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Planning your kitchen - Beyond the kitchen triangle

Most people embarking on a kitchen renovation journey would have heard of the kitchen work triangle. Essentially, it is a design rule that has traditionally been used when designing the layout of a kitchen, revolving around three key work stations in the space: sink, cooker and refrigerator. It is about their relative positioning, and the distances between them.

FORM Design Team

March 30, 2020

kitchen design

Most people embarking on a kitchen renovation journey would have heard of the kitchen work triangle. Essentially, it is a design rule that has traditionally been used when designing the layout of a kitchen, revolving around three key work stations in the space: sink, cooker and refrigerator. It is about their relative positioning, and the distances between them. 

Yes, the kitchen triangle is still somewhat helpful, but also increasingly outdated, given how fast the world of kitchen design is evolving. In this post, we discuss why the triangle may not quite cut it anymore, and propose an alternative way to think about designing the workflow in your kitchen.

The concepts underpinning the kitchen triangle theory – flow, efficiency and standardization – are still largely relevant today. It has most definitely not been fully discredited. However, what is clear is that homes have changed, and kitchens are becoming more complex. They have many more components to them (certainly in relation to the 1940s, when the kitchen triangle concept was first introduced), and are being used differently.  

General floorplan

The general floorplan of the average house is no longer what it was 20 years ago, and certainly not what it was 80 years ago. As a result, the kitchen is less and less a self-contained space, but is often part of a larger cooking-dining-entertaining-lounging space that is the epicenter of the home. 

How many 1940s kitchens featured an island? How many do today? Clearly, introducing an island drastically alters the dynamic of a space (e.g. how people are able to interact in it, how they can work in it, and so on). Layouts in general are more versatile today, with plenty of open-plan and broken-plan permutations out there. 

Who cooks? When? How?

Another thing that has changed is how people use their kitchens. No longer a rigid self-contained cooking-only space, the kitchen is often the heart of the home. It is where couples, friends and families come together and socialize, where they carry out a range of tasks: from getting work done to creating memories. 

The act of cooking is also more layered, nuanced and versatile than that which the kitchen triangle was designed for. Cooking is no longer a sole endeavor for the stay-at-home mother, but may involve different generations of one family, a couple or a group of friends. More often than not, the modern kitchen needs to accommodate more than one cook at a time. The menu itself would have changed drastically too, with a wider range of ingredients and recipes being easily accessible.

Technology and appliances

Needless to say, kitchen technology has moved on dramatically in recent decades, bringing all manner of new appliances into our kitchens. For instance, in many homes, the microwave is now used more than the cooker. Not necessarily for store-bought microwave meals, but often for re-heating batch-cooked healthy fare. 

There might be two sinks, a separate freezer in the pantry, an oven tower set away from the cooker, and some seriously specialized equipment that until recently would have been considered the domain of a pro cook. Small appliances such as juicers and coffee machines may well be the most-used and cherished items in a kitchen. 

As such, focusing your design efforts on the sink, cooker and refrigerator may be missing the point. Which work centers really matter in your kitchen, in light of the way that you use it? With increased choice comes increased divergence; there really is no more one-size-fits all in kitchen design. 

Design in zones

Rather than focusing on the three stations, you should think about optimizing the workflow in your space, as well as its storage capabilities. Thinking in zones, relative to one another (location, amount of space required, best positioning and so on) is a contemporary kitchen design mindset. We believe that thinking in these terms will yield a much more tailored design outcome than reverting to a simplified model from the last century. The zones to consider:

  • Dry goods storage – Unless you go for a particularly traditional look, drawers are the name of the game here. These are both roomy and easier to access than cupboards. Fully-opening drawers come in a range of heights, meaning you can really optimize the use of space.   

  • Dishes and cutlery – Clean dishes, glassware, cutlery etc should not be stored too far away from the dishwasher. A combination of wide drawers along with wall cupboards or open shelves are your best bet for this zone. 

  • Cleaning, washing up and waste disposal – Integrated waste disposal solutions are very much the norm now, and they should be positioned close to the sink. In fact, right below it is probably the best option. You will be able to neatly fit containers of different dimensions for garbage, recycling and more into a wide drawer.   

  • Preparation – This zone is probably the easiest to forget, but you will definitely notice if you have not provisioned for it. Chopping boards, kitchen utensils, condiments and spices; none of this should be too far from your cooking zone. 

  • Cooking – Very much the highlight of your time in the kitchen! Pots and pans by the cooker, trays by the oven. Proximity and ergonomics are key here; the last thing you want is hiking across the kitchen with a boiling pan or a tray of steaming hot goodies. 

Kitchen design is not complicated, but getting it right does require that you understand how you use the space. We recommend thinking in zones rather than following the increasingly dated kitchen triangle approach, when designing your new kitchen.

"We believe that good design improves people's lives. We focus on personalization, performance, and peace of mind."

Co-founders Danny and Tom

Danny Soos & Tom Sherman

FORM Co-Founders

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