The Work Triangle

For most of the 20th century, kitchens were organized around what's known as the work triangle — the geometry determined by sink, range and refrigerator. Since most kitchen work is a dance among the three appliances, a good design will make the distances between them comfortable. If they're too short, the work area will be cramped; if too far, the cook will become worn out trotting between them. The rule of thumb is that the three legs of the triangle should add up to between 12 and 26 feet.

There are three basic layouts for the work triangle: u-shaped, l-shaped and galley. In the u-shaped kitchen, there's a triangular path from the sink on one wall to the range on another, to the refrigerator on a third. In an l-shaped kitchen, one element of the work triangle is against one wall with the other two along another. In very tight circumstances, all three points are arranged along the same wall, like the cooking facilities on-board ship, thus the name galley kitchen.

Ideally no traffic should pass through the work triangle. Nothing is more irritating than having people crash into you when you're trying to cook. If there's going to be an island or table in the room, place it where it will neither obstruct the work triangle nor be too far to be a useful work station itself.

Keep in mind that people not directly involved in cooking often need access to the kitchen, particularly the refrigerator. Of the three components of the work triangle, the refrigerator should be located at the triangle's outer corner for easy access. The sink should be accessible as well, but the cooking surface ought to be as protected as possible, and therefore at the most remote point of the work triangle.

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