Designing A Functional & Beautiful Kitchen with Designated Work Zones | Kitchen Design Layout | Kitchen Work Zones Versus The Classic Kitchen Work Triangle
Today, I’m joining three of my sweet interior design and home décor friends for our 2nd Edition of Designing Women Tell All. Each month we choose a different home or garden design related topic to discuss, as well as share our design and decorating tips, tricks, successes, and failures or what we would do differently.
This month, we’re talking all about Kitchen Design. It’s going to be informative, light-hearted, and fun, so you’ll definitely want to follow along!
You can find our 1st Edition of Designing Women Tell All, where we discussed Interior Design & Decorating Trends for 2023 here.
The Kitchen is The Heart of The Home
I’m sure you’ve all heard that the kitchen is the heart of the home. There’s a good reason it’s called this!
Kitchens are the hardest working and most utilized room in the home. It’s typically the center hub for most families – cooking and serving meals, homework sessions, craft projects, etc. It’s also the space where family and guests congregate and linger the longest during social gatherings.
A kitchen that is well-designed with your lifestyle in mind will infuse ease and practicality into your daily routine. If you’ve ever experienced the frustration of working in a cramped and poorly laid out kitchen, that lacks proper storage, doesn’t have enough countertop surface, and has traffic jams at every turn, then I’m sure you will agree.
Oftentimes, when homeowners are dreaming up their idea of the perfect kitchen, they naturally want to focus on the pretty pieces – the cabinetry style and color, the countertop and backsplash materials, appliances they would love to have, as well as pretty light fixtures. I get it because I love the pretty pieces too!
BUT…Placing Beauty Over Functionality Will Disappoint Every Time!!!
11 Steps To Designing a Kitchen That is Equally Functional & Beautiful
- A Functional Layout is A Must! – The first place I have always started with when designing kitchens (mine or clients) was to determine the lifestyle and cooking habits of the users. How many people in the household? How many cooks at a time? Are multiple functions going on at once – food prep, cooking, cleaning, etc.? Entertaining frequency? Typical meals being made for everyday and for entertaining? Storage needs? Refrigeration needs? And so on. (Fun Fact: Years ago, I designed a 12’Wx15’L walk-in refrigerator for a busy family of five, plus their basketball team, which were frequent day and overnight guests. This was in addition to designing their huge kitchen that had a 48″W refrigerator and a 48″W freezer, plus four refrigerator/freezer drawers!)
- Define Work Zones To Meet Specific Needs – Thoughtful planning of designated work zones for food prep, baking/cooking, serving, and cleaning will ensure there is adequate countertop and storage spaces; will reduce the number of steps taken from point A to B; and will eliminate those dreaded traffic jams. Did you know that a functional kitchen layout with properly designated workstations can save you 5-10 minutes per day? This adds up to 30-60 hours per year!
- A Kitchen Island is Almost Always A Great Decision – Kitchen islands are great for a multitude of reasons. For starters, they offer additional workstation/zone areas, which comes in handy when there’s more than one cook in the kitchen. They also provide additional storage; can be used as a quick meal dining spot; and can act as a casual gathering spot for family or guests. The caveat to having a kitchen island is having a space large enough to accommodate one.
- Assess Storage Needs and Plan Accordingly – Thoughtfully planned storage needs should be a high priority when designing a kitchen for functionality and efficiency. Between everyday dinnerware, glassware, and flatware to cookware and prep tools, and small appliances to rarely used serving pieces, there’s a lot items that need to be tucked away behind those closed doors. By carefully considering and planning for all of your storage needs upfront, you can and will have a better organized kitchen; one that functions for the way you cook and operate in there.
- Choose Appliances Wisely and Purchase The Best You Can Afford – If you are an avid cook (or an aspiring home chef like me) and you cook more than ordering takeout, then it is essential to select highly efficient appliances that will support your needs and lifestyle. And I highly recommend purchasing the best you can afford. Ovens that are calibrated correctly will cook/bake at the correct temperature, and will do so evenly and efficiently, which will save you trips to and from the kitchen. Highly efficient refrigerators will keep food fresher longer, which means fewer trips to the grocery store. By purchasing highly efficient appliances, you will increase your productivity, lighten your workload, as well as save you time and money. Designer Tips: Pay attention to amperage needs of appliance selections, especially if you are upgrading to higher quality products. Higher quality products can sometimes require higher amperage, which means additional electrical work will be required to accommodate the load. If budget is a concern, purchase appliances with same amperage as existing kitchen appliances.
