Answers to the Kitchen Triangle Mystery
Aug 31, 2020

Answers to the Kitchen Triangle Mystery

The kitchen triangle. We’ve all heard the term, but what does it really mean, and how relevant is it to good kitchen design today? According to the NKBA (National Kitchen & Bath Association), a well-known professional resource on kitchen and bathroom planning, “the triangle” refers to the cooktop, refrigerator and sink. No leg of the triangle should be less than 4 feet or more than 9 feet. The sum of the three triangle sides should not exceed 26 feet. And, no major traffic patterns should flow through the triangle

The “triangle” was established in the 1940’s as a general guideline for creating a certain proximity and distance among the three main kitchen work areas to ensure comfort and efficiency.  The idea was to make it as easy as possible to move between and function within the areas.  But back then, kitchens were smaller, and appliances were often bulkier and fewer.

Today, however, a well-designed kitchen stems not so much from sticking to the rulebook on how the triangle is defined, but from thinking about the different work zones — how you use them, what your storage requirements are, and then building your kitchen around that.  It often comes down to adapting the guidelines to personal needs and how the space will be used.  Happily, then there is no limit to the number of viable designs that keep the kitchen triangle in-tact while reflecting individual style and taste, so long as good flow and functionality are ensured.

Take, for example, today’s popular open-kitchen concept, or even the galley kitchen that is now making a comeback in smaller homes, condo’s and apartments.  For the open concept kitchen, a work-zone concept is a more relevant approach.  The Wyckoff, NJ kitchen below was designed with zones carefully laid out for the homeowner who cooks for her busy family of four every day and is also a passionate baker. Her Ulrich designer designated one wall of the perimeter as the cooking zone, with a full-feature gas range top and an auxiliary electric cooktop (a two-burner hob built-into the countertop adjacent to the range top).  The far left corner with its dedicated prep-sink is for food preparation, and the island is for clean-up, comprising the dishwasher and a large sink.  The back wall of cherry paneled cabinetry is for storage – with both ample refrigeration and pantry space.  Finally, the right side corner is dedicated to baking, with plenty of counter space and easy access to both pantry items and ovens.

In galley kitchens, the idea is to have the most frequently used tools at easiest reach, and less trafficked items farther out.  So you might have a sink and cooktop nearby each other, with refrigeration or pantry storage at one end or the other.  Plenty of drop spots and work areas also need to be considered, as befitting the user, to make meal prep and cooking easy.  Today, with many sleek appliance options to choose from, we can even get creative to fit in convenience items like the freezer drawers to the right of the cooking range, and the built-in coffee maker for the coffee lovers that live in this galley kitchen designed by Ulrich’s Bonnie Hufnagel:


    
So, ultimately, the kitchen triangle is a guideline.  Our design professionals know that the most important criteria in good kitchen design is to meet the aesthetic and functional needs of the homeowner and to focus on their individual lifestyle.  Ulrich designers take time to get to know our homeowners, and they spend a great deal of time together with them in planning their layout and making selections:  What is important to them and how will they use the space?  Will there be only one cook in the kitchen, or maybe two, or more?  Are they tall or short, or perhaps both?  Are they right handed or left-handed?  Do they have a particular cooking style they prefer?  Do they have children, a large family?  Well, you get the picture.  Guidelines are great, but a knowledgeable and talented professional can make all the difference in living in and loving your kitchen space!

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