Small Kitchen Designs That Work: Kitchen Appliance Placement

Whether you have a small kitchen that is U-shaped, L-shaped or galley layout, appliance placement is extremely important. A certain amount of space needs to be allowed for opening and closing appliance doors so that accidents don’t occur. When you open the oven to take out the Thanksgiving turkey, you must have elbow room and a safe place to put it down nearby. When you open the refrigerator or freezer, it should be convenient to the task involved.

Think through typical tasks such as putting away groceries, making a meal, or getting a snack and/or beverage. The few extra steps to keep walking around to the open side of the refrigerator door add up and make tasks take longer. Plan to have the door open on the side where your work space is located. When the room layout places elements in the most convenient location, kitchen tasks feel easier and daily frustrations are minimized.

Work Triangles in Various Kitchen Layouts

The old workhorse of kitchen design is the work triangle. It’s the starting point of placement because it works. The three points of the triangle are at the stove, the sink and the refrigerator. The work triangle as a rule should total less than 26 feet and no single leg of the triangle should be shorter than 4 feet or longer than 9 feet. In a small kitchen you probably have no problem in keeping the work triangle small. The challenge is allowing the minimum of 4 feet between work areas. You’re looking for balance so that work areas aren’t too crowded together, but you want the key points on the work triangle as close together as possible to be most efficient.

As you’re well aware, refrigerators come in many shapes and sizes. But there may be some new options you haven’t considered. Both refrigerator and freezers are now available in drawer configurations. These are usually used to place such units in special places in very large kitchens, but perhaps it would solve a space issue in your small kitchen. Once you determine the space available, what options are possible in your particular situation? You may only have a choice of right-hand or left-hand door opening. Or you may be able to have a freezer drawer that pulls out. Some people prefer a side by side refrigerator/freezer, if your space can accommodate it. Other people may want the refrigerator to blend in with the cabinetry by using panels, such as the small refrigerator in “The Gift” from our True Stories section. You also want to be certain to keep the refrigerator away from the main work area, ideally near of the entrance of the room. This way, someone looking for a snack or beverage won’t be in the way of someone trying to prepare a meal.

As for cooking appliances, you can choose a traditional stove or split the tasks with separate cook-top and wall oven. The best way to decide is to think about how cooking is done in your home. Do you mostly use the stove-top? Is the oven only used on special occasions? Let’s not forget the very popular microwave – now available in drawer configuration, or the better known under-cabinet or countertop versions. We do not recommend putting a microwave over the stove-top. When put over a stove, ventilation is diminished and sometimes one would have to reach over a hot stove. Planning for long-term use, reaching can become difficult for some people, while an under-counter microwave is always accessible to everyone.

Last but not least, the kitchen sink is the real workhorse of any kitchen. Depending on the available space, do you want a single sink or a double sink? Will you have a dishwasher? If so, it is traditionally placed near the sink. Think through the way you use the sink work area – rinsing vegetables, filling pots, and washing dishes are the basic tasks to consider.

All of these factors will affect how your work triangle functions in real life. Once you’ve thought through all of these factors, you may still benefit by consulting an experienced designer. The Kitchen Views design team is innovative in finding solutions for small kitchen layouts.

For further insight, you can read Lee Turner’s blog posting on choosing kitchen appliances. Also, you can read Brandy Souza’s posting to learn more about work triangles.

Be sure to check back often as we continue our “Small Kitchen Designs That Work” series. As always, if you have any good ideas or design solutions that you know work, feel free to leave a comment and share them with us.

Kitchen Views

Previously in the series: Small Galley Kitchen, Small Kitchen Designs That Work, Style and EfficiencyMatching Your Kitchen’s Style to the Rest of Your Home, Natural Lighting

1 Response to “Small Kitchen Designs That Work: Kitchen Appliance Placement”

  1. 1 Refrigerator Appliance Parts December 8, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    These are great tips. We had such a small kitchen that we had to totally remodel. However, we could easily implement some of these ideas now to make the kitchen feel larger. Thanks!

    Nick Morgan (Fridge Doc)

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