- Select Countertop To Suit Lifestyle & Budget – There are so many choices available today – granite, marble, dolomite, quartzite, quartz, porcelain. All come in slabs of varying sizes and all have their pros and cons. The differences are too lengthy to discuss in this post, but to give you a quick synopsis…Quartzite is denser and harder than Granite, making it an ideal kitchen countertop, Quartz is not the same thing as Quartzite. Quartz is a manmade material, whereas Quartzite is a natural stone. Marble and Dolomite are similar in characteristics and look, and are the softest out of all of these. In my opinion, you can’t beat the beauty of of marble. However, if you’re a perfectionist, it’s probably best to steer clear of marble in your kitchen because certain acidic foods will etch it and other foods can easily stain it. I personally love the aged patina marble gets and that’s why I have it in my kitchen. I’ll share more on all of the materials in a future blog post.
- Select Backsplash Material To Compliment Countertop – There are many choices when it comes to backsplash materials – porcelain, natural stone, beadboard, metal, you name it. The backsplash is a place where you can interject some personality with fun pattern or you can keep it simple and classic.
- Layer Lighting + Mix & Match Lighting – A good rule of thumb when creating your kitchen lighting plan is to have at least three layers: (1) Ambient Lighting, which is general (overhead) lighting; (2) Task Lighting, which is used to perform certain tasks like cooking and food prep. Examples of task lighting in the kitchen are range hood lighting, under cabinet lighting, and island lighting; and (3) Accent Lighting, which is typically used to highlight key features and design elements, but can also cross over into ambient and task lighting as well when on dimmer switches. Some examples of accent lighting are interior cabinet lights, toe kick lights, and feature spot lights. Designer Tips: Mix & Match Your Lighting. By this I mean, your islands pendants don’t need to match your breakfast room chandelier. Nor do they need to be the same finish. Keep things interesting by selecting complimentary styles and finishes.
- Choose Flooring Materials That Work With Lifestyle – There are many flooring materials to choose from – wood, engineered wood, porcelain tile, natural stone tiles, luxury vinyl tile (LVT), cork tiles, etc. The one you select should work for your lifestyle, as well as work for the style of your home.
- Choose Paint and Stain Finishes Last – Why chose paint and stain finishes last? If you chose these first, before all other material selections, they will dictate your choices. For example, let’s say you’ve settled on a certain paint or stain color and then found “the perfect” countertop and backsplash materials but they don’t work great with the paint/stain color. Designer Tip: As a general rule, always choose paint colors last, for any home project.
- Mix Metal Finishes To Add Depth and Interest – Long gone are the days when your lighting fixtures needed to match your plumbing fixtures and hardware cabinetry. Selecting complimentary finishes and complimentary styles will add character, depth, and interest.
So you may be wondering…Is the kitchen work triangle still relevant? No, not really, but it depends!
As a professional interior designer, I personally find the classic kitchen work triangle to be outdated. However, if the classic kitchen work triangle makes sense for your specific needs, then by all means do it.
Once upon a time, when there was only one person in the kitchen (ahem, the happy homemaker), the classic kitchen work triangle made sense because it was set up to be as efficient as possible to save steps; albeit not always great looking and especially not functional for more than one person at a time.
Nowadays, our kitchens are the central hub, where a lot of activity is taking place. We often have more than one or two cooks in the kitchen at a time, so designated work zones are much more efficient and feel less cramped.
The 5 Work Zone Kitchen Layout
Zone #1 – The Cooking Zone: Range, Cooktop, Oven, and Microwave. The Microwave could also go in Zone #2, which is where I have mine.
Zone #2 – The Consumable Zone: Food Storage – Pantry and Refrigerator/Freezer, and Microwave.
