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The Kitchen Triangle Rule: How a Century-Old Guideline Still Shapes Your Breakfast

Updated: Apr 1

Trends come and trends go. One day we are swooning over farmhouse sinks and open shelving kitchen plans and the next day the talk of the town is ornate paneling and granite countertops.

But among these short-lived fads, there is a timeless principle that has been quietly influencing how we cook for nearly a century: The Kitchen Triangle Rule.

So, how has this concept in interior design managed to outlast all the rest, and is it still relevant for the kitchens that TriVistaUSA Design + Build designs today? If you're planning a home renovation soon or just seeking inspiration to breathe new life into your kitchen, it's crucial to distinguish between what's trendy and what's functional so you can create a space that will outlive any trend.

So let's slice up the Kitchen Triangle to see what it can teach us.

What is the Kitchen Triangle Rule?

The Kitchen Triangle Rule is a design formula that's as straightforward as your favorite recipe: the stove, sink, and refrigerator should form a triangle. Why? Because they are the three most frequent stopovers you'll be making no matter what you'll be preparing in your kitchen.

Where Does the Kitchen Triangle Rule Come From?

The concept of the Kitchen Triangle, also commonly known as the 'Working Triangle' or the 'Golden Triangle," dates back to Lillian Moller Gilbreth, an industrial psychologist and engineer, who studied motion savings through circular routing to optimize the layout of kitchens. Her work was later used by the University of Illinois School of Architecture who developed the Kitchen Work Triangle we know today to cut costs in standardizing construction.

What are the 3 rules of the Kitchen Triangle Rule?

Here's the recipe for a perfect kitchen triangle:

  • Proximity and Practicality: Each leg of the triangle should measure between 4 and 9 feet, ensuring everything is within arm's reach but not so close that your kitchen feels cramped.

  • Balanced Footprint: The combined lengths of the triangle's three sides should be between 13 and 26 feet. This keeps the workflow smooth and not too cramped.

  • No Cross-Traffic: Your triangle should be a no-fly zone for household traffic, preventing those “excuse-me” moments when someone’s just trying to grab a snack or stir the pot.

Is there room for this old-school rule in your modern kitchen? 

Kitchens have always been function-first rooms, emphasizing the need for efficiency in cooking and meal preparation. However, the dynamics of how, when, and who uses the kitchen have significantly evolved since the Kitchen Triangle Rule was first introduced changing up the rules of the game entirely. Kitchens are now doubling and even tripling as dining areas, workspaces, and just entertainment hubs for family and friends to gather around. This multi-functionality means the relevance of the Kitchen Triangle isn't a simple 'yes' or 'no. Contemporary kitchen designs frequently accommodate multiple cooks, incorporate islands, and additional appliances, and even embrace smart technology. This evolution challenges the triangle rule, pushing it to adapt and evolve.

However, the core principle — efficiency — remains timeless. It's about how we navigate the space: whether it's adding a microwave station or a hidden pantry, and thus morphing the triangle into a more complex shape like a pentagon, the fundamental concept of efficient movement and accessibility persists. This enduring principle is why many modern designers still consider the Kitchen Triangle Rule a foundational guideline, modifying it to align with the diverse and dynamic needs of today's kitchens.

Interestingly, breaking this rule can sometimes lead to innovative designs. For instance, in larger kitchens, creating multiple triangles (think additional prep sink or a secondary fridge) can cater to complex cooking styles or larger families.

Check out some of our recent projects that put the Kitchen Triangle Rule directly into action. Notice how the elements can change and shapes can be adjusted but the heart of the triangle stays the same?

TriVistaUSA Design + Build Kitchen Remodel, Washington DC

TriVistaUSA Design + Build Kitchen Remodel, Arlington VA

TriVistaUSA Design + Build Kitchen Remodel, Arlington VA

Is The Kitchen Triangle Right for Your Space? 

It depends. This tried-and-true layout is great, but kitchens today are more of what you make them and less of what they are 'supposed to be'. You might need a custom design that fits your appliances and lifestyle perfectly. After all, every kitchen should be as unique as you and your family. 

Contact us and let's cook up your perfect kitchen together!



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