Where to best position appliances in the kitchen for max functionality?

When my clients approach me about designing their kitchen the first task I give them (after looking at the space to size it up and see what it will accommodate) is deciding on what appliances they want.  The main reason being that appliance dimensions can not be changed thus creating a guideline for the kitchen design and layout.  

Your kitchen appliances can be split up into two groups.  Primary: the refrigerator, sink, dishwasher if you have space, and range, and secondary: small appliances such as the microwave, toaster, food processor, and mixer. The general rule of thumb for max functionality of the placement of the primary appliances is refrigerator first, then sink then the range using the working triangle theory  The best placement for the small, secondary appliances, will be determined by your kitchen zones (cooking, cleaning, prep, food storage,non-consumables storage).

That being said, your kitchen layout has a lot of say on how to maximize the functionality of your appliances. But before we dive into different types of kitchen layouts and how to best situate your appliances I highly recommend taking the time and decide what appliances you really need. 

What appliances you really need in your kitchen?

The most basic appliances in a kitchen are the refrigerator, cooktop, and a sink (there is a whole dilemma whether or not a sink is an appliance or a fixture but for the sake of this article I am categorizing it as an appliance- which, indecently, is the hardest working appliance in the kitchen). Then you have wall ovens, dishwashers, hood vent, warming drawers, wine fridges, and microwave ovens.  

Where to place the appliances so that you gain maximum efficiency in your kitchen is a decision that should be made with thoughtful and careful consideration.  

Figure out which kitchen layout you got and how it affects appliances placement

The type of kitchen layout you have will help determine the placement of the main three -the fridge, the sink (and dishwasher), and cooktop by applying the WORK TRIANGLE theory (you can read more about it here).  The placement of the rest of the appliances will  also be guided by kitchen layout and by what tasks are done within the kitchen (kitchen zones ) and the adjacencies of the appliances to the areas that they are used at – for example – a wine fridge may be placed closer to the dining room or area or a bar area if you created one (happy hour anyone?)

What are the most popular kitchen layouts? 

  1.  The L- Shaped Kitchen 
  2. The one wall kitchen 
  3. The Galley Kitchen 
  4. The U-shaped Kitchen 
  5. The peninsula Kitchen 
  6. The Island Kitchen 

One wall kitchen What is it?

  • all of the cabinets and appliances are along one wall 
  • typically used in a small or really narrow space for the simple reason there is limited square footage

One walled kitchen best appliances placement

Refrigerator first then your sink and lastly your cooktop.

make sure you have enough space in between your sink and cooktop this means a minimum of 30 inches (760mm) but keep in mind it is a MINIMUM. I suggest you strive for at least 36 inches (91.44 cm).

  • The refrigerator should more likely be at one of the ends of the wall but that may change if there is an opening that may be in the way, also if opening the refrigerator door will block easy access to the table, or if that end means that it is too far from the sink.
  • If you use your microwave often then it should be at your reach and close to your main work surface. If you have the reach consider placing it above the counter- that way you can both free-up counter space and look directly into the micro.
  • If you don’t often use the microwave then you may want to have it out of the way, possibly incorporated into a pantry.
  • Small appliances like the toaster, blender and food processor should always be close to the main work surface.

The L shaped kitchen what is it?

  • Just like the name suggests the cabinets and work surface are in an L shape
  • One of the classic kitchen layouts
  • Easy to create a work triangle provided the short part of the “L” is at least 60” or 1.5 m long allowing for a 30” fridge or cooktop/range

The L shaped kitchen best appliances placement

  • As always refrigerator, sink then cooktop or range
  • If you have a window on one wall of the L typically the sink and dishwasher would go there so that you can enjoy the light and view (hopefully you like what you see out that window).
  • Refrigerator usually goes at one of the ends of the L in smaller kitchens.
    Typically on the shorter L arm so that you free up the other L line for main work surface and have more counter space.

    In this case if you have the room you can use the rest of short L the length to create an “appliance corner with a pull-out or an appliance garage for your stand mixer, toaster, food processor and/blender (I learned from my favorite aunt who is also the best cook I know a great rule – if you don’t have your small appliances at hand you will not use them – so for that reason I always try to have them at an arms reach).
  • If you have a wall oven, steam oven and/or warming drawer – these would either be adjacent to the refrigerator, thus creating an “appliance wall” and utilizing the cabinet depth already created by the refrigerator.
    Another location can certainly be on the other side of the L closer to the cooktop.  There is no right and wrong here, you need to see how much space you have, consider what it will be next to such as dining table or main door way, and what is esthetically pleasing.

The galley kitchen what is it ?

  • Kitchen cabinets are on two walls parallel to one another
  • Usually used in narrow spaces
  • Can be extremely efficient because of the close proximity of the cabinets therefore aiding in a more efficient kitchen workflow by having less steps between appliances.

The galley kitchen best appliances placement

  • here you have a couple of options depending on the lengths of the two walls and the exiting architecture of the space such as a window, bulkhead or a door opening
  • one option can be creating a full appliance wall that holds the refrigerator, wall oven/s, and warming drawer, while the other parallel wall has the sink, dishwasher, cooktop or range, microwave and small appliances.

