Fall of the Kitchen Triangle and the Rise of Designing with Workstations
Updated: Mar 24
Often they are the heart of the home, a hub that branches out and connects with other spaces. As designers, kitchens are one of our favorite spaces to design. Each one, expressive and distinct as to reflect the unique ways each family or individual utilizes them. In any home renovation or new house, one concept that consistently gets brought up during design is the Kitchen Triangle. But more and more, we find it doesn't work with our modern lifestyles and how we want to use our spaces. Essentially, its use has become obsolete, being replaced with more modern workstations.
What was the reason behind creating kitchens with the triangle design?
The kitchen triangle, or the ‘working triangle’ was developed with the idea that there are three main working stations or zones in the kitchen which should form a triangle. These three workstations are the refrigerator, the stove, and the sink. The rule of the kitchen triangle theory is that each of these should be between 4 to 9 feet from each other and the total sum of the triangle should be 13 to 26 linear feet. The thought process is that the traffic flow of a kitchen rotates between these three areas and that by having them simultaneously close to one another but not too close that the cook(s) will never be impeded when bringing food from fridge to sink to stove.
Fun Fact: The University of Illinois School of Architecture claims to have come up with the concept in the 1940s as a way to cut construction costs.
Why is the triangle becoming obsolete?
This adage has been around for decades but just as the definition of a household has expanded, so too has how we view and use the kitchen. Kitchens are no longer hidden-away utilitarian spaces. Often, they are the hub of the home, becoming not just a space for food preparation, but also a space for entertaining, eating and even working. We are designing our kitchens to do more.
Also, who uses the kitchen has changed. Whereas, the kitchen used to be the realm of the homemaker; now more parties are involved and active in the space. Children are expected to be able to serve themselves cereal in the mornings, and partners are happily joining together to create dinner.
Instruments are available that never were before. The pot filler changes the kitchen game! No more are we required to lug the heavy pot full of water from sink to stove top. Instead, we can design a space that centers you within your soup zone.
People cook differently. Some of us are bakers, solo practitioners, mixologists, or culinarist etc.. Maybe your home is charcuterie central, or you are a big Sunday afternoon food prepper. Our kitchen should support how we want to use them and not be based on the three-station model.
Within both renovation and new homes, floor plans are opening up and we are seeing more of our spaces. This means that the previously behind the scenes of prepping and cooking are exposed for all to see. This adds consideration about what is in view with design solutions such as appliance garages making a comeback. This also affects how you want to engage with guests, and even your partner when cooking. What we’ve found is everyone has a different perspective on what can be seen and how much their company/family interacts or doesn’t with the cook. All to say that, each kitchen should be different and not based on some formula.
What is the future of kitchen design?
When renovating or building a new home, the first step in designing your kitchen should be to flush out how you use your kitchen or want to use your kitchen. The three workstations have become many!! And you should look at creating your own workstations based on how you and your family use the kitchen.
Creating your own zones:
Start by thinking about what tasks you often do in the kitchen. Do you work a lot in your kitchen? Do your kids do their homework there? Eat breakfast? Bake a lot? Make a lot of espresso (cough cough... my husband)? And then think of everything you need to support those tasks. What would make those easier to perform? For example, for a family with an avid baker, we'll look to create the baking zone. You need your dry ingredients, baking dishes & measuring spoons, access to water, refrigeration of things like butter & milk. You'll need proximity to an oven but not necessarily a stove. You may spend a few moments grabbing items from the fridge, but it would be no more than grabbing your dry items from your pantry. What really makes the difference for the home baker is the countertop space. While baking, ample counter space is paramount for gathering ingredients, measuring bowls and having the heavy mixer (that most of us store below the counter until the holidays time rolls around) in a more easily accessible location like an appliance garage.
Good design, whether kitchen or home design, is about taking the time to think through these things that will help improve and support the life we want to live.
Feel free to download and use our kitchen design template that we give to clients to help us understand how to design their kitchens. It goes into some of the more common workstations/zones. And it helps to start thinking about how you use your kitchen for your next renovation, addition or new home.
Jen Demitor, Owner and Principal Architect
and Taryn Knapp, Senior Designer.