Kitchen Design Guidelines

October 4, 2022

Before we look at kitchen design guidelines, share your dream with us. If funds were unlimited, what would your mood board or Pinterest pages look like? Do you already know the Pantone color of the year and which colors you want in your dream kitchen? Have you done the National Kitchen + Bath Association quiz “What Kitchen Design Style are you?”. Whether you choose a traditional, transitional or contemporary kitchen, the same design guidelines apply. Let’s look at them in more detail.

Planning the Space for Your Kitchen Design    

The kitchen is the heart of a home and is always busy. When you plan the kitchen space of your dreams, be practical first, then see how your budget, reality, and hopes can fit together.  

Kitchen Triangle   

The intent of the kitchen triangle is to minimize the walking distance between the sink, refrigerator and cooktop. For ease of use and safety purposes, it is suggested that the sum of the three distances be no more than 26 feet. Each leg of the triangle should be between 4 and 9 feet, even with smaller kitchens. No major traffic walkways should cross the triangle.  

Doors and Walking areas   

No entry, cabinet or appliance doors should interfere with each other, and any doorway into the kitchen must be at least 32 inches wide. To avoid clearance problems in small kitchens, hang the doors to swing out. In workspaces, walking areas should be at least 42 inches wide.  

Work Areas   

Work areas in a kitchen are about more than just cooking. In what order do you clean up after a meal? The sink, rubbish bin and dishwasher should be in a linear order, with the bin closest to the eating area. To unpack groceries easily, place the refrigerator and pantry near the entry to the kitchen, close to a countertop. 

Kitchen Seating Area

How much space must be allowed per diner when a countertop or island doubles as a seating area? The most comfortable width is 28 to 30 inches, and the knee depth space depends on the height of the counter. Walkways behind diners should be at least 44 to 60 inches for ease of movement. 


All major appliances used for surface cooking must have a ventilation system with a fan rated at minimum 150 cubic feet per minute (CFM). The bottom of microwave ovens must be 24 to 28 inches above the floor. Are you putting the oven next to the refrigerator? The refrigerator, and not the oven, should be next to a countertop.


Kitchen countertops should include at least 158 total inches of usable countertops, including islands. What other recommendations should you take into consideration?  

  • 24 inches wide countertop next to a sink for prep work
  • 15 inches of countertop beside the refrigerator’s handle side, or on either side of a side-by-side refrigerator
  • 12 inches and 15 inches of countertop on either side of a cooking surface. 

Kitchen Storage Design   

Are you a ladybug, butterfly, cricket or bee? No, this is not a tour around your garden, but clarifying what kind of organizer you are as this should guide some of your storage design decisions. Designers recommend a minimum of 117 feet of shelf and drawer frontage for a small kitchen and at least 167 feet for a large kitchen design layout.

Electrical, Lights and Ventilation

One of the safety guidelines for kitchen design is that all receptacles servicing countertop areas must have ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection. A kitchen should have at least one wall-switch-controlled light with the switch at the entrance to the room. All cooking surface appliances require an outdoor-venting kitchen ventilation system with an exhaust rate of 150 CFM.        

Schrapper’s Fine Cabinetry, Inc. provides fine cabinetry design and installation services to clients in South Florida. We are members of the National Kitchen + Bath Association (NKBA) and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Are you interested in an outdoor kitchen, or the indoor kitchen of your dreams? To discuss kitchen design guidelines, contact Schrapper’s Fine Cabinetry, Inc. today and meet with our designers.