How to use the work triangle & zones for the perfect kitchen layout

How to use the work triangle & zones for the perfect kitchen layout

When you renovate your kitchen or design the kitchen for your new home, you want the perfect layout. A new kitchen is a big investment, so you want to be sure it’s going to be both beautiful and functional. 

The kitchen work triangle and kitchen zones are two concepts that can help you plan the perfect kitchen layout.

What is the kitchen work triangle?

For the last century, the kitchen work triangle has been the standard for kitchen design. It’s like an imaginary line between the sink, the cooktop, the fridge, and back to the sink.

Basic guidelines for the kitchen work triangle are

  • The position of the cooktop, sink, and fridge creates a triangle pattern. 
  • Each “side” of the triangle should be between 4-9 feet.
  • The sum of all 3 sides of the triangles should not be less than 13 feet and not over 26 feet.
  • There should be no obstacles intruding the triangle (such as cabinetry, island, or tables).
  • No major traffic patterns should cross through the triangle.

The kitchen work triangle works in the traditional U-shaped kitchen and many other kitchen layouts.

Benefits of the kitchen work triangle

The goal of the kitchen work triangle concept is optimal efficiency regardless of the size or shape of your kitchen by minimizing the movement required within the space. 

When you can access your sink, cooktop, and fridge with as few steps as possible, cooking and preparing food in your kitchen is more convenient. 

The kitchen work triangle layout also allows for appropriate counter space between all the major appliances. This is essential for efficiency. 

Washing dishes or vegetables by the sink is difficult if you have nowhere to place them. Cooking at the stove works best when you can place ingredients right beside you so you don’t have to step away from hot pots and pans. And taking food in and out of the fridge is easiest when you have counter space to put it on.

If your sink is directly across from the oven, it can be complicated to take out a steaming dish when someone is washing dishes. 

Safety is another benefit of the kitchen work triangle. When nothing is blocking a busy cook, there’s less chance of spills, collisions, and other kitchen hazards. If the fridge door or cupboard doors stick out right into the middle of the work triangle, your natural workflow is interrupted.

Drawbacks of the kitchen work triangle

Back in 1929, when the kitchen work triangle was first introduced, the typical household had a single cook in the kitchen at a time. Kitchens were relatively small and used strictly for preparing food. 

Things are different today. Lifestyles are more diverse, and it’s common for households to have multiple people preparing food together. 

Today’s kitchens are often a casual gathering place for friends and family rather than a room just for making meals. 

Also, kitchen spaces are bigger and we use more appliances than we used to. This means there are sometimes multiple workspaces, multiple sinks, and extra appliances today’s cooks need to access.

These changes to kitchens and how we use them have introduced new kitchen layouts that provide efficiency, safety and convenience to our kitchens in a different way. 

The kitchen work triangle is a great starting place for any kitchen design, but if you have needs, likes, or dislikes that go beyond the work triangle, it’s perfectly acceptable to break the rules. The work triangle is not a law. It’s a helpful tool. Your kitchen design needs to work best for your home and family. 

See: 10 Signs it’s Time to Renovate Your Kitchen

What are kitchen work zones?

The kitchen work zones concept dedicates different areas of the kitchen into zones based on how you use that space. The goal is to maximize efficiency, function and versatility, and to prevent people from bumping into each other when working in the kitchen at the same time. 

Instead of setting up the kitchen based on the placement of appliances, the kitchen is divided up into zones based on function. Each zone has everything you need to do the work that needs to be done in that space. 

Some common kitchen work zones are:

  • Food storage zone – fridge, pantry, food storage containers, plastic wrap, etc.
  • Food prep zone – cooktop, oven, microwave, small appliances, cutting boards, mixing bowls, cooking oils, spices, etc.
  • Everyday dishware zone – plates, bowls, cutlery, regular drinking glasses, etc. 
  • Breakfast and/or snack zone – cereals, cereal bowls, snacks, drinks, etc.
  • Hot beverage zone – coffee maker, tea kettle, coffee, tea, cups, saucers, coffee grinder, sugar, etc.
  • Small appliance zone – food processor, electric griddle, toaster, crock pot, pressure cooker, blender, etc.
  • Baking zone – measuring cups, flour, sugar, mixing bowls, baking sheets, etc.
  • Cleaning & waste zone – dishwasher, sink, cleaning sprays, detergents, garbage and compost bags, garbage and compost bins, etc.
  • Entertaining zone – drink ware, decanter, corkscrew, liquor, mixers, serving dishes, napkins, coasters, etc.
  • Health zone – medications, vitamins and supplements, first-aid, etc.
  • Homework zone or family hub – charging station, office supplies, mail/file sorting and drop zone, calendar, takeout menus, etc.

These zones make efficiency possible by keeping everything you need for each task in one place. There are less wasted steps, and you can create a sort of assembly line when preparing food with multiple people. 

Kitchen work zones create a natural flow for common kitchen tasks. For example, storage for table linens near the table; everyday dishes near the dishwasher; spices, oils, pots and pans near the stove, etc. 

How to design the perfect kitchen layout

The kitchen work triangle and kitchen work zones are not an either-or design concept. They can both be used in the same kitchen and work together well.

At Riverstone Kitchens & Renovations, we custom design each kitchen to meet the unique needs of your household. We design the placement of each cabinet and major appliance for optimal efficiency, functionality, and safety. 

We always start with the kitchen work triangle initially, but because your kitchen must fit your lifestyle, we customize each design to suit you. The size of your space and the needs of your family demand a kitchen layout that’s different from others. There is no one-layout-fits-all for kitchen design. 

Our kitchen designers have decades of experience designing highly functional kitchens. We spend a lot of time in our own kitchens and understand the importance of creating a space you love to be in. Contact us today for a free kitchen design consultation.

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