurized gas struts located on both sides increase the force they have applied, so it feels as if the basket is moving on its own.
Are there other new features from V-ZUG that make tasks more ergonomic?
Lighting is another thing, in dishwashers as well as in washing machines and tumble dryers. For people whose eyesight isn’t what it used to be, it’s a big advantage if the interior lights up, as washing machines in particular tend to be located in dark corners.
Talking about washing machines: unloading wet washing often involves bending and twisting. Do you have any tips on what to think about when deciding where to put them?
It’s definitely a good idea to have the appliances raised. For example, V-ZUG sells drawers that can be fitted underneath washing machines and tumble dryers, which are also a convenient place to store your washing detergent.
A lot has changed over the past few decades when it comes to where appliances are located. What changes have worked?
Having your dishwasher raised off the floor is an advantage because it’s definitely better to be able to load and unload it at a higher level. It’s also better from an ergonomic point of view to have your oven fitted in a high unit.
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Are there any other tips or features that would benefit people with physical limitations?
Another feature we offer is the ability to turn extractors on and off by remote control. Our OptiLink function is helpful for wheelchair users because it allows the hob to communicate directly with the extractor. And for our older customers, we also still have the option of conventional dials on our hobs.
As well as the features of each appliance, you need to consider ergonomics when it comes to designing the actual layout of the kitchen. What should people think about?
It’s definitely wise to have a heatproof surface near the oven to put hot cookware down on. It’s also good to have work surface space near the fridge, and your water source shouldn’t be too far away from your cooking area. But of course, there will always be a trade-off between ergonomics, appearance and space.
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Carmen Wagner is a customer advisor at ZUGORAMA Zug.
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