The Kitchen Triangle Interrupted

The other day, I mentioned that I’m in “organizing mode” because our kitchen has become a make-shift office (which happens at various times during the year, but now especially, at the start of the school year).  I can’t think clearly unless my To Do piles, School Notices, Homework piles, Mail, To Be Filed items are systemized, organized and uncluttered.  What makes everything worse is that on top of our kitchen being our command center, it starts to feel like a “war-zone” because of its poorly designed layout (one which we inherited when we purchased this home 5 years ago) and not the cozy entertaining room that entices you to gather with family and linger.

It really is a bummer.  My husband and I had re-designed the kitchen with an architect, and then held off on the project when we discovered that we were expecting triplets — deciding that a major renovation (it would have been the kitchen, plus an addition) would not work with the life-changing event that would also take place in our future.  And so, here we are today, still frustrated with the inefficiencies in our kitchen, and now considering minor tweaks to the design.


What’s wrong?  (In the big picture, I shouldn’t complain.  I’m grateful to have a roof over my head and a healthy family – that’s what really matters.)  Decor aside, one would think that a kitchen that’s 15′ x 20′ in size would suffice.  I mean, seriously, my New York City studio apartment (that I lived in a decade-and-a-half ago) could fit inside the walls of my current kitchen.  What’s wrong?  Poor traffic patterns, poor functionality!

The number one problem is that most of our kitchen traffic runs directly through the work triangle.


 What is the “work triangle?”

The kitchen work triangle is an ergonomic principle based around the arrangement of the three main work/prep/cooking activity areas, namely 1) the range (stove), 2) the sink and 3) the refrigerator.  If you draw a line between your range (stove), sink, and refrigerator, a triangle is, or should be, formed.  The work triangle is most efficient when the movement between each cooking activity is minimized and each of the 3 elements is placed the proper distance apart without any traffic (or obstructions) moving through the work flow.  The ideal distance should be 4 feet to 9 feet for each leg of the triangle, and between 12 feet and 26 feet when you add up the three legs.

Every kitchen has a different size and layout (L-shaped, U-shaped, island, galley) so these distances may not be possible to achieve.  (Read more information about work triangles and different kitchen configurations here.)

Our work triangle maps out like this:

Our measurements:  Range to Sink, 3 feet 3 inches;  Sink to Refrigerator only 2 feet 3 inches;  and Refrigerator to Range is about 3 feet 4 inches apart.  The total distance of all three legs combined is 8 feet 10 inches, and does not fit within the optimal goal of 12 to 26 feet.   It’s a little tight, but doesn’t feel too cramped because of all of our counter space on the island.

Our biggest issue is the fact that the traffic — to and from our table, our side door and the back stairwell  — runs directly through the main work space.  Another slightly annoying characteristic of our kitchen, is that our pantry is located on the other side of the island, opposite the work triangle, which really makes food preparation not so efficient.  Needless to say, our kitchen is a work-in-progress.

Before you start to renovate an existing kitchen, or plan on building a new one from scratch, my advice is to consider your space, the layout, the functions you want for you and your family (along with the aesthetics, of course — the part we all love) and don’t forget to calculate your kitchen triangle!

In the meantime, I’ll ponder a better work triangle…like this one in my favorite kitchen by one of my favorite designers, Kate Jackson.

photo by Sam Gray

photos – by Ei3s;  Kate Jackson kitchen courtesy of Kate Jackson Design and Sam Gray Photography ; floor plan images by IgoeCreative

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