Selecting tile, finishes, countertops and decorative items for your redesigned kitchen is the fun, exciting part of a renovation. But what about the technical side to designing a kitchen? How do you ensure that your kitchen is both pretty and functional? It’s said the devil’s in the details, and that is especially true when plotting counter height and center island placement. To get the space that works best for your lifestyle, we’ve compiled this Kitchen Measurement Guide for the well-planned kitchen of your dreams.
We spoke with consultant and interior designer Jake Spurgeon, from Mosby Building Arts in St. Louis, who shared his knowledge on kitchen measurements. When asked what makes the perfect kitchen, Spurgeon says the answer depends on the homeowner: “If you’re a big cook, if you entertain a lot, do you have a lot of kids—the lifestyle of the homeowner really determines the space.” But adhering to standard measurements can ensure that your kitchen is more comfortable to work in. Here are some recommendations to make your kitchen the (functional) showpiece of your dreams. (Be sure to check your local building codes for any specifications you may need to adhere to prior to starting a renovation.)
The Work Triangle
“The work triangle is from your fridge to your sink to your cooking surface, your sink being your cleanup area, your fridge being your food storage area and your cooktop or range being where you cook,” Spurgeon says. He recommends an unobstructed path between all of these areas.
Counter Height: 36 inches
According to Spurgeon, “by default, the typical industry standard from the finished floor to the top of the countertop should be three feet.” A very tall or short homeowner may veer from the standard measurement and customize the counter height to fit their needs, but outside of customization, 36 inches is the universally accepted height.
Aisle Width: 36-42 inches
Having a good amount of space between work surfaces does more than just accommodate multiple cooks in the kitchen. Your appliances need room to move, too. “You always want to have a minimum of three feet between countertops. I prefer to go up to 42 inches because that clears space for two people to walk past each other. With the dishwasher open, it blocks [the way] if you only have a three-foot dimension—42 inches is better.”
Shelf Spacing: 17-18 inches
Repeat after Spurgeon: 17 to 18 inches. That is the distance he recommends between the top of the work surface and the underside of the cabinet or shelf above it. If you are a DIYer, don’t move your cabinets down to accommodate a taller cabinet unit. “Mixers and coffee makers won’t fit if the cabinets are too low,” says Spurgeon. If you have open shelving, the second shelf above the countertop has similar requirements: 15 to 18 inches above the first shelf seems to be the sweet spot for the second level.
Hanging Light Fixture Height: 72 inches
Hanging light fixtures in a kitchen should be lovely to look at and totally out of the way. To make sure your light fixture doesn’t become an obstruction, hang it so the bottom of the fixture is no less than six feet from the floor. If the fixtures are over an island, this will leave plenty of clearance.
Hood Height: 30 inches
Even the hood over your cooktop has its own measurements. Thirty inches from the cooking surface to the base of the hood will provide enough space for the hood to evacuate the steam, smoke and grease. It will keep you from banging your head while you cook, too.
The kitchen isn’t the only room with special specifications. For more information on how to get the best measurements in your home, check out our Bathroom Measurement Guide.