Monthly Archives: October 2012

Kitchen Layouts

Don’t be alarmed if your new kitchen is the size of a shoebox; efficient use of space depends more on how it is laid out, rather than how much there is. There are six basic layouts that, keeping within the work triangle, will create an efficient, practical kitchen. The SINGLE-LINE kitchen is best utilised in narrow rooms and is suitable for one or two people to use at once. For this layout to work as an efficient kitchen, you ideally need 3m of uninterrupted wall space. Use built-in or built-under appliances to exploit all available space and allocate as much worktop as possible — the longest stretch should be between the oven and sink. Sliding cabinet doors may be more practical than hinged ones while extra storage can be provided by narrow glass shelves between the worktop and wall units. If it is part of an open-plan space, consider screening off the kitchen with sliding or folding doors, to contain cooking smells or hide dirty saucepans.

The Galley kitchen with two facing lines of cupboards provides the most efficient use of space, and is the layout most coveted by professional chefs. A galley is comprised of counters on both sides of the room with a corridor down the middle. There should be at least 1,200mm of space between facing units to allow comfortable access to base units; a pull-down table can incorporated at one end. Try to add as much natural light as possible, especially if the kitchen is located in the dark or narrow corridor.

Beyond the Triangle

Don’t feel you must adhere rigidly to the work triangle rule. It is a good basic principle of organisation, but today’s kitchens function very differently from those of 50 years ago. The human element is equally if not more important than scientific principles. Only you will be able to identify your cooking habits, your storage requirements and where you like to eat, and if these conflict with the work triangle, you can choose to ignore it. It is better to get the correct layout for your needs than sticking rigidly to a rule. For instance, if you consider cooking to be an inclusive activity, it may make sense to widen the work triangle and add a second sink and work area so that family and friends can join in. This is also a good way of encouraging children to get involved with cooking from an early age. However if you want to prevent guests helping with the cooking, the kitchen should be laid out so friends are given subtle spatial clues about where they can or cannot linger. The easiest way to do this is to incorporate an island with seating at one end, away from the work area. Parents may also want to situate the hob so that they can keep their eyes on the cooking and on the children in an adjoining room at the same time.

The fridge is the most flexible of the three activity centres in the work triangle. You may choose to move it out of the optimum triangle, since many cooks prefer to take all the ingredients out of cold storage at one time, before they start cooking. The island kitchen is only suitable for large rooms with a lot of available floor space. An island can be introduced into a large U-shaped or L-shaped kitchen to give a more compact work triangle. Islands create a separate working area and can be used for storage, a hob or a sink, but bear in mind that plumbing and electrical connections will need to run under the floor. Guests can chat to the cook working in the kitchen but will stay out of the way seated on the other side of the island. An island unit can be another way of creating a compact kitchen area in a large room. The jutting out worktop can be used as a breakfast bar or to house one of the key activity areas.
Relaxed and comfortable, the full-length windows in the kitchen instil a sense of eating outdoors and provide a backdrop of natural colour. Seating at the far end of the work surface encourages guests to linger as you cook, but keeps them out of your way. This also creates a feeling of openness, although careful planning is needed to prevent wasted journeys around it. At its simplest the island may just be a wooden table around which several people can gather to do the peeling, chopping and slicing.


The most crucial question to consider is whether the kitchen is in the right place. For instance, it may make sense to move the kitchen from the ground floor to the basement so that it leads onto the garden, thus making it easier to transfer food for outdoor dining and barbecues and hang laundry on a washing line. You can also keep an eye on young children playing outside while preparing meals. Alternatively, moving the kitchen to the top floor may offer better light and space, while bedrooms may benefit from being relocated to a cool basement. Design the layout of your house around how you live — if the kitchen is the centre of your home, reshuffle the rooms accordingly, so the kitchen gets the best location and optimum natural light. If you are fortunate enough to be able to choose which direction your kitchen will face, in a new-build house or a total refurbishment, it is a good idea to orientate it towards the sunrise. This will flood the room with morning light, and give you an opportunity to utilise the solar energy. Even if you don’t relocate the kitchen to another room, you may want to restructure the space by removing or moving walls, windows or doors. It you are considering any structural alterations, always seek professional advice.

Open-Plan Kitchens

Whether your kitchen is a separate room or an open-plan, inclusive layout, it should blend smoothly with entrances, halls and staircases. If the kitchen leads onto the garden, you may consider adding a back-door porch or lobby to keep coats, umbrellas and shoes out and the heat in or build on an extra larder it north-facing. And if your kitchen is the main ‘corridor’ from the entrance of the house to the back garden and doubles up as a busy thoroughfare, it may be wise to add another back exit elsewhere. A huge, weathered table can be the focus of family activity and the inspiration for the rustic kitchen pictured. The kitchen units neatly screen off the utility area and are coated with blackboard paint while the black rubber flooring injects a hint of metropolitan style into the otherwise simple scheme. If this is impossible, make sure the primary work area is sited away from the two doors and out of the way of passing traffic. Professional advice, will often cast a fresh perspective on space and location. When it comes to kitchen planning, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Layout is more important than size and large kitchens are only practical if the appliances and storage units are ergonomically arranged. A smaller kitchen does not mean compromising on function or sacrificing style. And in practical terms, a smaller surface area means you will spend less on materials and so afford better-quality ones.


If you intend to add a room or alter any part of the front elevation (particularly if you live in a conservation area), you will usually require planning permission. It is a good idea to contact the planning department at a very early stage, even before commissioning any drawings or plans. They can indicate what is acceptable and what is not, and, in most cases, advise whether planning permission is required, saving you time and possibly money. If you intend to convert a disused basement into a kitchen, you may have to notify the planning authorities of a change of use. And if you live in a listed building, you will require listed building consent for any alteration that affects its character or setting. Any structural alterations — for example, putting a door in a structural wall or removing a chimney breast will require building regulations approval, even if you do not need planning permission. If you hire an architect or interior designer, it is their responsibility to seek such permission. If you do the work yourself, start with the building inspector and ask to be referred to any other organisation whose permission is required.

In the above picture, a chrome kettle and toaster are the only signs of ornamentation in this open-plan kitchen, which is part of a loft apartment in a 1 920s warehouse conversion. A simple bar separates the kitchen from the dining area. The well-planned kitchen ensures the cook has everything to hand. Here, a seemingly effortless mix of unfitted units, freestanding appliances and open shelving belies the meticulous planning and organisation that has gone into the design.