The Best in Kitchen Design

The rules haven’t changed since 1929. And, weirdly, that’s a good thing!

A break through design concept hit the emerging “kitchen and bath industry” nearly 100 years ago. Based on a complex study of ergonomics and space-use, the concept reduced the energy expended and the time spent completing common kitchen tasks. Despite innovation in materials and technology, the principles of good kitchen design remain almost wholly unchanged!


One of the first women in history to earn a PhD., Lillian Moller Gilbreth, was an Organizational Psychologist, Industrial Engineer, and, to quote her friends, “a genius in the art of living”. Gilbreth introduced the Work Triangle (also known referred to as the Golden Triangle) at a Women’s Expo in 1929 as part of an exhibition on her study of motion savings. A testament to the quality of her work, very little has changed in the 90 years since.

Side Note: Even if you are not a kitchen design expert, it would not be strange for the name Lillian Gilbreth to sound a bit familiar to you. Her children, Frank and Ernestine, wrote books about growing up in the Gilbreth household. Two of which were made into feature films: Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes.


The Kitchen Work Triangle is a space-use tool designers use to improve movement efficiency between the three primary areas – or zones – of work: the preparation zone (sink), the cooking zone (stove/range) and the storage zone (refrigerator and pantry). The Work Triangle parameters are pretty easy to follow…

  • Each leg of the triangle should be no less than 4′-0″ and no more than 9′-0″ long.
  • The sum of all sides should fall between 13′-0″ and 26′-0″
  • All three legs of the work triangle should be free from obstacles: islands, peninsulas and traffic patterns.
  • Aisles (between cabinets and/or islands) should be 42″ wide for a single cook and 48″ for two.
  • The sink should have at least 24″ of clear counter space to one side and 18″ to the other. There should be at least 36″ of clear counter space adjacent to or across from the sink for food prep.
  • A refrigerator should have at least 15″ of clear counter space on the side with the handle. For a side by side refrigerator, the clear space can be on either side of the unit.
  • Cook top need at least 15″ of clear counter space to one side and at least 12″ to the other.

If the total distance of your work triangle is less than thirteen feet – or if one of your legs is less than four feet – you will likely feel crowded, cramped or bottlenecked. If the total distance of your triangle is greater than twenty six feet – or one of your legs is greater than nine feet – you will almost certainly waste energy moving from one zone to the next and back again. If your kitchen design fails to provide enough clear counter space to one side of a piece of equipment or the other, you will likely find yourself traveling too far to complete the tasks assigned to that zone. Though these rules may seem a bit tedious, the golden triangle was designed by an Ergonomics Expert to help reduce the number of steps home-cooks take between tasks.


The preparation and cleaning zone is comprised of the kitchen sink, its surrounding clear counter space, and the dishwasher. In this zone one would prepare food (cut meat, chop vegetables and combine ingredients) and clean up after cooking. Once you’ve cleaned up, you’ll still need somewhere to place your trash. This is where web portals like and similar other sites might be useful. Sensor bins and compostable liners are among the accessories available from these companies, and they can help keep the kitchen room functional and tidy at all times. To maximize motion efficiency, kitchen designers suggest locating dinnerware and flatware storage adjacent to this zone. Storage for prep tools (cutting boards, knives and peelers) should be located nearby as well.


The cooking and baking zone is, of course, where the hot work happens. This zone is comprise of either a range or a cook top and wall oven combo. To maximize motion efficiency, interior designers recommend storing tools used for cooking (spatulas and spoons, pots and pans, oven mits, thermometers, etc…) adjacent to this zone.


Traditionally the storage zone has encompassed the refrigerator and a few cabinets designated for the storage of dry goods. Over the years – as kitchens have increased in size – the storage zone has grown to include walk in pantries and/or butler’s pantries. As the years have gone on, food storage has aimed to become more secure, both for the preservation of food and to keep away pests, such as rodents, from getting into these areas. Modern-day kitchens aim to be completely pest-free, so cleveland pest control services, and pest control in other areas, are only needed in extreme situations. In addition to storing food in this zone, one should keep storage tools (read: tupperware and ziplocks) here as well.

At McCoy Homes, we believe that YOUR home should be designed around YOU and the way that YOU live YOUR life. So our Interior Designers will happily customize any kitchen plan to meet your specific needs. However, there are some design basics that we’ll stick to – to make sure that your layout makes the smartest and most efficient use of your time and energy!

If you’d like to make a McCoy Home your home, call us today! We’d be honored to work with you.

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