An old rule of residential kitchen design is that the “work triangle,” a triangle connecting the range, sink, and refrigerator, should have a perimeter of more than 12 feet but less than 22 feet.


Horizontal levels in kitchens are described by height above the finish floor (a.f.f.).

The tops of base cabinets are 34½ inches a.f.f.. The countertop adds another 1½ inches, so the height of the finished counter is conventionally 36″ a.f.f.. Ideally, however, a countertop should be 3 inches below the height of the elbow of the person who will be using the counter.

The depth of the counter is usually 24 inches. Single door and drawer base cabinets range in length from 12 to 24 inches, on 3-inch modules. Double door and other types can be as wide as 48″, again on 3-inch modules. Base units for sinks and ranges range from 54 to 84 inches on 6-inch modules.

Wall cabinets are usually either 30 or 42 inches high, although 12″, 18″, and 24″ cabinets are also available. The depth is usually 12 inches. The level for the top of 30-inch cabinets is 83½ a.f.f. with a soffit, or 84″ a.f.f. without. The tops of 42-inch cabinets are 95½ inches a.f.f.. Available lengths range from 24″ to 48″ in steps of 3″.

Cabinets 84″ high are made for refrigerators (in widths of 36″, 39″, and 42″), for such tools as brooms (18″ to 36″ in steps of 6″), and to hold ovens at eye level (24″ or 27″ wide).

Dishwashers require a 24″ opening (European models require 60 cm).

Ranges are typically 30″, 36″ or 48″ wide.


Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catherine Esther Beecher.
The American Woman’s Home; or, Principles of Domestic Science; being a guide to the formation and maintenance of economical, healthful, beautiful, and Christian homes.
New York: J. B. Ford & Co.; Boston: H. A. Brown & Co.; etc., 1869.

Many modern reprint editions.

Sam Clark.
The Motion Minded Kitchen: step-by-step procedures for designing and building the kitchen you want with the space and money you have.
Houghton Mifflin, 1985.

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