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.