The Work Triangle Vs. Work Zones

Work with a kitchen designer to decide whether the work triangle or work zones are best for your kitchen.If you’re considering a renovation to your kitchen space, planning the layout of your kitchen design is the most important step. Deciding the location of the appliances and kitchen features will have an impact on how functional, convenient and comfortable your kitchen is.

For example, imagine the layout of your kitchen has your cabinets and sink on one side of the kitchen space and your dishwasher all the way on the other side. It would take a lot longer to load and unload your dishwasher because you’ll have to carry dishes across the kitchen space.

When planning your kitchen design, there are two basic layout options. You can choose the traditional work triangle or the use of more modern work zones. The work triangle has been around for decades, since the refrigerator became a staple of the kitchen. With the popularity of larger kitchens that open to adjacent rooms, work zones have also emerged as an effective kitchen layout alternative.

How do you choose which is best for you?

The Kitchen Work Triangle

The kitchen work triangle has been considered the best way to design a kitchen for years. It’s a concept that’s been put to use since the 1940’s, back when kitchens were often smaller.

The kitchen triangle layout focuses on the triangular arrangement of the three main appliances in the kitchen: the oven, refrigerator and sink. These are also the three main work areas. By placing them equal distance from one another, you create a triangular shape. This makes it easy to get from one work area to another as quickly as possible.

The Rules of the Kitchen Work Triangle

There are a few rules that you should follow to create an effective work triangle. Generally, the distance between each appliance – or work area – should be no less than four feet and no more than nine feet apart from one another. This ensures that your kitchen isn’t too cramped, and that each work area is a convenient distance from the other.

Because every kitchen is shaped differently, there are different approaches to the kitchen work triangle. In some cases, your sink may be closer to your stove than it is to your refrigerator. Or you may have a kitchen island that sits in the center of your kitchen space. Kitchen work triangles typically work best for smaller kitchen designs that emphasize food preparation and cleanup over everything else.

The Kitchen Work Zones

Kitchen work zones don’t exactly represent a completely different alternative to the work triangle. Instead, they are more of an evolution of the work triangle.

The role of the kitchen has changed dramatically over the past few decades. The kitchen space isn’t just an area used for the preparation of food anymore. Today, families use the kitchen as a secondary dining space as well as a space to entertain. Many families even use the kitchen space for office work or homework as well. It has become much more communal than it ever was before.

In addition to the fact that the basic function of a kitchen has broadened over the years, kitchens have also grown in size. This is not only a result of the ways in which the kitchen has grown in use, but also due to the use of different appliances. More homeowners have begun implementing dishwashers, microwaves, larger refrigerator units, secondary sinks, wall ovens and more into their kitchen designs.

What has all of this meant for the work triangle? It’s grown a bit obsolete for families who want to use their kitchen for multiple purposes and want to incorporate many large appliances. This is where work zones come in. The basic principle of a work zone is to divide the kitchen up into different areas, or “zones,” in which fixtures and appliances are grouped together according to their use.

The Rules of Creating Kitchen Work Zones

When planning out work zones, think about the different functions you’re planning to have for your kitchen. Then think about the tasks that you will be performing regularly, like storing food, meal prep, cooking, baking, serving, eating and cleaning. Each zone should be set up to perform specific tasks.

Take the task of cleaning for example. A zone set up for cleaning would most likely consist of a sink, counter space, a dishwasher and a nearby compost and garbage bin. This makes cleaning efficient since you can stay within that one zone.

Each zone should also have enough storage space so that you don’t have to wander out of the zone to complete a task. For example, your spices and cooking ware should be stored within the same zone as your stove. Counter landing spaces should be used between each zone as a transitional area to help improve efficiency and safety.

For larger kitchen spaces, you may want more than one of a particular feature or appliance. For example, you may want a sink for your clean up zone as well as a secondary sink for your food prep zone. If you only have one sink, you’ll have to plan the zones so that they are able to share that sink.

You should also think about the other ways your family will use the kitchen. Will you be entertaining? Do you want to be able to see into your living room, so you can interact with the kids or your guests while you cook? Maybe one side of your kitchen island is set up as an entertainment and serving zone, where people can eat snacks, do work or socialize with whoever is using the kitchen. You may want to strengthen this zone by adding outlets for a laptop and other devices.

There are a lot of differences between a kitchen work triangle and work zones. Deciding on which one to use depends on a number of different factors. How are you planning on using your kitchen? How many appliances do you plan on installing? How much space do you have?

Talk over your priorities with your designer. They’ll help you decide which design is best for you, your family, and your space. Then, they will help you determine whether a work triangle or the use of work zones will suit your kitchen design the best.