Kitchen Zones – How To Optimise Your Kitchen Layout
Are you tired of feeling like your kitchen is working against you rather than with you? Have you heard about designing a kitchen layout using kitchen zones?
If you’re looking for a way to create a more efficient and functional kitchen, then you’re in the right place.
In this post, I’ll explore what kitchen zones are, why they’re so important, and how you can plan your kitchen using this fantastic organizational system.
So, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s dive in!
📺 Prefer watching videos? Watch mine below:
What are Kitchen Zones?
In essence, kitchen zones are designated areas within your kitchen space, each dedicated to a specific task or function.
By dividing your kitchen into these zones, you create a more efficient workflow and help keep everything organized and easy to find. Think of it as giving each item and activity a proper home in your kitchen.
There are five main kitchen zones, which I’ll go into more detail a bit later in this post:
Remember, you can always customize these zones to fit your specific needs and cooking style.
- Consumables zone: This is where you store all your food items, including pantry staples, fresh produce, and refrigerated goods.
- Non-consumables zone: This area is for storing everyday items like dishes, glassware, and cutlery.
- Cleaning zone: This zone includes the sink, dishwasher, bins and other cleaning supplies.
- Preparation zone: This is your primary workspace, where you’ll chop, mix, and prepare ingredients for cooking.
- Cooking zone: This is where the magic happens—your stove, oven, and other cooking appliances live here.
Why are Kitchen Zones Important?
Kitchen zones are all about making your life easier. By creating a well-organized kitchen, you can save time, reduce stress, and make cooking and cleaning more enjoyable (If you’re one of those people who enjoys cleaning).
Here are just a few reasons why I think kitchen zones are a great way to design a kitchen layout:
- Improved workflow: When everything has a designated place, you can move through your kitchen tasks with ease, knowing exactly where to find what you need.
- Reduced clutter: Kitchen zones help you avoid the dreaded “junk drawer” and keep your countertops clear of unnecessary items.
- Enhanced efficiency: With a well-planned kitchen, you’ll spend less time searching for items and walking back and forth and more time enjoying your cooking process.
- Greater enjoyment: When your kitchen is organized and functional, you’ll feel more likely to cook and entertain.
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Kitchen Work Triangle – A Quick Mention
Before I get into kitchen zones, I thought it would be a good idea to just touch on one of the foundations of kitchen design principles. The OG if you like. The Work Triangle.
The kitchen work triangle is a design concept that focuses on the efficiency and functionality of a kitchen by considering the placement of its three main work areas: the sink, the stove, and the refrigerator. These three areas form an imaginary triangle, with each point representing one of these key workstations.
The idea behind the kitchen work triangle is to minimize the distance between these three points, allowing for a more efficient workflow while cooking and preparing meals.
Ideally, each side of the triangle should be between 4 and 9 feet (1.2 to 2.7 meters) long, and the sum of all three sides should be between 13 and 26 feet (4 and 8 meters).
This ensures that the workstations are neither too close nor too far apart, making it easier to move between them while working in the kitchen.
By adhering to the kitchen work triangle concept, you can create a more functional, ergonomic, and user-friendly space, reducing the time and effort spent on cooking tasks.
That’s all great, but in today’s modern kitchen, there might be more than three main areas or some areas might be split up. You might have a separate hob (cooktop) and ovens or a separate fridge and freezer.
This is where the concept of kitchen zones comes into play. And why I think it’s a better way to think about kitchen layouts.
How to Plan Your Kitchen Using Kitchen Zones
Now that I’ve covered the basics of kitchen zones, let’s dive into how you can plan your kitchen with this system in mind.
1. Consumables Zone
The consumables zone is all about storing the food you use daily. This area should be close to your refrigerator, making it easy to unload groceries and grab ingredients while cooking. Here are some tips for creating an efficient consumables zone:
- Keep dry goods like pasta, rice, and canned goods in clear, labelled containers.
- Store frequently used items at eye level or within easy reach.
- Group similar items together, such as baking supplies, spices, or condiments.
For example, a consumables zone could include a pantry cabinet next to the fridge, where all the dry goods, snacks, and canned items are stored. A pull-out spice rack located nearby can provide easy access while cooking.
2. Non-Consumables Zone
The non-consumables zone is where you’ll store items like dishes, glassware, and utensils. Some people find it helpful to have this area close to or opposite their dishwasher or sink for easy unloading and putting away. Consider these tips when organizing your non-consumables zone:
- Use drawer dividers to keep utensils organized and easy to find.
- Store everyday dishes and glassware within easy reach, reserving higher shelves for special occasion items.
- Keep items you use together, such as baking sheets and cooling racks, in the same location.
In a well-organized kitchen, there might be a dedicated cabinet (or cabinets) for storing everyday dishes and glassware. A drawer beneath this cabinet with dividers for utensils as well as some deep drawers for larger plates and bowls can make it easy to grab what’s needed before serving or setting the table.
