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How I Use Triangles to Design a Great Kitchen

How I Use Triangles to Design a Great Kitchen

kitchen work triangle
The basic triangle shows the sing, refrigerator and cooktop as they relate to each other.

You may have heard of the work triangle but not understood what that really meant – is it something to do with too many cooks in the kitchen? Not at all- in fact it makes it easier to have more cooks without spoiling the broth.

A well-designed kitchen will have a work triangle that allows the cook to operate efficiently and easily. Essentially, the work triangle is the relationship of the three major work areas in any kitchen: cooking, preparing and clean-up. In kitchen design the components you typically see at the points of the triangle are the cooktop or range, the refrigerator/freezer, and the sink.

Sometimes a secondary triangle is also shown, which includes the veggie or prep sink and the other components. A second triangle may also have other possible additional appliances like the oven or a beverage center.

For a more efficient layout, it is generally better to keep the distance (the “sides” of the triangle) shorter. However, you want to be careful that if more than one person is working in the kitchen at any one time there won’t be a traffic jam. It is also good to make sure that none of the sides are interrupted by an object like the island. If the island does interrupt one side, try to let it be between the sink and the cooking area (less desirable), or the sink and the refrigerator (better).

Triangles - The Key to a Great Kitchen
This mountain kitchen has plenty of room to move and work with a large island placed conveniently in the center.

The cooktop and refrigerator generally need to be close to each other to facilitate ease of food preparation. Placing the island between the sink and the refrigerator makes washing, chopping and prepping food more convenient. Adding a veggie sink in the island will do the same thing. Ideally, that will be situated close to the cooktop to minimize the physical steps between chopping and cooking.

Other crucial aspects on consider when designing the layout of your kitchen are the width of walkways, the counter space near cooking and prepping areas, and the location of the refrigerator and pantry in relation to the entrance the family most commonly uses. All of these contribute to the ease of moving and working in the space, which makes preparing delicious meals more enjoyable.

When designing the kitchen cabinet layout you must also consider the space between them. A general rule of thumb for walkways is no less than 40”, but not usually more than 48” wide. Spaces closer than 40” are a tight squeeze – especially if you have two or more people working at the same time. Too far from the island or other surface for staging food is not good either. if it requires more than one step, you risk dropping hot pans or just wasting energy unpacking groceries.

The ideal distance in most cases is about 42” from the front of one cabinet or appliance to the other directly across from it. Some exceptions might be in front of the dishwasher, refrigerator or ovens, where a little more space makes reaching what’s inside easier.

When it comes to counter space, everyone will agree that more is better. That is very true in the areas immediately next to your cooktop, the refrigerator and the oven.

kitchen triangles
Some good and not so good kitchen triangle layout options.

A kitchen designed with a small triangle is good, but not if it sacrifices surfaces to set things like heavy pots, hot dishes, or bags of groceries. Avoid putting the cooktop right beside the fridge without any space between – especially if there is not an abundance of space on the other side either. Try to allow a minimum of 18” on either side of each triangle point.

If possible, plan to locate the refrigerator and freezer nearest to the path from the garage or door your family uses most often. The shorter trip carrying armfuls of shopping bags will be much appreciated. Same goes for the pantry. If it isn’t possible, then a landing area like an island or large stretch of counter close to the kitchen entrance which can serve as a staging spot to work from on grocery day is the next best option. Anyone who has ever lived in a small apartment without such a surface will know what I mean!

Triangles - The Key to a Great Kitchen
A bright and cheerful Mediterranean-style kitchen in Santa Barbara

An attractive kitchen is nice to have, but if it doesn’t function easily or well then it won’t be enjoyed. Let the form of your most used room follow the function guidelines here.  You will enjoy the necessary tasks of daily food preparation so much more. Good kitchen design is about having both – beauty and function.

If all this seems too confusing, a qualified interior designer or certified kitchen designer may be the answer you are looking for. Many cabinetry showrooms have them on staff. If you are doing more than just the kitchen, then working with a professional interior designer can make your life so much easier. Contact us for more information about how we can help you create the kitchen of your dreams.

You can have the beautiful and luxurious eco-friendly interior you deserve.

Schedule your Design Discovery Conversation today!