Photo: James Bombales

Typing ‘kitchen work triangle’ into the search bar on Pinterest reveals a bevy of primitively drawn floorplans labeled with so-called “rules” for adopting this age-old design concept. But Nikki Fisher-Gigault, the founder of NFG Designs and a former kitchen designer, believes the triangle theory is wildly out-of-date. “I’m amazed that I still hear this term, to be honest,” says Fisher-Gigault. “It’s not always realistic, especially in homes that are quite large.”

The concept of the kitchen work triangle didn’t just come about naturally, it was developed in the 1940s by researchers at the University of Illinois School of Architecture. Its intention was to cut construction costs by standardizing practices, not necessarily to make kitchens more efficient for home chefs.

“The essential part of a well-designed kitchen is not so much sticking to the rulebook on what the triangle is, but thinking about the different work zones — how you use them, what your storage requirements are, and then building your kitchen around that,” explains Fisher-Gigault.

Photo: James Bombales

Although work zone requirements may vary depending on your kitchen layout and needs, Fisher-Gigault recommends honing in on the following: Your cooking zone, your cleanup zone, your prep zone and your storage zone.

Let’s say you’re planning an extensive kitchen renovation and are looking to integrate an island. You’ll likely do most of your chopping there, so it makes sense to include a pull-out garbage or compost bin. “You don’t want to have to walk over to the garbage on the other side of the kitchen with a cutting board or bowl,” says Fisher-Gigault. (Side note: I cannot tell you the number of times I have had to chase my dog away from eating fallen onion scraps while doing this exact thing).

The oft-used cooking zone consists of the wall oven, cooktop and range hood, while the cleanup zone typically includes the sink, dishwasher and a garbage bin (it never hurts to have more than one). Storing your dinnerware within close range of the cleanup zone is also a good idea and makes unloading the dishwasher less of a hassle.

Photo: James Bombales

Fisher-Gigault advises that your storage zone, aka the refrigerator and pantry, be pushed to the perimeter. “Keep your main functioning zones grouped together and then the stuff that you don’t access as often should go off to one side or one portion of the kitchen,” she adds.

If you’re thinking of embarking on a kitchen renovation of your own, don’t get caught up in the geometry of it. “When you figure out the zones and what the requirements are for them, that’s when everything comes together,” says Fisher-Gigault. “And oddly enough, that usually still works out to be somewhat of a triangle! It’s just not quite as technical or to the book in terms of the exact spacing required between the three elements.”

Rest in peace, kitchen work triangle. You had a good run!

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