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Kitchen Layout Design Guide – Ideas & Expert Advice

The perfect kitchen layout; It’s the foundation of any great kitchen design, influencing everything from functionality to aesthetics.

With so many elements to consider, from work triangles to storage solutions, navigating the world of kitchen layouts can feel like a culinary conundrum.

In this post, I’ll unravel the mysteries of kitchen layout design. I’ll explain essential design principles and techniques and explore popular layout types. All to help you create the perfect layout for your kitchen.

Let’s get into it!

Why Your Kitchen Layout Is So Important

A kitchen’s layout is critical in determining its functionality and efficiency.

Effective kitchen design is about utilizing space efficiently, regardless of the kitchen’s size. The layout should facilitate easy movement to ensure a streamlined cooking process that reduces effort and time.

Proper arrangement of appliances and storage is essential for making the most of available space, particularly important in kitchens that double as social spaces. A well-planned layout can transform even small kitchens into functional, clutter-free environments.

Safety is also a major consideration. The kitchen layout should minimize risks associated with cooking, including heat, electricity, and sharp objects. This means ensuring enough space for safe appliance use and movement, which is crucial in a high-activity area like the kitchen.

A good kitchen layout is fundamental to its overall role in the home, impacting everything from day-to-day functionality to safety. Utilising the best kitchen layout for the room you have available will create a more pleasant living environment.

This is why designing the best kitchen layout is absolutely crucial.

I say it all the time to my clients. The layout is key! 🔑

Good Kitchen Layout Design Principles

When it comes to designing a kitchen layout, there are no hard-set rules.

However, there are some good design principles that you should definitely consider and try to apply to your project to help make it as efficient as possible.

Working Triangle

The working triangle (or kitchen work triangle) is the most popular design principle when it comes to kitchen layouts.

This concept seeks to achieve a working flow that connects the main sections of your kitchen together without spacing them too far apart or being on top of one another.

These sections are the:

  • Sink
  • Refrigerator
  • Hob (cooktop) / Oven (cooking) / Stove (cooker)

But, of course, that might be 4 (or more) things and a triangle has 3 points!

For some, your oven and hob won’t be combined so you may need to factor in that fourth point as a second triangle. (Hob/sink/fridge) + (Oven/sink/fridge)

Try to think of it like this: when you’re standing at the hob can you pivot and walk 1-3 steps to get to the fridge, then pivot and walk 1-3 steps to the sink, then pivot and walk back to the hob?

Think about these sections and the main pathways between them. What you don’t want is to walk from one end to the other and then around the island to something else. This creates an inefficient workflow.

The three points should be near enough to each other to make meal preparation and cooking efficient, but each point should feel un-cramped.

While the working triangle is a great starting point and should always be considered, it’s not a set rule, and things aren’t always as simple as that.

A kitchen floor plan of a U shaped kitchen showing the working triangle kitchen design concept
Example of ‘the Working Triangle’ in a U-Shape Layout

Kitchen Zones

Another approach I like to take when designing a kitchen layout is to create zones within the kitchen.

These are sections of the kitchen dedicated to a particular task. I then make sure everything you need to complete that task is easily accessible.

For example, this could be your cooking area. When standing at your hob cooking you would need to have your pots, pans and utensils close by, as these are the items you will need and use most. You need to make sure there are the correct cabinets nearby to store these items.

Another could be food prep. You will need to have sufficient clear countertop space in order to work. Knives and chopping boards should be close by and your bins below or next to you for the waste and rubbish you create.

There are typically five main ‘kitchen zones’:

  1. Consumables zone
  2. Non-consumables zone
  3. Cleaning zone
  4. Preparation zone
  5. Cooking zone

These are the main five to consider, although you can have as many different zones as you like.

My absolute favourite zone to consider, and perhaps the most important for some, is the zone for making tea/coffee. ☕️

You’ll want to make sure you have that bit of clear counter space close by to your kettle. In turn, your kettle should be close to your sink for water to fill it up.

You then want to make sure that your cabinet with the tea/coffee/sugar is to hand along with your mugs. All together in one zone, this makes the daily task as efficient and time-saving as possible.

Think about your most common daily tasks in the kitchen and create zones for them.

Not only will it help to focus your kitchen layout, but it can also make daily life run a little bit more efficiently and seamlessly. What chef wouldn’t want that?

Space Planning

No, we’re not going to the moon. 🚀

Space planning is making sure there is enough empty space within your kitchen layout. A slightly odd concept to think about, I know.

People can often get caught up in trying to maximize their storage by putting cabinetry everywhere and cramming an island in a space that’s really too small.

Filling a space up too much will most likely cause a negative overall user experience.

If there’s more than one of you living in the house, you need to take into consideration the space between the cabinets and around the kitchen.

  • Is it wide enough for two people to walk past each other comfortably?

  • Can you have a cabinet door wide open and still have plenty of room to stand and get around the kitchen?

My general rule of thumb is that the distance between cabinets or cabinets and walls (the pinch points in your kitchen) should be no smaller than 1 metre.

