The Ultimate Kitchen Space Planning Cheat Sheet


• The entrance to a kitchen should be open and free of obstruction. If there is an inward-swinging door (that leads to a garage or yard for example) ensure it will not interfere with appliances when opened and there is ample room for things people do when they enter the home, such as taking off their shoes. You don’t want to create a tight choke point in your kitchen.


• The top of the countertop should be 36in from the floor. 

• The average space between a perimeter countertop and island is 48in.
-Bump this up to 60in if wheelchair access is required
– You can take this space down to 42in if space is limited (that’s what we have in our kitchen and really love it), 36″ is the minimum.

• Allow 12-18in for a countertop overhang that will be used for seating. The taller the seat, the shallower of an overhang you can get away with due to the angle of your legs. For example, if using tall bar stools, a 12in overhang is usually plenty. A regular bar stool would be between 12-15, whereas table height (a 30in tall counter, for example) would require at least 18 inches to be comfortable seating for most adults. 

• When picking stools for a countertop, choose stools that allow 10″ of space between the top of the seat and the underside of the countertop.

• Allow 45-60 inches between a countertop used for seating and a wall or dining table. This ensures enough space for people to walk behind while someone is sitting there. 45 inches is usually plenty, though you can bump this up to 60in for wheelchair access.  

• Allow at least 15in of space between the bottom of upper cabinets and the countertop beneath. We love 18″ and our bottom open shelves are 18″ above our countertops.

• The minimum width of a segment of countertop is 12in. If it will be used as a prep space, 36in minimum is recommended. 

• Allow 2-3in of space on each cabinet edge that meets another cabinet or a perpendicular wall. This will allow drawers and doors to open freely once hardware is installed. 

• Standard countertop to cabinet overhang is 2″. We prefer 1″-1.5.”


• The kitchen work triangle is a design concept that recommends that you place your three work areas (sink, refrigerator, and stove) in a triangular fashion.  The total of all 3 legs of the triangle is recommended to be no more than 26 feet.

• Allow 12 inches of clear countertop space on both sides of a cooktop, 15 inches on both sides of a range.

• Allow for 26-36 inches of space between cooktop and range hood. 32in is a good middle ground that most people will feel comfortable with.

• If a microwave is in a base cabinet ensure there is at least 15in between the bottom of the microwave and floor.

• If a microwave is on a countertop, plan for at least 15 inches of countertop on either side.

• Ideal placement of the dishwasher is on either side of the sink, no more than 36″ apart. Where this setup is not an option, across from the countertop space that is next to the sink is a good option, allowing a person to stand directly in front of the sink still while they are loading it. I.E. it is not advised to put a dishwasher centered directly across from the sink. 


• Allow 18in of open countertop on either side of a sink.

• Pot fillers should allow 12-16in between the bottom side of the spout and top of the cooking surface. 12in will accommodate most large pots.


• Plan at least 2 layers of light in your kitchen, operated separately. 

  • Task Lighting: brighter, even lighting (generally recessed). Task lighting’s purpose is to light your work surfaces so you can see as you work in the kitchen.

  • Secondary lighting: slightly dimmer, warm lighting. This lighting is easy on the eyes and is meant to make the kitchen a pleasant space to be in when it’s not being used for cooking/cleaning. (check out this post for my bulb recommendations)

• Allow 30-40in between the bottom of an island pendant and the countertop

• To calculate the placement of pendant lights over an island, first divide the length of the island by how many lights you plan to use. This will give you the distance between lights. Divide that number in half and this will give you how far in the outside edge lights should be from the ends of the island. For example, if you have an island that is 60in wide and you want two pendants over it, the math would look like this:


You would put the lights 15in in from either end of the island, making them 30in apart. If you have an island that is 84 wide and you want three pendants, the math would look like this:


In this example, the edge lights would be 14in in from the outside edges, with the 3rd light centered 28in from the outside two. 

The number of lights you choose will depend on the amount of light each fixture gives off, but you’ll usually want the pendants anywhere from 24-36in apart. 

• If using recessed lights for task lighting, plan for fixtures to be 2-3 inches out from the outside edge of the countertop to prevent odd shadows cast onto the floor. Bring them 15-20in out from floor to ceiling cabinets. 

• To calculate the placement of recessed lights that will act as task lighting in a kitchen, divide the height of the ceiling in half. This will give you the ideal distance between recessed (or “can light”) fixtures. So for a standard 8ft ceiling, recessed lights should be placed 4ft (48in) from one another. This will give the most even light without having dark spaces in the kitchen, but could be fudged out in instances where the spacing doesn’t work out exactly. You could go to 60in apart for 6in can lights that have flood lights that extend below the lip of the fixture (these will cone light outward more as opposed to down).