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How to Design a Kitchen Layout for Two or More Cooks

Create a Great Space Where Multiple Cooks Can Work Together – And Have Fun!


Too many cooks. Too little kitchen. How many times have you heard this lament – followed by a sigh – when the kitchen gets crowded with more than one cook on any given day?

If you’ve lived in an apartment or a house with a small kitchen, competing for cooking or baking space with other family members or friends can be a very frustrating experience. Imagine moving around a cramped area with scarcely any counter space and one sink for washing and cleaning.

But don’t despair. You can transform your kitchen into an enjoyable work zone – a two-cook kitchen – with a few specific strategies.


1.  Start with the Kitchen Layout

How can two chefs coexist in the kitchen without tripping over each other? An efficient layout – more than modern appliances and kitchen fixtures – is the most important consideration. While this is a challenge for apartment dwellers stuck with an existing design, homeowners who are building their dream home from house plans or thinking of renovating their kitchens may want to consider these layout designs for smooth traffic flow in the area that results in a two-chef kitchen.

U-Shape – One of the more popular kitchen designs, this layout is installed along three walls of the kitchen – with those walls lined with cabinets, drawers, and appliances. The U-shape allows multiple cooks to move freely around the traditional work triangle of fridge, sink, and stove/oven. And with all the countertop space available along the three walls, various cooks can go about their work in designated zones to perform their tasks.

Stylish white U-shape kitchen in house plan #106-1274

Rhapsody in white: Just picture two chefs creating their masterpieces in this dazzling U-shape kitchen with white cabinets and drawers. There are enough countertops along the walls for prep work, plus a center island that doubles as a prep zone and a dining area (Plan 106-1274).


Because the U-shape layout provides more floor space, some homeowners may choose to put in a center island, which can function solely as an additional workspace or one that serves as both a prep and dining area. In some instances, a center island can be replaced by a peninsula. Install a countertop overhang, and you get an eat-in bar.

L-Shape – A simple layout that can be adapted to different kitchen styles and sizes, the L-shape is just right for open floor designs and allows two or more cooks to work in the space. Instead of three walls, the L-shape design uses two adjacent walls perpendicular to each other – creating a natural work triangle incorporating the counter space and the work stations resulting in an effective culinary kitchen.

In this configuration, one side of the wall is normally devoted to the appliances – fridge, oven/stove – and the other side to the sink for cleanup. One variation is the addition of an island that can be outfitted with its own cooktop and/or sink. The island may serve as an extra prep and storage area as well as a place to eat.

L-shape kitchen with stainless steel accents and wood floor

Clean and classic: An L-shape layout works for all kitchen styles and sizes. In this design, the fridge and ovens are on one side of a wall, with the sink and dishwasher on the other wall. The kitchen also features an island with a cooktop, rendering the layout more versatile with an additional prep/cooking station. The island also serves as an eating area (Plan #202-1006).


Galley – In most circumstances, a galley kitchen is best for a solo cook. If you have a big enough space, however, this layout – if carefully planned – can work for two cooks. The first thing that most interior designers recommend is scattering appliances farther apart so that two people can do different things at the same time.


2.  You Can Never Have Enough Counter Space

The more of it that each cook has, the better. If you have a long countertop, assign specific zones for different functions. One section can be designated for slicing, chopping, and dicing, for example, and another for washing and other cooking activities.

Spacious kitchen  with lots of counter space  in house plan #108-1791

Take a look at all the countertops in the kitchen of this classic 2-story, 4-bedroom Prairie style home. The ample space allows for designating work zones so that multiple cooks can work in the kitchen smoothly (Plan #108-1791).


3.  Create Sufficient Separation between Appliances

A modern kitchen with enough space between appliances facilitates harmony among the cooks. When there’s adequate space between the sink, fridge, stovetop, oven, and other appliances, the cooks can work smoothly and move around freely in their space. They can also get to their ingredients and utensils efficiently without “invading” the other’s space.

Roomy kitchen in Country style home plan #153-1121

Large luxury kitchen big enough for two cooks

This absolute dream kitchen – seen in two views – in a 5-bedroom, 5.5-bath Country style home has attractive white cabinets and drawers and modern stainless-steel appliances. Check out the clearance between appliances, which affords smooth traffic from one work zone to another, and the separate cooktop and ovens (Plan #153-1121).


4.  Update Your Appliances and Fixtures

Once you’ve completed working on the kitchen layout, pay attention to the appliances and fixtures. Obviously, budget dictates what you can upgrade immediately, but think long-term about these kitchen items.

