What is the Kitchen Work Triangle


When renovating a kitchen, the ‘kitchen work triangle’ is always mentioned. This is one of the most fundamental principles of efficient design and supposedly the centerpiece of any efficient kitchen. But what does it actually mean, where did it come from and is it still relevant today?

In simple terms, the kitchen work triangle connects the three most important appliances in your kitchen:

  • the sink
  • the refrigerator
  • the stove

The rule is that these three appliances need to be a certain distance from each other to ensure optimal productivity. If they’re too far apart, it can make cooking a bit of a nuisance. Too close together and it may be cramped. As kitchens have developed over time, so too have the needs of the work triangle. According to its original principles, the big three should be between four and nine feet apart — no more, no less. What’s more, the sum of all three sides should be between 13 and 26 feet. The triangle must not be broken by household traffic if your kitchen is used for access to another room. Sounds like a lot of rules, doesn’t it? However, this fundamental design principle has been used for over 70 years to maximize kitchen space and streamline food preparation.

History of the Triangle

Developed in the 1940’s by the University of Illinois School of Architecture, the kitchen work triangle was based on scientific management principles that sought to improve economic efficiency. At the time, appliances were bulky and kitchens were small — making space a hot commodity. This was especially the case after the Second World War when the housing shortage led to a glut of small quick-builds. Due to these limitations, the kitchen was every bit ergonomic and strictly used for cooking. Not the social hub it is today. Now, we have much more freedom when it comes to space and appliances. For example, ranges come in a variety of sizes, from compact to commercial, so it’s much easier for us to design kitchens according to personal limitations. We also have access to a huge diversity of appliances, namely microwaves, dishwashers and plugin appliances like blenders and toasters and grills.

In the modern home, the kitchen is a multipurpose room, a social space, a hot desk. From homework to house parties, it’s developed beyond its original function and come to characterize the family that uses it. As such, it’s really important to think about how you’ll use your kitchen beyond the obvious need of preparing meals. It’s a space of work and play, and this needs to be taken into account when considering your kitchen work triangles. Fundamentally, there are no rules when it comes to kitchen renovation. Every person has different requirements you can design a space that is as fun, functional and works for your specific kitchen. At RTA Wood Cabinets our kitchen designers are knowledgeable and can design your dream kitchen taking all your must haves and wants in to account while making sure its fully functional and beautiful.

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