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Planning Your New Kitchen

Now comes the fun of really planning your new kitchen. Layout is a three-part process that includes weighing basic options; blocking out storage, countertops, and work centers; and double-checking efficient heights and clearances. There’s no perfect sequence&mdashthe trick is to work back and forth. In very small or oddly shaped spaces you’ll certainly need to compromise.

Consider the work triangle

Ever since kitchen layout studies in the 1950s introduced the term, designers have been evaluating kitchen efficiency by means of the work triangle. The three legs of the triangle connect the refrigerator, sink, and range (or cooktop). An efficient work triangle reduces the steps a cook must take during meal preparation. The ideal sum of the three legs is 26 feet or less, with individual legs no shorter than 4 feet and no longer than 9 feet. Whenever possible, the work triangle should be uninvaded by traffic flow.

Today, the reign of the work triangle is being challenged by two-cook layouts, elaborate island and peninsula work centers, and specialized appliances such as modular cooktops, built-in grills, and microwave and convection ovens. Nevertheless, the triangle is still a valuable starting point for planning kitchen efficiency. It may be useful to sketch in multiple triangles to cover different requirements.

Classic kitchen layouts

While brainstorming, it helps to have some basic layout schemes in mind. The floor plans shown below are practical both for utilizing space well and for employing efficient work triangles.

ONE-WALL KITCHEN
Small or open kitchens frequently make use of the one-wall design, incorporating a single line of cabinets and appliances. This is not ideal, as there is a lot of moving back and forth&mdashfrom refrigerator to range to sink. Still, it’s the only choice for some small areas or open floor plans.

CORRIDOR KITCHEN
A kitchen open at both ends is a candidate for the corridor or galley kitchen; the design works well as long as the distance between opposite walls is not too great. Traffic flow can be a proble that’s tough to divert kitchen cruisers away from the cook.

L-SHAPED KITCHEN
This layout utilizes two adjacent walls, spreading out the work centers; typically, the refrigerator is at one end, range or wall ovens are at the other end, and the sink is in the center. The L-shaped kitchen gives a comfortable work triangle. You’ll have to decide how to utilize the corner space.

U-SHAPED KITCHEN
Three adjacent walls make up the efficient U-shaped design (efficient, that is, as long as there is sufficient distance between opposite walls). Often this layout opens up space for auxiliary work areas in addition to the central work triangle&mdashfor example, a second sink for washing vegetables, a baking center, a second cooktop and dishwasher, or even a complete work center for a second cook.

G-SHAPED KITCHEN
This newly popular shape combines the efficient U-shaped layout with an attached peninsula at one end. The G shape offers plenty of opportunities for specialized work centers and helps shield the cook from distracting traffic; however, it may seem a little claustrophobic to some cooks.

WHAT ABOUT AN ISLAND?
A kitchen island is a popular addition to many kitchen remodels. The extra cabinets and countertop add storage and work space, block off unwanted traffic flow, and can function as an eating counter.

On the minus side, islands can cramp space and cut into work triangles and traffic flows. And it’s usually easier to bring utilities to a “landlocked” peninsula than to a free-floating island.

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