Kitchen Design That Works

All too often, people get caught up with how their new kitchen or kitchen remodeling project will look; what colors, cabinet design and counter top materials will make it look like a magazine-featured designer kitchen? And, while we all want that gorgeous designer kitchen, it’s also important not to lose site of utility and functional necessity in your kitchen design.

There is no end to the number of configurations kitchen designers can dream up, but there are a few basic concepts you can follow to be sure your kitchen will work for you and not the other way around. The kitchen layout that works best for you depends primarily on your lifestyle, the size of your kitchen space and how many people live in your household and regularly share kitchen and cooking duties!

In designing larger kitchens, a zone system can be used, with each station being set up for a specific purpose; prep, baking, cooking, clean up and so on.

Many designers will rely on what the National Kitchen and Bath Association refers to as the “work triangle” when working up a kitchen layout. This concept uses an imaginary triangle between the refrigerator, the range and the sink. The NKBA suggested guidelines on designing a work triangle are as follows:

  • The triangle should be uninterrupted by major traffic patterns.
  • Each leg should be between 4 and 9 feet, with the sum of the triangle not exceeding 26 feet.
  • The triangle should not cross islands or peninsulas by more than 12 inches, which would obstruct movement.
  • If your kitchen has a single sink, it should be located either between or across from the food prep area, cooktop, or refrigerator.
  • The obvious idea behind this concept is efficiency, and setting the work stations up so that the chef is not interrupted by cross traffic, and keeping them close together.

The work triangle concept can make for an efficient kitchen layout by minimizing obstructions between sink, fridge and cooking area.Seems pretty logical and the triangle concept is time tested and proven to work in many households … unless you have more than one chef in the kitchen and need more than three work stations! Since it is common in many households for people to share kitchen duties, the work triangle can become problematic, so a little rethinking may be in order.

The work triangle concept works best in smaller kitchens and households with few people; especially if one person loves to cook and tends to do most of the food preparation. In this case, hopefully somebody else has cleanup duties!

But the triangle has given way increasingly to the concept of “kitchen zones”, which are especially useful for larger kitchen spaces and if your lifestyle includes a lot of entertaining, big family get together occasions and multiple chefs working in the kitchen at the same time.

The typical zones to consider will include:


Slicing and dicing, cutting, rolling and mixing are the typical tasks in this zone, so an island is often the best location. A small sink for rinsing is helpful. Also nice to have is a small under counter refrigerator to keep eggs, milk and other items handy. Equip with:

  • Knife block or drawer
  • Pull out butcher block or butcher block built into counter space
  • Pull outs for utensils, mixing bowls, measuring cups, etc.
  • Pull out for recycling and garbage


Cookies, cakes, pies, breads, pizza dough … Mmm, yum! A slab of marble here is perfect for rolling out dough. Equip with:

  • Storage bins for sugar, flour, baking powder, etc.
  • Shelving or rack to store cook books
  • Drawer space for cookie cutters, spoons, spatulas, oven mitts, pot holders, etc.
  • Roll out with tray to store baking sheets, pizza pans, etc.
  • Drawer space to keep measuring cups, rolling pins, etc.
  • Easy-to-reach Cabinet space within easy reach to store heavy dishes, mixer, mixing bowls, etc.

Pullouts are a great way to keep all of your cooking utensils, pots, pans, baking sheets and other items organized and accessible.Cooking

A main work station, this is where you have heat in your kitchen, so grease and steam have to be concerns with sizzling dishes on the range. It is also good to locate your microwave and toaster within easy reach of this zone. Equip with:

  • Pull outs for pots and pans
  • Spice drawer or racks hidden in pull out corbels near the cooktop
  • Drawers for cooking utensils like spoons, spatulas, etc.

Clean Up

Your main sink and dishwasher are the primary tools in this zone. Storage space for cleaning supplies, towels, and cabinet space for most common dish ware should also be located here. Equip with:

  • Easy access to plates and dishes that are used daily
  • Dish towel pull out drawer
  • Pull out under the sink to store cleaners, dish washing detergent, etc.
  • Tilt-out tray to keep pot scrubbers, sponges, dish rags, etc.
  • Drawer for plastic wraps and baggies, aluminum foil, wax paper, etc.
  • Pull out drawer for plastic bowls, Tupperware, lids, containers, etc.

Many meals are eaten impromptu in the kitchen. Also, when you entertain, people always seem to gather in the kitchen area so you need a good place for them to sit and chat, munch on snacks and not be in the way of traffic. The kitchen bar is also a great place to store placemats, tablecloths, napkins, and less often used dishware.

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