3. Cleaning Zone
The cleaning zone is centred around your sink and dishwasher, making it the hub for all things related to cleaning and maintaining your kitchen. Here’s how to set up an efficient cleaning zone:
- Keep dish soap, sponges, and scrub brushes within easy reach of the sink.
- Store cleaning supplies like all-purpose cleaners, paper towels, and trash bags nearby.
- Use under-sink storage solutions like pull-out organizers or shelf risers to maximize space.
In an efficient cleaning zone, you might have what I call the ‘triple threat’, your sink, dishwasher and bins all next to one another. You could even get an under-the-sink pull-out organizer that can be utilized to store cleaning supplies, trash bags, and extra dish towels.
4. Preparation Zone
The preparation zone is where the work happens. This is where you’ll chop, mix, and prep ingredients for your culinary creations. To make this area as efficient as possible, keep these tips in mind:
- Choose a spacious, clean and well-lit area of countertop for your primary prep surface.
- Keep cutting boards, mixing bowls, and measuring cups close at hand.
- Store your most-used small appliances, like a stand mixer or food processor, within easy reach.
Your prep zone might be located on a large kitchen island, which provides ample space to spread out and work. A cabinet below the island could be used to store cutting boards and mixing bowls, while most used small appliances can be placed on a nearby countertop for easy access.
5. Cooking Zone
The cooking zone is, of course, centred around your hob (cooktop), oven, or range cooker (stove). This area should be set up to make cooking as enjoyable and efficient as possible. Here are some tips for a well-organized cooking zone:
- Store pots, pans, and baking sheets close to the stove and oven.
- Keep cooking utensils like spatulas, tongs, and wooden spoons within easy reach.
- Arrange frequently used spices and oils nearby for easy access while cooking.
In a well-designed cooking zone, a nice wide pan drawer underneath the hob (cooktop) can keep the most used pots and pans within reach.
Additionally, a utensil drawer next to the cooktop or a holder on the countertop can store cooking tools, while a small pull-out or drawer with go-to spices and oils can be placed nearby for convenience.
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Additional Kitchen Zones
While the five main kitchen zones are a great starting point and ideal for most kitchens, there are multiple ‘additional’ zones you might want to consider based on your specific needs and lifestyle.
These extra zones can enhance your kitchen experience and make it an even more enjoyable space for you and your family.
One of my personal favourite zones. If you’re a tea or coffee lover, creating a dedicated zone for your hot beverages can be a great addition to your kitchen.
This zone should include your kettle or coffee maker, mugs, and storage for tea, coffee, and any related items like sugar, sweeteners, and stirring sticks.
Consider placing this zone near your preparation or non-consumables zone, so it’s easily accessible but doesn’t interfere with your main cooking tasks. You can even add a small countertop area for brewing and preparing your favourite hot drinks.
For those who love to entertain guests or have family meals in the kitchen, an entertaining zone can be a fantastic addition to your space.
This zone typically consists of a seating area, such as a breakfast bar, kitchen island with stools, or a built-in bench and table.
The entertaining zone should be close to the preparation and cooking zones (but not overlapping), allowing you to easily interact with your guests while preparing food.
However, it’s essential to ensure that there is enough space for people to sit comfortably and move around without disrupting your workflow.
Don’t forget to include storage for items like placemats, napkins, and extra tableware, making it easy to set up and clear the space when hosting guests.
For all you Great British Bake Off fans! A dedicated baking zone can be a game-changer for those who love baking, providing ample space to store all baking tools and ingredients while creating an efficient and organized environment.
To set up a baking zone, first, choose the right location close to the preparation area and ensure that baking tools and ingredients are within easy reach. Install specialized storage solutions like pull-out shelves, wire racks, or drawer dividers to keep everything organized and accessible.
Ample countertop space is crucial in the baking zone for measuring, mixing, and rolling dough, so consider installing a large, heat-resistant surface like marble or granite.
Lastly, add a cooling area with a wire rack or cooling tray, providing a designated space for cooling baked goods without occupying valuable countertop space.
By incorporating these additional kitchen zones into your design, you can further personalize your kitchen, making it not only efficient for everyday cooking tasks but also a welcoming and inviting space for socializing and relaxation.
Overlapping Kitchen Zones – Good And Bad
While the concept of kitchen zones is designed to streamline your kitchen’s functionality and organization, it’s important to recognize that certain zones may overlap with one another.
In some cases, these overlaps can be beneficial, while in others, they may cause inefficiencies. Here are a few examples of how kitchen zones can overlap and how to manage these overlaps for a well-organized and efficient kitchen:
Preparation and Cooking Zone Overlap
The preparation and cooking zones often overlap, as many tasks, such as chopping vegetables or seasoning meat, are performed close to the stove or oven. This overlap can be advantageous, as it reduces the distance you need to travel between the two zones.
To manage this overlap effectively, ensure that you have sufficient countertop space between the stove and the sink or other preparation areas. You can also use this shared space to store commonly used cooking tools, such as knives, cutting boards, and mixing bowls.
