How to design a kitchen: the complete illustrated guide

How to design a kitchen: the complete illustrated guide

How to design a kitchen: here's the technical guide with everything you need to know about how to design a kitchen correctly together with rules, standards, layouts, examples and 3D project files ready for download

In this insight we'll be analyzing how to design a kitchen in a correct way. We will look at standard kitchen sizes, along with some useful rules that will help you design a practical and functional kitchen.

The key to a well-structured and highly organized kitchen is planning the space and the location of the most important appliances to enable frequent tasks to be completed comfortably and efficiently.

DWG layouts with floor plans and sections of different types of kitchens together with 3D models in EDF format are ready for download and can be a useful reference for your project.

Similarly, you can even open the 3D models of the project in the EDF file format created with Edificius, the software for architectural BIM design that allows designers and AECO professionals to adopt and verify immediate and easy solutions. Download the full version 30-day free here!

Kitchen_ProRender_How to design a kitchen_Edificius

Kitchen rendering


Download the 3D BIM model (.edf file) of the kitchen project



How to design a kitchen: what is the Work triangle?

The space planning has become known as the “work triangle”, which is the area of activity where the tasks carried out in a kitchen involve the sink, the stove and the refrigerator. The primary idea is that these three elements, connected by imaginary lines, are in close proximity (but not so close) to one another. Hence, the work triangle is designed to minimize traffic within the kitchen and to facilitate the access to the three appliances when cooking.


work-triangle_How to design a kitchen_Edificius

"Work Triangle"

The NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association) suggests some guidelines regarding how to set up a work triangle efficiently. It is recommended to keep the work triangle distance between the sink, fridge and cooker at 7 m (= 23 ft) or less. Work triangles that exceed 7 m/23 ft make moving from one function to another unpractical. The ideal length of the work triangle lies between 4 m (13 ft) and 6 m (19 ft). Further on this article, we will indicate measurements only with the Metric system (considering that 1 ft = 0.3048 m = 30.48 cm and 1 m = 3.28 ft).

In addition, the kitchen work triangle is a concept used to determine different types of kitchen layouts that would be both aesthetical and functional/efficient.

Further, let's see some examples of kitchen design.

How to design a kitchen: typical kitchen layouts

Designers should consider that a kitchen has different flows and work areas that need to be integrated throughout the project. There are several basic kitchen layouts that are typically used and that depends on your limits or wall, door and window locations. Specifically, the most commonly used types include:

  • single wall (or linear)
  • galley (with two parallel lines)
  • L-shaped
  • U-shaped
  • L-shaped or linear with island
  • L-shaped or U-shaped with peninsula

Let's see them in detail.

Single wall layout

A single wall layout has all the appliances, cabinets and countertop installed along one wall. This option implies the smallest possible footprint and allows to perform all tasks in a single workspace.

Single wall kitchen layout_How to design a kitchen_Edificius

Single-wall kitchen layout


Galley layout

A galley layout consist of two parallel lines of units forming a central corridor where to work. It is ideal for space saving and enhances efficiency during cooking. Ensure 1.2mt (3.9ft) space down the middle of the units to move comfortably and for opening cupboards.

Galley kitchen layout_How to design a kitchen_Edificius

Galley kitchen layout

L-shaped layout

The L-shaped kitchen layout is one of the most popular and classic type of plan. It features two walls that form a perpendicular angle, maximising corner spaces while eliminating traffic. The L-shaped kitchen offers a good option for the working triangle, especially if you position the sink halfway down one side of the units.

L-shaped kitchen layout_How to design a kitchen_Edificius

L-shaped kitchen layout


U-shaped layout

The U-shaped kitchen plan also provides a good layout for the working triangle and allows good storage, while offering three sides or walls. It works good for both small or large kitchens.

U-shaped kitchen layout_How to design a kitchen_Edificius

U-shaped kitchen layout


L-shaped or linear with island

The island design is very useful for larger kitchens where units are placed around a perimeter. The island provides storage, seating or even a food preparation area.

Linear kitchen with insula_How to design a kitchen_Edificius

Linear kitchen with insula


L-shaped or U-shaped with peninsula

In kitchen terms, a peninsula is similar to an island, but instead of standing free, one end is attached to the wall, serving as extension of the kitchen layout. Peninsulas are commonly seen in L-shaped or U-shaped kitchens within a larger space. This type of design features functional units along one wall and one window and a peninsula that continues with no need for a third wall, thus leaving one side exposed.

L-shaped kitchen with peninsula_How to design a kitchen_Edificius

L-shaped kitchen with peninsula


Cabinet dimensions

Measurements are usually relating to appliances and units and are often designed with standard dimensions so to fit the kitchen furniture.


Standard dimensions_How to design a kitchen

Standard dimensions

Base modules have a standard depth of 60 cm. This measurement takes into account that the sides have a width of 58 cm and add another 1.8/2.00 cm for the thickness of the door panel. A working island will also have a minimum depth of 60 cm while a wall unit of 30 cm.

Cabinet heights generally reach 72 cm plus the support leg height while wall unit measurements range between 72/90 cm. In case of upper wall cabinet modules, these must be placed at a height of 140-150 cm from the pavement level considering the bottom panel. The working side of an island unit should match the height of the kitchen worktop.

The standard widths of a module are variable and depend on the use that each module has. Typically they measure 30 cm, 45 cm, 60 cm. With regard to appliances, the modules are generally 60 cm and 90 cm for cooktops, sinks and ovens.


