Necessary Gadgets

To function well, the sink, cook top and refrigerator each need to be surrounded with a certain amount of floor and counter space. The refrigerator door needs a clear swing and, if possible, enough room for two people to reach in simultaneously. The doors of any cabinets around the fridge should not conflict with its door. And the refrigerator also needs an 18-inch run of counter as a staging area for foods going into or coming out of it.

By custom, the sink is placed beneath a window, both to provide daylight for chores done there and to give one a view outdoors. I suppose the custom derives from the days before dishwashers, when the task of washing up was a tedious affair done by hand. Yet working at a sink with a window is still much more pleasant than working at a sink without one. Designers often place the sink first and lay out the rest of the work triangle from there.

Minimum counter lengths are considered to be 36 inches on one side of the sink and 24 on the other, which gives you a staging area for dirty dishes on one side and a drying area on the other. It seems logical to locate the greatest expanse of counter on the side of the sink closest to the cook top, since that is where most foods prepared at the sink are destined.

The optimum location for the cook top is along an exterior wall, rather than on an island or peninsula. With a stove on an outside wall, it's easy to install an effective hood and ventilation system, essential to expel grease, smoke and combustion gases. The stove or cook top needs a 21- to 30-inch overhead clearance so cooks can readily see and access rear burners and the ventilation system can do its work efficiently.

If you plan to install a dishwasher, place it close to the sink. Where you choose to put it might depend on whether you're right- or left-handed and on the path dishes are likely to take when cleared from the table. Also consider the choreography of two people loading and unloading the machine.
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