What is the kitchen work triangle? Is it still relevant or not?
The kitchen triangle is the theory from the 1940s that a kitchen’s three main work areas should form a triangle for a better flow. Those three areas are the sink, stove, and fridge. The idea is to cut on the distance between those areas with a simple step-and-turn.
Each leg of the triangle formed should be between no less than 4′ and not greater than 9′ each, and the sum distance of the triangle should not be more than 26′. Each leg is the measurement from the center of the appliance/ sink front center.
The idea is to create a natural and smooth flow of work between tasks such as cooking (stove), chopping/peeling (sink), and storage (refrigerator).
The idea of a smaller footprint kitchen was based on the assumption that there is only one person in the kitchen cooking. So while the work triangle is still valid for small kitchens where there is only room for one person at a time, with the new house layouts that include open floor plans and more family members sharing the load of meal prep or using the kitchen at the same time the kitchen design world is moving toward work zones.
In smaller kitchens where distances are short and compact, it makes sense to keep the work triangle in order to create the most efficient workflow, although creating work zones that hold some of the traffic out of the kitchen – like a wine cooler or a coffee machine outside of the kitchen can help reduce stress on a very small kitchen.
In larger spaces, work zones will work better as the travel between the task area will be too long. Adding a prep sink into an island creates a work zone for prepping – by adding the right storage for whatever is needed for meal prep by the sink will cut on the travel time. Usually, a place across from the stove can add all the cutting and prep utensils.
Creating work zones for people of different abilities like lowered countertops for baking, kids, or wheelchair use will create a baking zone. The zone should have everything you need for cooking from measuring spoons to secure access to the baking goods and of course the oven.
A coffee station can keep the morning traffic away from the main cook – place all the coffee mugs, and coffee needs close by and keep the travel distance to the sink short (unless you have a plumbed coffee machine).
Janet Schiesl| 18 May 2020
This is very helpful. I knew about the work triangle, but had not considered work stations in larger kitchens. This is something I want to try with my organizing clients.