The Tried and True Triangle

This classic kitchen layout has stood the test of time

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For three decades the gospel of kitchen design has been found in basic geometry. For maximum efficiency and ease of movement, draw an imaginary triangle from the center of each of the traditional work centers: the refrigerator, the sink and the range. Guidelines state there should be no more than 26 feet total distance between the legs of the triangle and each leg should measure between four and nine feet.

Recently the triangle notion has come under fire by those who say the introduction of kitchen islands and peninsulas have made the triangle obsolete. A National Kitchen and Bath Association task force recently re-examined the triangle and determined that although modern designs have made some changes to layout ideas, the work triangle remains at the core of today’s designs, says Mark Karas, president elect of NKBA. He adds, though, that to stay current, the triangle — which continues to work best in smaller or one-person kitchens — often needs to be tweaked.

Instead of one work triangle designers now often think in terms of multiple triangles. New kitchens can have a second triangle (or more) to include additional sinks or appliances such as warming drawers or microwave. As new areas are created to make room for more cooks in the kitchen, the basic concept and NKBA recommendation remain the same: four to nine feet of distance between each station. Ideally, triangles should not intersect with an island or peninsula by more 12 inches. Designers also should consider floor space and allow for an area roughly 30 by 48 inches in front of each appliance. If the kitchen is U-shaped, plan on a minimum of 60 inches between opposing sides.

“The triangle is good starting point but the bottom line is you have to work within the space you are given,” Karas says, “That’s why we call them guidelines.”

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