A Guide to Setting Up Kitchen Work Zones

Posted by Ben Thompson on 07.19.17

For decades, the go-to arrangement of the kitchen was known as the “kitchen triangle”. This layout dictates that a refrigerator, sink, and stove be positioned so that the path between the three creates a triangular traffic pattern, with an eye toward making the steps between each minimal. Though this is still a good school of thought, not all kitchens are conducive to it due to the space available.

A more effective way of planning a kitchen layout is to organize it by work zones. Every kitchen needs at least three primary zones: prep, cooking, and cleaning. Developing a layout based on work zones will maximize available space in the most efficient way for your family. By considering the needs of your household, a kitchen may need additional zones for eating or pets and a talented designer will be sure to incorporate them into the design plan.

Here are some of the key elements to consider for each kitchen work zone.

The Prep Zone

counter space Prep Zones on the left and right, on the expansive island.

We spend more time in this zone than any other. Think about everything that goes into cooking a meal for your family. There may be washing, peeling, draining, slicing, and chopping before any cooking takes place. And if you are baking, that list is even longer. Now, keep in mind that your zones will overlap one another and that a particular appliance or area may need to be incorporated into more than one, such as the sink or the trashcan.

Your prep zone needs to incorporate enough counter space to perform your typical meal preparation duties as well as any special types of cooking that you like to do (think coffee stations, baking, pasta-making, etc.). Next, you will need access to all the ingredients, implements, tools, appliances, and trash receptacles to get the job done. A designer will essentially help you plan what to place in your cabinets and where they are best positioned within your kitchen.

The Cooking Zone

Kitchen Island with Cooktop Cooking Zone

Obviously, the cooking zone will include your cooktop and range, but also your microwave, a warming drawer if you have it, and other necessary appliances such as a toaster. For ease and safety, this zone should be positioned next to your prep zones and should allow enough space for resting hot pots and pans. Cabinets and drawers in the zone should house everything needed for cooking including pots, pans, utensils, baking pans, cookie sheets, cooling racks, trivets, and oven gloves or mitts.

The Cleaning Zone

white cabinetry in farmhouse kitchen Cleaning Zone

Even though it may seem like you’re always doing the dishes, we spend the least amount of time in the cleaning zone. The sink and trash and recycling bins are two parts of the equation here, but they are also needed in the Prep Zone, so placing your cleaning area nearby is important. Dishwashers should be positioned next to the sink and storage of dishes and glassware should be planned for cabinets that are within arm’s reach. The fewer steps it takes to unload the dishwasher the better!

If possible, it’s a plus to position the cleaning zone by a window to enjoy a nice view or facing towards the living areas of an open floor plan so that the person doing the dishes can still interact with the family.

The key to getting the best layout is to really think about how and who will be using the kitchen and then customizing it to work for your household. Our design staff will guide you through that process and ask you questions that will make it easy to discover your needs.



Topics: Kitchens, kitchen design, kitchen remodel, kitchen work zones, Thompson Remodeling, thompson remodeling grand rapids mi