Help me understand zones and design my kitchen accordingly

chris401February 18, 2013

Hi all,

I posted about a month ago and then read the "sticky" and FAQs and many, many threads related to kitchen design. (Thanks to you all BTW, it is so very helpful.) Now that I have a bit more understanding, I wanted to get thoughts on how to design this kitchen for zones instead of the "triangle."

As you see below, open floor plan with a pantry "behind" the kitchen that will have an appliance counter for toaster, can opener or other things. The fridge is shown at front of kitchen (scale is showing a 36" fridge, counter depth). The plan is also showing a 48" range (too big now that I know more) and a huge sink (also too big). Initial thoughts: The prep zone would be to left of fridge and opposite at island. The cooking zone would be to left and right of range. The cleanup zone would be to right of sink.

I'm not sure if this is laid out well for that, however.

We are very open to suggestion and ideas. Including for appliances (not sure what fits well in this space).

Appliances we are considering:
-36-42" fridge/freezer (perhaps fullsize and inset into pantry area; perhaps built-in)
-36" range with hood
-extra wall oven (perhaps steam oven, perhaps undercounter)
-microwave (perhaps as drawer on kitchen island; perhaps on counter in pantry)

We are a family of 4. We cook some but would like to cook more. This is intended to be our forever home.

Many big thanks in advance.

This post was edited by chris401 on Sun, Jan 12, 14 at 23:29

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Zones are like separate triangles, or rectangles, to suit each major kitchen task, as needed. They are usually for multiple workers with room to work, plus equipment and ingredients for each task, and an unimpeded work path.

With one sink, your clean up zone and prep zone are already overlapping, and the fact that the main element of the cleanup zone is back-to-back with the main element of the cooking, and in your case, also baking zone, you have more zone overlap. In some kitchens, there is just a triangle, and it helps to have separate work counters, as you've outlined.

A single, 42" aisle is a bit skimpy for multiple workers, especially if range, dishwasher, or fridge doors, or any combination of those, are open.

Since you have 14' of island (wow!), I'd create better zone separation with a prep sink toward the fridge end, and moving the cleanup sink and dw toward the bottom of the plan, with dish storage across on the wall, or to the side in the island, with baking center across on the wall. Galleys definitely have challenges when it comes to zones.

I worked out zones in my kitchen by drawing paths, remembering to figure in open doors and the size of a body in motion (body size plus elbow and turning room). I have drawn the outline of our workpaths on my kitchen floorplan and shared it in a blog post, which is linked below. It's obviously a different layout than yours, but maybe will help you think about the zones you need and how your family will use them.
Best wishes!

Here is a link that might be useful: My kitchen zones and workpaths

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 7:26PM
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WOW! Great information on your blog; I have been reading it non-stop since you posted. Thanks for sharing and what a beautiful kitchen! Your zones and paths are very helpful and well designed.

You make some good points. I think it may help to split the big sink into two sinks: one for prep at top of drawing, near fridge and cooking. One at bottom of drawing for clean up. What size sinks do people use for those purposes?

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 9:28PM
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I did the same as rhome, once I got all the appliances figured out and the general layout of the kitchen (new build we designed) I started making paths thru the kitchen. There are multiple paths, some are just walk thru some from appliance to appliance, prep area to appliance, clean-up to work zones, baking zone, and the places you know people will gather or clutter (island/eating bar/desk/phone/computer area). It helps a lot to just scribble all over your kitchen and figure out the 'heavy' use areas relative to all other areas. It also helps to figure out the flow, if there will be anything interrupting the flow or obstacles with multi users.
My kitchen changed quite a bit once I started thinking about it in a more utilitarian way. My wife didn't really appreciate all the changes but once I explained the usage model she came onboard. I'm sure I sacrificed some aesthetics for utility (hence the DW's frustration) but those will be the things that drive you nuts once you start really using the kitchen. We're users for sure, we like to eat well and live in a very remote area with 2 4 yo twins. Going out to eat is maybe a once a month thing, probably less. We had to make room for 3 freezers and 2 fridges (not all in the kitchen). This is our 2nd family, we already had one set of kids leave the nest so are very aware of how a family uses a kitchen.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 10:24PM
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Chris, you do have a lot of length over which to spread out your zones. But the concentration of prep/cleanup and cooking/baking zones in one place isn't a problem because rarely do those tasks occur simultaneously (usually).