Much less, and it becomes tight and feels squashed.

A little more is great, say 1.2-1.5m but up to a point. Having a 3-metre walkway gap between two runs of cabinets creates wasted space. 

Another little ‘rule’ I have for seating at a breakfast bar is 60cm (24″) per person.

This allows enough elbow room to feel comfortable and not on top of one another, while not being so wide you can’t fit enough people at the bar.

So, if you want to seat four people in a row at your breakfast bar, I would say it should be 2.4m (8ft)long.

The 6 Most Popular Kitchen Layouts

Below are the most common kitchen layout types that you may find useful or take inspiration from when designing your own kitchen.

Not every kitchen has to fit into one of these exact layout types. You can plan anything you like within the size and shape you have to work with.

As long as you take the design principles into consideration, you will be on your way to creating the most functional and efficient kitchen for your space.

1. Single Wall Kitchen Layout

Single wall kitchen layout design One wall layout
Single-wall kitchen layout

The single wall kitchen (One-Wall Kitchen Layout) pretty much does what it says on the tin. Everything is designed and fitted along one wall.

It’s becoming more popular in smaller spaces such as flats, studios and lofts and is often designed with a more contemporary and minimalist style in mind.

This can be a great option if you want to have an open-plan space but don’t have much room. Only using one wall, frees up space in the rest of the room to have a dining space or living sections.

You could also use two different types of flooring to help separate and distinguish the areas. For example, a tiled section in front of the kitchen which then turns into a carpeted area for the living room.

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2. Galley Kitchen Layout

Dark Green Shaker Cabinets Galley Kitchen Layout deVOL
Galley Kitchen Layout
Image – deVOL

A galley kitchen is when you have two runs of cabinets and countertops parallel to one another. Creating a ‘galley’ walkway and workspace between them.

The name is taken from the name of a ship’s kitchen. A galley kitchen layout can be an efficient working arrangement and easy to implement the working triangle.

All you need to do is place the sink on the opposite run of cabinets to the hob and have the fridge at the end of the run (on either side). This can create a nice workflow in a small space.

Make sure to allow for enough clear counter space on either side of the hob for your prep and other kitchen task zones.

Strike a balance between storage space and aesthetics. Be careful to not hang too many wall units. This can make the space feel narrow and imposing and may block out light.

Floating shelves can be a great alternative to help create a sense of space while still providing some storage. Open shelving can also be a lovely design feature.

Likewise, be careful with colour. If the room is poorly lit and narrow, dark colours can feel a bit oppressive. Unless you’re going for that dark and moody look!

If you’re not, consider adding some contrast and lighter-coloured elements to your design as well as planning in more lighting.

These could be downlights in the ceiling, under cabinet lights, wall scones and even uplights on top of the wall cabinets.

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3. L-Shaped Kitchen Layout

An L-shaped layout comprises cabinets on 2 walls at a right angle to one another. One run of cabinets is often slightly longer than the other, creating the L-shape.

Similar to the single-wall kitchen layout, having an L-shape can help to create a sense of open space. If space allows, you could put a dining table in the room as well. 

Depending on the other elements in your room, you would typically locate your full-height cabinets at one of the two ends of the L-shape.

Having your tall full-height cabinetry on the smaller side of the L can be space-efficient, especially if there is a window in the long run. This means you avoid blocking the light.

It can also give you a longer run of countertops and the option to add more wall units above.

Alternatively, having full-height cabinets at the end of the long run can help to create a sense of balance. Often giving a more equal proportion of countertop space to each run of base cabinets.

However you choose to layout your L-shaped design, just make sure you have enough clear worktop space for food prep and that your hob and sink have enough separation between them.

If maximising storage isn’t a necessity, consider only putting wall cabinets along one side of the L-shape. This can help create a feeling of space.

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4. U-Shaped Kitchen Layout

U- Shape Kitchen Layout
U- Shaped Kitchen Layout

In a U-shaped kitchen layout, the cabinets are positioned around three walls to create a U-shape.

As with the double galley kitchen layout, it can be quite simple to form the working triangle, with the hob, sink and fridge each on a separate wall or run of units.

A U-shape is especially valuable if you want plenty of work surface area, as you are utilising that third wall or run for extra kitchen counters and storage.

If your room is large enough, you could even have a dining table or island in the centre around the U-shape to create a central work/social area while cooking.

Corner cupboards can often mean difficult-to-reach or wasted space. As the U-shape layout creates two corners in your kitchen, it is important to consider helpful corner mechanisms that can maximise the accessible storage abilities.

Mechanisms such as Le-mans and magic basket corner solutions can be a fantastic addition to achieve this.

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5. Peninsula Kitchen Layout

Peninsula kitchen layout deVOL
Peninsula Kitchen Layout
Image – deVOL

A peninsula kitchen layout is a design where a run of cabinets and counter space juts out from a wall or connected cabinetry, forming a layout similar to an island but with one end attached to the main kitchen space.

The key difference between a peninsula and an island kitchen layout is that a peninsula is only accessible from three sides, rather than all four.