    Keep in mind that you want the refrigerator not too far away from the sink meaning not further then 9’ away from it so that you are wasting time running back and forth between the two (working triangle) and also that it is not completely parallel to it so that it is in the way of proper work flow. It is extremely difficult and frustrating to be at the sink when another person wants access to the refrigerator and the door is in the way. 
  • What is efficient and smart (we like efficient and smart) about this option is that since the refrigerator and wall oven are deep you can keep the same depth throughout the wall and use it for your pantry. This also creates a clean modern look.
  • another option for an efficient galley kitchen appliances layout is sink, dishwasher and range or cooktop on one wall (keeping in mind that you need to have at least 30” between the two for a work surface but it is a minimum!!!) and the refrigerator on the parallel wall, again remembering not to have it completely parallel to the sink, and in this case also cooktop otherwise it will be in the way and disrupt a proper work flow.

The U-shaped kitchen What is it?

  • just as the name suggests three walls shaped like a U
  • two parallel even walls connected by another wall that may be Longer or shorter
  • All three walls have cabinets 

The U shaped kitchen best appliances placement

  • Again Work triangle rule applies here so refrigerator, sink and cooktop no less then 4’ apart and no more than 9’
  • Depending on the distance between the two parallel walls place the three main appliances in an L shape orientation meaning refrigerator on one of the parallel walls then the sink and cooktop on the connecting wall. It is not a rule but this option will free up the third wall for a proper pantry wall. Who doesn’t want a pantry? It can also be the area where you can store all the extra small appliances that you do not use on a daily basis like a stand mixer, and may not have room for at the other elevations
  • If you chose to place the three mains in an L shape orientation and the third as a pantry that means you have two working surfaces
  • Wall oven and warming drawer can be either on the same wall as the refrigerator depending on how long that wall is. Remember that you need room when using an oven for safety.
  • Microwave – depending on how you use it- if it is for everyday use such as warming up food or for cooking, you want it close to the main work surface.
    If you need conserve your work surface consider placing it above the counter, but please measure your reach, the whole point is accessibility, efficiency and convenience and if you can’t easily and safety reach the microwave it will be a useless and frustrating appliance that you will not want to use. There is also a combination of the micro and hood vent. This one is typically used in a small kitchen where you need to save space. If that is your plan then again consider your reach. If you are tall enough to safely reach into the micro then great, go for it, but if you’re not then opt for either counter or just above it option or you can also choose to place it in a purchase a microwave drawer for easier access.

The peninsula kitchen what is it?

  • peninsula is basically an island that is connected on one side to a wall 
  • It is typically used in a kitchen where you desire an open concept that having an island offers but do not have the clearance to have the island open on both sides
  • Can be incorporated into a U or a galley shaped kitchen

The peninsula kitchen best appliances placement

  • as always use the kitchen work triangle rule refrigerator, sink then cooktop or range
  • If you chose the sink and dishwasher to be at the peninsula (maybe it is the biggest work surface, has the best sight line or simply the plumbing has to be located there ) probably the most efficient location for the refrigerator is on the CONNECTED WALL for two reasons – one is sight line – if your peninsula faces the breakfast area or perhaps the family room that means that the wall parallel to it should be as esthetically pleasing as possible seeing as it is a focal wall, and the probability that it will be closer to the sink (keep in mind the no less than 4’ and no more than 9’ away from the sink rule).

The island kitchen what is it? 

  • A kitchen that is has a free standing island (you need a minimum of 3’ clearance on all sides)
  • Believe it or not you can actually have a kitchen completely made up of an island meaning no upper cabinets and all appliances are below counter
  • Probably the most requested kitchen layout

The island kitchen best appliances placement

  • most people like to have the island serve both a functional purpose such as the main work surface as well as a primary entertainment surface, such as a buffet surface or just a place where their guests or family members can gather around. This means that at least one of the main three appliances is located on the island.
  • If only the sink is at the island then consider the distance between it and the refrigerator and the cooktop making sure to keep the minimum of 4’ and maximum of 9’ rule as a goal 
  • Also consider if the space between the sink and the cooktop and/or the refrigerator is a main walk way- if that is the case then think about locating it elsewhere so that the workflow isn’t disrupted often.
  • For maximum efficiency have a landing surface on both sides of the sink for both work and just room to put things away and also for a simple functional reason of enough room for spillage so that water doesn’t constantly go over to the floor adding to the cleanup time (never fun to use more of your time to clean up – personal note – I always try to figure out ways and find materials to help me and my clients spend less time cleaning the kitchen)
  • Wall oven and warming drawer will obviously go on one of the walls (unless your kitchen is solely an island) and away from any main walk through.
  • Toaster and other small appliances will most likely be better on the other cabinet walls where you will most likely have more room for storage.


No matter the layout of your kitchen L, U, galley, one wall, island, or peninsula you need to place your appliances so that you reach maximum efficiency.  Your kitchen needs to function properly, be easy and fun to work at, and make sense.  

By keeping in mind the work triangle rule for the three main appliances – refrigerator, sink, and cooktop, and understanding how often and where you use the other appliances such as oven, microwave, toaster, blender, and food processor,  and placing them at a convenient reach, you will be on your way to achieving your perfect kitchen. 


My name is Adi and I have been an interior designer for 17 years and loving it. Over the years I have designed many kitchens. Finding smart and easy to take care of materials, sourcing appliances, lighting, flooring and customizing the kitchen gives me joy. DOKITCH.COM is my way of passing my knowledge on. Feel free to explore..

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