This Is The Easiest Way To Design A Kitchen Layout

This page is part of the affordable kitchen remodeling series, created to help homeowners design an elegant kitchen that fits their budget. You can access the entire series here.

Have a good look at the kitchen below. Does anything jump out at you? We’re going to come back to it in a minute and it’s going to look completely different to you. It’s at that point you’ll know you understand how to layout a kitchen.

A well designed kitchen with a good layout for cooking in.

Designing a kitchen layout is one of the things that people tend to over complicate. Let’s distill the process down to the basics.

Ice, Water, Rock, Fire!

Every time you plan a kitchen layout I want you to repeat – Ice, Water, Rock, Fire! – over and over again as you experiment with the location of the appliances.

  • Ice = refrigerator (where the food is kept on ice)
  • Water = sink (where you rinse your food and wash your hands)
  • Rock = countertops (where you slice, dice, and prepare your food)
  • Fire = oven/cooktop (where you cook and bake with fire)

When you cook or bake you naturally move from the refrigerator, over to the sink, slide to the countertops, and then to the stove.

Maybe you go back and forth between the sink and countertops a few times before you get to the stove.

Or maybe you end up going from the countertop back to the refrigerator before making the trip to the sink a half dozen times before you finally get to the stove.

Whichever you slice it you nearly always descend down the chain, and that’s why I want to you keep repeating: Ice, Water, Rock, Fire!

As you’re tinkering with different layouts for your kitchen you want to be sure that nothing gets in your way as you move from ice, to water, to rock, and then fire.

If your design includes a large island that obstructs your path from the refrigerator to the sink, you’re going to have to walk around it every time you go from the fridge to the sink and vice versa.

If your design adds a dishwasher in the path between the refrigerator and sink it’s going to be in your way every time someone opens it.

As long as you design the layout with a nice straight line from one station to the next you’ll flow from station to station like a river flows to the sea.

When you layout the kitchen do it so that you’re not retracing your steps all day and walking past the stove with every trip you make from the refrigerator to the sink. Unless you’re baking Pillsbury crescent rolls you’re not going to walk from the fridge to the oven. And even if you are you’re going to make a pit stop at the prep area, which is probably close to the sink, so you can place them on a baking sheet.

Your design should make it easy to move from the fridge, to the sink, to the countertop, back to the sink, back to the countertop, to the oven, over and over again.

Ice, Water, Rock, Fire!

A kitchen diagram that shows how one kitchen can have two distinct layouts.

Does this picture strike you differently this time? By simply moving the sink to the island they were able to achieve two distinct ice, water, rock, fire layouts.

Combine this with the teachings of the classic kitchen work triangle, which we just upgraded to a quadrilateral, and you’ll have a delightful layout that will be a pleasure to cook in.

If you’re not familiar with the work triangle, I introduced the concept in the kitchen design toolkit that I sent you by email. If you’re not on the mailing list fill out the form below. I’ll send you the link by email so you’ll never lose it, and I’ll include a few fun online tools that will help you dream up the perfect kitchen too.




Page Last Updated On Feb 12, 2019 by Scott Jenkins