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Ask any homeowner which is the busiest room in the house and they will answer without hesitation that it is the kitchen. The kitchen’s functionality should fit your lifestyle because an efficient kitchen is typically a key point in having a happy family life. Living in a poorly laid out kitchen will negatively affect every moment you spend in this often used space.

Although the concept of the kitchen work triangle is not a fixed rule, its design provides for optimum operation as it relates to the efficiency of movement within the kitchen. The plan calls for all of the major workstations to be close to the cook, yet be far enough apart to maintain an uncluttered setting. The design also keeps the traffic flow of family members away from the work zone because nothing is more irritating than having people under feet while you’re trying to cook.

Kitchen Triangle

So, what exactly is the kitchen work triangle?

In 1944, the University of Illinois conducted several studies regarding the adaptability of kitchen designs. Based on their analysis, the kitchen work triangle is probably the most researched and applied ergonomic (the science of work) principle around and it’s still the centerpiece of most kitchen layouts.

These days, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) updates and publishes these basic design standards. According to the NKBA, the kitchen work triangle is an imaginary straight line that is drawn from the centre of the sink, to the centre of the cooktop, to the centre of the refrigerator and finally back to the sink. A kitchen that follows the design standards of the kitchen work triangle is almost guaranteed to be both functional and safe.

The NKBA suggests these standard guidelines:

  • The sum of the work triangle’s three sides should not exceed 26 feet.
  • Each leg should measure between 4 and 9 feet.
  • The work triangle should not cut through an island or peninsula by more than 12 inches.
  • If the kitchen has only one sink, it should be placed between or across from the cooking surface, preparation area, or refrigerator.
  • No major traffic patterns should cross through the triangle.

By following these simple rules, each site will work in harmony and proximity to the other in order to achieve the optimum efficiency and avoid wasting a lot of steps while preparing a meal.There are three basic design layouts for the kitchen work triangle.

The U-Shape: In this design, there is a triangular path from the sink on one wall to the cooktop on another wall and finally to the refrigerator on a third path.

The I-Shape: The I-Shape kitchen has one element of the work triangle against one wall with the other two stations along another wall.

The Galley: In smaller kitchens and very tight circumstances, all three workstations are located along the same wall, like on-board a ship, hence the name galley kitchen.

While the triangle is the basic rule of thumb, people other than the cook will need access to the kitchen, especially the refrigerator and sink. Therefore, the refrigerator should be placed at the triangle’s outer corner and the sink should be placed at the next point for easy accessibility. The cooktop should be at the most remote point and protected from intrusion. To work at peak efficiency, all three sites need a certain amount of floor and counter space. A table or island should be placed in the kitchen where it will not obstruct the triangle yet not too far from the station so that it can be utilized on its own.


Has the Kitchen Work Triangle Changed Over Time?

Essentially no, but since many modern day kitchens are larger, incorporate other must-have appliances and they’ve become multi-purpose rooms, it’s important to determine what design and function your kitchen will serve.According to Kohler, “Since cooking has become more of a communal activity for friends and family, having two distinct work areas (each with its own triangular plan) makes a lot of sense.” The kitchen work triangle still plays a major role in kitchen design, but you can make adjustments that work for you and your family’s lifestyle.

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