For decades, the “work triangle” dominated the kitchen design landscape giving homeowners something tangible they could use to make sense of their kitchen’s layout and flow. However, the inclusion of the steadfastly popular kitchen island and the more common occurrence of multiple cooks in the kitchen has transformed the work triangle into a series of work centers.
Strictly speaking, the “work triangle” is defined by the National Kitchen and Bath Association as an imaginary straight line drawn from the center of the sink, to the center of the cooktop, to the center of the refrigerator and finally back to the sink. Furthermore, the sum of the work triangle’s three sides should not exceed 26 feet, and 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, no major traffic patterns should cross through the triangle and finally if the kitchen has only one sink, it should be placed between or across from the cooking surface, preparation area, or refrigerator.
In theory, the working triangle helps homeowners by establishing guidelines for positioning of the three major work areas of a kitchen; the sink, cooktop, and refrigerator. However, the addition of central islands in contemporary kitchen design interrupts the traditional working triangle by bisecting one or more leg of the triangle.
This interruption leads to the creation of independent working zones or centers. Well designed centers actually help a kitchen function more smoothly, especially when there are multiple people working in the same kitchen. The centers still need to be close enough in proximity to be functional while also being separated enough to be practical.
Common centers include food prep, cooking, and cleaning. Often a smaller prep sink with a disposal is needed to assist with cleaning of foods during the prep stages which frees up the main sink for cleaning of dishes and hands. Locating the refrigerator near the prep area is ideal since foods can be retrieved, cleaned and prepared without disrupting other areas of the kitchen. The refrigerator also works best when it is located on the outside edge of the kitchen where children and guests can retrieve drinks or condiments without interrupting the cooks.
Centrally locating the cleaning center allows both cooking and prep tools to be brought to the cleaning area without interrupting each other. The cleaning center should have a large sink with disposal and dishwasher.
The cooking center should include a cooktop, oven, and microwave. Placing the microwave on the outside edge of the cooking center allows it to be used by others for reheating, etc.
The island, in the meantime, serves all the centers and is multi-functional providing space for everything from cutting and chopping to serving and eating.
As you begin to imagine what you want to improve about your kitchen don’t hesitate to think outside the triangle and take a more centered approach to your kitchen redesign dreams.