Q: I’m researching for a kitchen remodel and keep hearing about the “kitchen work triangle.” What is it, and is it something I should take into consideration with my new layout?

A: The kitchen is the most essential and complex room in a home. That’s why it’s often the first room homeowners consider remodeling: You’ll get your money’s worth out of its use or recoup the investment when you sell.

The kitchen relies on function before form. You want it to look good, but if something doesn’t function properly, you’re going to notice it every day. To successfully remodel a kitchen, you should begin with the most basic requirement: the kitchen work triangle.

The kitchen work triangle is a time-tested design principle that states the three main work areas in a kitchen — the stove, sink and refrigerator — should form a triangle. Their close proximity and adjacent placement will give you the best functionality for your kitchen. This is not folklore — you will save countless steps, spills and struggles by following this golden rule.

The principle recommends that there should be a clear path measuring 4–9 feet long that connects the three zones; the total distance of the uninterrupted triangle should be between 13 and 26 feet. Any more or less than these standards and you may run into issues, such as walking a long way with a full pot of water or having nowhere between the refrigerator and stove to set down food that’s waiting to be cooked.

In the modern home, kitchens have taken on new roles as gathering areas and dining rooms, in addition to their original use. It may work better to think of your kitchen in terms of different “zones” rather than a precise triangle. It’s the work triangle principle after all; it’s not a law.


In this evolved take on the kitchen work triangle, zones should be self-contained. For example, if you’re an avid baker, the “baking zone” would have the sink, pantry, oven, utensils and pans, all within a short distance of each other. If you like to entertain in the kitchen, the “entertainment zone” would have seating, glasses, the bar and countertop space for snacks.

Regardless of which guiding principle you choose, a good designer will be able to explain the pros and cons of each layout to you. Ultimately, you should decide what’s best for your individual home and family.


Cat Schmidt is the lead designer at Model Remodel, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’s more than 2,700 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.