Top tips to get the kitchen layout you need

Getting your kitchen layout right is the most important factor in ensuring a functional and practical kitchen area. Whether your kitchen is small and cramped or large and expansive, a clever layout will make all the difference in helping you to get the most out of the space. Especially in a kitchen, there is a lot more to layout than just placing furniture and cabinetry: ergonomics has a huge role to play as well. Getting the heights right, ensuring enough space for comfortable movement, placement of appliances and ease of use are all going to factor in your enjoyment of the room.

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While the floor plan of your home will most likely determine the layout that your kitchen will have, you can always optimise the area to work better. Here are the most commonly found kitchen layouts, with tips to help you do just that.

Kitchen Ergonomics 101

Let’s first give a quick overview of kitchen ergonomics, which forms the basis of great kitchen design. Ergonomics is the science of designing the environment to fit the people that use them, not the people to fit the environment.

The Work Triangle

The work triangle was devised in the 1920s as one of the first measures of efficiency in a residential kitchen. The triangle creates a clear path between the area for food preparation (stove top), the cleaning area (kitchen sink) and the food storage area (refrigerator).

The Principles of the Kitchen Work Triangle:

• The length of each triangle leg is between 1.2 and 2.7m
• The combined length of the three legs should be between 4m and 7.9m
• There should not be any appliances or cabinetry intersecting any of the legs of the triangle
• There should not be any major traffic through the triangle

For maximum kitchen efficiency and usability, the basic guidelines* below should be applied:

• Entry doors to the kitchen should be at least 812mm wide
• An entry door should not interfere with the safe operation of any appliances, and appliance doors should not interfere with one another
• The length of work aisles should be at least 1060mm for single cook kitchens, and 1220mm for multiple cook kitchens
• Walkways should be at least 915mm wide
• In a seating area where there is no traffic behind the seat, a clear walkway of 915mm should be allowed from the table or counter edge to the edge behind it.
• Seating should be a minimum of 610mm wide for each person. Allow a 460mm leg clearance at a table that is 760mm high; 380mm clearance at a kitchen counter (914mm high); and 305mm at bar counter (1066mm high).
• If there is only one sink, it should be located next to or across from the stove top and fridge.
• A sink should be flanked by a minimum 610mm landing area, with 460mm on either side.
• A primary work surface of at least 760mm wide and 600mm deep should be next to the sink
• A dishwasher should be placed within 900mm from a sink
• There should be a landing space of at least 380mm next to the handle side of the fridge or one no more than 1200mm opposite the fridge
• The cooking surface should have minimum landing areas of 300mm on the one side and 380mm on the other side.
• There should be a minimum of 600mm between the cooking surface and the non-combustible surface above it.
• Provide a cooking ventilation system above all cooking surface appliances.
• Do not locate the cooking surface under an operable window and provide a fire extinguisher near the kitchen’s exit, away from cooking equipment.
• Microwave ovens should be placed based on the user’s requirements, with 75mm below shoulder height being ideal.
• Provide a landing area of at least 380mm above, below or next to the microwave oven.
• Provide a landing area of at least 380mm next to the oven or one no more than 1200mm opposite the oven.
• Landing space required for adjacent appliances may be combined by taking the greater requirement and adding 300mm.
• A total of 4000mm countertop space at 600mm deep, with 380mm high clearance, is required to accommodate all storage, preparation, landing and work areas.
• In addition to general lighting, each work surface should be well lit by appropriate task lighting.

*From the guidelines set out by the National Kitchen and Bath Association

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The 6 Most Popular Kitchen Layout Types

1. The One Wall Kitchen

Usually found in smaller kitchens, this simple layout is space efficient without giving up on functionality. Consisting of cabinets installed against a single wall, the One Wall Kitchen can have upper and lower cabinets or shelving over base cabinets, creating a clean aesthetic.

How to Make A One-Wall Kitchen Layout Work:
Think vertical. You only have so much width to work with, so taking your cabinets up as far as possible will help create extra storage space. While the traditional work triangle is not possible in a one-wall kitchen, try to put your fridge on one end, oven and hob in the middle and the sink at the other end. If your cabinets do not go up to ceiling, utilise the space above them by storing lesser-used items there. Alternatively, you can use this space as a display area to strengthen the theme of your kitchen.

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2. The Galley Kitchen

With a very economical use of cabinets, the galley kitchen consists of two rows of cabinets facing each other, creating an inner passage or galley between them. By eliminating the need for corner cupboards, this type of layout uses every millimetre of space without wastage. The uncomplicated design also means that there are fewer special gadgets necessary, making this a cost-efficient option as well.

How to Make A Galley Kitchen Layout Work:
With an additional row of cabinetry, the galley kitchen already offers more flexibility when it comes to storage space. Especially for bigger families or multiple-cook kitchens, it is important to have the work areas along only one of the walls, not both. This will help you to avoid traffic through the work triangle and eliminate the risk of injury.

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3. The L-Shaped Kitchen

A practical layout option for small and large kitchens, the L-shaped kitchen has cabinets along two perpendicular walls. Although the corner necessitates some clever cabinetry solutions to make it practical, the open plan design of the L-shaped kitchen offers great flexibility in the placement of appliances and work zones. While you can have the legs of the L as long as space allows, it is best to keep it to less than 4.5m for ease of use.

How to Make A L-shaped Kitchen Layout Work:

Where space allows, make the most of the corner by installing a walk-in pantry cupboard. This way you won’t lose the valuable space that is usually lost in a corner, and you gain a huge asset to your kitchen. With an L-shaped kitchen, you may even be able to create a small breakfast nook in the opposite corner, further increasing your family’s enjoyment of the room.

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4. The U-Shaped Kitchen

A great layout for larger kitchens, the U-shaped kitchen consists of cabinetry along three adjacent walls. This type of layout provides plenty of storage but can feel enclosed if there are upper cabinets on all three walls. To avoid this, choose upper cabinets along only one or two walls, with open shelving, focal tiles or a hob hood on the other. The U shaped kitchen allows for great workflow and multiple users at the same time.

How to Make A U-Shaped Kitchen Layout Work:

Keep window areas open and uncluttered in a U-shaped kitchen. This type of kitchen layout provides the perfect opportunity for an uninterrupted work triangle so make the best use of the space by having the work areas on the opposite end of the back- and entry doors.

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5. The Island Kitchen

A very popular choice in open plan homes, the island kitchen provides a large work surface or storage area in the middle of the kitchen. The island can incorporate a cooking surface, prep bowl and bar or wine fridge. It can also be used simply as a preparation area or for enjoying family meals. While the kitchen has to be big enough to incorporate an island, its placement is a great way to create a natural traffic flow in the area.

How to Make An Island Kitchen Layout Work:
Utilise the island as both a work- and social area where family and friends can interact while meals are being prepared. Because of its location in the centre of the kitchen, it is a great place to install prominent decorative lighting that can also serve as task lighting.

6. The Peninsula Kitchen

The peninsula is related to the island kitchen and incorporates a kitchen counter that juts out from a wall or cabinetry. This is a great solution that offers the benefits of a kitchen island where space doesn’t allow for an independent island to be installed. The peninsula can be used for food preparation, eating or other tasks while the cook is busy with meal preparation.

How to Make A Peninsula Kitchen Layout Work:

As with the island kitchen, the peninsula offers a great opportunity for interaction during meal preparation. It is a great solution for a small enclosed kitchen, where a wall can be removed to open the area up to an adjacent room without giving up on storage space.