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The Modern Kitchen Layout

In the 1920s, industrial psychologist and engineer Lillian Moller Gilbreth created the kitchen work triangle layout and it changed kitchen design forever. The triangle placed the kitchen’s three major appliances--the fridge or icebox as it was known back then, the stove and oven, and the sink at each point of the triangle to make kitchen tasks more efficient.

This design has remained a go-to and many designers still swear by this layout to this day. And while the triangle is a great place to start, today’s designers have modified this layout to include today’s appliances and the modern family’s needs. Today’s kitchen layouts are divided into three zones--prep, cooking, and cleaning. Appropriate appliances are placed in each zone with necessities like the trash and recycle cans placed strategically between zones. Other zones often included in kitchen design are storage and serving zones.

The Prep Zone

The prep zone is one of the most essential areas of the kitchen and it’s where the chef in your home spends the most time. This zone should include ample worktop space in close proximity to the fridge and your main food storage, be it a wall or walk-in or pantry. Trash and recycle bins should also be placed nearby for easy cleanup.

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The Cooking Zone

Adjacent to your prep zone is the cooking zone. This zone will obviously include your oven and range top, along with any other appliances you use for cooking such a microwave and warming drawers. If you’re including a serving zone in your kitchen, such as an island, peninsula or a kitchen table, you’ll want that zone to be nearby your cooking zone.

mccarley cabinets modern kitchen layout cook zone

The Cleaning Zone

The cleaning zone includes the sink and dishwasher and is typically placed away from the prep and cooking zones, though each of these zones may be “connected” by your trash and recycling areas. Wall cabinets will be placed in this area to make the task of putting away dishes quick and efficient.

mccarley cabinets wash zone

The Small Kitchen Zone Solution

Let’s face it, not all kitchens have the space to include completely separate zones and that’s okay! Small kitchens can still work efficiently with a smart design using overlapping zones. Here are a few simple rules to remember.

  • Do overlap prep and cooking zones, such as prep space on either side of the oven but don’t overlap your prep and wash area.

  • An easy way to resolve a space issue in a small kitchen is to move the fridge out of the prep zone and into the cooking zone.

  • If you must overlap your prep and wash zones, separate the areas with the sink so that dirty dishes and prep dishes don’t mix.

  • To figure out what design works best for you, stand in the kitchen space and imagine yourself in there.

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