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Use these 5 Zones to Plan an Efficient Kitchen

The ‘work triangle’ has dominated kitchen planning for years. It is a principle that states that for a kitchen to be efficient, the kitchen’s three main working zones—hob, refrigerator and sink—should be positioned so that they form a triangle. While that has worked very well for many kitchens across a wide span of time, a new theory in town—the 5-zone kitchen—is set to make things even more efficient.

The 5-zone kitchen stipulates that the kitchen be divided into five different zones: prep, cooking, clean-up, consumables and non-consumables. We take a look at these zones to see how you can apply them into your own kitchen planning.

Zone 1: Prep

Design: Story of Us

This zone is where meals are prepared. You want a relatively clear countertop space here. Ideally, it should be located near the consumables zone where the refrigerator is and also between the cleaning-up area and cooking zone so that we can take out our ingredients, rinse them, prep them and then cook them. This minimises movement and increases efficiency.

Design: The Interior Lab

You want to locate your prep tools here. These could comprise the following: knives, cutting boards, food processor, peeler, can opener, mortar and pestle, kitchen scissors, grater, measuring spoons, kitchen scale, pastry brush, storage containers to contain prepped ingredients and Ziploc bags (useful for marinates). You can also include your oils, spices and condiments in this zone since they are often added during the prep stage. These should overlap into your cooking zone.

Ideal location: Near the cooking, clean-up and consumables zones

Zone 2: Consumables

Design: Lemonfridge Studio

The consumables zone is the storage area for all your consumable foods. This is usually where the refrigerator is. It is also where the pantry (for storing staples that don’t need to be refrigerated, snack foods, breakfast foods and pantry appliances like the coffee maker and toaster) is located. Set it next to your clean-up and prep areas. If you can, locate the consumables zone near your cooking area as well, as it will make it easier to reach out for last-minute ingredients or ingredients that needs to be refrigerated before cooking.

Make sure there’s space to set down your groceries, as this area is usually where the bulk of your purchases get unpacked. Locate your consumables zone in a widely accessible location in the kitchen if you want everyone in the home to help themselves to snacks.

Ideal location: Near the clean-up and prep zones (also cooking zone if possible)

Zone 3: Cooking

Design: Aart Boxx Interior

The cooking zone is where the magic happens. The hob and hood sit at the centre of it all, with the oven, nearby. If you cook often, consider leaving out regularly used cooking utensils and everyday cookware for convenience. Free up counter space with wall organisers like metal bars or racks where you can hook up your cooking tools or consider using ceiling-mounted racks.

Design: Design Chapterz

Dedicate an area for cooking appliances that you use every day. It could be the rice cooker, pressure cooker or air fryer. Leave them out on the counter if you have the space, since taking them in and out of cupboards will be too much of a chore. Or consider hiding them behind an appliance garage on the counter. Plan for enough electrical outlets in the area so you can minimise cord exposure and the use of extension cords.

Ideal location: Next to the prep area and consumables zone. Near the clean-up zone.

Zone 4: Non-Consumables

Design: Fifth Avenue Interior

Non-consumables are for everything else in the kitchen that are not located in the other zones. This zone shouldn’t take up a prime location in your kitchen. This is usually where your serving ware like plates, bowls, cups and eating utensils are stored. As such, it should be located near your clean-up zone, so that you can put your serving ware away easily after washing and drying them. This is also an ideal zone for storing small appliances that don’t get used every day.

Ideal location: Next to the clean-up zone

Zone 5: Clean-Up

Design: Starry Homestead

This zone is defined by where the sink and dishwasher is. It’s also where the kitchen bin is located. Have your dishwasher to the left of your sink (if you’re right-handed), so you can scrape away leftovers before putting them away in the dishwasher in one fluid motion.

You want the clean-up zone next to the prep zone and also where the consumables (refrigerator) area is. You also want the non-consumables area nearby so you can keep cleaned dishes easily. Store your cleaning supplies in this zone: detergents, wet wipes, multipurpose cleaners and cloths. Some folks also like having their clean-up zone next to the cooking zone since it will help in cleaning up as you go along.

Ideal location: Near the prep, consumables and non-consumables zone (near the cooking zone if possible)

You may not be able to locate the different zones in ideal locations in your kitchen, and that’s OK. This may be because of a limited space, or it could be because you don’t want to move existing plumbing and pipes. Whatever the case, it’s important to think about how you would use your kitchen before planning out where the different zones should go. Everyone’s use of space is different and everyone’s ideal location will thus vary.


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