There are two types of homeowners: those who constantly run around their kitchen to the sound of dropping plates and pans, and those who had thought about the work triangle before they designed their cooking area.
Cooking is very eye-pleasing on the outside, but if we wanted to elaborate on the subject, we would draw conclusions that would easily debunk the myth of add-a-little-bit-of-this-and-that-to-here-and-there. Cooking is truly demanding a task and it can become troublesome if the kitchen we use doesn’t live up to the organization and work hygiene standards.
Fortunately, if you incorporate the essentials of the kitchen work triangle, no longer will you need to run back and forth in search of your utensils and ingredients, pulling out your hair due to the constant frustration. Quite the opposite: Everything you’ll need will lay within the length of your arm, making you enjoy the food prep ritual to its fullest.
Down below, you will find all the information essential for incorporating the kitchen triangle into your culinary empire. Shall we?
The definition of kitchen working triangle
The kitchen word triangle is a concept used to describe efficient kitchen layouts. The term “triangle” derives from the primary tasks carried out in a kitchen between the cooktop, the sink, and the refrigerator.
If you visualize a line that links these three elements, you will determine the arms of a triangle, and the point is that these arms should be in close proximity to each other.
Although sometimes geometrical conditions won’t allow the triangle to exist, e.g. in single-wall kitchens, it is still possible to achieve the efficiency through configuring the aforementioned items and ensuring the appropriate space between them.
The kitchen work triangle model was developed in the 1940s to maximize the efficiency of the kitchen space between areas that are the major work centers, i.e. Cooking (range and cook top), Preparation (sink and dishwasher) and Food Storage (refrigerator). According to Taylorist principles that embraced the subject of time-motion studies around the turn of the century, the kitchen work triangle underlined the importance of reducing cost by standardizing construction for a one-cook kitchen.
Kitchen designers and architects use the kitchen work triangle when designing residential kitchens for functionality.
- Each leg of the triangle should be more than 4 feet (1,2m) and less than 9 feet (2,7m).
- The three sides brought together should be between 13 feet (4m) and 26 feet (7,9m).
- Cabinets and other obstacles should be kept away from any leg of the triangle by more than 12 inches (30cm).
- The triangle is supposed to be free of major traffic flow.
- Tall cabinets and other potentially significant obstacles should not intersect any point of the triangle.
These are only the basics of the model. Having said that, we’d like you to take a look at some of the additional, functionality-enhancing tips:
- If there is one cook to work in the kitchen, work aisles should be at least 42 inches (1,10m); On the other hand, a kitchen that is designed for multiple cooks should include 48 inches (1,20m).
- A sink ought to have a clear counter area of no less than 24 inches (61cm) on the wide side and at least 18 inches (46cm) on the narrow side.
- The handle side of a refrigerator should make a clear counter area of no less than 15 inches (38cm).
- The wide side of a stove or cooktop should count 15 inches (38cm) of a clear counter area; The narrow one, in turn, should count 12 inches (30cm)
- When it comes to food preparation area, there should be at least 36 inches (91cm) of space next to the sink.
- The space allowed in the seating area depends on whether the traffic passes behind the dinner or not. For the first case, you should provide 32 inches (81cm) of space from the edge of the table or counter to the wall; for the latter, 44 inches (110cm) will suffice.
As mentioned before, the kitchen triangle should be free of major traffic. Given this, you have to take all the redundant activities outside the place. If you own a home, you should think of having a small garage adjoining the kitchen, from which you could take your groceries in and the trash out with ease.
A separate storage room is an excellent option for people who struggle with space management in their culinary nests. If you can afford a mud room that would serve as a staging area for coming in and going out of the house, hesitate no more. Such a room will make an exemplary storage space for coats, boots, pantry, and preserves. You want to prepare, cook and then eat your meal; and this can be achieved only by removing every single distractor from the area of the triangle.
Speaking of the kitchen work triangle elements, you have to ensure the sufficient amount of floor and counter space for the sink, refrigerator and cooktop.
