Because no kitchen is one-size-fits-all
Whether you’re designing a kitchen from scratch or upgrading your current space, it’s important to know which kitchen layouts will work best for your home. There are six basic kitchen layout types—one-wall, galley, L-shaped, U-shaped, island, and peninsula—as well as a few common variations you’ll see in larger homes. But before you start tearing up your cabinets to build your dream kitchen, research what layout meets your needs and talk it over with a local kitchen design pro.
1. One-Wall Kitchen
The layout: Kitchen with all cabinets, countertops, and appliances on one wall
Good for: Apartments, studios, condos, or smaller homes
The one-wall kitchen layout design corrals all of your cabinets, countertops, and appliances against a single wall so you can move easily between prepping, cooking, and cleaning. It’s ideal for when you want to save space while maintaining efficiency, and it’s cost-effective compared to other types of kitchen layouts because it requires the least amount of materials and labor.
Modern kitchens utilizing this layout often add an island opposite the one wall if there is space, transforming it into something that’s technically a galley kitchen. The island provides extra storage and counter space. It also gives you the opportunity to move an appliance, such as a coffee maker or a microwave, away from the main wall to free up space.
A one-wall kitchen with or without an island works especially well if you want an open-concept floor plan but have a smaller space.
One-Wall Kitchen Design Example
2. Galley Kitchen
The layout: Kitchen with parallel countertops and a walkway between them
Good for: Small spaces, but can be used for larger spaces
Named for the type of kitchen often found in ships, galley kitchen layouts make use of limited space with two parallel countertops and a walkway between them. The kitchen’s appliances are generally found on both sides, and vertical storage space, such as ceiling-hung cabinets and hanging pot racks, can also be used. Because everything is so close together, galley kitchens are often preferred by busy home cooks who love to maximize their efficiency.
If you’re thinking of remodeling your kitchen into a galley design, keep the refrigerator, sink, and stove close together to maintain that efficiency. A good rule of thumb is no more than 8 feet apart. It’s also important to make sure there is at least 4 feet of space between the parallel countertops (especially if there’s more than one cook in the kitchen).
To make a galley kitchen feel more spacious, try opting for light paint colors and white cabinets. You can also get the feel of the galley kitchen while keeping the space more open by placing a kitchen island along one wall, and your cabinets and countertops along the other.
Galley Kitchen Design Example
3. L-Shaped Kitchen
The layout: Kitchen with perpendicular countertops that form an “L” shape
Good for: Creating an open layout in small and medium-sized kitchens
The versatile L-shaped kitchen is the most common layout because it allows even the smallest kitchen to have an open-concept feel. Kitchen layouts with an L shape contain countertops and appliances on two perpendicular walls that join together. They sometimes include a small kitchen table placed in the open space, and they keep traffic flowing with their open design.
Most L-shaped kitchens have a long “leg” and a short “leg.” If you are considering an L-shaped layout for your kitchen renovation, put your cabinets and appliances against your longest wall. This long leg will also provide the majority of counter space. Your shorter leg will likely contain an appliance, such as the stove, and a small bit of counter space. Even the smallest of L-shaped kitchens should be able to accommodate two cooks at once.
The biggest downside to an L-shaped design is the limited amount of counter space, especially if you have a smaller kitchen. Nonetheless, the L shape is one of the few layouts that can fit into a kitchen as small as 100 square feet, so this may be unavoidable.
If you have the room, try incorporating an island for extra counter space. Or extend the L “legs” to add multiple work zones. Just remember to keep the legs less than 15 feet long—anything longer and moving between spaced-out appliances can slow you down.
L-Shaped Kitchen Design Example
4. U-Shaped Kitchen/Horseshoe Kitchen
The layout: Kitchen with three walls of counters, cabinets, and appliances that form a “U” shape
Good for: Medium and large kitchens, and those who want extra counter space
The U-shaped kitchen layout—sometimes called the horseshoe kitchen layout—is prized for its extensive counter space. With three walls of counters, it offers the most working space out of any layout option. Kitchen layouts with a U shape are also perfect for achieving the design concept known as the kitchen triangle.
The Kitchen Triangle
The kitchen triangle, aka the “working triangle” and the “golden triangle,” is a theory that the kitchen sink, the stove/oven, and the refrigerator should form a triangle. This shape helps the cook flow from prepping, cooking, and storage with maximum efficiency.
According to the theory, each leg of the triangle formed should be 4 to 9 feet each. The legs don’t have to be equal, but their sum should not be less than 13 feet or more than 26 feet. This allows for efficient rotation between the kitchen’s three main work areas.
The kitchen triangle theory can work well for your design, especially if you have one star cook at home. It’s also a good idea to talk to your contractor about adding modern work zones, which are self-contained areas that keep everything you need in one space. For instance, your “prep zone” would contain your knives, cutting boards, and mixing bowls and be located near your trash can.
U-shaped kitchens can work for spaces of all sizes, but using this layout in smaller kitchens might cause cooking to be a little cramped. So if your kitchen is on the smaller side, consider an L-shaped kitchen paired with a detached island or a short attached peninsula forming the third wall of the U.
U-Shaped Kitchen Design Example
5. Island Kitchen
The layout: Kitchen with a working island
Good for: Medium and large kitchens
The island kitchen layout is exactly what it sounds like: a kitchen that features a freestanding island. These working kitchen islands add additional work space and often include cabinets for storage. They may include appliances, such as a sink, microwave, or dishwasher—some even feature a beverage fridge or wine cooler! Bonus: you can even turn your island into an additional dining area by placing bar stools around it.
However, while islands can be added to most kitchen layouts, many kitchens won’t have the capacity to accommodate one. After all, they take up a lot of space.
Island Kitchen Design Example
6. Peninsula Kitchen
The layout: Kitchen with an island that’s connected to a wall or countertop
Good for: Medium and large kitchens, though it can sometimes work in a small kitchen
A peninsula kitchen layout features a peninsula, which is a kitchen island that’s attached to a wall or countertop. Peninsulas offer many benefits of an island while taking up less room, which means they can work in smaller spaces. Depending on how they are attached, peninsulas may transform an L-shaped kitchen into a U-shaped kitchen, or transform a U-shaped kitchen into a G-shaped kitchen or even a P-shaped kitchen.
The G-shaped peninsula kitchen has four sides of countertops and cabinets that form a “G” shape. The peninsula is attached to the left or right tip of the U. Because it has so much working space, the G-shaped kitchen is ideal if you want two or more people to be able to cook together. The peninsula also offers guests a space to hang out without getting in the cook’s way.
The P-shaped peninsula kitchen is basically the same as the G-shaped kitchen, with four sides of countertops and cabinets, but in the form of a “P.” The P shape is especially good for large kitchens and open-plan kitchens. A table or breakfast bar can also be incorporated into the design—if there’s enough room.