A peninsula layout is, in some ways, an addition to other layouts. It can turn a single-wall kitchen into an L-shaped or open galley kitchen of sorts. Creating a breakfast bar/seating area off the wall into the room as a peninsula can be a great way to introduce a more social element to your kitchen layout.

The same can be achieved by turning an L-shaped into a U-shaped kitchen and even upgrading a U-shaped kitchen by extending a section to include a breakfast bar/seating area, creating a G-shape.

Using a peninsula instead of an island is a good idea if you are limited on space, but want the functionality and social aspects of an island.

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6. Kitchen Island Layout

Kitchen island layout design True handleless kitchen design modern contemporary kitchen
Kitchen Island Layout

A kitchen island is the most desirable kitchen layout. Having an island in your kitchen is a look and feature that is growing in popularity. However, you need the space to have this.

This feature can be incorporated into any of the above kitchen layouts. It can be used to help create a more functional design by acting as another point to your working triangle.

This can be for the sink, hob or a dedicated prepping area. It can also serve to create a more social environment by adding a seating area.

However, if you love the idea of a kitchen island and think you have to have one, be careful. A kitchen with an island that shouldn’t have one will be a nightmare to live in.

Sacrificing the overall space, flow and functionality of the kitchen just to have an island is the wrong way to go about things.

Make sure you have enough space to comfortably fit an island into your kitchen before getting your heart set on having one. Keep that 1m rule in mind when designing your kitchen space.

Remember, if you don’t have enough space for an island, a peninsula can often be a great alternative.

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Kitchen layout design steps

Planning a kitchen layout involves several key steps. Here’s a quick guide to help you through the process:

1. Assess Your Needs and Preferences:

  • Determine how you’ll use the kitchen. Consider cooking habits, entertaining style, and the needs of your household.
  • List essential elements you want in your kitchen, like specific appliances, seating for guests or ample storage.

2. Measure Your Space:

  • Accurately measure the kitchen area, including doorways, windows, and any existing utilities.
  • Note the location of existing plumbing, electrical outlets, and gas lines if you plan to use existing utility connections.

3. Create a Floor Plan:

  • Use your measurements to draw a floor plan of your kitchen space. This can be done using graph paper or kitchen design software.
  • Include the placement of windows, doors, and any structural elements in your plan.
  • This visual representation will help you understand the available space and how different elements can fit together.

4. Choose a Layout Type:

  • Select a layout that fits your space and needs. The ones I’ve discussed above are great starting points.
  • Consider the pros and cons of each layout type in relation to your space and cooking style.

5. Plan for Storage and Appliances:

  • Decide on the types and sizes of appliances you need.
  • Plan adequate storage, considering both lower and upper cabinets, drawers, and possibly a pantry.

6. Design for Functionality and Aesthetics:

  • Ensure there is sufficient counter space for food preparation and landing areas.
  • Consider the materials and colours for cabinets, countertops, and backsplashes that match your style.

7. Factor in Lighting and Ventilation:

  • Plan for a combination of task, ambient, and accent lighting.
  • Ensure good ventilation with a quality range hood or extractor fan.

8. Consider Safety and Accessibility:

  • Ensure the design allows for safe and easy movement, especially in high-traffic areas.
  • Consider accessibility features, like varying counter heights or pull-out shelves, if needed.

9. Review and Adjust:

  • Revisit your kitchen floor plan and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Consider consulting with a kitchen designer for professional advice.

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FAQs

What Is The Most Popular Kitchen Layout?

The most popular kitchen layout is an island kitchen layout.

Whether that is a single run and an island, an L-shape and an Island, or any other combination. Having a kitchen island is one of the most requested features I get as a kitchen designer.

Kitchen island layouts can be very functional as well as look fantastic, which makes them the most popular choice.

What Is The Best Kitchen Layout For Small Kitchens?

Galley kitchen layouts are usually the most popular and functional for small kitchens.

Due to the restrictions on space, having an island as part of the layout in a small kitchen is usually out of the question. Likewise, having an L or U-shaped kitchen layout requires the use of corner cabinetry, which there may not be sufficient space.

Corner cabinets can often be less useful than simply running cabinets to the end of a wall and utilising a more functional drawer cabinet at the end. Rather than fitting awkward corner cabinets ‘ just because you can’.

What Is The Most Functional Kitchen Layout?

The kitchen layout that works best for you and your space!

Any of these popular kitchen layouts can be functional, that’s why they’re popular.

Taking your time to think about what you need in the kitchen and how you work will lead you on your way to producing the most functional kitchen.

Working with a kitchen designer can help too! 😉

Final Thoughts…

There you have it! My complete guide to kitchen layout design.

Getting the layout right is absolutely crucial and I always tell my clients that the layout comes first when designing.

It’s far easier to change the colour or style of your cabinets and worktop again and again once you have the solid foundation of the best kitchen layout for your space.

I hope this has helped give you some ideas and information about kitchen design and kitchen layouts.

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Author

Michael from Kitchinsider.com

Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.