The most comfortable and efficient way to prepare meals and clean up in the kitchen is to place the three things you use the most—the sink, the stove and the refrigerator—within easy distance from each other in a triangle.
The “work triangle” will save you a lot of steps as you retrieve ingredients, chop and rinse, and keep an eye on what is cooking. It also will minimize traffic through your busy work area.
Every kitchen has a refrigerator, sink and cook top, but not all are strategically located so each is easy to access from the others. If your kitchen is inefficient to work in, consider rearranging in so it suits your needs.
So if your refrigerator/sink/cook top triangle is so tight that two people can’t be in the kitchen at the same time, you’ll do yourself a favor by having the space redesigned. Same goes if they’re so far apart that you wear yourself out walking from one to the other every time you fix dinner.
Don’t place your three kitchen work stations too far apart or you will waste a lot of steps as you prepare meals and clean up afterward. Likewise, if you locate them too close together, your kitchen will be too cramped.
Here are a few guidelines for kitchen work triangles:
- Each item in the triangle should be between four and nine feet apart.
- The optimal total work triangle area should be between 16 and 24 feet, although I’ve worked in small kitchens with a comfortable triangle as small as 12 or 14 feet and in large rooms with a work space as large as 28 feet.
- To determine the area of the triangle, measure from the front middle of the kitchen sink to the front middle of the cook top to the front middle of the refrigerator. Add the three numbers for the total.
- Avoid placing anything within that triangle that will get in your way as you walk from one workspace to the next.
- Place the work triangle out of the way of through traffic, so family members who enter the kitchen and head for the breakfast table won’t have to cut through your work space.
- Include your microwave oven within the work triangle. An easy way to do that is to mount it under the cabinet over the cook top.
- Consider how many people regularly help with the cooking. If two of you share the space during meal prep, consider a larger work triangle or a second one.
- Observe where the bottleneck occurs in your kitchen when you have family and friends over for dinner. If the cook is bumping into people as they congregate in a certain corner or around the kitchen table, rearrange the kitchen to move the work triangle away from those gathering spots.
- If your kitchen has an attached breakfast room, keep the refrigerator close to the table so it’s easy for your family to fetch their milk and juice in the morning while they’re grabbing a quick breakfast.
- If you have a wall oven and a separate cook top, it’s the cook top, not the oven, that needs to be part of the triangle. You most likely use the cook top far more often than the oven.
- If there’s a landing area—a small area of countertop space—between the sink and the stove along the same wall of the kitchen, design that landing large enough so two cooks won’t bump into each other.
- If you’re going to remodel the kitchen, start by evaluating your appliances. Do you want a larger refrigerator? A cook top and a separate oven? A double wall oven? An extra-wide range? A second small prep sink in an island? Once you determine how much space those pieces will require, then you can design a kitchen that accommodates them all in a way that will be comfortable for you to use.
Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, has been president of JEB Design/Build in Shreveport since 1983. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.Jeb.net.