Is the Kitchen Work Triangle Concept Outdated?

Contemporary kitchen design places less importance on the traditional kitchen work triangle concept, but the principles behind it continue to influence modern designers.

For decades, the kitchen work triangle has been a standard that designers have used to base a lot of their decision making. This concept dictates that a range or cooktop, refrigerator, and sink should be connected as points in a triangle. The distance of each individual side should be somewhere between 4 and 9 feet and the total sum of the sides shouldn’t exceed 26 feet. The kitchen work triangle, as the primary workflow of the space, should also be separated from all other major traffic flows in the area. Take a look online, however, and you’ll easily find article after article discussing how outdated this concept is. But is the kitchen work triangle really obsolete?

General Kitchen Design Principles

The main reason that designers use to argue that the kitchen work triangle is outdated stems from its origin. This concept was developed in the 1940s due to kitchen size limitations at the time as well as the relatively massive sizes of the appliances of the period. The triangle concept allowed for ease of use and high functionality. These two goals are still used to determine great kitchen design no matter what concepts underpin it.

In addition, the idea of separating a kitchen into three zones precludes the development of an opposing theory of kitchen design – that of work zones. Work zone theory tends to include a kitchen island as an essential element of the design – this works best when freed of the constraints of designing for the triangle workflow. However, we should still recognize the need for dedicated workspaces in a kitchen that the kitchen work triangle concept introduced back in the 40s.

Where the Kitchen Work Triangle Still Works

The kitchen work triangle doesn’t work as a fundamental design principle for many contemporary kitchen styles, such as the galley style or open concept designs. However, there are still plenty of other factors that might make the concept work for a new kitchen design. For example, the triangle design works really well in a kitchen utilizing stainless steel appliances and a subway tile backsplash style. The eye is drawn to each point of the triangle and the workflow is naturally efficient. Ultimately, every space and every homeowner’s needs will be different. Examine each carefully to determine the best kitchen style to suit both!

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