Kitchen planning

Most people will plan or renovate a kitchen sometime in their life. UKMA offers you some useful tips to help you plan your kitchen. Even if you are not planning to design and build your kitchen, some of the following tips will help prepare you for a discussion with a professional kitchen planner.

In the following section we mainly make use of centimetre measures. This is because most metric tape measures use centimetres and because many kitchen dimensions are usually expressed using cm. You might prefer to work in millimetres or metres but part of the versatility of the metric system is the ability to convert using factors of 10 or 100.

Know what you need

The starting point in planning a kitchen build or renovation is to be very clear about what you need. A simple checklist is:

  • What are you wanting from your kitchen? Is it just a room for preparing food? Or is it also a living or eating area as well?
  • What are your cooking habits? Do you mainly heat up ready-made meals in the microwave? Or are you a keen cook working with fresh ingredients and spending a lot of time in the kitchen?
  • Who cooks in the kitchen? Is it one person or a variety of family members or friends? How many people need to cook at once? How tall are the kitchen users (in metres)?
  • Do you cook things that leave lingering smells? For example, do you frequently deep fat fry food or cook spicy food?
  • Do you expect a lot of traffic through your kitchen? Does it link rooms or have an outside door?
  • Do you do large roasted dishes? For example do you want to cook large birds like turkey or goose?
  • What electrical, worktop appliances do you have?
    • A kettle?
    • A toaster?
    • A deep fat fryer?
    • A food mixer?
    • A coffee or espresso machine?
    • A toasted sandwich maker?
    • A rice cooker?
    • A slow cooker?
    • A food processor?
    • A microwave oven?
    • A bread machine?
  • Which worktop appliances are used so frequently that they need to stay on the worktop?
  • Which ones can be stored in a cupboard?
  • What built-in appliances do you require?
    • A cooker?
    • A hob?
    • An oven? Or double oven?
    • A fridge?
    • A freezer?
    • A dishwasher?
    • A microwave oven?
    • A washing machine?
  • How long do you expect to use the kitchen? Are you planning to stay long-term? Or are you wanting to sell up and move on?

Understand your constraints

You are unlikely to have unlimited freedom to do what you want. You will have physical and budgetary constraints. A simple checklist is:

  • What is the physical size of your kitchen (in metres)?
  • Do you have a separate utility room or laundry room?
  • What is your target budget?
  • What is your absolute maximum budget if stretched to do what you would like?
  • Where is the sink or dishwasher or washing machine plumbing located?
  • Where is a cooker electrical supply located?
  • What electricity outlets are available?
  • Where is the gas supply located?
  • Where are the doors? How do they swing?
  • Where are the windows? How high are they from the floor?
  • Are there external walls suitable for use with an extractor?

A successful design matches the requirements to the constraints.

Work planning

In order to get an efficient kitchen layout it is important to know what tasks are most frequently done and to imagine what journeys around the kitchen are needed to complete a task.

For example if you like espresso, you will need to:

  1. Fill the machine with water
  2. Load the machine with coffee
  3. Find suitable cups.

If you are doing a stir-fry meal, you will need to:

  1. Take meat and vegetables from a fridge
  2. Chop them on a suitable worktop
  3. Take your wok to a suitably powerful ring or burner
  4. Pick up plates for serving
  5. Take the wok to the sink for washing.

For tasks you do frequently it is important to ensure that the different work places are sufficiently closely located. A study carried out by Cornell University in the 1950s established the notion of the ‘work triangle’ based on many tasks requiring going to the fridge, cooker and sink. Your tasks may be different, for example going to the freezer, microwave oven and dishwasher but the principle of thinking through your tasks remains equally important.

Why use metric?

It makes sense to use metric when planning a kitchen because kitchen units and domestic appliances are designed in standard metric sizes. If you do your planning in feet and inches you are likely to get muddled and have an ill-fitting kitchen.

Kitchen cabinets are usually 60 cm deep and have widths that are multiples of 10 cm or 15 cm. This sizing is illustrated by the base units shown below.

Base units

Drawer units are usually offered in a variety of widths. Larder units are usually 30 cm wide and appliance units 60 cm wide.

The same applies to taller storage units.

Kitchen drawer units

Wall mounted units are usually 30 cm deep.

Wall units

Some rules of thumb

Ensure that there is at least 40 cm clearance between a kitchen door and the nearest units.

This roughly means allowing for 120 cm between the units and the wall with the door.

Kitchen layout

If you have a room less than 180 cm wide you cannot comfortably use standard 60 cm deep units. Some manufacturers offer 50 cm deep units but they may be difficult to combine with appliances.

Ensure at least 120 cm clearance between runs of kitchen units.

Kitchen layout 120 cm rule

Most unit doors open up to a maximum of 60 cm. Dishwashers doors usually open by 60 cm and oven doors usually about 50 cm.

The distance d between runs of kitchen units should be a minimum of 120 cm. If more than one person is working in the kitchen d should ideally be 140 cm or more.

Keep the work triangle distance to 7 metres or less.

Kitchen layout working triangle rule

Ensure that there is at least 40 cm clearance between the worktop and wall mounted cupboards.

Kitchen layout minimum height clearance rule

A typical worktop height h is 90 cm, although this will not necessarily be ideal for everybody. Ensure that the elbow height is a few centimetres above the worktop height for the main kitchen user. This helps make tasks like chopping comfortable. If the main user is very tall consider using an enlarged plinth to ensure comfort. Similarly a very short kitchen user ideally requires a lower plinth to reduce the height of the worktop.