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Practical Floor Plan Layouts for Functional Home Kitchens

White kitchen with glass door upper cabinetsListen to this article

The best kitchen layouts grow out of your home, your life, your family, and the way you use your kitchen. It can be frustrating and difficult to come up with good kitchen floor plans, let alone the best plan, but even if you later decide to use a KD (kitchen designer), time spent working on your own layout ideas and gathering information is never wasted. The more information you have, and the more you have thought about the possibilities and what you want, the better you’ll be able to work with a designer.

Kitchen Floor Plans: The Basics

You can start creating kitchen layouts in several different ways.

From a “what’s got to fit” point of view, you might already know that you want specific appliances (a huge 48″ pro-style range, or side-by-side all-fridge and all-freezer appliances) or a specific cabinet range (which may limit your positioning choices).

From a “workflow” point of view, you can use either the classic “work triangle” method (dating from the 1950′s but still useful for a smaller or one-cook kitchen) or the “work centers” or “zones” method, where each type of task revolves around a specific area and set of equipment – cooking around the range in a cooking zone, for example.

The classic work triangle

Placing your refrigerator, sink and range in any arrangement within your kitchen layout will naturally result in a “work triangle” – it can’t do anything else! Your job is to optimize the triangle so that it makes the best use of your space. Here are some things to think about:

  • An island or peninsula should not interrupt the triangle. It can overlap a leg of the triangle slightly, but if you have to detour around it to get from one point of the triangle to another, it’ll be a problem when you’re working in the kitchen. Known as a “barrier island”, it can cause a lot of extra walking and is especially awkward if you have to carry hot dishes or full, heavy pots around it to get from one place to another.
  • A main through route should not pass through the triangle. Sometimes you can’t avoid this (for example, my galley kitchen has the stairs and the back door at the far end, and it would take major remodeling of the whole house to move the traffic elsewhere), but redirecting traffic outside the triangle if you can possibly do it is much safer and more convenient for the cook. This is especially important with kids underfoot: if you’re a one person household it matters much less.
  • The three sides of the triangle added together should not be more than 26 feet long, and each side should be between four and nine feet long. This will create a work area large enough for comfort, but not so big that you waste time and energy running back and forth.

21st Century Planning: Work Centers or Zones

Since the work triangle was proposed in the 1950′s many more possible appliances have been created, and nowadays kitchens can have more than one of some appliances, and often more than one cook. The work triangle is often not enough to describe how a modern kitchen will function.

Adding more cooks to a single work triangle means that they will often get in each others’ way. Adding more appliances (extra sink, one or more dishwashers, separate cooktop and oven, microwave oven, etc.) adds extra work stations and one simple triangle can’t design around them.

The idea used to solve these design problems is work zones or work centers.

A work center or zone pulls everything – equipment, appliances, materials – needed to do a certain type of task into the same area. The three major zones are:

  • Cooking Center centered around the cooktop or range
  • Food Prep Center often located by a separate prep sink, or the main sink if there is only one
  • Cleanup Center centered around the main sink

Depending on how you cook and eat, you could have other work zones as well:

  • Snack Center with beverages, coffee machine, microwave, toaster, toaster oven, perhaps a dedicated fridge
  • Baking Center where you keep baking ingredients, cookie sheets, and the mixer
  • Eating Center based around the kitchen table or breakfast bar, possibly with storage for dishes, napkins, condiments, and flatware

and more. Visit the Work Centers article for more details on work center or work zone planning.

The Typical Kitchen Floor Plans

There are four basic kitchen floor plans.

The simplest kitchen layout is laid out along a single wall.

Two parallel walls give you a galley kitchen – an efficient and economical layout (especially for a single cook) with the possible drawback of traffic flow through the work triangle.

U-shaped kitchens have cabinets and/or appliances on three sides of the room, while L-shaped kitchens occupy two sides at right angles to each other. Both of these can be outside the main traffic flow paths, depending on where the doors to the room are placed.

A peninsula or island can be added to any of these basic shapes to improve work flow, protect the work area from traffic, and add storage and counter space.

Visit the individual pages for more details on these kitchen layouts:

Remodelers! If you’re interested in kitchen or bathroom remodeling, and you like to write, I’m looking for articles for my network of web sites. Contact me if you’d like to publish your work online – I’m interested in kitchen makeovers, decorating schemes, floor plans, all kinds of remodeling and design topics.

Sample L-shaped kitchen layout with island

Floor Plans in Kitchen Remodeling

When you’re planning a kitchen remodeling project, you may or may not want to change the floor plan.

In a minor remodel, or makeover, you normally change only the finishes, and perhaps swap out appliances for new ones, so the kitchen layout doesn’t change.

However, for many folks, the whole point of remodeling the kitchen is to get a different floor plan – perhaps because there are too many cooks tripping over each other in a small work triangle, or because other additions and changes to the house will change the flow through the kitchen, or even because the kitchen is still laid out like it was 1910! For whatever reason, if you’re going to change the floor plan, getting it sorted out before you start remodeling is absolutely key to a successful project.

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