Kitchen layouts made simple

If you understand the basic principles of kitchen layout will help take much of the mystery out of the design process. The most basic layout principle is the work triangle. The work triangle is the line drawn from each of the three primary work stations in the kitchen – the food storage, cooktop, and sink. By drawing these lines, you can see the distance you’ll walk to move to and from each area.


The sum of the ideal triangle is supposed to be between 15 and 22 feet, putting each of the three appliances within two or three steps of one another.

The three primary kitchen work stations which create the work triangle are:

1. Food storage - Your refrigerator and pantry are the major items here. Cabinetry like lazy susan or swing-out pantry units add function and convenience. Options like wine racks, spice racks, and roll-out trays help to organize your groceries.

2. The preparation/cooking station – Your range, oven, microwave, and smaller appliances are found in this area. Counter space is important in this section. Conserve space by moving appliances off the counter with appliance garage cabinets and space-saving ideas like towel rods and pot lid racks.

3. The clean-up station – Everyone’s least favorite activity is one of the kitchen’s most important – clean-up. This area is home to the sink, waste disposal, and dishwasher. Cabinetry for this station is designed to organize with the trash bin cabinet and roll-out tray baskets for storage convenience.

Your kitchen is probably more than just a place to cook and eat. You may choose to include a breakfast bar, desk, bookshelves, computer station, a TV or whatever in your kitchen.

Triangle reloaded

The work triangle, however is experiencing a remodel of its own. The work triangle was designed for an age when there was only one cook, and only three appliances (fridge, stove, sink).

Here are a few top tips:

  • No leg of the triangle is supposed to be less than 4 feet or more than 9 feet.
  • There should be no human (well, or non human, of course) traffic flow cutting through the triangle.
  • Place the microwave near the refrigerator for convenience
  • Walk space should be 42″ wide to account for traffic flow and clearance of large appliance doors or large relatives
  • Counter space on either side of the range or cooktop should be a minimum of 15 inches
  • An 18-inch counter should be adjacent to the fridge on the same side as the handle
  • The food prep area (minimum counter space 36 inches) is ideally located between the fridge and the sink; If the food prep area is between the sink and the range or cooktop, it will involve more travel.
  • A lower surface is best for food prep (measure 7 to 8 inches below your elbow height)
  • In two-cook kitchens, the fridge and range/cooktop are usually shared.
  • Two triangles can share a leg, but shouldn’t overlap
  • An island with a second sink creates at least one more triangle, and adapts to many uses: wet bar location, flower cutting and arranging, homework station etc.

Now let’s see the layouts:

The single line (or Pullmann) kitchen

single-wall kitchenThis is a smart and simple solution for narrow rooms, ideally with one wall over 10 feet long, without windows or doors. However, this layout causes the longest journey distances since you often have to walk from one end of the room to the other. Therefore, it’s a good idea to place the sink in the middle of the line, with adequate space separating it from the range.

  • Ideal for apartments and smaller homes
  • Works well with the open designs found in many contemporary homes
  • Small moveable table can provide eating space
  • Can be enhanced with the addition of an island

The galley kitchen

Galley kitchenThis shape offers the most efficient use of space, making it the choice of many professional chefs. The two rows allow room for lots of preparation space, and moving between activity areas can be as easy as turning around. However, this shape is not ideal if the corridor is open at both ends, since it can cause traffic congestion.

Make sure there is enough room for opposite drawers to be open at the same time (at least 48″). Another important consideration is to keep the cleaning and cooking areas on the same side in order to minimize the risk of accidents while moving hot pans between the sink and range.

  • Great for smaller kitchens
  • Appliances are close to one another
  • Easy for one cook to maneuver
  • Can easily convert to a U-Shape by closing off one end

The L-shape kitchen

L-shaped kitchenThis is a very popular kitchen layout – ideal for a family kitchen, or for entertaining guests, since it can easily accommodate table and chairs in the same room. Using two adjacent walls, the kitchen also benefits from the lack of through-traffic. The sink, range and fridge should be separated by a preparation area.

