The Best Way to Lay Out a Kitchen

The Best Way to Lay Out a Kitchen-title So, you’ve got a kitchen-remodeling project coming up? That’s great news. Getting an updated kitchen is truly a joy, and with the right design concepts in play, you’re sure to have a kitchen that will serve you well for many years to come.

Of course, before you start pulling out cabinets, ripping up floors and switching around plumbing and electric wires, you’ve got to make sure you’re up to speed with local building codes. Certainly, these codes will somewhat limit your creativity when it comes to design, but they’re nonetheless vitally important to follow.

For one, you want to make sure any changes you make to your home are legal, otherwise you’ll be paying for them later. But, more importantly, following your local building codes and ordinances ensures that you’re going to have a safe kitchen. It may seem like a small thing, but when you think of all the appliances you have, safety is of paramount importance!

If you choose to work with a licensed and reputable contractor, ensuring your kitchen’s compliance shouldn’t be an issue at all. But, if you’re going to be going the DIY route, you want to makes sure you’re up to speed with everything you need to know. So do your homework!

Once that’s out of the way, though, the real fun begins. You’ll find that the ordinances and building codes that pertain to kitchens aren’t all that restrictive. They’re more common sense, really. Because of this, you’ll still have plenty of leeway when it comes to following the best design practices for kitchens. This will give you a kitchen that’s every bit as functional as it is to look at.

But what goes into building a highly functional and attractive kitchen? That’s exactly what we’re going to be reviewing in this article!

Table of Contents

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  1. Doors
  2. Countertops
  3. Countertop Clearance
  4. The Triangle
  5. More Design Ideas

1. Doors

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If you’re working with an open-concept kitchen design, then you can skip ahead, as there won’t be any doors to speak of in your kitchen design. Unless, of course, you opt to build a walk-in pantry. In that case, listen up!

With a closed kitchen, you’ll need to pay attention to how the door interacts with your appliances and cabinets. There’s a practical reason for this and a safety reason.

On the practical side of the equation, you don’t want an open door to impede your ability to get at certain cabinets and appliances. Imagine your kitchen. More often than not, you’ll want to leave the door open. So make sure that it doesn’t open on top of anything else.

As far as safety is concerned, consider this. Say you have a wooden door that opens directly into the path of your oven. This is an obvious fire risk, and something that could put you in violation of local building ordinances. To that end, also remember that any entranceway has to be a minimum of 32-inches wide.

2. Countertops

The Best Way to Lay Out a Kitchen-2

When thinking about your new kitchen design, we bet that countertops are near the top of the list of things you’re excited about! Having amazing countertops can really make a kitchen something to behold, but you need to make sure that the countertops you select adhere to all of the best kitchen design standards.

First off, be sure to consider the depth. At a bare minimum, you’re going to want your kitchen’s countertops to have a depth of around two feet. Getting countertops with this depth shouldn’t be an issue, as this is the standard depth you’ll get from most manufacturers.

That being said, though, you may consider going deeper, as more counter space is almost always a good thing. If you do get custom countertops with a depth of greater than two feet, though, be sure to consider your reach and the reach of other people who will use the kitchen. You don’t want countertops so deep that you and others will be unable to reach things all the way at the back!

When placing your sink, be sure to leave extra counter space on either side. You’ll want a minimum of 18 inches on one side, and a minimum of two feet on the other. However, more is always better, and we’d recommend having at least three feet of counter space on one side.

We’ll be covering the best practices for placing the sink within the overall design of the kitchen later, but as a general rule, you’re best of placing it near the refrigerator and adjacent to the dishwasher if you have one. It just makes life easier!

Also, you’ll want to leave extra counter space on either side of your range. This makes it easy to keep things nice and organized as you’re taking things in and out of pots and pans, as well as in and out of the oven. You’ll want a minimum of one foot of counter space on both sides of the range, but more is definitely better. Consider how much safer it is to move a hot pan off of the range to the counter right next to range, rather than walking across the room with a hot pan to set it down elsewhere.

