The Work Triangle vs Work Zones in the Kitchen

The Work Triangle vs Work Zones in the Kitchen

Understanding the much-revered kitchen work triangle kitchen design is very important in the design of your kitchen workspace. This is a situation whereby the refrigerator, range and sink are positioned 4 to 9 feet apart, forming a more or less equilateral triangle. This kitchen design principle was developed back when a sizable number of families had smaller and closed-off kitchens, where it was the sole responsibility of one person to prepare and clean up meals. It is an orderly way of laying out appliances and the sink in a compact closed or semi-closed kitchen.

What is a Kitchen Work Triangle?

The kitchen work triangle is a concept that was developed back in the 1940’s when kitchens were very compact and appliances were very large. The kitchen was considered a cooking space only. The triangle connects 3 main work areas within the kitchen – the range, the sink and the refrigerator.  A general rule is that the distance between these three areas should be between 4 feet and 9 feet, no more and no less, with the sum of the three sides lying between 13 feet and 26 feet. In a case where the distance is very small, then the kitchen will feel not only blocked, but also cramped. On the other hand, too large of a distance makes the entire cooking process a hassle.

Despite the fact that the kitchen triangle is a 70-year-old rule, it is still something worth keeping in mind when you are redesigning your kitchen. Maintaining an ideal amount of space between the main working areas simplifies cooking while at the same time reducing traffic in the workplace.

Consider how well you move around your kitchen.  What element of your kitchen don’t you like? What causes you recurring problems while you’re cooking? Is there anything that could be added or removed with the slightest of changes using a small budget? Taking your time to think about what bothers you while working in your kitchen will help you figure out the best way to organize your kitchen based on the kitchen triangle format.


The kitchen work triangle was created at a time when kitchen decoration and entertainment were elements not worth some serious consideration. Nowadays, kitchens are larger and have become the focal points of every home, often sharing space with the living and dining rooms for easy entertaining.  Check out these kitchen portfolio pictures for more ideas.

In case you’re planning to redesign your kitchen, it is highly likely that you’re going to factor in elements such as eating, doing homework, and entertaining. By confining your cooking areas to one section of the kitchen, you’ll have adequate space left to use for other important purposes without unnecessary conflicts. If you currently have a kitchen work triangle, take its measurements and identify what adjustments you need to do, to have a more efficient working space. While taking the measurements, always keep in mind that it isn’t a necessity for the lengths of the triangle to be even. The shape of your triangle will depend on the current shape of your kitchen. Apart from the recommended distance between the three points of the kitchen work triangle, it is imperative to ensure that the lines of the work triangle aren’t blocked by things such as trash cans or any other kitchen items because it will only serve to make cooking harder and unpleasant.

You should always take into account additional functions whenever you’re determining your kitchen work triangle. Due to the fact that most modern kitchens are now multipurpose rooms, it’s vital to think about the functions you want your kitchen to serve. Determining whether you need a bar, large island, desk, multiple sinks, homework place and so on can play an instrumental role in helping you figure out the best way to position your work triangle.  Enough prep space is often overlooked simply because it isn’t clearly included when balancing the work triangle equation. Nonetheless, it is advisable to have two prep spaces, one near the stove and another one near the sink. You should always put spices, pots and utensils near the stove to make cooking easier.

Although the work triangle still has a significant role to play today, kitchens currently vary in terms of size and design, which means it is much better to think in terms of work zones rather than work triangles.

What is Kitchen Work Zone Design?

Work zones can be termed as the product of the kitchen work triangle’s natural evolution.  As kitchens enlarged and opened up to other rooms, including the living and dining rooms, it became hard to place appliances in a well-organized triangular layout. Furthermore, apart from the conventional appliances that were synonymous with the kitchen back then, more advanced appliances are now in use, something that has made the shift from the kitchen work triangle to kitchen work zones inevitable. Furthermore, people are socializing and working more in the space than before. Therefore, sectioning off the kitchen into work zones maximizes the efficiency in a larger space. It will be possible to accommodate more cooks and guests better than you can in a work triangle.

In a work zone, it is advisable to group fixtures and appliances according to use. Work zones are pretty easy to set up because you simply have to think about the tasks you perform on a regular basis, such as prep tasks, storing food, baking, cooking, eating, serving, making coffee, chilling wine, cleaning etc. This means each work zone will contain everything you need to perform a specific task. For example, dishwater should be placed near the sink while a compost and garbage bin are placed close to each other to streamline kitchen cleanup.



Take a look at thekitchn for additional details on setting up your kitchen workspace.

You should also store items at the right places in a manner that makes it possible to access when working in a given work zone.  Apart from grouping fixtures and appliances according to use, always ensure there is enough storage in each work zone to make it easier performing different tasks.

The wood-topped baking zone is ideal for rolling out pizza and kneading bread. The bread-baking and making tools should be stored in the cabinets beneath. This makes it possible for one person to work in this station while someone else prepares food in a different part.

You should also ensure that there are landing areas next to main appliances. Place a counter landing area next to major kitchen appliances, such as the wall ovens, microwave, and cooktop in order to increase efficiency and safety.  It is also important to consider how you’re going to set down something hot without moving halfway across the kitchen to find a suitable area to place it. This gives you another cooking work zone where you can place items such as cutting boards, knives, pans and pots in the cabinets and use their countertops for chopping and cooking prep purposes.

You should also create a kid’s zone in case you’re blessed with children. If you have enough space, set up a zone in the kitchen where the children can do their homework, eat snacks and hang out. This is great in the sense that you and your little ones will be in the kitchen together without them feeling left out.

Check out this article on Easy Steps for Designing a Kitchen Island to help you build your functional Work Zone.

Another zone worth considering is the one for your guests. If your kitchen is open and you like to entertain, I bet you understand how important it is for your guests to have a place to hang out and chat while you’re busy preparing a sumptuous meal for them. Having a large island or a peninsula is ideal for such a situation because it can effectively act as a barrier that prevents your visitors from interfering with you while at the same time giving them some comfortable place to relax while you work. You should also consider placing the items you use for entertaining and serving in the cabinets for easy access.


Whether you prefer traditional work triangle or work zones, the widths of your kitchen aisles is another thing you should pay some special attention to. The recommended minimum width for an aisle is 42 inches, but my preference is 48 inches, especially if the kitchen has multiple cooks. If you entertain and cook often and have adequate space, then you can extend to 54 inches. However, you shouldn’t go beyond 54 inches because it will make the space less efficient and you will most likely find yourself walking more than cooking.

Which one is working for you?

Do you have a kitchen work triangle or kitchen work zones in your kitchen? How well does the layout work out for you?  Contact us to spend some time with our designer to find out, which would be best for you and your kitchen functionality.

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One Comment

  1. James Glassman July 26, 2016 at 8:06 am

    i like this post, we visit again for more updates , thanks for sharing this article.

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