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Work Zones Replace Triangles

Work Zones Replace Triangles

When I began studying interior design many (many!) years ago, I learned all about the much-venerated kitchen work triangle— in which the refrigerator, range, and sink are placed 4 to 9 feet apart, forming a roughly equilateral triangle. This design principle was developed back when most people had smaller, closed-off kitchens, where only one person prepared and cleaned up meals. It’s an efficient way to layout appliances and the sink in a small closed or semi-closed kitchen.

The work triangle is still useful today, but with kitchens that now run the gamut from tiny single wall galleys up to the large open-plan kitchen, it’s more useful to think in terms of work zones instead.  Work zones are really just the natural evolution of the kitchen work triangle. As kitchens grew in size and opened up to other rooms in the house, it became more of a challenge to place appliances in a neat triangular layout. We also have more appliances than ever before — dishwashers, extra sinks, microwaves, separate cooktops, and wall ovens — not to mention more people working and socializing in the space.

  • Group appliances and fixtures according to use. To set up work zones in your kitchen, think of the tasks you perform regularly: storing food, prep, cooking, baking, serving, eating, cleaning, making coffee, chilling wine, etc.  A work zone contains everything you use to perform each task.

  • Store what you need where you need it most. In addition to grouping appliances and fixtures according to use, give yourself enough storage in each zone for what you need to perform the task.

  • Provide landing areas next to major appliances. For safety and efficiency, consider placing a countertop landing area next to your major kitchen appliances, especially the range, cooktop, microwave, and wall ovens.  You want to be able to quickly set down something hot without having to trek halfway across your kitchen. This will also give you a cooking work zone; you can store items like knives, cutting boards, and pots and pans in the cabinets and use the countertops for chopping and cooking prep.

  • Widen the aisles. Whether you opt for the traditional work triangle or to break up your kitchen into work zones, pay attention to your kitchen’s aisle widths. The recommended minimum aisle width is 36 inches, but I prefer 42-48 inches, especially in kitchens with multiple cooks. If you cook and entertain often and have space, you could go as wide as 54 inches. Wider than that, though, and your space will likely become inefficient, as you’ll spend more time walking than cooking.