Kitchen Space Planning

Kitchen Workflows / Traffic Flows
Planning and laying out the kitchen workspace require consideration on how both the work and the traffic should flow within and through the kitchen space. Another important consideration is creating an effective work flow is to ascertain if the main cook is left – or –right handed as this will impact how they traverse the kitchen space. A well-planned kitchen requires five clearly defined work areas or work ‘zones’ that will dictate the work sequence and traffic flow in a practical order. An example of a standard kitchen workflow is as follows:


Food Storage Zone – Groceries and supplies purchased are bought into the kitchen and enter the food storage area to be stored, e.g. in the pantry and in the refrigerator.


Food Preparation Zone – From the food storage area the food is then taken to the sink and other food preparation areas. The main food preparation zone is generally between the sink and the cook top, but an area between the sink and the refrigerator is also considered as prime space for preparing fresh food.


Activity then flows from the food preparation zone to the cooking centre and to the adjacent food serving zone.


The clean-up zone is where such activities as left-over food being stored in the refrigerator and the pantry occur, as well as the disposal of waste items and washing up and/or packing of the dishwasher.


To ensure freedom of movement, it is essential that the main work areas are not divided by tall units as this impede traffic as well as impede line-of-sight from one area to the next.

The selection of appliances will also be integral to the space-planning and workflow processes. Today’s kitchen includes the traditional array of appliances as well as selection such as wine fridges, steam ovens and espresso machines, which are becoming more common place.
Good space planning will ensure that the area is a safe place to work and facilitate smooth and unobstructed movement by allowing adequate space for walking, reaching, stepping back, bending, crouching etc. Clearances can often be dictated by the shape of the kitchen area. However, working clearances such as the recommended space between counter-tops or work surfaces, opening and standing at appliances etc will need to be allowed for in the design. An effective traffic flow and workflow in and around the kitchen space is a prime consideration in the early planning stages. A general guide for the more common clearances recommended in the kitchen are:

  • 1200mm clearances are recommended in major walkways and 1000mm for a secondary access to the kitchen, although the minimum requirement for all entrances is 800mm.
  • The average floor space clearance required for squatting in front of an under-bench cupboard is 600mm
  • Clearance in front of drawers, to allow for full opening, is recommended to be at least 1000mm.
  • Walkway space to allow sufficient clearance for two people to pass is 1500mm, or
  • Walkway space to allow for one person passing behind another standing at the bench height is a minimum 1200mm.
  • Clearance to walk between wall/fixture and a person seated (i.e. distance from wall to front of chair leg) is 1100mm.
  • Clearances space for sitting, from front of chair legs to wall (no allowance for walkway behind the chair while someone is seated), is a minimum of 600mm.
  • At least 1000mm should be allowed between parallel bench tops with 900mm sufficient between a bench and free-standing island.
Design Tips
  • When planning the space, carefully consider how the work should flow using a logical sequence for the functions to be carried out in each of the work zones.
  • The kitchen should be orientated to either the left- or right-handed requirements of the primary user to create a comfortable workflow from left to right or right to left respectively
  • Allowing for an effective traffic flow in and around the space is an important factor in the design.
  • Where possible, avoid the inclusion of a major thoroughfare that cuts through the kitchen’s workspace, as this will constantly disrupt functions within the workspace.
  • Consider all required and recommended clearances to ensure the unobstructed, safe and effective use of the kitchen.
  • Regardless of the size or shape of the kitchen, priority must be given in the planning stages to eliminate any design flaws affecting smooth traffic flow and transition through the work zones
  • Pull-out units and moving corner units are great storage options within the design layout. However, ensure you have allowed enough space for their efficient function in traffic flow areas.
  • The refrigerator is the most commonly used appliance in the kitchen, therefore it needs to begiven priority when placing appliances. Ideally it needs to be easily accessible from all areas in the kitchen and from adjoining rooms
  • A second sink close to the cook top is an ideal solution where the kitchen covers a large area and the distance travelled between the main sink and cook top is not ideal
  • Avoid placing a fridge or freezer hard up against a wing wall as this will limit full access to the baskets or drawers because the appliance doors will not fully open
  • Discuss design options with your designer such as the recommendations for specific appliance placements and the importance of facilitating a natural workflow sequence
  • Fridge drawers and Dish Drawers have an effect on the work triangle and allow designers more flexibility in the design
Landing Space
Landing space is required throughout all the kitchen work zones to create a smooth workflow and a consistent pattern. Landing space is integral to ease and effective use of each particular zone. The most common requirement of more bench space is effectively more landing space. The Summary of recommended allowances for landing space in the kitchen work zones:

  • It is recommended to have at least 400mmalongside the opening door of a refrigerator
  • A pantry landing space may be on an adjacent bench within 1200mm but should not be used in a major walkway.
  • For food preparation zones specifically around the cook top, oven and microwave, it is recommended to have at least 400mm on the handle side above or below appliances for the placement of hot items. Avoid areas that are opposite for safety reasons
  • A 400mm landing space can also be provided near ovens by extending around the corner of the countertop within 1200mm but this should not be situated in a major walkway
  • The work centre should be a minimum of 900mm width adjacent to the sink Further information on recommended landing spaces is provided in the next section, ‘Key Work Zones’.

