Understanding the Essential Dimensions in Kitchen Design

Interior Designer: Elska Interiors

When embarking on kitchen design, many start with aesthetics, often immersing themselves in the plethora of beautiful kitchen images available on platforms like Pinterest. There are so many important choices to make however, prioritizing function over form is crucial to avoid daily frustrations with your kitchen’s usability. While considerations such as material durability, ease of use, and appliance style are key to a functional kitchen, today, our focus is specifically on spatial layout, a foundational aspect that sets the stage for a well-designed and efficient kitchen space.

Benchtop Height and Depth: Standard benchtop height is typically around 900-920 millimeters. This height is comfortable for most adults to work on tasks like chopping, cooking, and preparing food without straining their back.  That being said, in older homes you can find bench tops ranging from 850-890mm high and on occasions taller people may request bench heights of 950mm high.  My personal preference is the 900-920 and I stand at 1650mm tall while my husband is 1780 tall.  When you have decided your desire benchtop height it can be achieved by accounting for your kick, base cabinet height, any shadow lines (a space between the base cabinet and bench for aesthetic purposes) and benchtop thickness. 

The depth of a benchtop can vary based on the type of cabinetry and kitchen layout. A standard benchtop depth ranges from 600-650 millimeters. This depth provides enough space for kitchen appliances, sink installations, and food preparation.  That being said, depending on the design there is nothing wrong with going as deep as 700mm so long as there is still support at the back and you have considered the ability to reach upper cabinets with the additional projection.

Don’t forget to check if there are existing structural elements such as posts or windows that may interrupt your benchtop dimensions.

Modern country style kitchen designed by Elska Interiors and Missives Design Studio.

Upper Cabinets: Upper cabinets or wall cabinets are the ones placed above benchtops to provide storage for kitchen items. The recommended height for upper cabinets is around 500-550 millimeters above the benchtop. This height allows for easy access to stored items while leaving sufficient space for countertop appliances.  That being said, I have run mine as high as 650 above the countertop in certain circumstances, to give more head room.  If you do this, the bottom shelf is still easily accessible while you may need a stool or your taller partner for higher shelves.   The depth of upper cabinets can be anywhere from 300-450.  The main intention being to make sure there is room for plates to be stored while not hitting your head as you prepare food.

Base Cabinets: Base cabinets are placed beneath the benchtop and are typically 750-800 millimeters in height. This height accommodates standard kitchen appliances like ovens, dishwashers, and refrigerators while maintaining a cohesive look with the countertop.  This is not including the kick under the cabinets (see below) or your bench profile.  When deciding your base cabinet height don’t forget to take into account your desired overall bench height.  Base cabinet depths can be anywhere from 200-680 deep however be aware that a too deep cupboard will lose things in the back.  In fact I try to avoid cupboards lower than waist height as they are not particularly ergonomic.  Drawers below waist height are fantastic.  The runners come in 270mm-600mm lengths and you need to allow for cabinet fronts and backs so the maximum reasonable depth of a base cabinet with drawers is 650mm.

Kitchen Cabinet Kick: This is the space set back under the Base cabinet which provides room for your feet to tuck in so that you don’t kick your cabinets while working at the bench.  I have found you can run this anywhere from 80-150mm high depending on the look you are aiming for, larger than usual feet and appliances in use.  An 80mm kick can give a more contemporary, clean look while a 150mm high kick is more traditional. Be sure to check the specifications on your chosen appliances as some of them require a higher kick for appropriate operation. 

Modern Country Kitchen Designed by Elska Interiors

Sink Dimensions: The standard sink size for a kitchen varies based on the type of sink (single bowl, double bowl) and personal preference. A typical single sink size ranges from 400-600 millimeters in width and 400-450 millimeters in depth. The height of the sink depends on the countertop height for ergonomic use however it is usually around 200mm deep.

Appliance Clearances: When planning the layout, it’s crucial to consider clearances around appliances. All appliances have clearances specified in their documentation from the manufacturer and must be taken into account when planning a new kitchen or replacing an appliance.  Things to consider include:

–  ventilation spaces around appliances, 

– space at the back of appliances for cables, 

– door sizes to ensure they don’t hit other cabinets or appliances,

– that there’s room for you to stand in front of an appliance while it’s open,

– the distance of your rangehood from the cooktop for adequate performance.

Designed by Elska Interiors

Island Dimensions (if applicable): If you’re including a kitchen island, consider a width of at least 900-1200 millimeters to allow for comfortable seating on one side with prep on the other.  Anything more than 1200mm is too wide to easily reach across (and definitely don’t make the mistake of including an island that’s so deep you can’t reach the middle.  The length of your island is determined by the space you have available to you, whether there is a sink or cooktop in the island and whether you hope to have seating at the island bench.  All of these things need their own zones.  For example, if you are placing seating adjacent to a sink, you will want a 1200mm deep bench to allow suitable space for plates on one side and the sink on the other.  Also be aware that benchtop materials only come in certain lengths and a visible join is not always ideal.  Engineered stone and porcelain tend to be approximately 1500wx3000 long but can come in larger sizes.  

Bench Seating: Seating at a bench needs to allow a minimum of 600mm wide per person and 280mm in depth for legs. Bench materials are limited by their ability to overhang without losing structural integrity, however this can be overcome with supporting materials such as steel or edged laminate.  And double check the heights of your stools.  A lot of people make the mistake of purchasing barstools which are too high for a kitchen bench.  You need a bench stool which has a seat height of around 650mm.

Interior Designer: Elska Interiors

Walkway Space: Maintain a minimum walkway width of 900-1200 millimeters between countertops and kitchen islands or walls. This allows for easy movement and prevents overcrowding in the kitchen area, especially in areas where multiple people may be working simultaneously.  My preferred dimension is 1200.  It feels generous even as multiple people are moving through the space and is an easy step between benches.  You can go up to 1400mm if you anticipate having multiple people working back to back but anything above 1400mm can start to become too far.

All of these decisions will of course be impacted by your particular space and needs.  Do you have a galley kitchen or a G kitchen, are your family tall or short, appliances selected and how many people typically work in the kitchen at once. These dimensions serve as guidelines and can be adjusted based on individual needs, kitchen size, and specific design preferences. Working with a professional designer, using kitchen design software, floor planning software or even tape on the floor can help you decide the optimal layout.   And don’t be afraid to spend some time in display homes with a tape measure seeing what does and doesn’t work for you in their layouts.  Happy planning.

Interior Designer: Elska Interiors

Lets be friends!

I'd love to stay in touch so I can share ideas on how we can improve our corner of the world through design.