Kitchen-rendering_How to design a kitchen_Edificius

Kitchen rendering


The following table shows coordinated dimensions for kitchen units and appliances:

Kitchen unit measurements


SizesBase unitWall unitWorktopsSinks
Height72 cm plus support leg72-90 cm2-4 cm thickness15-18 cm
Width30-60 cm30-60 cm2.5 m, 3 m or 4 m and cut to fit76-95 cm
DepthUp to 60 cm30 cmdepth of cabinet (plus wall clearance if necessary)44-50 cm



Appliances dimensions


SizesCooking top
Fridge/FreezerDishwasher (Full / Slimline)Washing machine / dryerBuilt-in oven
Height --140-180 cmstarting from 70 cmstarting from 70 cmstarting from 45 cm
Width45 - 90 cmstarting from 60 cm60 / 45 cm56-60 cm60 - 90 cm
Depth50 cmstarting from 50 cm55 - 60 cmstarting from 40 cm55 cm




Modern kitchen_ProRender_How to design a kitchen_Edificius

Kitchen rendering details

The most widely used materials for each element of the kitchen are those listed below.

Cabinet boxes

Cabinet boxes are usually built with these materials:

  • particle board
  • plywood
  • solid wood


Cabinet materials examples

Cabinet materials examples

Cabinet doors

The materials used for cabinet doors are the following:

  • laminate
  • melanine
  • lacquered MDF (medium density fireboard)
  • solid wood

Cabinet door materials

Cabinet door materials


Countertops are typically found in:

  • steel 18/8 AISI 304
  • acrylic resin (such as: Corian - Pral - Staron - Hi∙macs - Nikron - Delian - GetaCore - Harmony - Policor - Wilsonart - Hanex)
  • quartz conglomerate (such as: Stone - Okite - Zodiaq - Romaxx - Silestone - Technistone - Caesar Stone - Santa Margherita - Quarella - Eco by Cosentino - Eco∙friend)
  • romaxx quartz surfaces - Cristalite - Viatera - Oreolite)
  • laminate
  • glass
  • marble
  • natural granite
  • ceramic or sintered ceramic (such as: Kerlite - Laminam - Iris - Ariostea - Florim - Lapitec - Dekton)

Countertop materials

Countertop materials


Kitchen Design Rules and Recommendations

UK guidelines

There are some fundamental design principles when it comes to planning a kitchen that should be considered. However, a simple kitchen refresh with new units won't generally require approval, unless knocking down a wall, moving sanitary fittings such as the sink or carryout out electrical works and ensure the room to have adequate ventilation and drainage.

In the U.K., works to refit a kitchen doesn't generally require approval from local authorities and building regulations, although approval is likely to be requested for drainage, electrical works or if you install a new gas appliance, under UK Building Regulations. Moreover, you might still need planning permission, even for not listed homes, when altering the existing layout, therefore, changing the external house appearance, and moving a wall or a drainage.

USA guidelines

The leading source in the USA is the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) for kitchen design information providing the essential rules and guidelines together with the most important aspects of kitchen planning, including layouts, proper materials, lighting and other technical aspects.

With regard to electrical circuits and devices, most local codes follow the NEC, the only electrical code in the USA that covers lighting, switches, receptacles and other appliances.

Electrical installations

Household appliances and electrical installations are one of the areas where the use and importance of standards is noticed in everyday life. European Standards on the safety of household and similar electrical appliances are continuously adapted in order to fit with the latest technological changes.

More than 20 CEN and CENELEC Technical Committees are developing European Standards ensuring high levels of performance and safety.

The reference standard is IEC TC 64:

  • concerning protection against electric shock arising from equipment, from installations and from systems without adequate circuit protection;
  • for design, correct use and verification of all kind of electrical installations at supply voltage of up to 1 kV a.c. or 1,5 kV d.c., except those installations covered by the following IEC committees: TC 9, TC 18, TC 44, TC 97, TC 99.

Kitchen lighting

Good lighting is essential in a kitchen and must be considered alongside a basic layout. Lighting systems need to have at least two elements: bright, shadow-free task light for cooking and atmospheric lighting to create a relaxing environment. Think creatively where you want to put your light sources.

kitchen lighting_How to design a kitchen_Edificius

Kitchen lighting

For example, downlighters work well over islands or uplights that are incorporated to the tops of cabinets. It is always useful to have lighting under the wall units to light up the preparation area and worktops.

Finally, light colour choice is an important aspect that shouldn't be neglected as it can impact dramatically on your scheme. While you may want LEDs to give off cool white light above worktops, warm whte is much more relaxing for the dining area.

Kitchen ventilation

Modern kitchen ventilation is achieved using a cooker hood, however on occasion extra ventilation is required. An important step in designing a well ventilated kitchen is, for example, choosing a spot for the kitchen range. Since the range is the primary source of fumes, it must have a vent system that pulls the odours outside of the house. While a dedicated ventilation system is necessary for safety and air quality in your kitchen, you can also ensure proper ventilation by adding windows in key spots.

In England and Wales, requirements for ventilation are contained in part F - Ventilation, of Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations. You also need to have special attention to fans installation. Part P of the Building Regulations covers  the installation of domestic electrical appliances.

Download the project DWG files and the 3D BIM model

In this section you'll find the DWG project examples and the 3D BIM model ready for download


Download the 3D BIM model (.edf file) of the kitchen project



Download the DWGs of the project examples



How to design a kitchen with a software

The video below shows how to address kitchen design using a BIM software in a simple and straightforward manner.


At the end of this article, you'll also be able to download an example file including different types of kitchen layouts.


How to design a kitchen - Slides

How to design a kitchen - Download


Download the 3D BIM model of the kitchen project