I really love the huge island that opens out onto your great room. It's the ideal island orientation that MANY people don't have the option of, though many modern condos do offer it.

Your pantry and laundry room are as big as your kitchen. Where do you spend most of your time: in your kitchen or in your pantry or laundry? I would consider a stacking washer and dryer in your mud room and expanding your kitchen into that whole pantry/laundry space. This would flow very well into your desk and double your kitchen size. But that said, since you don't have any walls besides your garage wall, you couldn't do an L or U shape, so you would have to have a dual-island setup to maximize your storage without closing off the space.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 3:01AM
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I'm sure glad the blog helped.

To answer about sink sizes: This can vary. Some would want sinks the same size. Most have larger cleanup sinks, like 30" or larger, with prep sinks at something like 15 to 18 inches... and I know a couple people who don't need a large cleanup sink, so went with something like a 24 inch there and a 30 inch for prep, since they wanted more room for prepping veggies and handwashing pans and stove parts. A lot will depend on how many dishes gather in the sink at your house and what size pans you might need to soak... and also your prep habits, including if you prep large amounts of fruit and veggies seasonally.

Sorry if I'm not being much help, but things you can think about for your particular needs.

BTW, at our house, we often do some clean up as we cook, and often the kids will be accessing the dishwashers to set the table while meals are being cooked. It's my opinion that it's best to allow for such concurrent activity, rather than limit yourself with a back to back situation if it's not necessary.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 4:24AM
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Rachiele, LLC

You might want to move the cooking area a little bit to the left. I think you'll find that the area between the refrigerator and the cooking will become valuable space. Dino Rachiele

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 6:53AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Zones should be designed around function, so in our kitchen we thought first about what we do....make the fridge, island space and MW work together for that function....make the end of the counter has the sugar, tea bags, coffee maker, hot shot, mugs...wash the sink and DW are together with plate and dish storage on one side and mug and glass storage on the on desk area is close to the entrance of the kitchen yet separate from the rest of the kitchen and is across from a bookcase full of cookbooks for recipe selecting and grocery list making....make bar area is near the fridge and ice maker with wine and rocks glasses above and cork screws and bottles below....and so on. The more specific you are about the function, the better your planning will be. That also means not planning on functions you don't perform...if you don't bake, you won't need a baking station....

The best way to get a functional kitchen is to really spend time living in the space in your head, deciding how you function in the space and then planning will be the best functioning kitchen you've ever had...for you!

This post was edited by AnnieDeighnaugh on Tue, Feb 19, 13 at 8:21

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 8:19AM
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I agree with Annie. This is my second "think about what I do and what I need to do it" designed kitchen. If I am prepping for dinner, I never need to leave my prep area. Every single thing I need is there. When I am packing my daughter's lunch box, I open one drawer, and everything is right there.

When I drew the elevations of my kitchen, I did the "stuff map" so like is stored with like. That said, when my MIL comes to visit, she can't wrap her head around the fact that my dishes are stored in the cabinet where you naturally land when the dishwasher is open. On the flip side, I never understood why her knives were nowhere near the natural prep space in her kitchen. It's a different way of analyzing the space.

We have two zones in our kitchen - cooking and clean up. However, my daughter could prep from the other side of the work table since she has easy water and fridge access. I also considered that I view cooking as a decompression/relaxation process (I like to do it in solitude) so I have a nice view of the garden. On the other hand, when clean up falls to me, I like to be social, so I can interact with my husband and daughter through a pass thru into the living room.

If you think about how you work in your kitchen, you'll never be disappointed with its function. While I am all about looks, the "looks" are the easy part.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 9:49AM
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I never liked the term triangle by itself but once the idea of zones came to life - it makes total sense. Prep zone, serving zone, clean-up zone, baking zone and I only have one sink but was able to visualize the areas instead of a single triangle - yes, I have several triangles but not everything is a triangle.

My favorite -clean up - my DW is to the left of the sink and the dish drawer is on the L to the right of the sink - I can pop dishes, silverware, and glasses from DW to storage locations without hardly moving! My old kitchen - DW same location but due to the position of the range, I had the dishes to the left, the silverware to the right and the glasses on the other side of the kitchen - yuck!!!!

