Kitchen Work Triangle

In a traditional kitchen, there are three primary kitchen activity areas: sink, oven/range, and refrigerator. The term “work triangle” refers to the shape created by connecting these three activity areas. The work triangle is a useful design standard that has been around for a long time.

Kitchens have evolved significantly over the last few decades. They are larger and contain more specialized activity areas, including walk-in pantries, entertainment zones and beverage centers. These new activity areas challenge the design parameters of the work triangle and present opportunities to customize your kitchen. Decide which of the many activity areas you’d like to incorporate into your new kitchen so that it compliments your lifestyle.


The single large refrigerator is becoming insufficient. First, even the 36” wide refrigerator (vs. traditional 30” width) is incapable of holding all the foods and beverages typically consumed by a family on a regular basis. Second, there are different ideal temperatures needed for the variety of foods and beverages a single refrigerator holds. Finally, one refrigerator location is not as convenient as two or three.

Below is a list of various refrigerators you may consider in your kitchen:

  1. Kids refrigerator with juice, soda, alternate milk
  2. Produce prep refrigerator
  3. Wine refrigerator
  4. Beer refrigerator
  5. Freezer
  6. Clear ice machine
  7. Root cellar / Deli
  8. Pantry Refrigerator

Consider locating your main refrigerator near the grocery arrival to the kitchen. A countertop or low traffic floor area is convenient for setting down groceries and transferring them to the refrigerator. A beverage center may contain a second refrigerator not adjacent to the main refrigerator.

A “small appliance garage” may be designed between a base and wall cabinet near the main refrigerator to neatly contain items such as the can opener, food processor, mixer, toaster etc.

The walk-in pantry should also be located conveniently for arrival of groceries and supplies. One option is to locate the walk-in pantry between the mudroom and the kitchen. This works well for storing dry foods and supplies.

Another option is to provide a door to the walk-in pantry directly from the kitchen, making it easier to access staples required for food preparation.

Cooking Surface

Instead of a slide-in range/oven appliance, you may consider a wall oven or ovens and separate cooktop. Provide a minimum of 15” of countertop on each side of the cooktop. Provide a correctly sized, ducted ventilation system for all cooking surface appliances. 150 cubic feet per minute is a minimum recommendation. Range hoods should be discharged to the outdoors through a duct.

Microwave Oven Placement

The ideal location for the bottom of the microwave is slightly below the user’s shoulder. While the traditional location for the microwave is above the range/oven, popular alternatives include directly below the countertop and in a pantry cabinet.

Placing the microwave below a countertop has some inherent advantages and disadvantages. The microwave can be mounted in a drawer such that food can be accessed from the top rather than front side of the microwave. Having the screen and controls so close to the floor may require more bending and may be accessed by children or pets.

Placing the mircrowave inside a pantry door allows the microwave to be placed at your ideal height, however, you must open the pantry door every time you want to use the microwave. Perhaps the best location for a microwave is between and upper and lower pantry cabinet.

Provide at least a 15” landing area above, below, or adjacent to the handle side of a microwave oven.