Secrets of the Kitchen Work Triangle

Thyme & Place Design, Sharon L Sherman, Kitchen Designer NJ, Bathroom Designer NJ, Secrets of the kitchen work triangle


In The Beginning…..

When I first started designing kitchens, lifestyles were rather different that those of today. The tried and true method for designing a kitchen followed a set of rules specifying distances between counter tops and work areas. This area was known as the “work triangle”. The work triangle concept was rarely strayed from. Multi generational families, working couples and working from home were not as common as in today’s world.   As lifestyles have changed so has the way we look at kitchen design. Let’s take a look at the secrets of the kitchen work triangle.

According to Wikipedia “The kitchen work triangle is a concept used to determine efficient kitchen layouts that are both aesthetic and functional. The primary tasks in a home kitchen are carried out between the cook top, the sink and the refrigerator.”

What is the Best Layout for a Kitchen?

Instead of being trapped in a design using a triangle let’s think about how you actually work in your kitchen. Start with the basic working areas of the kitchen. (1) Cleanup, (2) Cooking, (3) Storage, (4) Mixing/preparation, (5) Serving, and the Refrigerator (6). These are the basic building blocks of a good kitchen layout. Depending on the size of the kitchen and who is working there, some of the work areas can overlap. This is where good planning comes into play.

The Classic “L” Shape

Thyme & Place Design, Kitchen Work TriangleEveryone loves an island. This is one of the most desirable kitchen layouts. Generally the cooking and clean up areas are placed on adjacent walls. The refrigerator is located on one of the legs and storage is located through out. If there is enough room  (see below “things to remember”) you can add the coveted island. The island makes a perfect mixing/prep area and the traffic patterns are diverted around the working areas.

Island Kitchens

In an open concept kitchen (one wall consisting of the the cooking and storage areas with the refrigerator anchoring the wall) an island can serve several purposes. Providing the perfect spot for the sink with a view into the room, it also becomes a great gathering spot and focal point for the kitchen. Prep and storage are located on the main perimeter wall while the island does double duty as a prep and clean up area. Islands with 2 heights can separate the seating from the working counters.

Peninsula Kitchens              Thyme & Place Design, Kitchen Work Triangle

Essentially a kitchen plan with an attached island, the peninsula design is the perfect solution when you do not have enough space for a free standing island. While they create a nice flow between the work areas, this can be a one way space.

U-Shape Kitchens

This plan places cabinets on 3 walls of the kitchen. It does place each appliance on its own wall with storage and counter tops in the ideal location. This plan works best for a space between 10 and 18 feet in width. Any bigger and Thyme & Place Design, Kitchen Work Triangleyou might  want to consider adding an island to reduce walking and increase efficiency between the work areas. If possible you might want to consider  partially opening one wall to integrate the kitchen with the rest of the home.

The Galley Kitchen

This is probably the most common type of layout. This design offers a narrow walkway with cabinets and appliances lined up on opposite walls. It comes from the cooking space on ships. It is a very practical type of layout which is both efficient and utilitarian. These kitchens are generally closed off from the rest of the home. It is great to separate cooking and clean up from the social areas of the home.

Things to Remember

  1. Avoid having traffic patterns moving through the center of the kitchen whenever possible.
  2. Make sure you have enough space between counter tops when designing an island kitchen. 40″ minimum between counter tops and 48″ maximum for cabinet and appliance access and circulation.
  3. Locate major appliances like the refrigerator so there is direct access to them. Walking around an island or peninsula is annoying and creates extra steps you should not have to take.
  4. Provide landing areas near the refrigerator, cook top and wall oven. It is important to have a place to put things down without walking across the room.
  5. 18″ High backslashes are pretty standard in today’s kitchens to accommodate today’s counter appliances like coffee makers and mixers.

Have questions about your kitchen. Give us a call.



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Sharon sherman

My award-winning designs haven been featured in multiple magazines, industry publications and on television. That’s nice affirmation, to be sure.

But perhaps the greatest accolade I’ve received is the repeat engagements with so many clients, project after project, year after year.

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