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The Kitchen Triangle or Work Centers

Oct 20, 2020 | Kitchen

kitchen triangle stove refrigerator and sink in open concept kitchen

The Kitchen Triangle

What is the kitchen triangle?   In the 1920s Lillian Moller Gilbreth, an industrial psychologist, and engineer began working on optimizing kitchen layouts.  She developed the kitchen triangle and displayed her work at a 1929 Women’s kitchen triangle design for three main work areas Exposition.  In the 1940s a model was created to divide the kitchen layout between three major work centers: Cooking (range), Preparation (sink/dishwasher), and Food Storage (refrigerator).

Designers and architects are still using this model today when designing residential kitchens.  It was created for the comfort and efficiency of moving between the three main work areas.  The rule is that no span of the triangle between work areas should be less than four feet or more than nine and should not cut into the island by more than 12 inches. The kitchen sink should be placed across from one of the other major stations or between them.   A major rule of thumb is that no major traffic pattern should flow through the triangle.

Though the kitchen triangle is timeless ultimately it is your lifestyle that will trump this standard.   Also, kitchen space constrictions such as with a one-wall kitchen design can prevent its use.  Whatever is chosen a kitchen design that is properly laid out should maximize efficiency and easily allow for movement between tasks.

What About Work Centers?

A basic concept of industrial engineering is the work center.  Regardless of the task completed at the work center it should be placed at the correct ergonomic height and made so that all tools can be stored for the work performed and out of the way. This concept could be considered for any task whether a skilled craftsman, artist, student, or chef.  Some of the main work centers for a kitchen would include the Clean Up Center, Cooking, Preparation, Serving, Refrigeration, and Storage.

Six Main Work Areas

Clean-Up:  This would include the sink, resilient countertop to place dirty cookware, dishes, etc.  Cleaning supplies would be stored in this area as would trash and recycling can.  Counter space should have at least 18″ to 30″ on one side and 49″ to 54″ on the other.

Cooking: The area for cooking would include adequate counter space (at least 24″ wide) and also a heat-proof surface.  Storage of pots and pans, pot holders, and utensils should be convenient and the burners should not be close to a wall or an open area where people would be prone to walk through so as to avoid accidents.

Mixing/Preparation: One area should be designated or two if there is more than one cook as the food prep center.  Bowls, pans, and utensils should be easily accessible and it should be near the sink and the stove.  Oftentimes this work center is between the cooking and cleanup center.

Serving: This work center is usually 36- 84″ of counter and near the dining area so that food and beverages can be set out for meals and entertaining.

Refrigerator: The work center sits unto itself due to the bulkiness and isn’t installed in the middle of a run of cabinets but usually at either end.

Storage: Innovative storage options for the kitchen are innumerable and more organizational solutions are being created often to meet customer’s needs.

Do you have an open concept floor plan?  Work Centers are very popular with these floor plans.  One reason is that kitchen island prep stations with prep sinks are often incorporated in the kitchen design plan.  These islands tend to be large and help with setting definitive spaces such as kitchen from family or living room.  The island is used for prep work, and serving and may include a stovetop or sink for cooking and/or clean up.

large kitchen island with cooktop

One Wall Kitchen

The one layout that where the kitchen triangle is not incorporated is the one-wall kitchen.  This kitchen design has cabinets and appliances built into one linear wall.  They are often found in small homes or apartments and in some open-concept floorplans.  A common setup would be to have the sink located between the refrigerator and range and a kitchen table completing the work area as the prep and serving space or an island.  The kitchen below shows the stove between the refrigerator and sink with the island across from the appliances for serving and dining.

one wall kitchen with island

If you would like more information regarding kitchen planning, you can check out the National Kitchen and Bath Associations guidelines.

Spark your imagination and check out our web post,  Kitchen Island Design Ideas.  We offer some good advice as you plan your kitchen remodel.