Design Considerations

Home Up Planning Guidelines

Kitchen Design Considerations

Storage and Mixing Center Cooking Center
Cleanup Center The Work Triangle
Types of Kitchens
U-Shaped Kitchen Peninsula Kitchen
L-Shaped Kitchen Corridor Kitchen
One-Wall Kitchen Island Kitchen
Family Kitchen  
Size and Shape
Kitchen Planning Guidelines

A well-designed kitchen is both efficient and pleasing in appearance

Understanding the functions of a kitchen is the first step in planning a kitchen's design.


Food preparation is, of course, the primary function of the kitchen.
However, the kitchen may also be used as a dining area.
The proper placement of appliances is important in a well-planned kitchen.
Locating appliances in an efficient pattern eliminates wasted motion.
An efficient kitchen has three basic areas or centers:
-- the storage center
-- the cooking center
-- the cleanup center
A fourth area, mixing, is combined into one or more of the others, usually storage.
3-areas.jpg (58932 bytes)
(fig 10-1)



The refrigerator is the major appliance in the storage and mixing center. The refrigerator may be freestanding, built-in or even suspended from a wall. Cabinets for the storage of utensils and food ingredients, as well as a countertop work area, are also included at this center



The major appliances in the cooking center are the range and oven. The range and oven may be combined into one application or be separated into two appliances, with the burners installed in the countertop (cook top) as one appliance and an oven built into a cabinet.

The cooking center should have countertop work space, as well as storage space for minor appliances and cooking utensils. An adequate supply of electrical outlets for using appliances is necessary



At the cleanup center, the sink is the major appliance. Sinks are available in one-, two-, or three-bowl models with a variety of cabinet arrangements, countertops, and drain board areas. The cleanup center may also include a waste-disposal unit, an automatic dishwasher, a waste compactor, and cabinets for storing cleaning supplies.



If you draw a line connecting the three centers of the kitchen, a triangle is formed. (see fig. 10-2) This is called the work triangle. The perimeter of an efficient kitchen work triangle should be no more than 22'. Although the size of the work triangle is an indication of kitchen efficiency, the triangle is primarily useful as a starting point in kitchen design. The triangle should not be rigidly maintained at the expense of flexibility and creativity.

The arrangements of the three areas of the work triangle may vary greatly. However, efficient arrangements can be designed in each of the seven basic types of kitchens described.

10-2.jpg (40149 bytes)fig. 10-2


Types of Kitchens


The U-shaped kitchen is very efficient and popular. The sink is located at the bottom of the U, and the range and the refrigerator are at the opposite ends. In this arrangement, traffic passing through the kitchen is completely separated from the work triangle. The open space in the U between the sides should be 4' or 5'. This arrangement produces a very efficient small kitchen. (see fig. 10-3) Figure 10-4  shows various U-shaped kitchen designs and the planned work triangles.

When designing U-shaped kitchens, special attention must be given to door hinges and drawer positions. Design cabinet doors and drawers to open without interfering with each other; especially at cabinet corners.

10-3.jpg (55432 bytes)fig 10-3 10-4.jpg (41878 bytes)fig. 10-4



The peninsula kitchen is similar to the U-shaped kitchen, but one end of the U is not adjacent to a wall. It projects into the room like a piece of land (peninsula) into a body of water. This peninsula is often used for the cooking center. However, it may serve several other functions as well. The peninsula is often used for an eating area as well as for food preparation. (see fig. 10-5) It may join the kitchen to the dining room or family room. Figure 10-6 shows various arrangements of peninsula kitchens and the resulting work triangles.

Most peninsula kitchens contain large countertops for work space. Peninsulas may contain only lower or base cabinets, but some may include upper cabinets suspended from ceilings.

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The L-shaped kitchen has continuous counters, appliances, and equipment located on two adjoining, perpendicular walls. Two work centers are usually located on one wall and the third center is on the other wall. (see fig. 10-7) The work triangle is not in the traffic pattern. If the walls of an L-shaped kitchen are too long, the compact efficiency of the kitchen is destroyed.

An L-shaped kitchen requires less space than the U-shaped kitchen. The remaining open space often created by an L-shaped arrangement can serve as an eating area, without taking space from the work areas. If the center area is used for eating, a minimum of 36" must be allowed as an aisle between cabinets and chairs.