There’s final thing to consider with your counters: Unless you’re really (and we mean really) married to the idea of having countertops with 90-degree edges, always go for countertops with rounded edges. For one, you’re going to save yourself some nasty hip bruises when you forget to watch where you’re going. Also, it’s just a safety thing. Imagine if you were to slip and fall, hitting your head on a 90-deree granite edge… We don’t need to spell that out for you, do we?

3. Countertop Clearance

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If you won’t be including wall cabinets as part of your kitchen design, then you can skip forward. However, if you are going to be including wall cabinets, then you should definitely read this section!

Continuing with our discussion of the range, you’re going to need to have a minimum of two-feet of clearance above your range and below anything that’s nonflammable, like a hood. Depending upon where you live, you may or may not be required to have a hood above your stove. Whatever the case, though, you should have a hood. It keeps your kitchen safe, and it covers your tracks when you burn something in the oven!

If there’s a combustible surface above your stove – like an above-range cabinet – then you’re going to need an additional half-foot of clearance. This brings the grand total up 30 inches, which isn’t insignificant. Keep this in mind when choosing and laying out cabinets, particularly if your kitchen has low ceilings. Consider also that you may want more than 30-inches of clearance above your range as a mere matter of practicality – there’s more room to work!

As for wall cabinets that are placed above your countertops, there are no hard and fast rules. However, you should at least give yourself a foot-and-a-half of space between your counter and wall cabinets. Think of all the appliances that you might be storing on your counters. You want there to be enough room for them, don’t you?

With that in mind, it might be a good idea to measure some of your larger kitchen appliances that you might keep out. Let these be a guideline for how much space you create between the wall cabinets and the counters.

4. The Triangle

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Now that we’ve dispensed with the nitty-gritty practical stuff that goes into good kitchen design, we’re going to give you the secret sauce. If you follow these next tips, you’ll be guaranteed to have a kitchen that you enjoy!

Think about the three things that see the most use in your kitchen. What are they? That’s right! It’s your oven/range, refrigerator and sink.

When laying out your kitchen, you want to arrange these three important elements so that they form a triangle. Doing so ensures that you’re able to work efficiently when you’re in the kitchen. (Think about how you’re constantly moving from the sink to the range, back to the sink, and then to the refrigerator and back again. Don’t you want that to go easily?)

Now, this shouldn’t be just any ordinary triangle! There are some rules that you’ll need to follow:

First, make sure that the sum total of the triangle’s sides doesn’t exceed 26 feet. In a smaller kitchen, this should be easy. However, if you’re working with a lot of floor space, meeting this criterion may take some work!

Second, you’ll want to keep each side of the triangle to a distance of somewhere between four and nine feet. That said, you’ll want to keep the sides of the triangle as even as possible. Doing this keeps all of the paths you’ll take while working as efficient as possible.

If you’re going to include an island in your kitchen design, you’ll want to consider how its placement impacts your triangle. If the sides of the triangle cross paths with the island, then you’ve got to rethink your design strategy. It’s all about having uninterrupted and convenient paths between the kitchen’s different work stations. Plus, you don’t want to run the risk of bumping into the island while moving from one place to another with a hot pan!

By following the triangle strategy and abiding by these rules, you should be able to ensure that you have a highly functional kitchen design. Of course, your sink, oven and refrigerator may not be the only appliances you use a lot while cooking. Consider other appliances you might use (like your microwave, mixer or something else) and apply the same triangle strategy to those. Consider how these other appliances are used together, as well as how they’re used with your oven, sink and refrigerator.

Sure, making all of these triangles might sound like geometry homework. But, applying the triangle design strategy in this manner, and ironing out how you’re going to use the kitchen, will really pay dividends!

5. More Design Ideas

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So, we’ve only covered the boring stuff when it comes to kitchen design. We know what really excites you. You want to get started picking out cabinets, choosing new floors, and purchasing those granite countertops you’ve had your eye on for so long. You want to choose the colors, pick the appliances, and develop your kitchen’s style.

To that end, you should absolutely check out our kitchen design guides, which cover a whole host of color schemes, design concepts and period styles. By looking through them, you should find plenty of inspiration for your kitchen’s look. Combine that with what you’ve learned here, and you’ll have a new kitchen that will make you the envy of their neighborhood!