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.

Here at dk Design Kitchens, we have honed the art of kitchen design using well-founded ergonomic principles. Here’s 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 (stovetop), 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 stovetop 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