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A modern kitchen isn't just the place where food prep and cooking happens anymore. It's the hub of your home. Your kitchen's layout and design need to serve multiple purposes: It's the gathering spot where we do homework and bills, entertain family and friends, and eat most of our meals. That's a lot to ask of relatively few square feet.

The best kitchen layout for you and your family should allow you to do those things easily, without creating traffic jams or interrupting your flow. If you've ever wished your dishwasher were just three feet closer to the kitchen cabinet where you keep the plates, or that the trash wasn't right next to everyone's favorite spot to perch with a glass of wine, you know what we're talking about.

Because we all have unique wants and needs, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to designing the perfect kitchen layout, but there are certain elements that help ensure yours works exactly the way it needs to, says Montclair, New Jersey, interior designer Sally Ross. Consider these tips and kitchen design ideas to create a kitchen that truly fits your family.

1910 Edwardian kitchen by Sally Ross Designs
This elegant Georgian-inspired kitchen has distinct zones for cooking, cleaning up, and hanging out. Designed by Sally Ross Designs. Photograph by George Ross

1) Think about the traffic.

The sink and actively used cooking appliances like the stove should be close neighbors, and ideally set at a right angle. “You should be able to go from filling a pot of water at the sink and moving over to the stove within easy reach,” says Ross. Also, ask yourself how many people will be cooking in this space and what its main purpose will be. If you’ll be doing a lot of entertaining, reserve a place for guests to sit and hang out without being in the cook's path.

Shaws apron-front kitchen sink and Bosch dishwasher
For maximum cleanup convenience, this handcrafted Shaws apron-front sink is located right next to the Bosch dishwasher. Designed by Maggie Mangano

2) Designate an unpacking zone.

Picture yourself coming in with an armful of groceries, then do yourself a favor. Create a landing spot for setting down and unloading your grocery bags. It could be a stretch of countertop or a small table. Ideally, this area should be a short distance (10 steps) from both the refrigerator and pantry.

A Sub-Zero refrigerator within easy reach of island and other counter space. Designed by MBA Cabinetry Studio

3) Create prep, cooking, and cleanup stations.

You can retire the idea of the old-fashioned kitchen triangle, which dictated that your refrigerator, sink, and stove be in that three-point formation. It dates back to long before the dishwasher and microwave ovens were household staples. Thanks to home cooks like Julia Child, whom Ross credits for making cooking an enjoyable and social art form, kitchens have become much more communal in nature. They've also become busier, with more of us chipping in at dinnertime. Designate spacious zones where you can wash salad greens without bumping elbows, and stations that can do double duty, like island prep spaces where you can also sit down to dinner or a table where your kids can cut out cookies and do homework. They will serve you well.

Kitchen with prep island and eat-in table
Setting the stove and sink close to each other at a right angle makes it easy for the cook to maneuver. A prep island with extra storage and eat-in table offer distinct spots for helping with dinner and hanging out. Designed by Sally Ross Designs. Photograph by George Ross

4) Weigh your island options.

To decide the best position and scale for this functional furnishing, look at how big your space is and the intended purpose. Will your island act as a prep station, a cozy spot for one person to pull up a stool, or a secondary dining table? **“Bigger is not necessarily better,” says Ross. “You want something you can easily wipe down without having to walk all the way around.” **

Small kitchen island
This smaller scale kitchen island offers prep space and smart storage, so essential equipment is always within arm's reach. Designed by Sally Ross Designs. Photograph by George Ross

5) Don’t forget about a charging station.

You might say phones are as essential in the kitchen as appliances. We all use them to search for recipes, order takeout, and keep tabs on when everybody's coming over. Design part of your cabinets to corral your family's phone chargers and cords. Just be sure it’s in a dry area far from water, steam, and splattering. An adjacent mudroom is ideal; in a dream world, everyone's phones get put away before they even enter the house, so you can focus on each other and not on your screen. If you don’t have a mudroom, designate a tucked-away spot such as a bookshelf or drawer. And ask your carpenter and electrician about building in outlets, so the tangle of cords will be hidden.

This clever charging station, hidden inside a kitchen drawer, has integrated outlets and USB ports, and room for multiple phones and tablets or laptops. Designed by Kitchens by Debra

6) Consider a second refrigerator.

If you’ve got the extra space, add a second fridge, such as an undercounter refrigerator, refrigerator drawers, beverage cooler, or wine fridge. It's invaluable for holding drinks and desserts that take up tons of real estate in your main refrigerator. It can also help you avoid traffic jams. “Kids can grab a juicebox and not be in the way of parents prepping salad greens,” says Ross. Smaller appliances are much more conducive to a more efficient workflow and a much calmer environment. And that makes for a happy chef!

Kitchen island with undercounter beverage center
This undercounter beverage center in a kitchen island holds drinks that would otherwise take up a whole shelf in the main fridge, freeing up space for food storage. It's also located near the dining table, making it easy to grab refills. Designed by Creative Cabinet Designs