What are Zones?

– submitted by celticmoon on July 31st, 2007

Zones are one way of approaching space planning in a kitchen. Essentially thinking about zones involves breaking down the kitchen into separate functions and considering each in turn in terms of its placement, appliance access, work counter space and storage needs. If you can get the work to function smoothly within each zone AND the zones to operate simultaneously without collision and confusion, you have a very functional kitchen. The smaller the space and the more people and activities present, the more important zone planning is. Good zone planning and the resulting flow are definitely nice for one cook in a large kitchen, but are crucial when the situation gets more complicated. Done carefully, 12-15 linear feet of counter well located and dedicated to specific functions can yield terrific work flow.
Most designers agree on 3 main zones: Prepping, Cooking and Cleanup. The prep zone can be subdivided into the ‘wet’ prep of washing foods and the ‘dry’ prep of chopping, seasoning and combining things. Murrell makes a strong case for an oft-neglected 4th zone: Serving, or getting the food onto serving pieces or plates. Perhaps think of it as Serving/Snacking. Beverages could be included here or be set up in a completely separate Zone. And a serious baker may want a Zone dedicated just to Baking. Lastly some families may need a Message or Information Zone. And to be thorough, there is of course the food Storage Zones in the form of the fridge and pantry or cupboard space.
Here’s what to consider for each work zone in terms of counter space, storage and appliances. Note that all kitchens will not necessarily have or need all these zones. Disregard what doesn’t apply to you. This is just a tool to help you think about how best to support the kitchen activities that do apply to you.
  • Location: may include prep sink, otherwise near the main sink and near fridge and trash
  • Counter space: 3 continuous feet of counter (not counting sink)is a good size; 4 or 5 feet is better; 2 feet with available overflow into another Zone can work too
  • Storage: knives and cutting boards, strainers (if prep sink included), bowls, choppers, food processor and attachments, food taxi, measuring cups and spoons, seasonings
  • Location: includes cook top and placed near the prep zone and near a sink
  • Counter space: About 2 feet either side of the cooktop is a good amount. If other counter is adjacent and available in a pinch and there is a separate baking zone, a bit less could work. But not if cook top, ovens and MW are all in this area, as each needs landing space.
  • Storage: Pots and pans, cooking oils, potholders, spatter screen, spatulas, whisks, wooden spoons, MW items (if MW is here)
  • Location: includes main sink, dishwasher and trash; DW should be near dish, cutlery and glass/cup storage
  • Counter space: 2 feet either side of the sink
  • Storage: Dishtowels, dish drainer, sponges, scouring pads, paper towels, DW and liquid detergents, baggies, wraps and Tupperware, strainers and salad spinner (if no prep sink)
  • Location: near cooking zone and everyday dishes. Good spot for MW. Can include coffeemaker, other beverage supplies and ice access if there is not a separate beverage zone
  • Counter space: tough one. As little as a 1-2 feet for plating or snacking or breakfast in a small household, larger for a more complex kitchen. Larger especially if MW is here and used frequently
  • Storage: serving bowls and platters, trays, serving spoons, tongs, etc. Maybe breakfast, coffee and snack items, MW dishes and hot pads if MW is located here
  • Location: includes fridge, freezer and cupboards or pantry for food storage, can be divided up
  • Counter: 1-2 feet landing zone for groceries in each storage area. OK to ’steal’ temporarily another zone’s counter for loading and unloading if necessary
  • Storage: Produce, meats and other cold foods, canned and boxed goods, paper products, bulk foods, beverages
  • Location: Ouside of main work runs, accessable to guests and eating areas, may include wine rack or beverage fridge otherwise needs easy access to main fridge, near ice source and cup and glass storage
  • Counter space: a dedicated foot or two is good, more if you are a barrista or serve up cocktail
  • Storage: coffee, filters, glasses, cups, wine and cocktail glasses, corkscrew and other drink supplies (small knife and cutting board for citrus, etc.)
  • Location: Includes ovens, near prep zone. Near MW and/or near cooktop if your cooking style involves transfering dishes between appliances
  • Counter space: can include just landing area for hot foods and maybe home for the mixer. A serious baker will want room to spread out, 2-3 feet or more.
  • Storage: mixer and attachments, flours, sugar, other baking ingredients, measuring cups and spoons, baking pans, cookie sheets, pastry scraper, pastry board, rolling pins, hot pads, cooling racks
  • Location: out of cook’s way, but easily accessible to all
  • Counter space: varies from a whole dedicated desk area to inside of a cabinet door
  • Storage: again varies with size/complexity of household and whether these functions are elsewhere (like in the entry hall, study or family room). Items to store may include phone, answering machine, cell chargers, address book, calendars, bills, stamps and envelopes, pens, post its, bookbags, purses, briefcases, computer and peripherals


Unknown said...

Thanks! I really appreciate the explanations.