It is recommended to place the sink beneath windows to let daylight embrace it for better vision. Although this concept derives from the dark days, when dishwashers were unknown to people, it is still more comfortable to have more light by your sink, than not to have it at all. As the sink is more of a food prep station, interior designers and architects tend to start the kitchen triangle with this element.
Cooktop should be placed along an exterior wall. Unfortunately, many inexperienced designers locate it on an island or peninsula, which is a grave mistake. Having a stove on an outside wall allows you to install an effective ventilation system (range hood) to expel smoke, grease, and combustion gasses. Moreover, the cooktop requires a 21-30-inch overhead cleared to allow cooks readily see and use rear burners while the ventilations system does its work.
As dishwasher is an integral part of nearly every kitchen, it also requires correct placement. Well, simply put, place it close to the sink. Where you put it depends on whether you are a leftie or rightie, and on the course, in which the dishes travel from the table to the dishwasher. Intuitively, it should also be implemented in a way that allows two people loading and unloading the machine.
Regardless of size, the refrigerator door needs a fluent swing and enough room for two people to reach for the items simultaneously. Should there be any cabinets around the fridge, they mustn’t conflict with the fridge and its door, as you will find yourself locked in the triangle. For a staging area for foods, you need to have an 18-inch counter space.
- Glassware and dishes should be stored in cabinets or shelves near the sink, as it enhances the workflow in this area. You should also consider installing a hanging pot racks for frequently used pots and pans.
- To avoid walking long distances between the sink and your silverware drawers, the former should be located near the latter; on the other hand, remember to keep the drying rack and silverware out of the triangle so as not to interrupt the cook while setting the table.
- When it comes to keeping utensils, many professional cooks, who spend a lot of time in their kitchens, want their knives and desks to be within the reach of their hands, so they stow them above the sink.
- Should you have any foods that are not affected by temperature changes (pasta, cereal, rice, dried fruits and spices), you can make use of shelves or cabinets above the cooktop. Beware laziness; unpack all your products and place them in storage jars that can later be labeled with signed sticky notes. The same rule applies to herbs and spices.
- If you share the passion for cooking, you will most likely have a dozen of spices without the appropriate storage place. As it is with pasta, rice etc., you will want to put the spices and dried herbs in storage jars, sign them and keep them in a drawer or a cabinet that is located near the sink but between your hips and knees to allow more functionality during the food prep.
- A pantry is relatively inexpensive and extremely functional. Since a pantry is a closet lined with shelves, you can make a DIY pantry and design it both for your needs and for utilitarian purposes. Speaking of utilitarian activities, apart from the storage function, a pantry should be a utility closet, where you can easily store your brooms, mops and cleaning supplies, allowing more space for the cabinet beneath the sink, where you keep your wastes.
- The area beneath the sink may very well be extended to modern ecological trends that fancy segregation and recycling.
What future lies ahead of the triangle?
As kitchen sizes varied over the years and they were smaller 70 years ago, planning the work area was exceptionally crucial. Nonetheless, with the passage of time, the area grew bigger, so people started to have more demands towards it. Many kitchens have grown to accommodate more than one cook and are now also combined with dining rooms; moreover, with the advance in technological sector, we need to have more appliances in our kitchens that make our cooking more joyful.
In the early ‘90, the National Kitchen and Bath Association came up with the idea of transforming the kitchen work triangle to the multiple rectangles, as the concept stated. The idea held that the microwave and the oven were believed to be a fourth or fifth element since there were families who didn’t always eat together and many households were full of more people who fancied cooking. Well, fortunately – both for homeowners and designers – the idea never caught on. Firstly, there was no sufficient PR involved in presenting the concept. Secondly, the additional two corners were decided not to be as significant, as the NKBA thought.
The latest concept claims that the kitchen triangle is an obsolete concept, as it is no more an ergonomic feature. The contemporary kitchen setup includes food preparation, baking, cooking, and cleaning.
The kitchen triangle has evolved throughout decades. The question is: Is there enough space for further improvements, or does this time-worn concept require radical shifts in structures?