Every home has a kitchen. For many the kitchen is a gathering place for family and friends to share a meal, a cup of coffee or just talk about their day. Most kitchens are a flurry of activity preparing food, cooking and eating. The kitchen requires some basic design to function properly and work smoothly. Regardless of how big or small the space is, there are fundamental areas or stations that every kitchen has to have.

Providing proper work space, storage, cooking and cleaning spaces with plenty of elbow room takes the frustration out of entertaining and meal preparation. Keeping the basics in mind when planning for a kitchen renovation, new construction or simply trying to make the existing kitchen flow better is important. When there is no flow and you are constantly banging into helpers or other items in the room, cooking and entertaining becomes more of a source of frustration and a chore rather than a source of comfort and satisfaction.

Kitchens are built in a variety of shapes including U shape, L shape, square, rectangular, hallway or corridor and galleys. Kitchens should have these basics, cabinets, sink, stove, oven, refrigerator and sometimes a table or nook. Some kitchens may be large enough to accommodate some extras such as an island or dishwasher.

Kitchen Spacing

Kitchens function well and flow smoothly when there is a minimum of 36 between a center island and the countertop.

If your Kitchen is long and narrow with cabinets on walls that face each other, you will need a minimum of 42 inches from the countertop to countertop.

If the typical meal preparation in your house consists of two people, a minimum of 48 inches should be available from countertop to facing countertop, countertop to island or countertop to dining table or nook.

Counter Space Required for Food Preparation

Typically, food preparation such as peeling, cutting, chopping and mixing requires a minimum of 3 ½ feet of countertop space. 7 feet of countertop space is considered ideal and anything more is obviously better.

Choose countertops that are at least 2 feet from the edge of the countertop to the backsplash.

Hang wall cabinets or shelves at least 15 inches from top of the counter to the bottom of the cabinet.

Extra countertop space serves well as a place to set up a buffet or somewhere from which to serve food. You will need at least 3 feet of countertop space to adequately accommodate a service area with 7 feet being more appropriate.

Cooking and Baking Space Requirements

Situate the stove so there is a minimum of 15 inches of counter space to the left and at least 24 inches of counter space to the right.

The extra space alongside the stove or oven provides a place to set hot pots or pans on when removing them from the stove or oven.

Microwave ovens require 16 to 18 inches of counter space to the right of them. This space also acts as a place to set a hot dish on after removing it from the microwave.

Toaster ovens and countertop convection ovens require 15 to 18 inches of countertop space to the right side.

Sink, Dishwasher or Countertop Drying Rack –Kitchen Cleanup Space Requirements

Place the sink so there is 18 to 14 inches of counter space to the left side of the sink.

The right side of the sink requires at least 36 inches to accommodate a countertop drying rack and a place to set clean, dry dishes, pots or pans on. 48 to 54 inches of space is much better if you have the room.

If you plan on installing a dishwasher, choose a spot under the counter that has a minimum of 20 inches of space from the front of the open dishwasher door to the cabinets or refrigerator.

Kitchen Storage Requirements

In most kitchens, the refrigerator acts as the largest storage area in the room. Choose the largest refrigerator that will fit into your kitchen.

Avoid allowing the refrigerator to stick out more than 4 inches past the cabinets unless the refrigerator sits next to a wall, then you could go up to about 6 inches as long as the wall doesn’t interfere with the door opening and closing.

Store non-perishable foods in the kitchen cabinets.

Plan your shopping according to the space you have in the kitchen to store extra food.

Nothing makes a kitchen look messier than cans and boxes piled up on the countertops.

Many kitchen designs call for at least 15 inches of countertop space next to the refrigerator to hold bags from the store or items that you will be putting into the refrigerator. Although it would be nice to have the room, it is not a hard rule.

Nooks and Dining Tables in a Kitchen -- Space Requirements

Place dining tables at least 36 inches away from the wall to give enough room to move chairs without hitting the wall.

Space a nook at least 42 inches from the cabinets so there is enough room to slide in and out of the bench seats. An ideal nook would have two open ends to allow for easy access from either side of the nook.

If you are fortunate enough to have some space leftover and are considering counter height stools and an eating area on the countertop, you will need 28 inches between each person so everyone can eat comfortably. The countertop should be at least 24 to 30 inches deep.

Situate stools or tall chairs at least 36 inches from the back of the stool to the nearest cabinet or appliance unless the nearest appliance is the stove – allow 48 inches from the back of the chair to the stove.


Keep in mind most people naturally flow to the right regardless if you are right handed or left handed, meaning your kitchen should also flow to the right. An example in efficiency is refrigerator – stove – sink. Start by removing food from the refrigerator, bring it to the stove for cooking and on to the sink for cleaning.

If you buy foods in bulk set up a storage area elsewhere in the home that can neatly hold extra food, rather than jamming it into cabinets and leaving it on countertop.

If you love your fancy kitchen gadgets like stand mixers, blenders or food processors – keep them in a cabinet or separate storage area to prevent the kitchen from looking cluttered.