This illustration shows changes that might improve workflow, but this type of kitchen is almost doomed from the start primarily because the dimensions can’t be changed without changing structure. Moreover, with refrigeration, cooking, and cleaning on three sides of the island the only practical place to put seating is on the end in the traffic pattern between adjoining rooms. Not very practical. By adding the food prep sink and putting the ovens under the cooking surface by using a range, the zones are more defined and compact. Putting the microwave to the left or right of the range (not shown) would also help but might pose an aesthetics problem.
This illustration shows changes that might improve workflow, but this type of kitchen is almost doomed from the start primarily because the dimensions can’t be changed without changing structure. Moreover, with refrigeration, cooking, and cleaning on three sides of the island the only practical place to put seating is on the end in the traffic pattern between adjoining rooms. Not very practical. By adding the food prep sink and putting the ovens under the cooking surface by using a range, the zones are more defined and compact. Putting the microwave to the left or right of the range (not shown) would also help but might pose an aesthetics problem.


In recent years, homes and the kitchens in them have grown bigger. Even in smaller homes the kitchen plays a much bigger role in modern family life. Many kitchen designers, builders, and remodelers are questioning the relevance of the standard kitchen “work triangle.” What if you can’t make the triangle work because of client requirements, the architectural layout, or just the sheer size of the room? What if there are more than three work centers? What constitutes a work center?

The triangle was and still is about efficiency. Big or small, no one likes an inefficient work area. Good workflow creates efficiency. If efficient working space is the goal, then the triangle is still relevant. The basic work triangle has each leg between 4 feet and 9 feet with the sum of all three sides between 13 feet and 26 feet. Enter the “Zone Kitchen Design” concept — an incorporation of multiple work centers defined by function into an efficient productive space for its users.

Questions, Questions


Start by asking clients these questions:

  • How many adults and children in the family?
  • How many people typically work in the room at one time?
  • How many work centers are there and what functions are performed at each?
  • What are the seating and work requirements of each family member?
This illustration represents a typical modern luxury kitchen pinned in by two or more exterior or load-bearing walls and the basic architecture of the home. At first look, there is a lot of square footage. But focus on workflow and you begin to see the problems: The distance between the refrigerator and sink is over 14 feet and the island is in the way. Cooking is made difficult by having the cooking surface, the oven, and the microwave in different aisles.
This illustration represents a typical modern luxury kitchen pinned in by two or more exterior or load-bearing walls and the basic architecture of the home. At first look, there is a lot of square footage. But focus on workflow and you begin to see the problems: The distance between the refrigerator and sink is over 14 feet and the island is in the way. Cooking is made difficult by having the cooking surface, the oven, and the microwave in different aisles.


Other Considerations

What type of equipment and appliances do the homeowners feel they need? Think beyond the basics here. Appliances have come a long way: We now have steam ovens, built-in steamers, grills, griddles, wine storage, beverage centers, built-in gourmet coffee systems, etc. Most importantly, find out how often each appliance is used and exactly what is it used for. It’s not always obvious. What are the seating and functionality requirements of each family member?

The three primary work centers are cleanup/prep sink; cooking surface (excludes ovens); and refrigeration/storage. Additional work centers can be as varied as the clients using them. Some of the more common are baking (prep and ovens); food prep; homework and beverage/entertainment, which can include soft drink storage, gourmet coffee machines, and/or wine preservation and ice making. Depending on the amount of entertaining that clients do, elevating this area to work center status may be just what the client needs.

Regardless of how many work centers a client may require, three major issues should be considered: safety, obstacles, and workflow. When workflow is properly addressed, efficiency is the result. Obstacles — including those big, fancy islands — can be a safety issue as well as a real efficiency killer. —Jeff Kida, a designer and kitchen and bath dealer, owns DDS Design Services, in Chicago.

Related Articles

Hanley Wood University course: The New Face of Zone Design for the Kitchen

His& Hers:Taking men's interests into consideration in kitchen design

Island Life: The evolving design of a multifunctional kitchen island