The four key kitchen layouts: a guide

Follow this advice to achieve the ideal combination of function, ergonomics and workflow

By Rachel Ogden | 16 November 2020

Whether you’re starting from scratch with a self-build, adding an extension, or considering reworking a whole room or several, it is important you take the time get the kitchen layout right.

At the most basic level, a layout is determined by the size of the room and where you want each functional zone to be. As a general rule of thumb, U- and L-shaped designs tend to work best in smaller spaces, while galley and linear configurations are a good solution for really tight areas and open-plan apartments. Designs that include an island unit require space to work effectively, making them well-suited to large or open-plan kitchens. And don’t forget to consider the working triangle.

Find out which arrangement works best for you with this easy guide.

1. Galley – for small spaces

Consisting of units along one wall to form a single galley, or the wall facing to make a double galley, this layout is perfect for long, narrow kitchens and smaller rooms. It’s an efficient use of space, with usually only a few steps between each element of the working triangle. Galley designs often suffer from a lack of storage, but too many wall cupboards can make the room feel cluttered. Instead, opt for tall units at the end of runs and try staggering the depths or heights of your cabinets to avoid the corridor effect.

Workspace may be limited with this layout, so investigate ways of maximising it – sink covers and flush-fitted induction hobs that can double as surfaces will help. While not always suitable for multiple cooks, a galley kitchen can usually be divided into zones. There’s also a good amount of flexibility in the length of the kitchen, so it adapts well to suit different homes. For a sleek look when not they’re in use, consider concealing some of the kitchen units behind sliding doors.

‘When planning a galley space, consider where you’d like your appliances and sink – you may want to have your electrical items on one side and your wet zone on the other,’ advises DougHaswell, furniture manager at Caple. ‘Remember to keep to the basics, such as base and wall cabinets, a fridge-freezer, sink, oven and dishwasher.’

Galley kitchen layouts with white units

Avoid feeling enclosed in a galley kitchen by breaking up units with open shelves, appliances and glazed doors. Photo: Jack Trench

2. L-shaped – for flexibility

Ideal for small and medium-sized kitchens, this layout uses two runs of cabinetry that meet at a corner, creating workspace against two walls. However, an L can also be formed with a peninsula unit and one wall. Generally, the cooking and sink areas should be perpendicular to each other, creating a practical, elongated working triangle. In a large space, the layout can easily be adapted for dining with a table, peninsula unit at one end or a kitchen island. These elements also help if you don’t always want to be cooking or chatting while facing a wall.

Supersized L-shaped kitchens can suffer from a lack of efficiency if the main elements of the triangle are too far away from each other, so be sure to keep the cooking, sink and cooling zones reasonably close together. Conversely, be sure to allow enough workspace between each zone.

On the plus side, L shapes allow flexibility in the length of the kitchen, such as creating a long run of worktop along one axis. They are also straightforward to zone, and you’re unlikely to have people getting in your way whilst you are busy cooking.

‘An L-shaped design works brilliantly within open-plan layouts,’ explains Louise Richardson, kitchen designer at Halcyon Interiors. ‘It’s especially good for the corner of a room where you don’t want the kitchen to be the main focal point.’