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Is the Kitchen Triangle Dead?

Posted: 24 March 2015

In brief, the answer is no. It has simply evolved to be adaptable to the ever changing landscape of kitchen design, able to incorporate the latest technology in appliances and flexible enough to conform to the needs of multiple users.

What is the Work Triangle and What Is Its History?

Since the introduction of indoor plumbing and refrigeration, kitchen design has followed a basic "Work Triangle" principle as the foundation for most kitchen layouts. Traditionally, the goal of a good kitchen design has been to place the three most common work sites at the most efficient distance apart and to minimize traffic through the work zone.


traditional kitchen work triangleThese three most common work sites are defined as refrigerated food storage, cleaning and cooking. Together they form the three main points that create the “triangle”. If you place these too far from each other you create unnecessary steps during meal preparation. If they are too close to each other you may create a cramped place in which to work.


Sounds like a fairly simple concept to follow, right? Well,  it is not that simple anymore. As advancements in technology affect other aspects of our lives, they also impact the” traditional work triangle”.


The triangle was built on the premise that we had one sink, one refrigerator and one stove. If only we were content keeping things simple. When Thermador introduced their refrigeration “towers” a few years back it threw another wrench into the equation. For the first time the freezer and refrigerator did not have to be attached like Siamese twins. If they are not placed in the same location which should you use as a point when laying out the triangle? Similarly, the original work work triangle concept predates seconds sinks, wall ovens with separate cook tops,  and refrigerator drawers for fresh produce. Imagine how complicated it gets when you start to add warming drawers and microwave ovens and secondary dishwashers.

Overlaying Triangles

Sometimes the more complicated things get, the more you need to keep it simple and go back to basics. In designing kitchens for our Clark Construction clients, we use the principles of the basic kitchen triangle but add a twist to adapt to today’s larger kitchen layouts by  “overlaying” triangles within the space.


By prioritizing what is important to you we create multiple triangles that define the zones used by various people in the kitchen.Typically, the primary triangle uses the cook top; refrigerator drawers and prep sink to define the “cooking” zone.The secondary triangle uses the main sink and dishwasher, full refrigerator and perhaps the table to define the “clean up” zone.Using the concept of overlaying, we can keep adding to the formula as our space expands to include snack centers, coffee stations and even specialty areas like baking centers.


Clark Construction's kitchen triangle with cleanup and cooking zonesAs an example, the illustration to the left shows a large kitchen features a center island equipped with prep sink, refrigerated produce drawers and a microwave drawer. All are easily reached from the cooktop with just a pivot on one’s heel.By placing the refrigerator and the ovens at opposite ends of the walls the space is capable of having many people in it at a given time without getting in each other’s way.


The primary cooking zone includes the prep sink, stove and refrigerator drawers. A second triangle illustrates the cleanup flow between the table, the sink and dishwasher and the refrigerator for putting away leftovers. The bright red third triangle shows how snack time allows kids the opportunity to heat their own snack in the microwave and enjoy it at the island without having to come in the cooking zone.


As the number and kind of appliances you plan to use effects the design, you will want to get a handle on this early in the game. Your kitchen designer can give you some insight into what appliances you might want and help you balance your budget between appliances and your kitchen remodel. With a trip to an appliance showroom, you can get a quick tutorial on the endless choice of new products available to make cooking in your kitchen feel like you are auditioning for a spot on the Food Network. (We refer our clients to Albano Appliances' beautiful showroom in Scott's Corners). The appliance sales people will help guide you and narrow your options based on your lifestyle and cooking needs, as well as space and budget limitations.


Armed with knowledge about your appliances, and the principles of overlaying triangles, your designer can create the optimum kitchen design  for you, your family and your lifestyle.


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