  • Additional sinks – You’ve heard house hunters looking for double vanity bathrooms. So why not double or triple sinks in the kitchen? If you have an island, consider putting in a sink to help with food prep.
  • You may not be ready to replace your traditional range – stovetop and oven in one unit – just yet. But down the road, a separate oven and cooktop situated in different kitchen areas will make life a lot easier for all the cooks in your family.
  • Do you have a functioning dishwasher? As hard as it is to believe, dishwashers are among the least-used appliances in American homes. It seems that there’s still a huge segment of the population who prefer to wash dishes and utensils by hand.  But if you’re home has a dishwasher, why not put it to good use and facilitate clean-up after a huge family meal or get-together?
  • An organized pantry with storage space for small appliances and other kitchen utensils keeps clutter off those countertops and provides easy access to the various needs of the cooks.

Center island in the country style kitchen of house plan #161-1072

Sliding wooden barn door reveals a walk-in kitchen pantry in house plan #161-1072

Open that sliding barn/farmhouse door behind the center island of the kitchen (top) in a 2-bedroom, 2.5-bath country home … and voila! Youll find a pantry (bottom) complete with shelves for small appliances and cooking needs (Plan #161-1072).


5.  Center Islands

The focal point of most kitchens, perhaps the most popular spot in the home, kitchen center islands add appeal, function, versatility, and efficiency to the space. They can serve as prep and cooking stations as well as dining areas. Most center islands are equipped with built-in cabinets and drawers that are great for storing pots and pans, utensils, and recipe books. With counter space available on all four sides of the island, two or more cooks can work around the island – and still have enough wiggle room.

Wood-toned kitchen with center island in house plan #109-1191

The center island – with sink – in this lovely kitchen of a 2-bedroom, 2.5-bath Country style home works as both a prep station and a dining area. Red cushions add a colorful touch to the pastel tone of the island and chairs (Plan #109-1191).


6.  Lastly, Organize Work Zones in the Kitchen

As the kitchen evolved from a mere cooking area into a spacious social hub open to the living and dining rooms, the concept of the conventional work triangle – fridge-oven/range-sink – has shifted as a consequence. With larger and more modern appliances and fixtures in the kitchen, establishing work zones is a more efficient way of accomplishing specific tasks.

To start organizing work zones, think of all of the activities that usually happen in the kitchen: food preparation, cooking, cleaning, and storing utensils and leftover food items. Based on these, you can have three major zones – patterned after the conventional work triangle of the fridge, oven/range, and sink. Or you can have five work zones, two of which are actually sub-categories that can be incorporated under the bigger umbrella of the cooking-prep zone.

When setting up work zones, the first rule of thumb is to group appliances and fixtures according to their use. You have to allow enough room for storage in each area and provide ample aisle space in the kitchen to ensure that multiple cooks can move unencumbered. Most experts advise between 42 and 48 inches for aisle width.

Let’s take a close look at the kitchen work zones.

  • Food Storage (Refrigeration Zone) – This area includes the refrigerator and freezer (for food that needs to be chilled – milk, juice, butter, leftovers, etc.) and a pantry (for dry ingredients, food storage containers, zippered plastic bags).

The refrigeration zone also needs a countertop as a landing area for food that comes in and out of the fridge. One corner of the center island or a portable cart will do the trick if you don’t have countertop space.

  • Food Preparation (Cooking Zone) – In this section is your oven, stovetop range, microwave, and electrical appliances necessary for cooking. Cutting boards, mixing bowls, spices, herbs, condiments, cooking oils, and more all find a “home” in this area.

So do these sub-zones:

Pots and Pans – Large pots and pans, baking dishes, pans, serving dishes, rice cookers, and crockpots all belong in this zone.

China & Cutlery – including serving glasses, dishes, silverware, and small appliances not covered above.

  • Cleanup Zone – Here’s where double sinks help – or a sink on the center island. More than the cooking area, this zone is frequently used because this is where all the food items, dishes, utensils, pots, and pans – and hands – are washed to prepare for cooking.
  • The obvious items go into this zone: dishwasher, dishwashing supplies (hand soap, dishwashing liquid soap, hand towels, cloths), drainer, trash cans, and other trash-related articles.

When you organize your kitchen according to these work zones, you can expect a fluid, smooth, functional, and “happy” kitchen for your chefs.


Perhaps the most important thing to remember when designing your kitchen is to choose or create a design that works for the family – and makes the cooking experience a fun time for all!


Additional Sources:

Consumer Reports

Professional Builder


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