Cleaning and Preparation Zone Overlap
In many kitchens, the sink serves as both a cleaning area and a space for washing and preparing ingredients. This overlap is generally functional, as you can rinse vegetables, wash hands, or clean tools while you work.
However, it’s essential to manage this overlap effectively to avoid cross-contamination and maintain a sanitary workspace. One way to do this is by having separate cutting boards for raw and cooked foods and using different sides of the sink for washing hands and food items.
If you have sufficient space, you could also consider installing a dedicated prep sink.
Consumables and Non-consumables Zone Overlap
In smaller kitchens, the consumables and non-consumables zones may overlap due to limited storage options. This overlap can work well, as long as you keep related items organized and easily accessible.
You can use drawer dividers, pull-out shelves, or labelled containers to keep your consumables and non-consumables organized and separate, even when they share the same storage space.
Bad Overlapping Kitchen Zones
A bad overlapping kitchen zone is when two or more zones overlap on top of one another in the wrong kind of way.
An example would be the cooking and cleaning zones sharing the same limited countertop space. This overlap can create several issues that disrupt the overall efficiency and functionality of your kitchen. Such as:
Limited workspace: When the cooking and cleaning zones share the same countertop, you may struggle to find enough space to perform both tasks simultaneously.
For instance, if you need to clean dishes or wash vegetables while cooking, you might end up juggling multiple tasks in a cramped area, leading to frustration and inefficiency.
Increased clutter: Overlapping cooking and cleaning zones can lead to a cluttered and disorganized kitchen, especially when both areas are in use.
Dirty dishes, pots, and pans may pile up near the stove, making it difficult to find the tools you need or access your cooking appliances.
Hindered workflow: An efficient kitchen relies on a smooth workflow between different tasks. When the cooking and cleaning zones overlap, you may find yourself constantly moving back and forth between the two areas, wasting time and energy.
To avoid these issues, it’s essential to create separate and distinct spaces for your cooking and cleaning zones.
Ensure that there’s adequate countertop space for both tasks as this will help you maintain a more efficient, functional, and hygienic kitchen environment.
Tips for Planning Your Kitchen Zones
Now that you have a better understanding of kitchen zones, it’s time to put that knowledge to use. Here are some quick tips to help you plan your perfect kitchen:
- Take measurements and create a floor plan: Create a floor plan that is drawn to scale, using measurements from your kitchen space, to help you visualize the space and plan your zones effectively. – You can watch me do this in one of my YouTube videos here.
- Factor in appliances and fixtures: Consider the size and location of your appliances and fixtures such as your refrigerator, dishwasher, stove, and sink when planning your zones.
- Plan for adequate storage: Ensure each zone has enough storage to house the items it needs to contain. For example, your consumables zone should have ample pantry and refrigerator space.
- Consider ergonomics and workflow: Plan your kitchen zones based on your workflow to make the most of the space. Consider which tasks you perform most often and how you can arrange your zones to increase efficiency.
- Plan for proper lighting and ventilation: Lighting and ventilation are critical in the kitchen. Ensure each zone is well-lit and that your cooking zone has sufficient ventilation to maintain a comfortable and safe environment.
- Efficient storage solutions for each zone: Use pull-out shelves, corner storage mechanisms, and drawer dividers to keep your items organized and easy to access.
- Streamlining workflow between zones: Ensure that there is a clear path between each zone to minimize the time spent moving between them. For example, place your cutting board and knives near your preparation zone for easy access.
- Maintaining organization over time: It’s one thing to create an organized kitchen, but keeping it that way is an ongoing process. Make a habit of putting items back in their designated zones and decluttering regularly.
Common Kitchen Zones Mistakes To Avoid
As you plan and organize your kitchen zones, be aware of these common mistakes to avoid:
- Overlooking traffic flow and accessibility: Make sure your kitchen zones don’t impede the flow of traffic or make it difficult for multiple people to work in the space simultaneously.
- Insufficient countertop space: Don’t skimp on countertop space, especially in your preparation zone. Having ample room to work will make your kitchen more functional and enjoyable to use.
- Overloading one zone: While it’s essential to have the necessary appliances and fixtures in each zone, be careful not to overcrowd a single area. This can lead to inefficiency and frustration.
- Creating a bad overlapping zone: Some zones work well close together or when they occupy the same space. Some don’t. Be mindful and don’t accidentally create any bad overlapping zones when planning out your kitchen.
- Not planning for future needs: When planning your kitchen zones, consider how your needs might change over time. For example, if you plan to start a family, you might need more storage for baby items or a larger refrigerator.
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There you have it! Now that you’ve learned all about kitchen zones and how to plan your space around them, it’s time to put this knowledge into action.
Take a good look at your current kitchen layout and think about how you can incorporate these zones to create a more efficient, functional, and enjoyable space.
Remember that every kitchen is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make adjustments as needed. After all, the ultimate goal is to create a kitchen that makes your life easier and more enjoyable.
So go ahead, embrace the power of kitchen zones, and watch as your kitchen transforms into the organized, efficient, and welcoming space you’ve always dreamed of. Happy organizing!
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.