Kitchen Design Principles of the Past Are Still the Gold Standard

Have you ever lived in a home where the kitchen just “worked;” cooking there was effortless? Or conversely everything you tried to do in the kitchen didn’t work; nothing was where it should be?

The answer is simple, “proper kitchen design principles”. Kitchen design principles based on research in the 1920’s still work in today’s homes, they are still the “Gold Standard” when designing kitchen.

Today’s kitchens are used more than ever, for various activities and functions so it is imperative that adequate planning go into their design. Obviously cooking still remains the main function of a kitchen, but areas for visiting, kids doing homework, paying bills, or using the computer are becoming increasingly commonplace.

Several general pre-design questions to ask are, does traffic flow through the kitchen or does it start or stop there. How many people generally will be cooking in the space? The more questions you ask and answers you have the better the functionality of your new kitchen will ultimately be.

To begin your design, draw out the perimeter walls defining the space along with all adjacent rooms and their use to provide traffic pattern information. Make sure to include any island knee walls or peninsulas. Make sure to define the width of all openings to and from the kitchen. Door openings should be a minimum of 32″ clear opening. That is to say if it is a cased opening or drywall opening measure from wall to wall. If there is a door involved open the door 90 degrees and measure from the door face to the door stop on the opposite side, remember you want 32″. If a cabinet runs parallel to the opening and “the hallway” created by the cabinet exceeds 24″ in depth (length) then the width needs to expand to 36″. If a stove is the item creating the “hallway” make sure it is buffered from “the hallway” by a 12″ cabinet and that there is minimum of 15″ wide clear countertop space on the side opposite the “hallway” to place a hot pot on. One last point is to make sure any doors do not interfere with the operation of any appliances.

Aisles in the kitchen should be a minimum 42″ wide for 1 cook and 48″ wide if there are going to be 2 cooks working at the same time. Aisle widths should be measured from the leading edge or protruding handle of any item to a point directly across from it. Major through traffic should not flow through the work aisle. If you find that this situation does exist, then redesign the area to eliminate the pattern.

The Infamous Triangle

Have you ever heard of the work triangle? This work triangle is formed by drawing a line from the front center of the refrigerator, the front center of the stove and the front center of the sink. No single leg should be less than 4′ or more than 9′ and the total of all the legs should not exceed 26′. Multiple work zones and multiple work triangles can be established with the addition of dishwashers, trash compactors, etc.

Now you can begin to place the appropriate cabinets between the appliances. Take care to place the correct configuration of cabinets in each space. Drawers that hold silverware and utensils should be located close to the dishwasher, while cabinets for storing large pots and pans should be located by the stove.


We have all been in the house with tight seating, where somebody is trapped in the corner. The minimum space between the edge of the table and the wall should be 32″ if there is no traffic behind the person. If there is traffic moving behind the chair then a minimum of 36″ is needed, and 44″ if you prefer to have a person pass by without turning sideways. Always remember to measure from the front edge of any protruding object.

People tend to gather in the seating area so make sure you have easy access for people of all shapes and ages. As you can see proper designing of the space will result in a truly functional kitchen. Start with the Triangle featuring your appliances and then add the cabinets, remembering to add space to store blender, food processor, crock pot, etc. and you will have a kitchen that just works

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One Response to “Kitchen Design Principles of the Past Are Still the Gold Standard”

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