Some of the zones are cross functional in the smaller kitchens (mine is medium sized but not enough room for 2 sinks)

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 12:50PM
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I don't know where your bedrooms or DR are so this is strictly in terms of your kitchen -

When you come into the kitchen from the garage with your groceries they will be primarily unloaded into your pantry and fridge - which are both at the opposite end of where you are coming in. I would consider switching the pantry and the laundry room and would also move the fridge to the other end of the counter run.

Another benefit of doing that is that it puts the fridge and the pantry at the end where the deck is located so if you are entertaining or hanging out on the deck the fridge (with drinks and snacks) and the pantry (again with snacks) are right inside the door and there is no cutting through the kitchen and disturbing the cook looking for those things.

Just a thought. I do like the idea of putting a prep sink in.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 12:59PM
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I second AnnieDeighnaugh's advice:

The more specific you are about the function, the better your planning will be. That also means not planning on functions you don't perform...if you don't bake, you won't need a baking station....

The best way to get a functional kitchen is to really spend time living in the space in your head, deciding how you function in the space and then planning will be the best functioning kitchen you've ever had...for you!

Truer words never spoken. The key about zones, IMO, is to ensure they work for you and the specific way that your family will function.

For instance, I've personally never seen the point to ensuring dishwasher unloading is optimized at the expense of meal prep. For me, I have all the time in the world when unloading the dishwasher. But at meal prep I want the dishes right at hand as I plate up meals at the rangetop -- last thing I want to be doing is running across the kitchen and back for plates as I'm trying to get a hot meal served. But is that important to everyone? Not if you serve family style ... then you'd want dishes closer to table and ensure they won't cross your prep zone on the way to table.

In my kitchen I have a second set of plates at the snack zone so they're convenient for that purpose also. Totally don't mind unloading the dishwasher and walking coffee cups and some plateware to snack zone. But if you use your DW more just-in-time with family members unloading dishes as you prep, you likely want to confine that task to the cleanup area so keeping all the dishes right there could be better.

In your plan above, personally I would move the range more to the bottom (centering cabs on either side of it so that it's centered in the lower-cab space, not on the whole wall. Then I'd put a prep sink more toward the bottom end of the island ... or even just a large double sink in the middle. I would have prep zone at the bottom end and cleanup/dishwasher to the left of the sink (more towards the top, but not at the very top since you don't want it impeding with the fridge).

The main thing is that I'd want dishes between the fridge and range so that they are convenient for snackers. I would drive me WILD to having people ducking through my prep zone for a glass or plate while I'm cooking, and hence I'd want my prep zone totally isolated from the snack zone which needs some plateware handy to it.

But that's just me and I'm not you. :) The important thing is to really think through how you and your family will function in the space so that it will be the best functioning kitchen for you, like AnnieDeighnaugh said above.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 7:35PM
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I've personally never seen the point to ensuring dishwasher unloading is optimized at the expense of meal prep.

I hope you understood that my particular concern in mentioning dishwasher unloading during meal prep was not to optimize things for the dw clearers, but to keep them from interfering with the cook! :-)

I've said I'm a selfish cook, and want a clear and easy path to the things crucial to that task. The person with knives and hot pots full of water get priority in the kitchen. That means the paths of other people need to be routed elsewhere. If the dw and only sink are right behind the stove, other people are invited right into the sacred cooking space. ;-) But I do want them to have the ability to do those needed tasks as dinner gets made, so I don't want to be shooing them out of the kitchen, either. If there are ways to do both, and I believe there is in this sized kitchen, that's what I'm encouraging.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 8:48PM
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I hope you understood that my particular concern in mentioning dishwasher unloading during meal prep was not to optimize things for the dw clearers, but to keep them from interfering with the cook! :-)

Hi Rhome, yes i totally understand that and completely agree.

I do think the single most important thing a kitchen is to ensure a clear prep and cooking zone. Nothing drove me crazier in my old kitchen than the fridge being plunk in the middle of everything. I swear every single time I picked up a pot of boiling water my husband decided he urgently needed some coffee cream or a drink from the fridge that was right in the center of the pathway. Drove me nuts!

