Post by Stacey Walker. Stacey mostly works behind the scenes for Walker Woodworking, managing day to day operations, and marketing. Stacey has helped many clients create their dream space.

Updating the Kitchen Work Triangle

We all would agree that the kitchen is the heart of the home, it is where we spend time prepping for the day and gathering together to catch up on everyone’s activities. Designers understand the vital role the kitchen plays in the day to day activities and look to create the perfect space suited to your unique lifestyle needs. There are multiple variants when planning a new design but there are three things that never change in a kitchen: the sink, stove, and refrigerator. These three pieces are standard and essential to the flow and function of this area which resulted in the birth of the work triangle. The triangle has held as the guiding rule in designing a kitchen space for decades but lately designers are beginning to wonder if it is becoming outdated or even relevant to the evolution of the heart of the home. The work triangle tends to not work as well with tight spaces like the galley kitchen or can get lost in an open concept. Workstations are now trending and can even be used in place of the triangle. Is the work triangle still relevant to design? Should it be replaced completely or does it just need a little updating? Let’s talk about that now.

Purpose of the work triangle

It helps to first understand the purpose of the work triangle, why it has been used for so long in the design world. The concept was initially put in place to allow you to move between the sink, stove, and refrigerator with relative ease along with minimal traffic hindrance. It has guided designers as they began the layout planning for a new kitchen or remodelling an old one. As it has been referred to as the “golden triangle” you might almost say it is the golden rule of kitchen design. It also allowed for a consistent starting point for designers and gave some clarity as well.

Updating the work triangle

Many say that if something isn’t broken it shouldn’t be fixed and while the work triangle is not broken the current purpose of the kitchen has brought a need for an upgrade. The kitchen no longer functions as just a place to cook family meals. Now it serves as a small office, a place to jot down the errand list, a homework station, and even a restaurant. The work triangle is still the main time tested design rule that will no doubt continue to guide the majority of kitchen design but when it comes to more challenging spaces it may need some minor or complete adjustments to give you the best use of space. No matter the size of your kitchen the three main components remain the same, the stove, sink, and refrigerator but if you are designing for a galley kitchen these tweeks are helpful:

  • Keep the refrigerator close to the sink
  • The stove should be near the serving area
  • Good distance between these two areas

For an open concept kitchen some adjustments to the work triangle can be made as well. There can be a temptation to spread everything out due to more space but since the main function of a kitchen is to cook you don’t want to carry dripping water from the sink to the stove or leave your food cooking on the stove unattended while you grab something from the refrigerator. Try keeping these elements close together. 

Spaces within the triangle

One new design feature that has gained popularity over the last decade are workstations. This idea is simply an area in the kitchen that provides everything you need for a particular task such as baking or prep cooking. It also integrates well with the work triangle because it is like having a zone within a zone. 

Prep workstations are ideal for getting things ready for cooking like having large bowls and colanders stored in a cabinet by the sink. Your silverware and utensil drawer should be nearby along with plenty of cutting boards. 

Baking workstations should include large bowls, mixers, and baking sheets. You should also be close to the pantry to get all the dry ingredients you need but not too far from the refrigerator to access items such as milk and eggs. Incorporate a lower cabinet with dividers to store all your muffin tins and baking sheets. Don’t forget to keep those whisks and scrapers nearby too so you easily mix those batters.

Cooking stations are best located near the stove and should have cabinets with pots and pans nearby. Plates and platters would also be ideally stored close by since the finished product will need to go on something. Keep a stock of utensils handy especially spatula and tongs along with some paper towels to clean up any spills.

Workstations mean less movement or blockage in the flow of traffic and when they are placed in the right area of the work triangle they can give you the best of it all and make cooking simpler and more enjoyable for everyone. Read a little more about the workstation concept here from House Beautiful.

Don’t block the traffic

One of the main goals with implementing the work triangle was to keep the flow of traffic unhindered and allow everyone to move with little hindrance or accidents. Your kitchen island should be incorporated into the design of the work triangle instead of a blockage and the dining table needs to be kept out of the main flow of traffic as well. Of course traffic is designed to be able to move through the area; it should not be designed around a busy area, for instance doorways should be outside the zone. Utilizing the kitchen island for the work triangle is great since you can place the sink or stove into it while the opposite side creates a natural barrier or seating area. It is important to keep your routine and lifestyle needs in mind when planning the layout of your kitchen. This helps guide what needs to go where and the amount of traffic that will be there throughout the day. Be sure to talk with your designer about what you need the space to accomplish and the main purpose along with how many will be using it at any given time.

Designing your work kitchen triangle

It is doubtful if there will ever be another design element or guideline that has made such a lasting impact on the kitchen design industry as the work triangle. It continues to guide designers as they create the ideal renovated space for their clients and provides the function necessary to have a smooth routine no matter what it is. It can, however, be in need of a few tweeks to bring it up to speed for our new and improved kitchen spaces. A good designer knows and understands this and is able to adapt a design to create the very best solutions for every client’s unique regiment. Our design team has spent countless hours creating hundreds of layouts for clients with needs that go from small spaces to large open areas that blend with other areas of the home. We are the experienced team you need to help build your new dream kitchen so connect with us today and let’s get started designing your perfect work triangle.