The Kitchen Triangle: A Guide to Modern Kitchen Design and Layout


Over the last few decades, we have witnessed more transformations in modern kitchen design than ever before. Potentially no other room in the house has experienced the same evolution as the kitchen. New design ideas, a plethora of game-changing appliances and overall higher value of the kitchen space has meant that it has become the most important room in the home.

The purpose of bedrooms and bathrooms, for example, are obvious. The former requires a bed and the latter a toilet and a shower. The designs of these two rooms may change slightly in different houses and flats, but they have their important characteristics, and their purposes will always remain the same. The kitchen, on the other hand, through its evolution, has become the core room of the home.

Kitchens used to solely be cooking spaces, separated from the home’s main spots of activity. They would be shut off from the dining room and living spaces so that mess and smells left behind after preparing a meal were not so easily noticed. Today, they have taken on more functions. They now represent the room in which most activity takes place and most health and safety risks loom. For this reason, it is essential that kitchens are designed effectively for optimum safety, comfort and practicality. This all starts with the kitchen triangle.

Ashford Kitchens & Interiors' modern kitchen with kitchen triangle layout.

The Birth of the Modern Kitchen

What we know as the modern kitchen took off after World War Two. In the 1920’s, 80% of people in the United Kingdom rented their homes. The next few decades, however, saw an unprecedented housing boom. By the 1960’s this figure had become 50% renters and 50% owners.

Post war rebuilding and expansion into suburban areas like the green belt of towns around London saw an influx of larger properties with innovative layouts and designs. With this came a huge demand for kitchen appliances and new technology. Homeowners began combining rooms together, tearing down walls that homed their utilitarian kitchens to pave the way for modern, open-plan kitchen design.

Kitchens consequently became cleaner and more organised rooms of the home. They transformed from shut-off preparation rooms to the pride of the home, where people would entertain guests. Social activity in the kitchen pushed on and home cooking grew in popularity. The kitchen was quickly adapted to host dinner parties. It went from a hidden preparation room to the hub of social activity — a place to show off kitchen utensils, fancy cookware, state-of-the-art kitchen appliances and new kitchen design aspects.

Modern Kitchen Design Layout

In family homes of today, modern kitchen design often seeks to combine a comfortable open-plan family space with sleek and spacious worktops. This allows for entertaining family, friends and other guests, and ensures that food can be prepared easily and efficiently. Modern kitchen design is all about the dynamic, functional kitchen. This means kitchens often merge with other rooms and surrounding characteristics of the house.

Large, effective storage spaces are also an incredibly popular theme of modern kitchen design. Walk-in corner larders, carousel units, pan drawers and other bespoke kitchen storage solutions mean that kitchens can function efficiently while looking neat and tidy.

The size of kitchens and their importance within the home means that the average kitchen layout takes up much more space than it used to. Kitchens have expanded to accommodate sinks, hobs, refrigerators and multiple large storage spaces — all within the same room and within a reasonable distance from one another.

With the sizes and shapes of kitchens today, it becomes a bigger task fitting together all the different pieces. A sort of jigsaw puzzle of kitchen design, a lot of shuffling around and finding the right places for different appliances is required to find the right level of comfort and practicality. However, there is an optimum kitchen design concept that should be adhered to by all — the kitchen triangle.

The Kitchen Triangle Concept

Kitchen layouts are based on the arrangement of worktops, major appliances and storage areas. If you imagine your kitchen and a path connecting your refrigerator, hob and sink, this is essentially the most active space — or, at least, where the majority of activity takes place. The kitchen triangle is one of many shapes that can be made between the important parts of the kitchen, but importantly, it’s the one kitchen design experts most advise.

The kitchen triangle, as seen below, is the ideal shape. It connects these three core members of the kitchen — the hob, the sink and the refrigerator — so that when preparing a meal, they are within equal distance from one another.

Layout of a kitchen triangle concept.

Kitchen layouts come in a great variety of forms, but there are a few fundamental layouts — the L layout, U layout, G layout and galley layout. These refer to the layout of units and worktops that form the kitchen’s surroundings. The above image shows an L-shaped kitchen, with ample workspace found on two adjacent countertops. This forms a natural work triangle and opens out onto a nearby room, making it a great design to merge with a dining or living space and creating a fantastic space in which to entertain guests.

Additional countertops on the left wall would form a U-shaped kitchen, while a kitchen with worktops on all four sides (and space for the door) is known as a G-shaped kitchen layout. These two kitchen layouts offer copious amounts of storage and continuous worktop space. In small kitchens, however, this can feel enclosing — only big kitchens are spacious enough to accommodate this type of kitchen design.

Finally, a galley kitchen layout is where the units are laid out in two parallel lines, with walking space down the middle. This layout forms an effective kitchen triangle, but it can become a busy and stressful area in family homes. The corridor-style nature of this kitchen means that there is often only enough room for one individual to cook safely.

The Ideal Kitchen Layout

In truth, the ideal kitchen layout is a combination of the above and utilises the kitchen triangle concept. Either a U-shaped kitchen or galley-shaped kitchen works perfectly when one of the points of the triangle is located on a kitchen island. The width of the walkway between the sides of your kitchen and the kitchen island is vital here — the kitchen island can’t be too near or too far. In modern open-plan kitchen designs, kitchen islands make for the perfect layout. They should be at least four feet from other work surfaces and a minimum of 36 inches high.

In the below image, for example, the east wall accommodates the first point of the triangle — the sink. There are then cupboards for storage, ample workspace and then another point of the triangle; the refrigerator, making this side the preparation area. The third point of the kitchen triangle is located on the kitchen island, where the stove can be found. It makes for a perfectly functional space between the three points.

Layout of the kitchen work triangle.

A kitchen island also means that family, friends or guests who want to interact with you while you are cooking can do so easily — over the kitchen island, especially if it’s complemented with stalls on the opposite side. People can come and go into the kitchen without getting in the way of the active cooking space, which is within the bounds of the kitchen triangle. With so many kitchen island designs available, it’s easy to find one that fits your personal taste and requirements. The versatility and efficiency of this design cannot be understated, and when incorporated into the kitchen triangle design concept, you’ll have the perfect kitchen design setup.

Ashford Kitchens & Interiors is a quality provider of bespoke kitchens in and around London. We have been carrying out kitchen installations for over 35 years and pride ourselves on our knowledge of and passion for kitchen design. Have a look at some of our testimonials and kitchen design ideas or get in touch with our Ashford Showroom on 01784 245964, or our Farnham Common Showroom on 01753 642362.

Isabel Shelley

Written by Isabel Shelley

Isabel is the Showroom Manager of Ashford Kitchens & Interiors. Isabel is based at the companies Farnham Common showroom in Buckinghamshire and joined the company in 2014. Isabel has fast become an important part of the Ashford team. With a passion for providing excellent customer service, she enjoys the satisfaction of a successfully completed project and a delighted customer.

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