Kitchen Layouts

Use these 10 design-savvy strategies to devise efficient, easily traversed kitchen layouts that place appliances, prep surfaces, and cooking implements exactly where they're needed.


Thoughtful planning upfront results in kitchen layouts that perfectly satisfy a household's cooking, eating, and gathering needs. Here's a look at 10 things to keep in mind when designing kitchen layouts:

1. Triangulate functions. Place cooking, cooling, and cleanup stations so they create a compact work triangle that is easily maneuvered and out of the way of household traffic patterns. Optimize efficiency by placing preparation areas between the refrigerator and sink. Distances between the triangle's three points should be no less than 4 feet and no more than 9 feet. The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends that the three sides of a work triangle add up to no more than 26 feet.

2. Correctly calculate counter space. Allow 36 inches of uninterrupted counter space per cook for food preparation and 42 inches if you plan on rolling out cookie or pie dough. Don't forget landing or touchdown spots for resting ingredients, in-process culinary efforts, and dirty dishes. The NKBA recommends you include at least 15 inches of open countertop on either side of refrigerators, ranges, cooktops, and ovens; sinks should have at least 18 inches open on one side and 24 inches on the other.

3. Sketch in an island or peninsula. Place the structure so it separates cooking and living spaces, provides seating outside the work core, completes or enhances the kitchen's work triangle, and, when possible, serves additional rooms, an example being a convenient buffet for an adjoining dining space.

4. Offset island workstations. Move main sinks or cooktops left or right of center on islands to create continuous sweeps of countertop that can accommodate multiple chefs and host extensive buffets.

5. Direct the eye. Place noteworthy elements on every wall. Position sinks and seating so dishwashers and diners take in window-framed views; fashion a focal point backsplash behind the range; and install open shelves to display colorful collections.

6. Dine in. Even if your island boasts seating, you may want to fit a breakfast room into a bay window, install a banquette in a corner, or simply move in a table and chairs to host family meals, provide extra seating when a party's on tap, and/or accommodate hobbies or computing. Place the dining area outside the work core, but near the kitchen's main serving surface.

7. Tailor storage. Make a written (or photographic) inventory of all the things, from pantry staples to table linens and roasting pans, that you want to store in your kitchen. Measure the items to determine how much storage space you'll need. Then, create a cabinet plan that properly places the objects near where they'll be most often used.

8. Amplify accessibility. Include serve-yourself stations on perimeter walls, islands, and peninsulas that function independently of the work core. Create a breakfast-making center equipped with a toaster, microwave, and coffeemaker near the refrigerator; place refrigerators where guests and kids can grab beverages without getting in the cook's way; position a bar sink, liquor cabinet, and wine cooler at the outer end of an island or along an underused wall.

9. Make way for technology. Designate areas for charging personal electronic equipment and operating computers. Devise an electrical plan that contains ambient and task lighting and strategically sets electrical outlets and switches on islands and perimeter walls.

10. Customize conveniences. If you entertain often, work two dishwashers or multiple dishwasher drawers into your kitchen layout. Do you like to bake? Consider adding a pastry center near your range or oven that is outfitted with a lowered countertop, electrical outlets, and pullouts that hold a standing mixer and a food processor. A news junkie? Install a media center cabinet or a flat-screen television that can be viewed from seats at the island or eating area.

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