Planning A Functional Kitchen Design

When most of us plan a new kitchen design, we start thinking about how it’ll look.  Stunning new white cabinets.  Polished quartz countertops.  Modern pulls and knobs.  But planning a new kitchen is actually an opportunity to improve your existing layout and design. 

Research shows that by laying out key elements of your kitchen in a certain way – the fridge, stove, sink, and areas where you prepare food – you can improve your cooking workflow.  Take the time to learn about what makes a functional and effective kitchen design.  It’s the first step in planning a new kitchen that will work as hard as you do.

Kitchen Design: The Work Triangle Theory

Researchers developed the kitchen work triangle theory in the 1940s.  It’s been a part of well designed kitchens ever since! The work triangle organizes your kitchen around three anchor points: the refrigerator, the sink, and the stove. 

In general, if you can draw an imaginary triangle between these three points, then you have an efficient design. That’s because the work triangle focuses on limiting the number of steps you need to take. It’s an excellent starting point that helps you work efficiently and effectively while preparing meals.

Some elements, like a kitchen island, can disrupt the flow of the kitchen work triangle.  Depending on where it’s placed, an island can force the user to take more steps to get to a desired anchors.  A kitchen design like this might have more work space and storage space, but will be less efficient in terms of movement.  Learn more about the kitchen work triangle with this helpful article from Architectural Digest.

Need a visual to help you out?  Scroll through the photos below and try drawing a triangle between the fridge, stove, and sink.  You’ll find there’s minimal disruption along each of the imaginary lines.  This means the home owner can move efficiently between all three points.

Kitchen Design: The Work Zone Theory

The kitchen work zone theory involves organizing your kitchen around three zones:  prepping, cooking, and cleaning.  To plan your kitchen design according to this theory, group your resources for each function in the same area.

  • To start, the prepping zone is where you likely do the majority of your cooking.  This area should be near the refrigerator and your dry goods cupboards to minimize back and forth.  Having the garbage receptacle in this area will help you dispose of waste as you work.

  • The cooking zone is the area surrounding the range and oven.  To make the cooking process run smoothly, place this zone right beside the prepping zone, or directly opposite it.  This will enable you to move easily between the two.

  • Finally, the washing zone, which features your sink and dishwasher, can be separated from the other two zonesIdeally, this zone should be near the cupboards that hold your dishes. This allows you to unload your clean dishes with ease.

Have a look through the kitchen designs below.  Notice how there is counter space near each refrigerator (sometimes in the form of an island) to allow for prepping.  That flows into the cooking zone, which surrounds the range and oven.  You can imagine one person prepping, cooking, and cleaning in each of these zones.  Each person can work in their zone without bumping into someone else.

Other Functions To Consider

Many kitchens are used for more than just prepping, cooking, and cleaning.  They can also function as the heart of your home.  Kitchens are where friends gather to share a glass of wine or family members hang out and discuss their day. Add an extra zone for socializing by extending your countertop and adding bar stools.  This allows friends and family to hang out and chat while you’re preparing a gourmet meal.  Still looking for ideas?  You can see a wide range of kitchen designs by viewing recently completed kitchens in our inspiration gallery.

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