Landing space in other zones:

  • Beverage preparation – near espresso machines and wine fridges.
  • Dining and breakfast areas.
  • Homework, laptop, mobile phone charging spaces.
  • Entertaining and socializing areas.
  • Laundry areas when they are incorporated within the kitchen space.

Design Tips

  • For safety, always provide sufficient landing space around cooking appliances for placing of hot items to avoid the need to turn around.
  • Provide sufficient landing space on the opening side of the refrigerator.
  • Be sure to take into account building standards when dealing with gas cook tops as they require specific clearances from combustible surfaces.
  • Don’t forget about providing counter space for conveniently located plating up and serving area.
  • Sculleries or walk-in pantries are ideal for food storage and also provide for additional food preparation areas and counter space
  • Check the use of tablets, laptops, mobile phones and other technology items as they will need an allocated space neatly designed into the kitchen area
  • Always look to follow good design principles, while ensuring kitchen landing spaces take into account your individual needs as no one specific design will suit all.
Work Zones / the Work Triangle
Although working triangle is still considered good practice and utilised by many designers and planners, the working triangle is considered by some to be obsolete. The concept is now sometimes referred to as the ‘working zone/s’ or ‘work flow’ but, no matter which term you prefer, the idea is the same: to ensure a smooth workflow between key work zones and appliances. For the purpose of this guide, we will use the term ‘work zones’. Work zones are an important concept in kitchen design because the size, shape and location of these elements can have a massive impact on how well the kitchen functions. If not followed correctly, the design might require the kitchen user to travel too far between items or not allow for enough landing space where needed.

Key Working Zones

Key work zones are vital to identify and manage during the design process. These zones indicate the main areas within the kitchen that are most heavily worked during meal preparation and serving and cleaning up. If situated correctly, the placement can facilitate movement of the user through most-often completed tasks to ensure that their time is utilised efficiently. If situated incorrectly, the placement can add unnecessary time to everyday tasks.

Key Work Zones


The “Consumables” zone is used to store consumer goods. These are items that are used for cooking and baking which then must be replenished. They include both chilled and unchilled foodstuffs. That’s why both the refrigerator and freezer cabinets are a fixed part of this zone. Open packages usually belong in the “Preparation” zone.

  • Bread
  • Coffee, tea, cocoa
  • Cornflakes and muesli
  • Canned goods
  • Noodles, rice and side-dishes
  • Finished products
  • Sugar, flour and semolina
  • Chilled foodstuffs (in refrigerator and freezer)
  • Snacks


The “Non-consumables” zone is used to store non-foodstuffs. It is mainly used for kitchen utensils, cutlery, dishes and glasses. For ergonomic reasons, it may even make sense to store often-used dishes in the pull-outs of the lower cabinets instead of the top cabinet.

  • Cutlery
  • Dishes
  • Coffee dishes
  • Glasses, dessert bowls
  • Plastic containers
  • Odds and ends
  • Seldom used small electrical appliances


The dishwasher and the sink with the sink bottom cabinet are located in the centre of the “wet zone.” This cabinet is the proper location for waste storage/separation as well as household cleaners and cleaning utensils.

  • Waste cleaning utensils
  • Household cleaners
  • Detergent and detergent tabs
  • Rubbish bags
  • Ea towels
  • Shopping bags


This zone stores those kitchen utensils required for food preparation. It also contains some open foodstuffs as well as those that are often used when preparing food.

  • Kitchen utensils
  • kitchen tools
  • various small electrical appliances
  • cutting boards
  • Vinegar, oil, sauces, etc.
  • spices
  • mixing bowls
  • food processors
  • scales
  • plastic containers (filled)


This is certainly the heart of every kitchen. It contains items such as the hob, oven, microwave and extractor. The items required for cooking and baking are stored here – items such as pots, pans and cooking utensils.

  • Cooking utensils
  • pans
  • pots
  • special oven pans
  • baking trays and racks
  • baking forms and foils
  • baking tools and baking ingredients
  • tea towels
  • cookbooks
  • operating instructions

Design Tips

  • Drawers and pull-outs are excellent options for storing pantry items (place the heaviest items at the bottom)
  • Never have the fridge hard against a wall that is deeper than the fridge(door will not open fully)
  • Wicker baskets are great storage solutions in the pantry for potatoes and onions
  • Oils and spice drawers should be incorporated around the cook top area
  • Sinks should be of a size to fit platters and oven trays for washing
  • Sinks should preferably have an overflow waste
  • Caustic cleaners should be stored in a lockable, child-proof unit
  • Colour coding the work zones will help clarify different areas when planning the kitchen
  • Consider how you will manage corners to maximise storage space. Keep up to date with the latest product releases as new ideas and new concepts are released regularly
  • When planning storage, think about areas that are generally unused, such as the space behind kickboards or at the very top of under-bench cabinets, which might be utilised.
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