What is a kitchen triangle and are there any alternatives

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A lot of clients, when asked about the most important room in their house, name the kitchen without a second of hesitation (various surveys have also been conducted on this topic). Therefore we need to pay attention to design and organize it so it works perfectly around their lifestyle.

Hands down the main focus when designing a kitchen should be on the workflow. After all, it has to be useful and practical before it is pretty. Trust me, even the most beautiful kitchen finished with the best and most expensive materials will be completely useless if not organized well. Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra time on its layout. Your clients will be forever grateful.

If you’d like to read about 7 mistakes you definitely don’t want to make when designing a kitchen, go ahead and check out this article.

There are many things you need to consider when designing a kitchen, but the one you might start with is the kitchen triangle. It’s not the Bermuda Triangle to be avoided. On the contrary, if you follow the kitchen triangle rule, you can be sure that you’ll make the first step toward practicality.

What is a kitchen triangle?

It does sound a bit strange at first. You might imagine an appliance of some sort or a sign you put on the floor to warn people when it’s wet. But it’s all about the relationship between kitchen appliances and their proper position.

Let me paint you a picture. Since to know how to design a certain space, you need to know how to use it.

You go in the kitchen to prepare something for dinner. What’s the first thing you (usually) do? You open the fridge and tell yourself off for forgetting to do groceries again. No? Only me? Well then, you probably get the products out. Some veggies, anyone? Now that you have them, they need to be cleaned and prepared. After that, off to the pot they go.

Did you notice there were three appliances involved in my thrilling story? There is your triangle. Meaning that the fridge, the sink, and the stove should, ideally, be placed so that they form a triangle. This way moving between them while performing various tasks is optimized for comfort and time-saving.

kitchen triangle in a u-shaped kitchen

What if I can’t create a triangle?

Not every kitchen is the same. The perfect kitchen triangle is created in a U-shaped kitchen. After all, it's the most efficient shape a kitchen can have. What if the one you’re supposed to design is not even close to that?

Galley (or parallel) kitchens, be it with two rows of cabinets or with an island in the middle, still keep most of the practicality. Even though there aren’t three rows of cabinets to place one appliance in each, the user can still save time by simply turning around to reach the other part of the workplace. In this case, we should place two appliances in the same row, and the third one on the opposite side. See? The triangle remains.

kitchen triangle in a galley kitchen

The most difficult shape to design is the one-lined kitchen. I’m talking practicality-wise. Where would you create the triangle? A flat line will never have three angles, right? No worries, there is a solution for small kitchens too. To avoid going back and forth from one side of the kitchen to the other, place the appliances in line, in the order that the user usually needs them. 

kitchen triangle in a one-lined kitchen

Now, depending on whether your clients are left- or right-handed (yes, this seemingly small detail plays a significant role in various aspects of interior design), you can place the fridge on one end, the sink in the middle, and the stove on the other end.

What dimensions should the kitchen triangle have?

Since it’s an ergonomic rule, there are measurements we should followe to ensure the proper effect. It’s probably the least interesting part of it all. But it has to be said:

  • the sum of the triangle sides should not exceed 26 inches/
  • the distance between each appliance should be 4 - 9 feet long
  • No obstacle should intrude into the triangle more than 12 inches

Now don’t go running with a tape measure and freaking out if the fridge in your project is one inch too far from the sink. I suggest you simply keep in mind that the distance shouldn’t be too long because otherwise, your clients will lose a lot of time moving between the appliances (it might work if they aim to do as many steps as possible in a day. Health benefits as a bonus!). It shouldn’t be too small either as it’s important to have some countertop space between the appliances as well.

And remember to not obstruct the path between the appliances with an island. If you have one, place the appliances closer to its edges so that your clients don’t have to walk around all of it to reach the other appliance.

Is it necessary?

Even if the kitchen triangle rule might sound a bit outdated and a lot of designers decide to not follow it, a true benefit that comes from incorporating this rule in your design is that you can be sure to have enough space between the appliances for preparation and storage.

And that your clients, probably subconsciously, will feel that the work in the kitchen you designed goes as smoothly as it gets.

After all, every ergonomic rule was established to bring a benefit. Quite often the benefit concerned the production processes but not only. As per this article - “Ergonomics (or ‘human factors’ as it is referred to in North America) is a branch of science that aims to learn about human abilities and limitations, and then apply this learning to improve people’s interaction with products, systems and environments”. So there must be something to it.

Are there any alternatives?

If the kitchen triangle rule is not appealing to you, or if your clients have more than one cook in the family and therefore the kitchen layout gets more complex - use work zones instead. Design a proper storage zone, cleaning zone, prepping zone, and cooking zone. Each can contain more than one main appliance and accommodate more than one person. Just determine the proper relation between the zones, as, again, a smooth workflow is crucial.

Never forget that you’re designing for a person. Not for the rules and standards. So make sure you discuss the kitchen workflow with your clients. It might turn out that the standard kitchen triangle rule doesn’t necessarily apply in their case. Treat it as a suggestion. A good tip to follow. But don’t be afraid to adjust it to your clients' needs. Don’t compromise the workflow and efficiency for a design trend though.

Go ahead and check out my 25 mistakes to avoid when designing a kitchen guide. It comes with a practical checklist that will help you ensure your next kitchen design is a *chef's kiss* of efficiency!

or click here

hi there!

I'm Aleksandra, an interior architect with multinational experience, on a mission to help beginning or self-taught designers gain confidence and create systems that will help them bring their businesses to the next level.

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hi, I'm Aleksandra!

I will help you create an organized interior design business with systems and processes, and to gain confidence to bring your career to the next level.

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