There’s nothing as jarring as navigating someone else’s kitchen. The utensils are never where you expect, the glasses are in a totally different cabinet, and where IS the trash can? But if you've ever noticed that the sink, fridge, and oven are always pretty predictably located, there's a reason for that.
Enter: the triangle rule.
What Is the Kitchen Triangle?
Keith Myers, Design Director from The Myers Touch, says the three main work areas in the kitchen—the sink, the fridge, and the stove or oven—make up the points of the triangle. The triangle rule says these should form a triangle in your space for maximum ease-of-use, with minimal obstructions between each.
Your Triangle Size Matters
“Each side of the triangle should measure no less than four feet and no more than nine feet and, ideally, the perimeter of the triangle should be no less than thirteen feet and no more than twenty-six feet,” Myers says. “Not too small and not too large! This will ensure that your working area is practical, comfortable, and large enough—but not so large that much of your time is spent walking between one point and another.”
Rob Cash, Designer and Owner of Kutchenhaus Bristol and Bath, agrees. “The reason the working triangle is so valued is that it is the most walked route within a kitchen and, therefore, it is important it is kept as compact as possible,” he says. “You don’t have to get too hung up on it being an exact triangle, [but] you don’t want these three appliances to be too far apart from one another.”
If you're still not sure whether the triangle rule of kitchen layouts is for you, we asked some experts for all the reasons they love this go-to rule of kitchen design.
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It’s Great for Beginners
As Nancy Charbonneau of Charbonneau Interiors notes, the triangle rule is great for beginner designers who maybe haven’t laid out a kitchen before: “It's all about proportion and scale. The triangle rule takes these core principles of design and makes it approachable to use for those outside of the design industry.”
Take this kitchen from M Starr Design: simple, straightforward, and perfectly functional (not to mention beautiful).
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It Blends Style With Function
Myers warns that, when designing your kitchen, you need to consider both aesthetics and functionality: “If you only focus on one of these, then your kitchen may not work.”
Instead, consider your personal needs in the kitchen, as well as your home's design. Then, “key areas [like] kitchen triangles and zoning will just happen, rather than being the main focus," he says. “[Your] three points are often directly linked, so you will want this triangle compact but spaced without any obstacles to make preparation of food as easy as possible."
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It Even Works With an Island
“Any good kitchen designer will look at how to lay the kitchen out to keep this triangle of appliances close together because we want to make your life as easy as possible,” Cash says. “This is even more important in larger kitchens, where this should be the main consideration, as the triangle is very important to avoid the need to walk long distances between the key appliances.”
But often in larger kitchens, there’s a physical barrier that might break up your triangle: an island. “In this case, it’s important to keep the working triangle on one side of the island and not on both sides, as you could find yourself constantly walking around the island to get between the most commonly used appliances,” Cash says.
For example, this kitchen by Whittney Parkinson has the oven, stove, refrigerator, and sink all on one side (the far side) of the large island, incorporating the island seamlessly while keeping the space functional.
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There Are No Downsides
When it comes to most rules of design, the vast majority of designers agree: You can break whatever rule you want. “Like any rule, there are always exceptions … especially with design,” Charbonneau says. “I don't believe you have to live and die by these kinds of 'rules.' If the triangle approach inspires you, that's amazing! If it doesn't, that’s OK, too!”
But if you’re looking for the downsides of the triangle rule, you might be hard-pressed to find any. “I don't believe there are any true negatives to the triangle rule,” Charbonneau tells us. “This idea of the triangle occurs in nature in so many instances, so I believe it's only natural that we're drawn to it.” Just try pretend you're not drawn to the clean layout of this kitchen by Whittney Parkinson—the appeal of the triangle rule here is clear.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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It’s Perfect for Small Spaces
Lizzy Laing of @renovationHQ says that, in a small space, the triangle rule is a must. “In a small or moderately sized room, the triangle rule is your friend! [Having the] sink, hob [oven/stove], and fridge within easy reach makes for a much more pleasant and efficient cooking and entertaining experience.”
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You Can Have Multiple Triangles
As Bob Bakes, Co-Founder and Head of Design at Bakes & Kropp, tells us, modern kitchens now have more complex needs—needs that might not fit in just one triangle.
"The working triangle still exists and is still a conceptual starting point, but its elements are now far more advanced in their complexity,” he says. “To build on this starting point, we consider the client's additional needs and integrate activity centers accordingly. Whether they desire a community gathering area, secondary prep or cleaning areas, a wine or coffee center, or additional pantry storage, we begin with the same triangle framework to ensure functionality and expand from there. Sometimes the client needs a kosher kitchen, in which case we adjust our plans to incorporate two of everything."
So, if you’re considering a kitchen reno but don’t quite know where to start, consider the triangle rule the foundation of your kitchen layout planning.