What exactly is the work triangle?
It a set of design principles that determine the placement of the refrigerator, sink, and stove in an ergonomic way. The design principles place the three work areas an efficient distance from each other. The goal is to make sure there is sufficient countertop space and each area to work, enough storage for each location, and that the cook’s movement from point to point is uninhibited.
The specific parameters are that each leg of the triangle is between four and nine feet long (efficient movement between each work area) and that the total of all three legs is between twelve and twenty six feet (to create enough countertop space). Household traffic shouldn’t flow through the triangle (so the cook can move freely). And lastly, there shouldn’t be any obstructions intersecting a leg by more than twelve inches.
The National Kitchen and Bath Association planning guidelines has more information about the work triangle.
We have seen kitchens where islands have been placed in the center of the work triangle. And often we have to explain to owners why an island won’t fit in their existing kitchen. There are cases where the island interferes with the ergonomics to the point where it is more effective to remove the island and use storage organizers and mobile prep carts to optimize the available space and provide countertop space.
Sometimes an island is just not part of a good kitchen design.
Some diagrams of common work triangles are below along with some actual examples.