Knowledge Base

Kitchen Cabinets 101: Setting Up a Kitchen Work Triangle

In any kitchen, there are three fixtures that are used the most often. These are: the sink, the stovetop, and the refrigerator. Often referred to as the “kitchen work triangle,” having these three elements of a kitchen in the right places can make a kitchen much more efficient. You might feel, as you begin your kitchen remodeling project that you are already taking on a lot of work, and setting up a triangle isn’t worth your time.

Creating an efficient work triangle in your kitchen doesn’t have to be time-consuming and down the road, it will greatly improve the functionality of that kitchen. Once you have the basic concept in your grasp, you can adjust it fit your specific needs.

What is a kitchen work triangle?

In the middle of the 20th century, houses had little room for kitchens and the appliances that were in those kitchens took up a lot of space. Unlike today, where a kitchen might be a gathering place for families and friends to work together, at the time, kitchens were considered to be a place just for cooking.

As designers began to realize that the space was simply too small, and in order to make the kitchen as efficient as possible, without making it so large that getting to and from the refrigerator to the stove to the sink is difficult, the idea of the kitchen work triangle was born. In short, the work triangle dictates that the distance between the stove and the sink and the sink and fridge and the fridge and the stove should all be greater than four feet, but less than nine feet.

The sides of the kitchen work triangle should add up to being between thirteen feet and twenty-six feet. If smaller than thirteen feet, a kitchen might feel too small, while if larger than twenty-six feet, it might be too large.

Kitchen Work Triangle

Why should you care?

he design concept might be an old one, but it is still a good rule of thumb when working on a kitchen remodel. Having a kitchen that is spread out enough that there is plenty of elbow room to get work done, while small enough to minimize the amount of walking a cook has to do can make cooking much easier.

How can you implement the kitchen work triangle in your kitchen?

Follow these steps:

  1. Consider the layout of your kitchen as it was before the remodel. What bothers you about the way your kitchen is set up? Does the distance from the fridge to the oven make cooking tiresome? Do you have enough room to move around without having too much room? Make sure to factor all of the activities that take place in your kitchen into account. Today, few kitchens are used just for cooking—they are a place for entertaining friends and family, eating, and working.
  2. Get an idea of your current kitchen’s triangle. If your old appliances and fixtures are still in place or you can remember exactly where they were, measure the distance between them. Was there anything blocking those lines? Is there an island in the middle of your kitchen? A trashcan? Having unobstructed lines is a tenant of the kitchen work triangle and one that can make cooking much more efficient. Think about the size and shape of your current triangle and how it can be improved to make cooking faster or easier.
  3. Don’t forget about the other roles your kitchen plays. Do your kids sit in the kitchen and do their homework while you cook dinner? Does your family often gather in the kitchen and chat while they snack? Do you often eat at your kitchen island, instead of at the table? Think about all the different things that take place in your kitchen and how those activities will interfere with the ideal kitchen triangle. Also, think critically about your storage areas. Do you have enough storage space near your stovetop for pots, utensils, and cooking spices? Are the cupboards that store your clean dishes close enough to the sink to make putting clean items away easy?
  4. Modify the triangle idea to meet your needs. Maybe you don’t mind having an island that blocks one or two of the lines of your triangle, because it makes a great place to do homework. Perhaps you prefer your sink to be closer to the stovetop than the fridge. Your kitchen’s setup may demand that your sink, stove, and fridge are all on the same wall. As you create your kitchen work triangle (even if it does not actually end up being a triangle), simply make sure that you have enough room to cook, without creating so much room that cooking is inconvenient.
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