  • Very flexible layout design
  • Major appliances can be placed in a variety of areas
  • Work areas are close to each other
  • Can easily convert to a U-Shape with a cabinet leg addition

The U-shape kitchen

U-shaped kitchenThe use of three full walls in a room offers the perfect working kitchen. The fridge, range and sink can be spaced out for maximum efficiency and convenience. This is great news for those who take your cooking seriously, as it provides the best workflows with the shortest distances around the kitchen. This shape also allows for large amounts of countertop and storage space.

  • Perfect for families who use their kitchens a great deal
  • Provides plenty of counter space
  • Efficient work triangle
  • Can convert one cabinet leg into a breakfast bar

The island kitchen

Island kitchenA very popular kitchen type, the island layout is perfect if you plan to entertain but requires more floor space. An independent island unit can face a dining or living area, allowing the cook to socialise while preparing. A sink here provides the optimal arrangement in terms of the kitchen’s working triangle. Otherwise, a cooktop with a canopy over the island can form a stunning focal point to the kitchen.

The G-Shaped Kitchen

G-shaped kitchenBuilt very much like the U-Shaped with the addition of an elongated partial wall, the G-Shaped kitchen offers a great deal of space.

  • Ideal for larger families needing extra storage space
  • Plenty of counter and cabinet space
  • Multiple cooks can function well in this layout
  • Can convert one cabinet leg into a breakfast bar or entertaining area
  • About
  • History of the Kitchen – 1920s and 1930s
  • Types of kitchen – part 1
  • Naval kitchen
  • Blue Kitchen
  • 13 comments ↓

    #1 Peggy Deras, CKD, CID on 09.25.07 at 7:49 pm

    NKBA Guideline 3:
    Recommended:
    In a kitchen with three work centers* the sum of the three traveled distances should total no more than 26’ with no single leg of the triangle measuring less than 4’ nor more than 9’.

    There is also an “order” to the work triangle:
    Meal preparation almost always starts at the refrigerator, moves to the sink for prep and thence to the cooktop. This is why it makes more sense to place the work centers in order (if possible).

    Nice blog. I’ll link.
    Everett Collier is an old friend.

    #2 peter on 09.26.07 at 1:03 pm

    <p>Thanks Peggy! Do you think the work triangle makes sense (I do, especially for small kitchens) or you fall for the new ‘work zones’ trend?</p>

    #3 Peggy Deras, CKD, CID on 12.11.07 at 8:29 pm

    I DO believe in the work triangle. It’s just common sense to me.

    These days, with large kitchens and multiple cooks, some modifications are in order.

    But the most efficient arrangements still utilize work triangles that do not intersect, so that cooks don’t trip over each other in accomplishing their separate tasks.

    Such conflicts are inevitable with more than one cook and a single work triangle. That’s why 80′s kitchens don’t work anymore for multi-cook households.

    Peggy

    #4 odiah rose on 06.09.09 at 8:11 pm

    can u really give me straight i.e simple solution to or rather list out points for the concepts and principles of kitchen planning please not for kitchen layout,explaining the points to the well knowledge of a lean man.

    #5 SuperSonic on 12.03.10 at 3:09 am

    ЎHola!
    No estб seguro de que esto es verdad:), pero gracias a un cargo.

    #6 LisainLondon on 04.20.11 at 11:14 am

    I found this very comprehensive and helpful–thanks!

    #7 Matt on 08.05.11 at 2:06 pm

    i have a u-shaped kitchen in a condo and am considering re-modelling to a single line to open things up. Any thoughts? is this a huge job?

    #8 admin on 10.04.11 at 11:54 am

    It really depends on your kitchen… generally you’ll need to do most of the work on the floorspace that’s previously under the removed side of U….
    You should also think about the storage space you lose, you’ll need to put those things somewhere too.

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