Enhancing the Kitchen Triangle: the Work Zone Approach

October 30, 2015No comments

woman cooking at center island smiles at large dog sitting nearby in kitchen with linen raised panel cabinets on perimeter and dark furniture look island

In this modestly sized kitchen, an island food prep zone with its own sink and great access to the refrigerator creates a second work triangle, allowing two cooks to work effectively in one space.

A classic design principle, the kitchen work triangle was developed in the early 20th century, when industrial efficiency experts determined that the triangle connecting range, refrigerator and sink determined how efficient and safe the space was for the (single) cook. The guidelines specified maximum and minimum distances between the three appliances and minimum countertop spaces by each.

Three-quarters of a century later, the kitchen is a multi-tasker where a microwave is standard, crowds gather and family and guests load up outlets with chargers. Appliances may include an oversize professional range and multiple ovens, sinks, refrigerators and dishwashers.

The bulk of food prep still revolves around the cooktop, refrigerator and sink, and triangle guidelines apply. However, a multi-tasking, multi-cook kitchen must be carefully designed to prevent traffic jams or outright chaos.  A good approach is to corral activities into zones, then apply work-triangle spacing between zones. The final layout may have more than one triangle. I think in terms of work zones for clients including the following:

Homeowners Steve (at range) and Katie Delchin with baby in their kitchen,which features black and white cabinets, a center island and a professional range

A generous island opposite the refrigerator, range and wall ovens provides landing space for hot and cold foods and an effective boundary between guest and visitor spaces and the cooking zone.

The couple that cooks: A client who talks about the way “we” cook alerts me that there will be more than one cook in this kitchen.  The design will include wider aisles, multiple approaches to the refrigerator and trash cabinet, and if possible, a prep sink.

The gourmet chef: Whether cooking for two or twenty, the serious chef needs multiple prep stations, where each course can be set up prior to guests arriving. The ingredient list may be longer than Star Wars movie credits, so I include extra refrigeration space and possibly a butler’s pantry. And of course, double ovens, a pro cooktop and hood, and super-quiet double dishwashers.

large kitchen has peninsula, center island, open to living and built-in bar using white shaker cabinets

A kitchen for the serious host, this open design includes an island, peninsula, pass-through and full built-in bar with a wine rack and beverage cooler. Not shown in the photo are the professional range and double dishwashers.

Game day is at my place: For the casual entertainer, the trick is keeping guests at hand but out from underfoot. It’s worth it to knock out a wall if necessary to create an island or peninsula, defining the boundary between guest and cooking zones. Include a pull-out recycling bin accessible from each zone, and an under-counter beverage fridge. Remember to save space on the wall for a flat-screen TV.

an l-shaped kitchen built of maple cabinets is enhanced with a serving zone handy to the refrigerator

Removing a wall allowed this couple to add a serving bar to their basic L-shape design. Handy to the refrigerator, the serving zone opens the kitchen to guests while keeping traffic out of the cook’s work triangle. The double-oven range, an efficient alternative to wall ovens, allows space for a tall pantry cabinet.

The growing family: When toddlers are present, safety is number one. I pay special attention to landing spaces on either side of the range, refrigerator and sink. The cooking zone shouldn’t abut a traffic path and an island cooktop should be spaced well back from island seating. The after-school crowd will appreciate a snack zone with a microwave safely located at or below counter height, and plan ahead for teens,who will need a charging station for tablets and phones.

Kitchen Designer Karla Reck

Designer Karla Reck

I and my fellow designers love the challenge of personalizing every kitchen design, creating spaces as unique as the people who use them. Whether your kitchen remodel involves new cabinets for your 1950s rambler, or a major addition, I suggest you contact a member of our design team  at 888-350-1242 for helping getting the most out of your space.

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