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Kitchen design standards

Kitchen design standards

The goal of any kitchen layout is to make the cook's work easier and, where possible, to allow other people to enjoy the same space without getting in the way Understanding the accepted kitchen design standards can help you determine whether your present layout is sufficient or if your kitchen needs a radical layout change or expansion. The most important standards are those that deal with the arrangement of the major work areas, and the sizes and placement of the countertops, appliances and cabinets.

The Work Triangle

The work triangle is a well-known term that describes the arrangement of the three main work areas of a kitchen storage (refrigerator), food prep (oven and cooktop) and cleanup (sink and dishwasher). Each work area represents a point on the triangle, and the distance between any two points is called a leg. Although many sources offer what may sound like rules for the work triangle, the concept is merely a planning tool for balancing the relationship of the points to one another.

Guidelines offered by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) indicate that each leg of the triangle should be between 4 and 9 ft., the length the legs should total between 12 and 26 ft., and the arrangement of the points should discourage foot traffic through the triangle. Whenever possible, there should be a 4-ft. the corridor between all stationary elements, such as a perimeter counter and an island; anything less than 3 ft. results in reduced efficiency.

Of course, not all kitchens can accommodate what might be described as an ideal work triangle, or even a triangle at all. Some kitchens have four workstations rather than three, while others, such as galley kitchens, position all the work areas along one wall. The important thing is not to religiously follow a set of guidelines but to create a plan that lets you work efficiently in your kitchen. For more information regarding the work triangle, contact the NKBA.


Lack of countertop space is one of the most common complaints people have about their kitchens, but having adequate space is more than just a matter of surface area. The most useful counter spaces are those next to the main work areas and appliances. Table 1 lists the principle kitchen appliances and the minimum recommended countertop space for each. Although standard dimensions are given for each appliance, the actual sizes of your appliances should not affect the amount of countertop space needed. In addition to the allowances given in the table, a kitchen should have at least one uninterrupted counter surface that's at least 3 ft. long, for a food preparation area. As for overall countertop space, follow these recommendations: if your kitchen is less than 150 sq. ft., you should have at least 11 linear ft. of countertop space; if your kitchen is over 150 sq. ft., try to include at least 16 ft. 6 in. of counter space. Use Table 2 on to calculate the amount of space you'll need for eating areas. Most eating surfaces are 30 in., 36 in. or 42 in. above the floor, and the space you need to allow for each diner varies according to the height of the surface and the type of dining.