The Proximity Kitchensystem Philosophy Overview


According to the Proximity Principles, the layout of a kitchen should follow and reflect the sequence of tasks as they occur in cookery. Houses should be programmed to reflect the sequence of uses as they occur in life, also; but that’s another article.

Let’s break this down in sequence:

At some point, food or other kitchen associated goods or materials are brought into a home. This means that the kitchen should be in as close proximity as possible to the garage, or some other convenient “load-in” point. We want to avoid lugging. Or schlepping, dragging, muscling, heaving, yanking…activities of that ilk. Once it’s been brought inside, you’ll likely need someplace to put the stuff down, because it’ll need to be sorted and then stored. In the Midwest, we called this “sorting area” a mudroom. Call it anything you like, just give yourself a place to set your burden down.

So you sort the stuff, perishable and non-, with frozen and refrigerated as subsets of the perishable side. Now the next thing is to get the stuff from the sorting area into storage. This means that the fridge, freezer, and pantry should be the next thing you come to, and the various surfaces nearest them should facilitate your convenience in the moving process. Some time passes between shopping and cooking – you maybe bring the groceries at two and start dinner at five or six…and now the fun begins.


You take food from storage to wet prep. You wash, clean, add water, whatever; you get the raw food ready to cook. There are products developed to address the issues I will now point out, mostly having to do with the fact that a cutting board is often used near a sink. This means that you’re moving food from the sink to the cutting board, then to the vessel into which it will be cooked, stored, or further prepared. Which in turn means that you’re likely dripping food and water as you move it, wasting motion and time as well, lifting three or four handfuls of whatever to get the stuff from one place to the next and wasting food as you drop it…as I mentioned above, there are solutions to all of this.

Now the food is ready for cooking, and you have to move it to the hot prep area, into a pan, or a steamer, or vessel which then goes into an oven. And again with the dripping, the wasting, the general balancing act that occurs as you move the raw food to the hot prep area…and again, there are solutions.

Cooked food moves to the first part of service, which is plating; after which the plates move to dining.


After the meal, it’s back to the scullery (clean-up area), and then storage once again. And, as it is in any manufacturing situation, the cycle starts over.





If you were to visit any manufacturing facility, you’d notice a pronounced lack of triangular configuration of any sort, unless the facility happened to be manufacturing dinner chimes for ranches in 1850. The configuration of the various task centers tends to be linear, and the raw material is moved along a progressive set of these task centers until it becomes a finished product.Kitchen design, when it runs against the natural sequence of cooking events, can make cooking a misery. In fact, I seriously doubt that home cooking would have fallen so far from popularity as it has, if bad design hadn’t driven perfectly happy cooks out of the kitchen.Design, especially when used to organize a functional space, can only be properly done if the practitioner has studied the results and the functional validity of the education he’s received.When a kitchen is completed, does it function? Do multiple users trip over each other? When the dishwasher is finished running, how far from it are the clean items stored? Overall, are the items most often used within closest proximity to the work center where they are used? These and thousands of other questions need to be asked before a design can be deemed “good” or “bad”…but in my experience there are many, many ways to get it wrong, and only a few ways to get it right. The proof, to use a cooking metaphor, is in the pudding. So remember:

Supply Storage Wet Prep Hot Prep Service Scullery Storage (repeat)