Developed in the 1940s, the kitchen work triangle is a concept used to optimize the layout of kitchens by dividing them into three areas: cooking, prepping, and storage. The concept grew from Taylorism, using an engineering approach to maximizing efficiency in the kitchen. This golden rule has been regarded as a standard of functionality for many decades — but does it still apply to modern kitchens and lifestyles? Read on to find out.
Pros of the Kitchen Work Triangle
It maximizes space
Due to its dimension requirements, the kitchen work triangle can easily be implemented in small or medium-sized kitchens. The principles behind it state that the length of one triangle leg should be no less than 4 feet and no more than 9 feet, while the sum of the three sides should be no less than 13 feet and no more than 26 feet. The three corners of the triangle are the stove, the sink, and the refrigerator, breaking it into designated areas for cooking, prepping and storage, respectively. Cabinets and other obstacles should not intersect the length of any triangle leg by more than 12 inches, making the workspace ergonomic.
It improves the workflow
The way the kitchen work triangle was designed, it is meant to allow the cook to easily rotate between tasks, while at the same time having everything close to hand. Its intuitive layout means that you only need to take a couple of steps between chopping some onions, tossing them in a frying pan, and turning around to put the chopping board in the sink. It is a very fluent design concept, and as a result, it has been implemented in professional kitchens as well as households.
It minimizes traffic and risk of accidents
Given the fact that it places everything within easy reach, the work triangle reduces traffic around the kitchen. Having cabinets and other obstacles out of the way means that there’s also no risk of bottlenecks, while at the same time reducing the risks of accidents, such as tripping over a chair or knocking something off the table.
Cons of the Kitchen Work Triangle
It doesn’t work for all cooks
When the kitchen work triangle was first introduced as a concept in the 1940s, meals were the designated task for wives. Therefore, it made sense that the layout was meant to optimize the workflow of just one cook. Modern families and couples, on the other hand, often cook together, with two people needing to use the stove or the sink. Other cooks simply prefer to have the prepping, cooking and washing up stations all on the same counter.
One solution to this is delegating tasks, so it’s up to you and your partner to set up your cooking choreography. Another solution would be to opt for a galley kitchen, where the prepping and cooking areas are on two parallel runs of units, with a central corridor in between, leaving you plenty of space to move around.
It doesn’t fit all types of kitchens
If your kitchen is set up along a wall, it is geometrically impossible to achieve a work triangle. The same applies for galley-style kitchens and kitchenettes, where there is not enough space to implement this design, and where one leg of the triangle might not reach the minimum requirement of 4 feet. Some kitchens may even have more than three workstations, while open-concept kitchens might have the sink and prepping area set in an island, with the fridge and stove on either side.
The kitchen work triangle relies heavily on carefully measured coordinates that are meant to make the most of your workspace; however, these cannot be implemented in every household.
It is somewhat outdated
Much has changed in the way we use and think about our kitchens. If in the past, the kitchen was just the place where food was made, nowadays many designs include features like breakfast nooks, bar islands, and even the main serving area for the food.
Kitchens have not only increased in size, but they have also become a hang-out spot in recent decades, with islands being a center point for both eating, drinking, or even just socializing with guests and family. Not only that, but with new kitchen appliances making their way into households, like dishwashers and microwave ovens, a more ergonomic approach is dividing the space into kitchen zones, such as prepping, cooking, baking, and cleaning areas.
The kitchen is the heart of the modern home, and most of us decide on whether to buy or rent a place based on the layout and amenities that come with it. When it was first introduced, the kitchen work triangle was meant to optimize the cooking space, and the principles behind it still apply. However, you should always think about how you will use the kitchen, and what activities will take place there. At the end of the day, nothing is set in stone, and it’s your lifestyle that ultimately dictates the best setup for your kitchen.