Measurements are critical when learning how to design a kitchen

How to Design a Kitchen?

Before we answer the question “how to design a kitchen?” there are a few key kitchen measurement guidelines you should be aware of. These kitchen measurements were developed by kitchen design professionals who know what they are doing. As a result, they can help you get a sense of how your remodeled kitchen should be laid out.  

One of the most difficult parts of designing a kitchen is the logistics. Where does everything go? To make your new remodeled kitchen as functional as it can be, every inch counts. Numbers are so important in a kitchen design. 

How to Design the Kitchen?

Of course you will work with a professional kitchen designer to lay out your new kitchen. However, you may find it helpful to know the essential kitchen measurements in advance. As a result, you’ll get some basic knowledge of what makes a kitchen well organized and easy to work in.  

The recommended kitchen measurements for effective kitchen design were developed by the experts at the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). They are the ones we used for this article. (NKBA is a nonprofit trade association for the kitchen and bath industry.)

These kitchen measurement guidelines help to design the kitchen. Designers rely on them to create kitchens where cooks can work efficiently. No more worries about whether refrigerator and cabinet doors can open fully without banging into something. Or whether two people can pass by each other between the island and the appliances. 

Everyone has personal preferences for what works best, so consider this a guide and not a rulebook.

How to Design the Kitchen. Measurements You Need.

The Work Triangle

Let’s get started with the most basic kitchen measurement you need to design the kitchen – the work triangle.

The work triangle determines workflow in the kitchen. The idea is that the cook should be able to move easily and without obstacles between three points:

  1. sink
  2. stove/oven
  3. refrigerator

The distances between these three points should not be far.

The “work triangle” as defined by the National Kitchen and Bath Association is: “An imaginary straight line drawn from the center of the sink, to the center of the cooktop, to the center of the refrigerator. And back to the sink.

Sink: The primary sink is typically located on the perimeter of the kitchen. (Sometimes it may be located on a kitchen island.) Additional prep sinks are not included in the triangle.

Stove/Oven: The work triangle assumes that this is a range. If they are separate, the two are located within 2 to 3 feet of each other. 

Refrigerator: The fridge is the least important point of the triangle; if one point can be a little bit farther away, it will be the fridge. Be sure that the door of the fridge opens into the triangle.

NKBA Suggestions for the Work Triangle, the Cornerstone of How to Design a Kitchen

When you add up the three legs of the work triangle, they should not total more than 26 feet. No one leg should be more than 9 feet. And no leg less than 4 feet long.

The triangle keeps the three major work stations close for the cook. The recommended distances ensure the kitchen doesn’t feel cramped and that the cook has room to work efficiently.

When you’re wondering how to design a kitchen, keep in mind that no traffic should cross through the basic work triangle.

Other Key Measurements You’ll Need When Determining How to Design a Kitchen

Landing Areas

The term “landing areas” refers to the countertop space in the places you need it most. Without landing areas, you won’t have a place to put down a hot dish from the oven. There will be no designated area for stacking dirty dishes by the sink.

Refrigerator Landing Area: Include at least 15” of landing area on the handle side of the refrigerator.

Cooking Surface Landing Area: Include a minimum of 12” of landing area on one side of a cooking surface and 15” on the other side. 

Sink Landing Area: Include at least a 24” wide landing area on one side of the sink and at least an 18” wide landing area on the other side. 

Microwave Landing Area: Include at least a 15” landing area above, below, or next to the handle side of a microwave oven.

Oven Landing Area: Include at least a 15” landing area next to or above the oven.

Width of Aisles Between Cabinets

Kitchen work aisles — where you stand while you’re chopping and/or mixing — should be 42” wide for one cook. If you want more room, or if there are two cooks in your family, work aisles should be 48” wide.

This width allows space for cabinets to be opened and for the cook or person cleaning up to move around easily or open a drawer and stand behind it or stoop down to the base cabinets. 

