Domestic kitchen planning
Domestic kitchen design per se is a relatively recent discipline.
The first ideas to optimize the work in the kitchen go back to
Catherine Beecher's A Treatise on Domestic Economy (1843, revised
and republished together with her sister Harriet Beecher Stowe as
The American Woman's Home in 1869). Beecher's "model kitchen"
propagated for the first time a systematic design based on early
ergonomics. The design included regular shelves on the walls, ample
work space, and dedicated storage areas for various food items.
Beecher even separated the functions of preparing food and cooking
it altogether by moving the stove into a compartment adjacent to the
Christine Frederick published from 1913 a series of articles on "New
Household Management" in which she analyzed the kitchen following
Taylorist principles, presented detailed time-motion studies, and
derived a kitchen design from them. Her ideas were taken up in the
1920s by architects in Germany and Austria, most notably Bruno Taut,
Erna Meyer, and Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky.
A social housing project in Frankfurt (the Römerstadt of architect
Ernst May) realized in 1927/28 was the breakthrough for her
Frankfurt kitchen, which embodied this new notion of efficiency in
While this "work kitchen" and variants derived from it were a great
success for tenement buildings, home owners had different demands
and didn't want to be constrained by a 6.4 m² kitchen. Nevertheless,
kitchen design was mostly ad-hoc following the whims of the
architect. In the U.S., the "Small Homes Council", since 1993 the
"Building Research Council", of the School of Architecture of the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was founded in 1944 with
the goal to improve the state of the art in home building,
originally with an emphasis on standardization for cost reduction.
It was there that the notion of the "kitchen work triangle" was
formalized: the three main functions in a kitchen are storage,
preparation, and cooking (which Catherine Beecher had already
recognized), and the places for these functions should be arranged
in the kitchen in such a way that work at one place does not
interfere with work at another place, the distance between these
places is not unnecessarily large, and no obstacles are in the way.
A natural arrangement is a triangle, with the refrigerator, the
sink, and the stove at a vertex each.
This observation led to a few common kitchen forms, commonly
characterized by the arrangement of the kitchen cabinets and sink,
stove, and refrigerator:
A single file kitchen has all of these along one wall; the work
triangle degenerates to a line. This is not optimal, but often the
only solution if space is restricted.
The double file kitchen (also known as galley or corridor) has two
rows of cabinets at opposite walls, one containing the stove and the
sink, the other the refrigerator. This is the classical work
In the L-kitchen, the cabinets occupy two adjacent walls. Again, the
work triangle is preserved, and there may even be space for an
additional table at a third wall, provided it doesn't intersect the
A U-kitchen has cabinets along three walls, typically with the sink
at the base of the "U". This is a typical work kitchen, too, unless
the two other cabinet rows are short enough to place a table at the
The block kitchen is a more recent development, typically found in
open kitchens. Here, the stove or both the stove and the sink are
placed where an L or U kitchen would have a table, in a freestanding
"island", separated from the other cabinets. In a closed room, this
doesn't make much sense, but in an open kitchen, it makes the stove
accessible from all sides such that two persons can cook together,
and allows for contact with guests or the rest of the family, for
the cook doesn't face the wall anymore.
Modern kitchens often have enough informal space to allow for people
to eat in it without having to use the formal dining room. Such
areas are called "breakfast areas", "breakfast nooks" or "breakfast
bars" if the space is integrated into a kitchen counter. Kitchens
with enough space to eat in are sometimes called "eat-in kitchens".
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