Kitchens & Bath Specialists

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Planning - Understanding The Work Triangle

For every kitchen, there must be three primary work centers... A Sink, Range and Refrigerator. In the 1950s, the University of Illinois Small Homes Council developed a method to evaluate the efficiency of a kitchen plan. A line is drawn from the center of the sink to the center of the range/cook top to the center of the refrigerator and then back to the sink. These three lines, called legs, create “The Work Triangle”.

  • Each leg of the triangle should be between 4’ (121.92cm) and 9’ (274.32cm) long.
  • The total of all three legs should be less than or equal to 26’ (792.48cm).
  • Family traffic patterns should not interfere with the work triangle.
  • An island or peninsula should not intersect any one leg by more than 12”.

Since the 1950s the work triangle and kitchen planning standards have become more flexible to accept more appliances, multiple cooks, and additional kitchen activities such as computer and entertainment centers. It’s not unusual to change the triangle into a rectangle or create two triangles. Today the triangle is between the refrigerator, primary food prep sink and primary cooking surface.

Basic Kitchen Layouts

Single Wall Kitchen

A single-wall kitchen is usually found in small apartments or efficiency units. This is the least efficient kitchen plan.


The corridor or galley kitchen for one cook can create an efficient work triangle. Unfortunately, family traffic can cross the path of the cook's work triangle.


The U-shaped kitchen has always been considered the most efficient plan. The cook is surrounded by three sides with an abundance of countertop and storage space. Family traffic is directed around the area.


The L-shaped kitchen spreads out the work area and gives the cook a generous amount of countertop space and flexibility in placing appliances. Adding an island can give all the benefits of a U-shaped kitchen.

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