A Kitchen does not exist without countertops.

And one of the biggest complaints consumer have about their existing Kitchens is a lack of counter space.

As a Kitchen Designer it is your responsibility to develop a design for your client’s Kitchen that provides adequate countertop space.

But, it is not just about increasing the countertop area in a room, it also means putting it in the correct places.

Read on to learn all the ins and outs on planning countertops in your Kitchen Designs, and check out a FREE giveaway to help you out at the end of the blog!

Counters demand attention in your Kitchen Designs

Designers spend a lot of time choosing the countertop material for their client’s Kitchens.

It is a very visual component of the design, with the material and color a big decision.

Often though, the function of this important element in a Kitchen is left to chance.

Many Designers cannot answer the question:

How much counter frontage is needed in a Kitchen?

The answer to that questions depends on the size of the Kitchen.

The size of a Kitchen is often defined by the square footage of the space.

A small Kitchen is one that is under 150 square feet, a medium Kitchen is 150 to 350 square feet, and a large Kitchen is anything over 350 square feet.

Each of these Kitchen should have a minimum of usable counter space based on their size.

Minimum Usable Counter Space

  • 132″ or 11′ for a Small Kitchen (under 150 square feet)
  • 156″ or 13′ for a Medium Kitchen (150 to 350 square feet)
  • 192″ or 16′ for a Large Kitchen (over 350 square feet)

Usable counterspace is defined as horizontal countertop that is a minimum of 16″ deep and is accessible to the user directly in front of them.

To calculate it, measure the lineal footage of countertop in your design excluding sinks, appliances and corners.

Counter Space that Does Not Count

The countertop in the corner cannot be counted as usable counter space.

It may be a great place to store items but it is not accessible as a work space since you cannot stand in front of it and comfortably work at that portion of the counter.

When wall cabinetry is brought down to the countertop, typically the counter area in front of these units cannot be counted as usable counter space.

The reason is because 12″ deep units brought down to 24″ deep base cabinets with a standard 25 1/2″ deep counter only leaves 13 1/2″ of exposed counter and 16″ is needed to be counted.

If you choose to include an appliance garage tucked under standard wall cabinets or under deeper wall cabinets this countertop space should also not be part of your calculation of usable counter space.

Shallow depth countertops are another type of counter space that should not be included in your overall countertop calculation.

A popular approach to shallow storage is placing a 12″ deep wall cabinet on a kick and topping it with countertop.

While this can be great storage, and I do not discourage this design solution, it does not count as a usable work counter.

If you think about it, a 12″ deep base cabinet under 12″ deep wall cabinets would not be a comfortable place to work.

And trying to prep something on a 12″ deep peninsula piece of countertop would have many items falling off the backside.

Tricks to Increase Counter Space

Sometimes usable counter space gets squeezed in a Kitchen for a variety of reasons.

It may be that the client chooses oversized appliances or wants lots of tall storage units.

Here are a few tips on how to maximize the counter space in your Kitchen Designs to ensure you meet the minimum countertop frontage requirements.

  • Bump out the countertop beside a range or cooktop when you design a hearth
  • Increase the overall counter top to 27″ or 30″ when you design a hutch
  • When including wall cabinets as base cabinets, choose 15″ deep units instead of 12″
  • Make your raised dining bars a minimum of 18″ deep and include them in your calculation
  • Recess appliance garages into the wall if possible so the counter area in front is usable
  • Choose a range instead of a separate cooktop and wall oven to gain 30″ of counterspace when the tall wall oven cabinet is eliminated
  • Include a pullout countertop when additional countertop space is needed

Landing Space

Another functional aspect of countertops in your Kitchen Designs is Landing Space or Drop-Off Space.

This is a section of countertop near sinks or appliances that is needed for a safe and functioning Kitchen.

In my FREE Course, Identifying Common Errors in Kitchen Design, many of the errors presented revolve around insufficient or non-existent counter landing spaces. It is worth checking out!

Sink Landing Counter Space
Main sink landing counter recommendations

The landing space requirement at a main sink is 24″ on one side and 18″ on the other side.

The countertop landing area beside the main sink helps with Clean-up duties.

With the dishwasher typically places on one side of the main sink the 24″ landing counter is taken care of.

Next, ensure you include the minimum 18″ on the other side so you have sufficient area to place dishes for clean up or an area to place washed veggies.

Prep Sink landing counter recommendations

If your Kitchen Designs includes a main sink and a prep sink, the prep sink can have smaller landing zones.

18″ on one side and a minimum of 3″ on the other.

Since this smaller sink is primarily for washing produce or grabbing some water for baking, the smaller counter landing areas will suffice.

Refrigerator Landing Counter Space
Refrigerator landing counter recommendations

The minimum counter landing space for a refrigerator is 15″.

Ideally this countertop should be positioned on the latch side of the refrigerator, but it can be located across from the refrigerator such as on an island, as long as that counter is within 48″ of the refrigerator.

Having the counter right beside the refrigerator allows someone to place a glass on the counter, open the fridge, grab a drink and easily pour it into the glass.

Of course that can be done with the countertop opposite the refrigerator but it does require additional movements.

Side by Side & French Door Refrigerator landing counter recommendations

When specifying a French door, Side-by-side, or double column refrigeration for your client’s kitchen, you need to consider landing space for both doors.

Ideally you would provide landing space on both sides of the unit or on an opposite counter no further than 48″ away.

If only a single landing space can be accommodated, provide that 15″ landing counter on the latch side of the fresh refrigerator side of the unit.

Cooking Appliance Landing Counter Space
Range and Cooktop Refrigerator landing counter recommendations

The counter landing space for ranges and cooktops are the most important ones.

Not including the minimum counter drop off space can be very dangerous.

These drop off recommendations are for both having a landing spot for items coming off the cooking elements and shielding a handle from a pot or pan from being knocked by a passerby.

Placing cooktops or ranges at the end of a counter run or at the corner of an island with no landing counter beside them is asking for trouble.

Oven landing counter recommendations

Built-in ovens also need 15″ of counter landing space near by.

Wall ovens and microwaves contain hot items that need a safe place to land coming out of the appliance.

Ideally the oven landing counter should be directly beside the unit but if is acceptable to place the landing counter across from the oven.

If your design incorporates a side swing oven, place the landing counter on the latch side.

Shared Landing Counters

In some cases two appliances will “share” a landing counter space.

A good rule of thumb for calculating what is needed is to take the largest drop off space of the two and add 12″.

All of these guidelines will ensure you have a functional Kitchen layout!

To help you plan the perfect amount of countertop in your Kitchen Designs I have developed a FREE Kitchen Countertop Guidelines Checklist. Download it and start using it today!

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Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

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