Is the kitchen triangle still relevant?


Developed in the 1940s to increase efficiency, the kitchen triangle refers to the triangular working space between the cooker, the sink and the fridge. For decades the kitchen work triangle has dominated as the measure of good kitchen design

But with the advent of much larger kitchen spaces and a seismic shift to open plan living, is the kitchen work triangle actually still relevant?

Let’s take a closer look at how the kitchen triangle works.

Kitchen triangle theory

The kitchen work triangle was developed to maximise efficiency in a one-cook kitchen. The concept of optimising kitchen layouts began in the 1920s. A specific model in the 1940s identified major work centres as cooking, preparation and food storage. The triangle design idea was developed from time and motion studies and emerged triumphantly as a means of standardising kitchen construction.

According to the theory, no leg of the triangle should be less than 4 feet or more than 9 feet, and the sum of the triangle shouldn’t exceed 26 feet. This concept evolved to fit the kitchens of the 1940s which tended to be small but housed large appliances.

So, the question is, has this time-honoured kitchen tradition had its day?

Lifestyle dominating kitchen design

Everybody wants a kitchen that flows and is easy to cook in. But, the size of our kitchens and what we use our kitchen spaces for has changed dramatically. Kitchens are no longer just a space purely to cook. Prepping and cooking meals has also become a much more sociable activity. 

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Source: Simon Taylor 

An increasing number of people are turning to bespoke kitchen designs with a preference for zones rather than the traditional kitchen triangle. Galley style kitchens are also making a comeback and one-wall kitchens are a popular way of opening up living space to incorporate a kitchen area in flats and apartments.

Are kitchen zones a better solution?

Kitchen zones separate the kitchen into different working areas but don’t necessarily link those areas so closely together as they are in the kitchen triangle. 

The main zones are for preparing food, cooking and washing up. But open plan living has changed the way we use the kitchen space. The kitchen now incorporates dining space and is used for a range of activities from doing homework to entertaining and relaxing in. Most kitchens these days are designed to suit lifestyle and every individual, couple or family will have their own preferences. It does make the kitchen work triangle less relevant today.

However, there still needs to be a good workflow in any kitchen and a good kitchen designer will understand this. Many kitchens look great, but actually working in them to cook is really inefficient.

The kitchen work triangle certainly doesn’t work with every kitchen. The most important criteria for kitchen design nowadays is lifestyle, with both aesthetic and functional needs taking equal priority. Kitchen zones are a sensible way to order a kitchen when the traditional kitchen triangle doesn’t work.

How to set up kitchen work zones

Divide your kitchen into five zones as follows (they can overlap):

Preparation – this is the area where all of your kitchen prep happens and is usually a stretch of countertop or a kitchen island. This zone should be positioned next to or within easy reach of your cooking zone.

Cooking – this area houses your cooker, stove top, range and microwave.

Food storage – this is obviously where you store most of your food, so a larder or pantry for dry foods and your refrigerator for fresh foods.

Non-consumables storage – this is the storage space for all of your cookware, plates, bowls, glasses, silverware, utensils and cutlery. Keep this zone close to the dishwasher so it’s easy to unpack and put away.

Cleaning/washing – for plumbing purposes it makes perfect sense to line up your dishwasher, washing machine and sink (unless of course you have a separate utility room). It’s a good idea to position rubbish and recycling in this zone, but these utilities are also relevant to preparing food so consider placing your cleaning area not too far away from your prep area.

Ultimately the perfect kitchen will depend on you and how you live. If you are considering a new kitchen the kitchen triangle may still work, or kitchen zones might be better. The best way to get a kitchen that is perfect for you is to work with a reputable kitchen designer to ensure optimum functionality and flow.

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About Mike James

Mike James
Mike James is a writer by trade, specialising largely in cybersecurity professionally - and then the home (kitchen) leisurely. Based in Brighton, Mike is a design connoisseur and big time foodie - appreciating a fine, single malt whisky on the odd (frequent) occasion.

  Email:  Mike James


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