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Basic Layouts for Kitchen Cabinets, Appliances, and Plumbing

The Work Triangle: Efficient Architecture for Food Preparation Areas

© 2011 by Kelly Smith; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission

A kitchen work triangle architecture; photo courtesy Peter Oreilly

During a kitchen remodeling project, architectural design is critical. There are 4 popular layout styles that use the work triangle concept.

Attractive, functional kitchens don’t just happen; they’re carefully engineered, either by hand or using architectural software. The concept to start with is that there are three basic task areas to coordinate; these are food storage (refrigerator), cooking (stove/microwave), and cleanup (sink/garbage disposal/dishwasher).

These three areas are configured in such a way that travel between them is efficient and convenient. It turns out that the best way is to have each area be a point on what’s called the kitchen work triangle.

Food preparation like slicing and dicing can be done anywhere inside the triangle or in some cases, on an island counter just on the outside edge of one of the sides of the triangle. Here are the 4 types.

  1. The U-Shaped Kitchen Layout

    In this layout, three cabinets are laid out in a U-shape. The cleanup sink and dishwasher area are in the center of one side, the refrigerator food storage on another, and the cooking area on the third.

    This leaves an open area in the center that allows for more than one person to work comfortably if the kitchen is large enough.

    This layout is very traditional and works well in medium to large sized homes. There is almost always a window on one of the sides to take advantage of natural lighting during the daytime.

  2. A Modified U becomes a G-Shape

    The G-shape is similar to a U except that a short counter is added at a 90 degree angle to one of the cabinet ends. Viewed from above, it looks like the capital letter G.

    This version is also called a peninsula layout by some interior decorators and architects. The short countertop is handy for many uses. It may be used as a transition between the kitchen and dining area to transfer prepared food.

    It is also a great place for a cutting board or working with small appliances like blenders or juicers. The extra cabinet space below is a great place to store appliances or pots and pans.

  3. The Galley Shaped Kitchen

    This version is popular in small homes and one-bedroom apartments. Generally, it’s made up of one long counter and one shorter one, parallel to each other. There are several drawbacks to this configuration.

    First, it’s impractical for more than one person to work in. Another drawback is that storage space is very limited.

    Because of this, many smaller kitchens incorporate a floor-to-ceiling pantry with shelving. This is handy for all-purpose storage: canned goods, small appliances, and cleaning supplies.

  4. The L-Shaped Version

    A very popular layout, the L-shape just uses two long countertops at a 90 degree angle. Usually, the sink is located in the center of one, which allows for plenty of food prep space on both sides.

    The cooking area is located in the center of the other cabinet, and the refrigerator is located at the far end. Since the other two sides are wide open, more than one person can work comfortably.

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