14 Kitchen Design Guidelines, Illustrated (#7)

“Kitchen Countertops Aren’t Just For Looks”

Kitchen Layout Fridge Placement

The crown jewel of any newly remodeled kitchen (aside from the shiny, state of the art appliances) is the countertops. Your new countertop is a unique reflection of your design style. It all starts with the story of how you hand selected your slab or how your tedious research drew you to a new eco-friendly, manmade stone. The reason you chose your particular stone vs. another is a great way to put your personal touch on display in your new kitchen. The countertop in your kitchen, whether its concrete, resin pressed paper, stainless steel, or stone will be a conversation piece for all those you invite in for a tour. In this case “The Dude” (Big Lebowski, 1998) would simply state: That countertop is the rug that really ties the room together.

Kitchen Design Microwave Layout

In order to get the most out of your new countertop however you’ll need to take some steps in the design phase to make sure your countertops are not just a “pretty face” but also serves as an adequate landing space for hot dishes, groceries, corded appliances. For each built-in appliance (refrigerator, oven, microwave, cooktop, etc) you’ll want to plan to have at least 15″ of countertop width on at least one side (next, above, below, or adjacent to each particular appliance) to serve as a safe landing spot. See guideline diagrams 16, 22, 23, & 24 with illustrations of various landing scenarios. Far too often practical design gets forgotten and is only realized once you have your hands full with nowhere to easily set your Thanksgiving turkey (true story).

If the appliance has a side door handle the countertop should be located on the door handle side so you don’t have to constantly maneuver around the door with a hot dish in hand. This is particularly true when planning for a side opening oven. Code ICC A117.2009 states that the door latch side should be next to a countertop (1003.

Oven Placement Kitchen Remodel

If your kitchen will include a cooktop located on an island you will need to plan to have at least 15″ on one side and a minimum of 12″ on the other. Behind the cooktop you should maintain at least 9″ of free countertop space. If you plan to have a seating bar behind the cooktop then you should plan to increase that countertop space closer to 24″ to keep a safe distance between your guests and a hot cooktop. Another good idea is to elevate the seating bar above the cooktop counter height, thus separating the work area and the seating bar.

Another countertop trend is to incorporate a built-in butcher block as a portion of the countertop. This is a great feature but be sure to allow adequate space between the combustible butcher block and a cooktop or stove. Always refer to your appliance manufacturers specifications on allowable clearance prior to designing your kitchen layout. Strategic countertop design will ensure that your countertop not a only looks great but functions just as well for all who play a role in your new kitchen.

Kitchen Design Landing Areas


The images and diagrams are courtesy of National Kitchen & Bath Association


Look for our next post when we’ll introduce Kitchen Design Guideline #8 “Don’t Prevent the Effectiveness of Your Vent”

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