Is old ‘work triangle’ design still relevant for modern kitchens?

Wickes believes the classic 1960s kitchen ‘work triangle’ design of cooker-sink-fridge fixed at three points of a triangle has changed in response to consumers’ evolving lifestyles.

The home improvement business conducted a study of British residents and design consultants and found that in 2021, Brits are prioritising many more points around the kitchen. A point or designated area for tea, coffee, and drinks preparation was named by 29% of respondents as an essential element in any new kitchen design – the fourth most wanted feature behind the traditional work triangle.

Originally developed in 1929 by US time and motion studies expert, Lilian Moller Gilbreth, the kitchen triangle concept suggests that the three main ‘work points’ of the kitchen should form an imaginary triangular shape to maximise efficiency and cut down on wasted steps.

The classic work triangle kitchen design

Other popular answers on the study were a seated ‘feet on the floor’ dining area (23%), and space for home or school working (13% and 12% respectively). Also, the increase in domestic pet ownership during the pandemic means one in five Brits now believe the kitchen needs a dedicated pet area.

Michaela Williams, design consultant at Wickes, said: “While the distance between cooker, sink and fridge is still important in modern kitchen design, we’re increasingly seeing people wanting room for appliances such as a coffee machine, which may or may not be on display. We’ve also seen a need for a flexible worktop space so customers can plug a laptop in for working from home or home-schooling, but equally bake or craft and clear everything away.

“From bespoke built-in pet beds to an area to make guests their tea or coffee, today’s kitchen design requests are more varied than ever,” Williams added. “It’s our team’s job to enquire which shape our customers need, and ensure these complex layouts are designed intelligently so they can make the most of their space.”

Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan, design historian at the University of Portsmouth, who was contacted as part of the study, agrees with Williams. “We’re moving away from the nuclear family with multi-generational households, as ‘Generation Rent’ means children are living longer at home with parents. In addition, social factors like varied eating habits means people now come and go in the kitchen to do their own thing, whereas once it was expected that the solo housewife was central to everything that happened there.

“Working from home is also here to stay, which means millions of us seeking a space in the kitchen on a daily basis, if not to work permanently then to drop in with our laptops or tablets. Everything points to the modern kitchen needing more flexible surfaces for what we want to do — and that means the kitchen work triangle will be updated with more design points.”

Wickes says that the changing use of the kitchen means that the latest design shape requirements can be anything from a triangle to a hexagon and rising to a heptagon for some householders.

The study also found that 43% of respondents say there were two people in the average British kitchen at peak times, and in 10% of homes the kitchen has four additional people at peak times. Furthermore, the study revealed that the average Brit now spends one hour and 49 mins each day in the kitchen.

The Wickes study was carried out by Mortar Research, which conducted an online survey among 2,010 respondents across the UK.

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