10-7.jpg (53141 bytes)fig 10-7



Two-wall corridor kitchens are very efficient arrangements for long, narrow rooms. (See fig. 10-8)  They are very popular for small apartments, but are used extensively anywhere space is limited. A corridor kitchen produces a very efficient work triangle, as long as traffic doe snot need to pass through that work triangle. The corridor space between cabinets (not walls) should be no smaller than 4', preferably 6'. One of the best work arrangements locates the refrigerator and sink on one wall and the range on the opposite wall.

10-8.jpg (43367 bytes)fig. 10-8



A one-wall kitchen is an excellent plan for small apartments, cabins, or houses in which little space is available. The work centers are located along one line rather than in a triangular shape, but this design still produces an efficient arrangement. (see fig. 10-9) 

When planning a one-wall kitchen, the designer must be careful to avoid creating walls that are too long. Adequate storage facilities need to be well planned also, since space is often limited in a one-wall kitchen.

10-9.jpg (30568 bytes)fig. 10-9



The island kitchen, another geographically-named arrangement, has a separate, freestanding structure in the kitchen that is usually located in the central part of the room. An island in the kitchen is accessible on all sides. It usually has a range top or sink, or both. (see fig. 10-10) Other facilities are sometimes located in the island, such as a mixing center, work table, serving counter, extra sink, and/or snack center. (see fig. 10-11) Figure 10-12 shows examples of other island facilities. The island design is especially convenient when two or more persons work in the kitchen at the same times.

When an island contains a range or grill, allow at least 16" on the sides for utensil space. Also consider the use of a downdraft exhaust system which pulls vapors down and out rather than up to eliminate the need for overhead hooded vents. Allow at least 42" on all sides of an island. If used for eating, also add the depth of the chair or stool.

10-10.jpg (54337 bytes)fig. 10-1010-11.jpg (57340 bytes)fig. 10-1110-12.jpg (44944 bytes)fig 10-12



The family kitchen is an open kitchen using any kitchen shape. The function of an open kitchen, however, is to provide a meeting place for the entire family -- in addition to the usual kitchen services. A family kitchen often appears to have two parts in one room. The three food preparation work centers comprise one section. The dining area and family-room facilities comprise another section. (see fig 10-13). Figure 10-14 shows several possible arrangements for family kitchens. 

Family kitchens must be rather large to accommodate these facilities. An average size for a family kitchen is 225 sq. ft. Eating areas can be designed with either tables and chairs or with chairs an/or stools at a counter. When counters are used for eating, allow at least 12" for knee space between the end of the counter and the face of the base cabinet.

Regardless of its shape, the kitchen is the core of the service area and should be located near the service entrance as well as near the waste-disposal area. The kitchen must be adjacent to eating are3as, both indoors and outdoors. The children's play area should also be visible or easily accessible from the kitchen.

10-13.jpg (58566 bytes)fig. 10-13 10-14.jpg (127275 bytes)fig. 10-14



Kitchens cost more per square foot than any other room. Most of this cost relates to the selection of appliances, cabinetry, and fixtures. By selecting the least expensive models of appliances, hardware, and cabinetry, the same kitchen design can often be built for one-fourth the cost of a kitchen which contains the most expensive features.

Even though most kitchen appliances are produced in contemporary designs, some clients and designers prefer to decorate kitchens with a traditional style as a motif or theme. The cabinets, floors, walls, and accessory furniture would then be selected according to that chosen theme. Designing a totally harmonious kitchen is made easier by the wide variety of appliance sizes, colors, and styles.

Regardless of the style, the kitchen walls, floors, countertops, and cabinets should require a minimum amount of maintenance. (see fig. 10-15) materials that are relatively maintenance-free include stainless steel, stain-resistant plastic, ceramic tile, washable wall coverings, washable paint, vinyl, molded and laminated plastic countertops, doors, draw4rs, and cabinet bases.

Options in kitchen design have broadened because of new synthetic and composite materials and new construction methods for cabinets and countertops. Many kitchens now have what only the highest quality kitchens had a few years ago.

10-15.jpg (97152 bytes)fig. 10-15


Size and Shape

When planning kitchens, cabinet sizes and spacing plus the size of appliances need to be considered to assure that adequate space is available for all elements of the design. (see figs. 10-16 and 10-17) Figure 10-18 shows t6ypical sizes of common kitchen appliances.

10-16.jpg (41722 bytes)fig. 10-16 10-17.jpg (59709 bytes)fig. 10-17 10-18.jpg (109397 bytes)fig. 10-18


Link to Kitchen Planning Guidelines

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last updated 10/27/2002 -