There are many important aspects to kitchen design that I have outlined in this topic. These include planning principles, layout formats, materiality choices, and regulations around safety.

Kitchens are commonly considered the heart of a home, and are therefore given prominence of place, in close relationship to other living spaces. They are also likely the most expensive individual element in a home.

The layout of a kitchen must meet both practical and aesthetic expectations. Whether to be used by an individual for a quick snack, or by a gathering of family and friends to prepare a feast, thoughtful planning can ensure efficiencies of spatial use and maintain safety.

Other spaces and functions are frequently added onto the kitchen, such as a walk-in-pantry, butler’s kitchen, where a back-of-house kitchen is used for preparation or cleaning, allowing the front-of-house kitchen to remain presentable. In larger more opulent homes, I have even added wine cellars, dry stores and cold rooms as an extension of the kitchen proper.

Alternatively or additionally, outdoor kitchen are becoming increasingly popular. Replacing a BBQ on the back lawn, an outdoor kitchen commonly includes integrated gas burners, preparation bench and sink, commonly all in stainless steel. Many will also include an under-bench fridge (beer fridge). In some cases I have extended the function of this alfresco cabana further to include an open fireplace (pizza oven) and flat-screen TV with covered outdoor lounge & dining.

Planning Principles:

The ‘Working Triangle’

Also called the ‘Kitchen Triangle’ or ‘Golden Triangle’ is the relationship (in plan) between the sink, fridge, and stove. Each side of the triangle should be a between 1200 & 2700mm long.  

You may want to re-create a similar relationship between the freezer, microwave & sink, or preparation bench, sink & oven/stove. Perhaps coffee is your passion or vice, and a functional working triangle of a barista station is what you require.

Essentially, this rule can be extended to the use of any regular routine you perform daily in the kitchen. 

Ergonomics & proportion

Homes are designed for people, and by extension kitchens should be designed to fit the people that use them. Standardised or individualised anthropometric data (people sizes) can be used to determine the optimum height of benches and shelves. Ensure enough aisle width for two or more people to move around the kitchen safely. 

Symmetry & Balance

Consider the symmetrical and asymmetrical relationships of overhead cabinets, range hood position and sink position, and focal points when viewed from adjacent rooms. Balance could also be achieved through the use of sympathetic and contrasting colours or finishes. 

Lighting & Vistas

A mix of natural and artificial lighting from numerous angles with true colour rendering is essential for food preparation. Clear sightlines from the kitchen to the outdoors, adjacent living spaces, and the TV are also important considerations for many people. 


Kitchens come in a variety of shapes and sizes

One-wall kitchen

Sometimes referred to as Pullman, it is long and narrow, like the train cars they were named after. Commonly used in the smallest of home like studios, or lofts, they should maximise the space with overhead cupboards, under-bench drawers, built-in appliances & a clutter-free preparation bench. A flush-fitted induction stove, and an under-mount sink with a drop-in cutting board could further enhance its efficiency.

Its length is only limited by the space available, and the inefficiency of its flattened working triangle. 

Galley kitchen

Considered the most efficient for a narrow space, the aisle between benches often acts as the main thoroughfare through the home. Centralise primary kitchen functions like food preparation, cooking, and cleaning for ease of use, while positioning refrigeration and storage to the ends. 

L-shaped kitchen

Placed against two perpendicular walls, this style of kitchen maximises open space, and can accommodate a centrally located dining table. However, as the kitchen becomes larger, its working relationship becomes less efficient. It may also feel less social and more exposed as your back is turned to the rest of the room. 

U-shaped kitchen (closed)

Often prepared when open plan living is not a priority or available, enclosed by three walls, this style of kitchen directly relates to the wall setout. Whilst maximising bench space, appliances must be kept away from tight corners. With only one point of access, the internal width should allow for three people to move unencumbered. 

U-shaped kitchen (open)

Sometimes referred to as a ‘Peninsula’ kitchen, this is an open U-shape kitchen with one bench facing into an adjacent room, acting like a connected island bench. 

G-shaped Kitchen

As an extended variation of a U-shaped (closed or open), this type of kitchen commonly has the smallest point of access, and will commonly have one or two benches facing into an adjacent room. 

Island Bench

A kitchen island is perhaps the most social format, encouraging collaboration and interaction with a priority on access and preparation space. This in turn can create a potential hazard. Therefore, cooking is commonly kept against a wall. Single or double-sided islands can potentially be added to every other kitchen shape, given sufficient space.

In the next article we discuss the Standards, sizing and materiality of kitchens.