I just liked that advice of trying to really live in the kitchen in one's head to visualize how it will function for a particular family. And second the notion that one person's perfect zones aren't necessarily anothers'.

For instance, my kitchen is a one-cook show so my goal is to keep everything for prepping, including dishes since I plate at the range, handy to my prep/cook zone. Cleanup had to stay close since the cleaner-upper is also me, while snackers and coffee-getters have to stay away, lol.

Your kitchen is multiple people working together and your prep/cooking/baking/cleanup zones work perfectly for that and snackers also stay on the periphery.

I think they are each perfect for the people they serve. :)

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 9:52PM
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Just wanted to say thanks for all of your thoughts and WOW what great insight. I'm spending time tonight thinking through the options suggested and how we likely will use the kitchen. Right now, cooking and cleaning is all me. But that's because our kiddo is only 2, DW is pregnant and exhausted, and our current kitchen is a very, very small u shape with no room for 2. So I want to plan for the future :)

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 11:11PM
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First, thanks again for all of your replies; they are great!

I put some thought into your comments and tried to revise the drawing with two sinks to help the zones function better. Still not perfect at all, and I have a few concerns and unanswered questions. (E.g., where should the glasses go? We get water from the refrigerator, but that's opposite side from the dishwasher.)

Does this look better?

In response to a few other comments/questions:

We placed the desk, mud, and laundry on that "bottom" of the drawing because we can easily close off these "messy" areas with a pocket door when company is over. The top of the drawing, however, is the powder room. We thought it would be better for guests to see a pantry than our laundry mess.

But a very good point was raised about people coming in/out from deck or garage and easier access to refrigerator would be at bottom of drawing.

Other downside is unloading groceries from the car, but we have internalized that as a once-a-week situation and all grocery bags will be placed on island for sorting and storage.
Here's the revised version:

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 7:36PM
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Any thoughts? I put it on graph paper :)

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 11:32PM
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I do love other zones in my kitchen besides clean - up
Prep and serving overlap but works great!!! I used to have this range thing in the middle of the counter and nothing worked.
But now - it is so much fun to cook!
Chris - I can't really see your picture - can you darken the lines - thanks

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 7:36PM
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Chris, I liked the symmetry of your original layout better. If you don't foresee cleanup and cooking happening simultaneously, maybe you could put a prep sink at the end of the island near the fridge/pantry and leave the cleanup sink centered.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 2:21AM
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a2gemini: thakns for the thoughts. Yes, the picture came out faint. I will need to darken, re-scan, then re-convert to JPEG, so I will need access to the scanner again.

davidahn: I'm very much all about the symmetry, so that was why the original design was so centered. I tried again with the sinks and with centering the range on the back wall (ignoring the fridge for centering). I think there is a bit of symmetry to this as well. Letm e know what you think (Elevations to follow).

Also, my architect says that his last three clients did NOT like having 48" aisle because it felt too far to the island when dumping pasta, etc. So he recommends 42" aisle. Any thoughts?

Okay, following are the elevations

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 2:14AM
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island elevation (ignore the sketches of the back wall in this one)

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 2:19AM
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Yeah, Chris, your original is better IMO (centered cleanup sink opposite the range), except maybe add a prep sink at one end for a second chef. 48" is better if you have two chefs, one at the range and one at the sink. But if you are a one chef kitchen, 42" is plenty of space.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 3:40AM
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"Zones" are just areas where a certain task is done, with all the tools and appliances considered to be inside that zone. It's important to make sure that the zones are reasonably placed for good traffic flow.

For example: you don't want to run all over the kitchen to make a snack, and you don't want the kids crossing through the range and oven area to set the table.

This sketch, from someone on gardenweb, really makes it clear.

"Draw work paths on your proposed kitchen layout for your typical users: the table setting/cleanup person, the kid making a snack, the prep activity, and the actual cooking. Try to prevent paths from crossing."

Here is a link that might be useful: task paths and work zones

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 8:34AM
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In Lean speak - Gemba!
For those who think I lost it - Lean is a big buzz word based off of Toyota and used in health care.
Gemba walks track work flows! Ahhhh- and I thought I was retired!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 8:15PM
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