Work Triangles and Work Zones in the Kitchen

The work triangle is a time-tested guideline to designing a kitchen, as it creates an efficient work space with clear traffic lanes. The work triangle consists of the cooktop, the sink, and the refrigerator, which are separated 5 to 9 feet apart from each other.

The kitchen work triangle allows a cook to easily reach their cooking, cleaning, and food storage areas, while providing enough space between workstations to avoid crowding.

The Work Triangle Guidelines

  • The sum of the three sides of the triangle should not exceed 26 feet.
  • Each leg should measure between 5 and 9 feet.
  • No side of the triangle should cut through an island or peninsula by more than 12 inches.
  • No major traffic patterns should cross through the triangle.
  • A second triangle can be created by adding a second sink to an island or fourth-wall peninsula. This is also a way to create a specialty work station for baking or vegetable prep.

These guidelines are not hard and fast rules. Sometimes, the only layout possible for your kitchen may break or bend a rule, or enhance the kitchen triangle concept with a work zone approach.

Kitchen Work Zones

Today’s kitchen isn’t just about cooking and cleaning. As the hub of the home, the kitchen is more multi-functional than ever. Hence, designers are increasingly making use of the work zone approach over the work triangle. Learning about kitchen work zones may be a better alternative in terms of planning your kitchen layout.

Your kitchen can be broken down into five basic zones. Each zone defines a certain activity in the kitchen:

1. Consumables

Fresh food, frozen food, non-perishable items… all your groceries will have to go somewhere! Your consumable zone consists of your refrigerator and pantry. Keeping your consumables stored in a close area makes it easy to get all the ingredients you need. Groceries, including non-perishable items, refrigerated and frozen foods, space for dishes, glasses, cutlery and odds-and-ends, such as scissors or desk items all will need to be stored in your new kitchenYouYour refrigerator, pantry, and food-storage cabinets. Keeping these areas close can make it easy to get all of the ingredients you need.

2. Non-consumables

A lot of storage must be dedicated to silverware, tableware, utensils, pots and pans, baking trays, and more. You’ll also want to consider where you’ll store odds-and-ends like cookbooks, scissors, and other desk items. Much of the non-consumable zone storage is located in drawers and upper cabinets.

3. Cleaning

The cleaning zone is typically built around the sink, but also includes the dishwasher, garbage, recycling, and household cleaning items, and a broom or mop. Consider installing waste cabinets near the sink to create a convenient space to keep your kitchen clean.

4. Preparation

Food preparation requires easy access to utensils, cutting boards, and mixing bowls, as well as plenty of countertop space. Consider what you need for food preparation when planning storage options like base drawers, or roll-out cabinet shelves.

5. Cooking

In addition to your cooktop, consider your microwave and/or built-in oven. Cooking zones need to plan landing spaces for hot dishes, as well as storage space for utensils, pots and pans, bakeware, and so on. Think of how you cook. Is a cookbook out? Measuring cups? Spatula that you just stirred with? Towel for cleaning minor spills? These types of things rapidly eat up counter space.

Other Zones

It’s common for kitchens to have other zones, or for some of the work zones to have multiple uses.

Charging zone

A charging station for mobile phones, tablets and other devices is becoming increasingly important in kitchen design. Take a look at special outlets with USB ports, and be sure the devices are safely away from water and toddlers.

Dining area

Creating a space to eat in your kitchen depends on your family needs. Whether it’s just your family, or you’re entertaining, it seems everyone eventually gathers in the kitchen. Islands and peninsulas provide great kitchen dining spaces and can be multi-purpose. If lack of space is an issue, your island can double as prep, work and entertainment space.

Work space

Like it or not, work happens at home and often in the kitchen. The good news is, you no longer need a massive work station. Large desktop computers have given way to wireless laptops and tablets. Provide enough outlets to be able to charge all of your electronic devices.

Entertainment area

Many homeowners have a television in their kitchen. Others have a bar area that can accommodate stools, or serve as a stand-or-sit space for cocktails or dinner. Consider including a conversation zone in your kitchen, with lounge chairs and a low table or versatile ottoman.


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