Kitchen Design Guidelines


Kitchen Design Guidelines are the suggestions of how to layout a function-able kitchen. The critical placement of cabinets, appliances, and sinks that allow for the best usage of a working space.  See the Cabinet design layout page for help with the specifics of cabinet layout.

If you have a complex design layout, it is not a bad idea to hire an experienced designer to handle the layout. If there are structural changes then make sure the general contractor, or designer has a licensed engineer sign off on the changes. As an example if you want to remove a bearing wall, see what size beam is needed to hold up the floor under your next 50 person dinner party.

In a kitchen design get the function aspects out of the way before style. Some key guidelines to think about in a large, or small kitchen layout are:  Ease of the cooking and cleaning process, storage, electrical and lighting, traffic flow/maneuverability, appliance door swings, window location/cabinet location, hood exhaust path, gas pipe path, large wire path, and  water and drain paths. In small kitchen designs only so much can be done with the space, and the layout can often only go one way.

Ease of the cooking and cleaning process relates to the positions of the appliances and usable counter top sections. If it is possible give every appliance 24" of counter top usually on both sides for a setting surface. Most everybody has heard of the work triangle which is the relation between the refrigerator, the sink, and the cooking appliances. If the refrigerator is 20' from the stove it would not be an efficient work triangle, loosely the distances between any appliance in a triangle leg should be between 4' and 9'. There can be two work triangles by adding a prep sink, or putting the oven and cook tops in different locations, if two people usually cook together.

Storage refers to what type of things are stored in what locations, as to determining what type of cabinets are in what location. Pull-out drawers in a regular base cabinet works well for large pans. overly Skinny base cabinets make good baking sheet storage.

Electrical and Lighting is all about a well functioning kitchen. New codes in the kitchen say that there needs to be a plug receptacle every four feet, and two feet from every appliance or sink. Every kitchen needs a switched general lighting source of enough lumens. Under cabinet task lighting is not code, but is a very good idea. There is a good kitchen lighting guide at

Traffic flow/Maneuverability and clearances means make sure there is room for people to operate comfortably. Walking room between cabinets needs (42" +),  and also plan for traffic flow through the kitchen by non cookers. Sitting areas need at least 36" clear if it is not a walk through path, and allow 24' per person width. At least one kitchen entry should be 36" if possible to allow for getting large appliances and large corner cabinets in and out of the space. See the kitchen Island page for bar and siting guidelines.

Appliance door swing guidelines are something to be sure of because your heart will sink if the refrigerator door smacks into the island after everything is installed. Most appliances need room on either side for good workability. Give a refrigerator 48' or more in front if possible. Never have an appliance door and an entrance door open into each other, because somebody coming into a kitchen will inevitably slam the entrance door into the appliance door. Having two appliances facing each other like an oven and a dish washer means that only one appliance at a time can be used.

Window location/Cabinet location has to do with the placement of the cabinets, say the sink cabinet centered on the sink window, or similarly the range hood and appliance placements and relation to cabinet placement.

Hood exhaust path, gas pipe path, large wire path. water and drain paths relates to accurately planning the placements of the fixtures and appliances so you know where to run the rough electrical, plumbing, and heating. You must have your appliances chosen and the specs on hand for the electrician, plumber, or self if DIY.  

The National Kitchen and Bath Association has a kitchen design guideline web site that is very helpful.

Down loadable kitchen planner

Kitchen Clearances