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April 17, 2023

Addressing Outdated Kitchen Myths

Over the years, I have encountered a variety of myths about kitchen design. Some of these myths are born from outdated principles based upon how we used to cook in our kitchens. The three myths are:

  • Window over the kitchen sink
  • Dishwasher having to be to the right of the sink
  • The kitchen work triangle

Window over the kitchen sink

My long-time readers know I am an advocate of placing the kitchen sink in the island. From there, I like to make sure the island is facing the action of the Family Room and TV. This is opposed to the sink on an outside wall with a window. I especially bristle when this window is on the side of the house facing another house 10’ away, inevitably providing a front row view of their electric or gas meter.

But what about the window and sink on the rear of the home? Is it acceptable to have the sink facing the backyard? This does free up the island for a food prep area or a place for friends and family to gather during meal prep. But the window over the sink is typically limited in width because of the need for upper cabinets and height because of the height of the countertop. I prefer a full-size window looking at the rear and the sink in the island.

I was recently challenged by this whole view from the sink issue. With a dishwasher, we don’t spend hours at the sink washing dishes like June Clever after every meal. Ah – but so much more happens around our sink other than washing dishes. Just this weekend, I was watching golf on TV and preparing the evening meal. I washed the vegetables in the sink. As I cut the vegetables, I discarded the seeds and stems into the sink to be ground up in the garbage disposal (during a commercial of course). Then after the meal, dishes were stacked on one side of the sink, rinsed, and placed in the dishwasher – all while facing the family room and the “action.” Oh – and then there’s the wine glasses that I prefer to wash by hand. And from my vantage point, I could also see outside through ample glass for both light and view.

Dishwasher on the right of the sink

Speaking of loading the dishwasher, there is another common myth that dictates the dishwasher be placed to the right of the sink because more people are right-handed. I find this wrong on so many levels. First – loading a dishwasher is not a fine motor skill like writing, despite what my kids would tell when they were growing up. Handling dishes can be done effectively with either hand. I find it more efficient to stack rinsed dishes on the counter, then turn to load the dishes using both hands. It also required less bending.

If you’re a production builder, locating the dishwasher to the right of the sink is especially problematic when you build the plan in reverse. You would need your foundation, floor and electrical plans and cabinet elevations to reflect this change – pretty much guaranteeing it won’t be done correctly – ever! Bottom line, adhering to this myth could be costly!

Perhaps the most important thing to consider, and often overlooked, is the task of emptying the dishwasher. I like to locate the dishwasher closest to the greatest number of cabinets which will receive the clean dishes. In our kitchen, if I stand to the right of the dishwasher, I can easily access the upper cabinets where we store our glassware. Conversely, if I stand to the left of the dishwasher, I can easily pivot to reach the cabinets where we store our plates. If I had located the dishwasher to the right of the sink, the cabinets holding the plate would be several steps away – making the task unnecessarily complicated.


One last thing to consider is the dishwasher door itself. Funny – most architects will show the swing of a door on a floor plan but completely overlook the swing of the dishwasher door and other appliance doors, including the range and the refrigerator. Take for example a small kitchen with limited space between the island and cabinets behind. How much room is there to pass when the dishwasher door is open? Will the dishwasher door hit the range door if they are both open at the same time?


Consider the chaos that occurs in the working family’s kitchen as the evening meal is being prepared. One party is cleaning up the meal prep while suddenly the cake or casserole must come out of the oven NOW!!!

The kitchen work triangle

We all know the kitchen work triangle – the “perfect” geometric shape between the sink, range, and refrigerator. The tradition suggests no more than 26 feet but no less than 13 feet. But what if you have a cook top and wall oven? Wouldn’t that be a quadrangle? What about the microwave – assuming it is not above the cooktop or wall oven – which is the case in my kitchen. Let’s not forget the pantry! I access the pantry as frequently as I access the refrigerator.

“They” say the work triangle should not be interrupted by an island or table. Okay – but what about another person? Many – including me – believe the concept of the work triangle is outdated because modern families have multiple people in the kitchen preparing meals. And then there’s the children who need a juice box or cheese stick – even though dinner is being prepared. Let’s face it, the concept of the kitchen work triangle harkens back to the time June Clever was cooking in the kitchen alone. We are over half a century removed from that time. Instead, consider work zones that can accommodate multiple people – like cooking zone, prep zone, storage zone, and cleaning zone.

Modern Kitchen Design

For me, the most important feature in a modern kitchen is the island. Typically, kitchens with islands have at least two ways in and out of the kitchen. My old house had a U-shaped kitchen which would become clogged easily if one person was standing in the way.

I believe modern kitchen design is evolving based upon who uses the kitchen and how meals are prepared. Not only is preparing meals a team effort, but it is also a social event with friends and family. There is no “perfect” kitchen, as this is one of the most personal spaces in the home – but basic principles can ensure that your kitchen is as productive as it is beautiful! My two must-haves in the kitchen are the single level island and a walk-in pantry. What are yours?

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This post was written by Housing Design Matters