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The Magic Triangle: Designing Your Kitchen to Work for You

Putting together a kitchen plan involves a lot of squares and rectangles. A center island, vertical cabinets, drawers, and cubbyholes are squared off, as are many top-of-the-line stainless-steel appliances with sleek lines. Think about all the 90-degree corners: refrigerators, walls, ovens, the ranges, even the popular farmhouse sink is a deep rectangle. So it might surprise you that traditionally, when our professionals at Diamond Kitchen and Bath design kitchens for maximum functionality, we think about a triangle! This triangle is imaginary but important: it’s a pattern for how, and where, to position different work centers in the heart of the home.

AN OFFICIAL DEFINITION

The National Kitchen and Bath Association describes the kitchen “work triangle” thus: a straight line drawn from the center of the sink, to the center of the cooktop, to the center of the refrigerator, and back. Take a look at your kitchen and draw that imaginary line in your head—chances are a triangle’s exactly what you’ll see. Until most of us look closely at our kitchens, we don’t realize how consistent this is!

The Association goes further to specify that the sum of the triangle’s three sides should not be more than 26 feet, with legs measuring between 4 and 9 feet each. What about your center island? Well, the triangle should not cut into its space by more than 1 foot. And it goes without saying that the triangle shouldn’t include any major traffic patterns. Since the triangle’s design for the cook’s convenience, its purpose would be defeated by little (or big) feet repeatedly running through it and interrupting the proceedings.

Do your kitchen arrangements measure up to this? If they don’t, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to remodel, but you may have the answer to why your kitchen feels awkwardly cramped. In galley kitchens, for example, the triangle may exist—but it’s not big enough in terms of moving around space. Sometimes you have barely more than three feet separating you from any given spot in the kitchen, not to mention the narrow center “aisle.” Other kitchens are asymmetrical, wreaking their own havoc on specifications and proportions for a “perfect” triangle.

A BIT OF GEOMETRIC SLEIGHT-OF-HAND

In the process of all this calculation, it’s important to remember one element about the classic triangle: it was devised based on the assumption of a kitchen with only three main work stations and one cook. However, kitchens have become more than merely cooking space in most homes: they’re entertainment centers where homeowners like to invite guests to have a seat at an island, keep the cook company, or even help with food prep alongside the main “chef.”

That means that in kitchens with circular or octagonal shapes or sites with multiple cooktops and food preparation areas, the classic “triangle” may be a workable portion of the space but not a practical design for the kitchen as a whole. In view of this new paradigm, designers can’t always “play by the rules” of the triangle when drawing up kitchen plans. Sometimes that means kitchens end up with two work triangles to accommodate how people live in their homes today.

LIVING WELL = THE BEST DESIGN OF ALL

One overriding principle always applies to good design: homes are made for people, not the other way around. Your lifestyle is the determinant of whether a design functions well for you or inhibits you. In the end, the triangle isn’t a “law,” just a suggestion and a tool. Feel free to “think outside the triangle” and gain a space in which your family can cook, eat, and feel thoroughly at home. That’s a successful design, no matter its geometric shape.

If you need help designing or improving your kitchen space, call us for insights, quotes, products, installation, and all for a very reasonable price. Diamond Kitchen and Bath has specialized in kitchens and baths since 1986, and we are here to help.

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