The Kitchen Work Triangle And Why It’s Out-Dated

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Kitchen design classic French provincial style detailing with Dulux white polyurethane shaker doors, Ilve freestanding cooker and large butlers sink with brass tapware and cabinet handles.

Not the most efficient kitchen design method

If you are planning on renovating or building a kitchen, you may have come across the kitchen ‘work triangle’ theory. It was a theory derived back in the mid 1940’s by the University of Illinois School of Architecture that applied a triangular workflow model to a kitchen, effectively connecting the food storage or fridge, the cook top and the sink. It stated that no one leg of the triangle should be less than 4ft or exceed 9 with no through traffic within the triangle. It was developed as a guideline to create efficient workflow and comfort as you move around these key spaces.

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At first, this seems logical and an effective place to begin planning but there has been some major cultural shifts since the 1940’s that has changed the way we view a kitchen. Previously, kitchens were a small separate space where the wife often prepared meals and emerged once complete. Now they are becoming a central hub where guests will accumulate to talk to the cook and kids will hang out and do homework. It’s a multipurpose space and our designs should reflect this, not be limited to a triangle.

Functional kitchen layouts should be designed around YOU

When designing your kitchen, it’s best to think about what you do the most. For some people it’s making breakfast smoothies on the run, others, it’s cooking hearty meals and for some, a kitchen is merely an entertainment space rarely used. But whatever you do, there are a few simple workflow designs that work for everyone. Think about the dishes, they usually end up in the sink first, then dishwasher and then back in a cupboard. You can imagine how annoying it would be if these things were at the opposite ends of the kitchen? Then you have the pantry, fridge and preparation space. Again, you don’t want to be running up and down the kitchen every time you want something from storage.

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Why kitchen ‘zones’ are a better way to design modern kitchens

Kitchen experts, Blum - creators of the revolutionary kitchen zoning system ‘Dynamic Space’ - have changed the way we plan and design kitchens in the 21st century. Doing away with the very basic and outdated triangle model in favour of a more considered and dynamic workflow. It’s an innovative approach designed to better accommodate the way we use kitchens in a high-tech, modern world, providing a much more comfortable and efficient use of space.

Preparing meals and cleaning up are the two most common activities in a kitchen so we would naturally want to find the most effective and ergonomic way to achieve these. Fundamentally, there are 5 zones to consider.

  1. Consumables. This includes fridge and pantry storage.
  2. Non-Consumables. Items like plates, bowls, containers, jars, cutlery and different kitchen utensils.
  3. Cleaning. Think sink, dishwasher and cleaning items as well as waste disposal.
  4. Preparation. An open usable space is essential to a kitchen as well as having key preparation items on hand such as knives and chopping boards.
  5. Cooking. Gas, induction, electric, oven, microwave or microwave oven. There are many options to bring into your cooking space.
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Smooth workflows are possible in every kitchen with zoning

Every kitchen can be divided into five work zones - regardless of size or shape. For right-handed people, the consumables, non-consumables, cleaning, preparation and cooking zones are arranged clockwise. If you’re left-handed, it’s the other way around.

By creating zones, you can then apply them to any shape kitchen and create a workflow that is right for you. Removing the triangle, you create more design options, which is important for modern kitchens that are being used for more than just cooking. The triangle can create a closed space that is not conducive to entertainment or having multiple people in the kitchen. There are many different workflow designs that you can discuss with a good kitchen planner to find what works best for your kitchen shape and your needs.

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Consider kitchen storage options for optimal functionality

Once you have your basic workflow designed, you can think about storage options. There are different ergonomics to consider when designing storage, from the easily accessed mid levels to the less frequented areas up high or low. Things such as plates, cups, cutlery and cooking utensils are amongst the most commonly used items so it’s important to store them in the mid level, but this will vary from person to person.

Make a list of things that you want to keep within reach and design your storage around them. Keep less used items at floor level or in high overhead cabinets. Also think about the distance between spaces. Do you want to be able to have the dishwasher open at the same time as the opposite cupboard to easily transfer plates from one to the other? Or do you want draws that fully extend, making contents easily viewable and accessible? With so many clever modern storage spaces, you can create storage around what is important to you and again, not defined by a triangle.

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Kitchens today are more advanced than a basic triangle

Another major reason why the triangle theory is out-dated is in the 1940’s, appliances were limited to a fridge and cooking hob, usually with an oven incorporated. Now we have, microwaves, dishwashers, fridges, freezers, multiple ovens, wine coolers and ice baths as well as an endless list of smart appliances. Kitchens have grown in size to accommodate this; often utilising kitchen islands and open plan living designs.

Appliances have also changed form; they no longer have a “standard” fridge size or oven size. They come in many shapes and sizes that fit where you want them to fit. It’s important to decide early on, what appliances you want in your kitchen, so that these can then be incorporated into your 5-part workflow model and create an efficient but modern kitchen.

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So as you can see, the triangle theory has its merits and has laid the foundations for the more updated and modern approach of the workflow model. It has evolved and allows more room for design and personal tailoring. The most important thing when designing the kitchen is to ask yourself, what will the kitchen be used for, how will it be used and how can we tailor that to suit the needs of those who will be using it.

Book a complimentary, in-home consultation with one of our experienced kitchen designers today and discover what’s possible for your new kitchen.