Zone #3 – The Non-Consumable Zone: Pots & Pans, Dishware & Glasses, Cookie Sheets & Serving Dishes. This also includes small appliances and other items not used daily
Zone #4 – The Prep Zone – Designated Countertop Areas for Meal & Baking Prep
Zone #5 – The Cleaning Zone – Sink, Dishwasher, and Garbage Can.
Designer Tip: If you’re right-handed the dishwasher should be placed to your left or vice versa for left-handed users. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but by placing the dishwasher on the side of your non-dominant hand allows you to rinse/scrub (with dominant hand) before placing them in the dishwasher (with non-dominant hand), in one continuous movement. Make sense?
Meet The Designing Women
Crystal of Sweet Valley Acres is a northern girl, living in Canada. Crystal has been artist and dreamer since birth, and loves creating beautiful spaces in her home and garden for her family and friends to enjoy. She also loves pushing her builder husband, Bentley to his very limits when it comes to building and renovating. After 33 years of marriage and taking on 11 homes that were the worst house on the block and turning them into show stoppers along with three new builds later, Crystal has a wealth of knowledge and experience. In addition, she has won many awards for garden design and used to own a home and garden decor store for many years.
Lynn of Living Large in a Small House, lives on lakefront property in Illinois. She has a BA in Interior Design and was the owner of a full-service interior design studio for over 10 years. She specialized in high-end residential new build and renovation interior design, working as a team member with architects and contractors. Since 2000 she has consulted exclusively for friends and family.
Sheri of Savvy in the Suburbs, lives in Texas, not too far from me and we’re friends in real life! Sheri had a very successful interior design business for many years and is now enjoying fluffing her own nest, spending time with her family – three married children and five grandchildren, and growing in her relationship with the Lord. She relishes family time and believes in the old adage: God first, family second, all else third. She’s enjoying the opportunity to share this truth as well as her years of design expertise and love of all things home.
In case you’re new to my blog, I’m Kristy! WELCOME!
For the past three decades I’ve been designing and decorating luxury model homes and private residences. I’ve recently semi-retired, but still very passionate about interior design and decorating. And now, I finally have time to share my 35 years of knowledge with you!
If you would like to know more about my credentials and a few fun facts about me, you can find that here.
Well, that about wraps this up for now! Thanks so much for stopping by today!
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This is a great guide to all the things to consider when designing your kitchen. I’m a marble fan too! I wish I wouldn’t have let my husband talk me out of it.
Thanks Lynn! So many contractors and homeowners are afraid of marble in the kitchen because they think it’s too high maintenance, which can be true for some marbles. I have a Vermont marble (some of the densest marbles known), as well as have a honed finish, and have loved it! The honed finish doesn’t show etch marks and water rings as easily. It can stain with certain food and drinks, but fairly easy to clean with the right cleaning materials and methods.
Well I knew I would learn a lot by reading your post but I learned even more than I thought. I love the “zone” information – it makes so much sense. You know what the biggest surprise for me was? That you think the kitchen triangle is outdated too! So do I! I had so many people say to me about our new kitchen “oh you missed having the kitchen triangle” aaahhh no, didn’t miss it, I just don’t feel it is necessary. I set our kitchen up to function and it works so well for our family. As always I am so happy you are in this little group!
Yay! I’m so happy you learned something new! And kudos to you for designing your kitchen to work for your family’s lifestyle! I’ve been designing kitchens with work zones for years. At first, clients would hesitant about this, but once I walked them through it (in renderings) they were sold! My husband still makes comments (3 years after our kitchen remodel), about how the layout is so much more efficient than our previous kitchen.
What an informative blog Kristy! Such great advice and direction regarding all things kitchen! Your kitchen is absolutely beautiful.
Thank you so much, Sheri! I’m so happy that you found the informative! And thank you for your sweet compliment regarding my kitchen, I greatly appreciate it!
Hi Kristy! There is nothing better than a functional space that looks beautiful, and your kitchen is a perfect example of that! I’m a bit obsessed with organization so I love your ideas on using zones in the kitchen! Thank you for such an informative and gorgeous post! Blessings, Donna
Hi Donna! Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m so happy you enjoyed the information I shared!