Walkways through the kitchen should be at least 36” wide, or even wider if you’re building an open floor plan kitchen. 

Kitchen Island Used as Work Space

The standard height for a kitchen island used for chopping and mixing and other food prep is 36”. 

However, a kitchen island should be 38” high for people who are 5’5” or above.  Research has shown that this height is the one most comfortable for taller people to prep foods. 

The width depends on how much space is available for the aisles (see above), but it should not be less than 30” wide if you don’t want to feel cramped. 

Kitchen Island Used for Seating

When the kitchen island is used as a seating area, it’s the same height as the prep countertop (36” high). 

Allow 28” to 30” wide space per diner to avoid knocking elbows.

Allow 15” deep knee space for 36” high counters (minimum)

Kitchen counter stools should be 24” high. 

Kitchen Seating Requirements

Where no traffic passes behind a seated person, allow 32” of clearance from the counter or table edge to the wall behind the seating area.

If traffic does pass behind the seated diner, allow at least 44” for people to walk past. 

Microwave Height

When installing a microwave above a wall oven, you need to think about how high you will have to reach to take hot foods out of the microwave. Between 48” to 54” from the floor to the bottom of the microwave is appropriate for both convenience and safety.

This measurement is dependent on the height of the user. The ideal location for the bottom of the microwave is 3” below the user’s shoulder, but no more than 54” above the floor.

Some kitchen layouts plan for the microwave to be installed in the island. If it’s placed below the countertop, the bottom of the oven should be at least 15” off the floor.

Pot Filler Height

Pot filler height is determined by several factors: the height of tallest pot you want to go under it, the drop of the spout and the height of the burner grates.  There will usually be several variables since every job is different. 

The height usually falls between 54” and 57” off the floor, but this depends on how the pot filler is designed.

Doorway Clearance Requirements

Any doorway into the kitchen should be 34” wide. The swing of the doors shouldn’t interfere with appliances, cabinets, other doors or work areas. In a small kitchen, doors should swing out, rather than in, to avoid clearance problems. 

If the door swing is taking up too much space, consider a pocket door or sliding barn-style doors instead, or remove the door altogether.

Cooktop / Range Clearance Requirements

Standard kitchen layout rules for appliances were created to make sure your cooking space is functional and safe.

Allow 24” of clearance between the cooking surface and a noncombustible surface above it.

Sink & Dishwasher Clearance Requirements

Allow at least 24” on one side and at least 18” on the other side of your sink. If your kitchen will have a secondary prep sink, it should have at least 3” of countertop on one side and 18” on the other side. 

The dishwasher should be installed within 36” of the primary sink.

There should be at least 21” between the dishwasher and any adjacent appliances and cabinets.

Kitchen Countertop Recommendations

Having a island in your new kitchen makes it easier to prepare a meal. A good kitchen design layout has enough countertop space to handle prep work, small appliances and a bowl of fruit or a houseplant. These kitchen measurement guidelines for countertops will guarantee an efficient layout.

A total of 158” of countertop, 24” deep, is needed, including landing areas, preparation/work areas and storage. 

How to Design a Kitchen Recap

Measurements are the foundation for answering the question “how to design a kitchen?” Start with the key measurements in this article, then move on to cabinet finishes, appliances and beautiful countertops.

Kitchens should give you room for prep and cleanup and a place to cook and bake. They should provide storage for your food and cookware. And a place where you’ll enjoy eating and interacting with your friends and family.

When it’s designed using standard kitchen measurements, everything operates logically and efficiently. You’ll enjoy working in your newly remodeled kitchen, and it will be everything you wanted when you started designing. And more.

Sources Used in this Article and For Further Reading

KDP exists to offer insight and advice about all things related to kitchen remodeling. Our goal is to connect homeowners with talented, experienced kitchen designers who live and work in their communities. We are a serious resource for anyone preparing to remodel their kitchen so they can make the best possible choices about designers, contractors and products.