All you need to know about kitchen layouts
Just imagine it. Your kitchen but with the cooker, sink, toaster, and fridge all crammed into one corner. The microwave is above the sink and the cutlery all tucked away in the bottom drawer.
Not only would such a kitchen look terrible, but from a practical perspective, it would be a nightmare trying to work in such a space, especially with more than one person. Now imagine you’ve got children about the house and this kitchen becomes unsafe, with toasters near sinks and easy access to sharp knives.
Now, a confession. This example is deliberately provocative; we haven’t (yet) heard of anyone who has managed to squeeze all their kitchen into one corner and put knives in the reach of children. Although there are far too many examples of people who have spent little-to-no time planning their kitchen, and they always regret it! The point is to emphasise that a poor kitchen layout can drastically reduce the practicality, safety, and enjoyability of your kitchen.
So, if you want to learn some basic but important tips on how to properly plan the layout of your kitchen, you’ve come to the right place.
This article will cover:
- the key considerations when planning your layout
- the benefits of a thoughtful layout, and
- the 4 main kitchen layouts (L-shaped, U-shaped, galley, and Island)
The planning stage
Before you even get close to weighing up the pros and cons of an L- versus U-shaped kitchen, there are some important issues you need to consider that will inform your decision. Some may seem obvious, but it’s so important to get the basics right when it comes to your kitchen layout.
This will be where all your foot-traffic into the kitchen will originate from, so it’s important to think how you want this traffic to “flow”. Most modern kitchens are multifunctional, with distinct areas for cooking and dining and entertaining. It makes little sense to have your guests walk past you through the cooking area, so most people opt to have the dining area closest to the door.
For kitchens with two doors, you may have more flexibility regarding entrances, but you’ll still want to minimise traffic flow through the cooking area, so it’s best to keep cookers central and away from the doors.
Windows let in lots of light so it’s wise to make the most of this by placing the sink or food prep area near them, making it easier to work in the kitchen.
If your kitchen is naturally quite a dark room, now may be the right time to consider adding another window, or even a skylight, to let natural light flood in.
Finally, be sure to consider how easily you’ll be able to open and close your windows if you put a row of cabinets in front of them.
Supporting walls and pillars
Before getting carried away with a radical new kitchen layout that does away with that pesky pillar or knocks through a wall, you must check whether these structures are in fact supporting the upper part of the house.
Supporting walls or pillars can sometimes be moved but at the expense of a lot of time and money. Usually, the best (or at least cheapest) option is to incorporate the supporting structure into your layout and use it to your advantage by turning it into an attractive design feature.
For example, a pillar could act as a natural divide between the cooking and dining areas.
The benefits of a great kitchen layout
As hinted at in the introduction, there are three main benefits from a well thought out kitchen layout: safety, practicality, and style.
Your first concern when it comes to your family is keeping them safe, which is why it pays to take the time to plan your kitchen layout appropriately in order to keep everyone out of harm's way.
You really don’t want to be constantly tripping over one another or covering unnecessarily large distances when cooking meals with your partner. You want the crockery and cutlery to be handy at mealtimes, and the food prep area to be right next to the cooker. Getting these little details right is what makes your kitchen an enjoyable place to work, rather than a nuisance.
A well laid out kitchen always looks great. And no matter what size of kitchen you have to work with, choosing the right layout can be the difference between making the most of what you’ve got and squandering the space.
The 4 main kitchen layouts
When it comes to choosing the kitchen layout for your unique home, nothing is set in stone and you should always look for ways to really make space your own. Sometimes this involves going slightly off-piste with your layout. However, the 4 layouts discussed below are tried and tested favourites for a reason; if you pick the right one for your kitchen, they guarantee excellent results.
Take your time to think them through. Then, once you have a firm idea for the layout, check out our ultimate guide to designing your kitchen to find out how to make it look stunning.
Before we go any further, an important kitchen design principle to be aware of is the “Triangle” principle. This refers to the much-used method of placing the cooker, sink, and fridge at the three points of an imaginary triangle, with the aim of putting an appropriate distance between them to form a practical working area.
The L-shaped layout
This layout involves running a row of cabinets along two adjacent walls of the kitchen, forming an L-shape. The simplicity of this layout is an attractive feature, and it can be particularly useful in long, narrow kitchens as it leaves one long side completely free of cabinets.
You also have the flexibility to experiment with different configurations of the triangle principle.
Try to make good use of the free wall, lest it is space wasted. This could involve installing some open shelving for storage or a kitchen table. If space is tight, a narrow breakfast bar with stools might be a better option.
The U-shaped layout
Building on the L-shape, the U-shaped layout adds another row of cabinets along the opposite long wall, with the benefit of considerably more worktop and storage space. You can also introduce enough space for more kitchen utensils, such as a washing machine and dishwasher.
You can also use the triangle principle to divide the space nicely into three evenly spaced areas all within easy reach of each other.
A U-shape won’t work in every kitchen, particularly narrow ones where you can end up squeezing the floor space to very little, making the kitchen hard to move around in. You’ll also have to consider installing pull out drawers in the corner cabinets to ensure there are no wasted spaces.
Finally, beware full-height cabinets in a U-shaped kitchen as these can sometimes overcrowd the room and make it feel cramped.
The Galley layout
Imagine the U-shape, but without the smaller end, and you have the double Galley layout. Take away one of the long sides, leaving just a single row of cabinets, and you have the single Galley.
This layout is especially useful in very small kitchens, providing all the workspace you need in a compact unit. A single Galley may involve collapsing the triangle, but you can’t go wrong with a sink-cooker-fridge set up.
The Galley approach can work just as well in a larger kitchen, leaving plenty of floor space for a large dining table at one end, sectioning the room off into cooking and dining areas.
The Island layout
Finally, the island layout involves incorporating an island into your kitchen and can be added to a variety of different layouts.
While at first, it may seem you need to have a large kitchen to have an island, this isn’t the case. Islands don’t have to be big bulky brutes; there are many slimline and smaller versions which can bring extra worktop and storage space to any sized kitchen.
If you do go for an island, consider using it as a room divider by placing it between the cooking and dining/entertaining areas. Some well-placed stools will attract your dinner guests to relax with a glass of wine on one side, while you prepare the food on the other.
The final say
We really hope you’ve found this guide to kitchen layouts useful. Choosing the layout is arguably the most important stage in creating your new kitchen, so take your time to decide what one is right for you.