Jumping to right into choosing the kitchen cabinetry isn’t the best place to start. First, we need to be familiar with all the different layout options, and of course the kitchen work triangle.

Although these might seem like basic concepts, they are often taken for granted when designing a kitchen, which causes unnecessary inconvenience in the long run.

The Kitchen Work Triangle

Perhaps the one most fundamental thing about designing a kitchen layout is to have first-hand knowledge of the Kitchen Work Triangle. Conceptualized way back in the 1940s, the model was used as a basic framework for all kitchen designs, revolving around the three main stations of a kitchen, namely:

  • Food Storage (AKA, the Fridge) – where all the food is kept fresh
  • Cooking (AKA, the Range) – where the food prepared; and
  • Cleanup (AKA, the Sink) – where the equipment and utensils that were used are cleaned up and stored for next time.
  • In order to achieve maximum efficiency in cooking, these three areas must be approximated and placed in a way that they would form an uninterrupted triangle if straight lines were drawn on the blueprint or floor plan.

Furthermore, there must be nothing in the layout that will obstruct the pathways leading from one area to the next.

While no perfect triangle is ever made, each station ideally should be no closer than four (4) feet and no further than nine (9) feet in distance away from each other in order to achieve the ideal residential kitchen measurements.

Kitchen cabinets, therefore, must not get in the way of the three legs of the triangle. Ideally, the distance of any cabinet corner should be at least 12 inches (0.3 m) from any leg of the triangle.

This should be kept in mind as the planning progresses because the spots where the cabinets can be incorporated according the principles of the work triangle will also affect the availability of choices.

Note: It’s possible for one kitchen to have more than one triangle. For instance, if you have a pantry, that can also count as a food storage area. And if your oven is separate from the stove, the same concept applies. So for example, the stove, tall cabinets, and the sink, could represent one triangle, while the mixing area, the microwave, and the sink could be another.

Depending on how large the kitchen layout is, these triangles could overlap or be separate from each other. In these cases, it’s important to keep in mind all possible triangles when incorporating cabinets. As a corollary, prioritize the most dominant triangle. For most, that’s the refrigerator, the stove, and the sink. And keep in mind, this is just the ideal scenario. It doesn’t mean your kitchen will be horrible if your triangles don’t work out perfectly.

Basic Kitchen Layouts

The following layouts are designed to accommodate the kitchen triangle. Each one has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.


The Galley Layout puts the food storage between the kitchen entrance and the cooking area. The cleanup area will then be across from the cooking area. This makes it efficient for the cook to work because everything in a linear system.

Most of the work takes place near the entrance though, so it might not be ideal if the kitchen is small and there will be lots of people working in it.

Foot traffic, however, won’t be an issue with the L-Shaped Layout, which puts the storage and cooking areas far from the entrance, and the cleanup area is just diagonally across the cooking area.

Essentially, the cook will be working in a single corner. This is great for smaller homes that don’t have much space, but in a larger home, it might seem unnecessarily cramped.

  • The U-Shaped Layout can compliment kitchen islands, especially in big kitchens. Here, the cook is basically surrounded in cabinetry and appliances, with all areas located diagonally from each other.
  • Finally, adding a counter around the U-shaped layout will result in the G-Shaped Layout. This gives more work space through the additional counter, but this might rule out a kitchen island. If your kitchen is too small for an island, the G-shaped layout would be the next best thing.

Assuming that a custom kitchen layout isn’t an option, the ones above will affect what kinds of cabinets and how much of each kind will be needed. For custom layouts, try to understand the principles behind the common layouts to see how it will affect kitchen cabinet plans.

Kitchen Layout from Höffner

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