Kitchen Layouts – A Complete Guide To Design

The role that a kitchen provides in our homes is starting to shift much more these days. The idea that it is just a separate room in which you cook is disappearing. What more people desire is to have an open-plan space, combining cooking, dining and living. This means that designing the best kitchen layout is absolutely crucial.

Many kitchen renovations these days include removing interior walls or extending them to create a larger space. The concept of having one larger social hub in a house with several functions is more common, and the kitchen is at the centre of this. After all, it is the heart of the home.

A good kitchen layout can not only maximise space. It can dictate the overall functionality and flow of the greater space it sits in. Utilising the best kitchen layout for the room you have available will create a more pleasant living environment.

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 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
  • Fridge
  • Hob(cooktop)/Oven (cooking)

But, of course, that might be 4 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 to fill your pan with water, 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.

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.

Working triangle kitchen design
Example of ‘Working Triangle’

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 meal prep. You will need to have sufficient clear worktop 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

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 worktop 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. Who 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 cabinets 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, but up to a point. Having a 3-metre gap between your cabinets can create too much wasted space. 

Similarly, my general rule for seating at a breakfast bar is 60 cm 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 2.4 metres long.

How To Design A Kitchen Layout

If you want to learn how I start to design a kitchen layout check out this video:


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.

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1. Single Wall Kitchen Layout

Single wall design
Single wall kitchen layout

The single wall kitchen (One-Wall Kitchen) 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 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 dining 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 section.

2. Galley Kitchen Layout

Galley kitchen
Galley kitchen layout – open plan concept

A galley kitchen is when you have two runs of cabinets opposite each other. This is usually against two walls, although this doesn’t have to be the case (as shown in the image above).

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 worktop space on either side of the hob for your prep and other kitchen task zones.

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 storage. They can also be a lovely design feature.

Likewise, be careful with colour. If the room is poorly lit and narrow, dark colours can feel oppressive. If you have to have the colour, consider designing in more lighting. These could be downlights in the ceiling, under cabinet lights, and even uplights on top of the wall cabinets.

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3. L-Shaped Kitchen Layout

L- Shape Kitchen Layout
L- Shape Kitchen Layout

An L-shaped kitchen 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.

Having your tall (tower) cabinets 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.

Having the tall cabinets on the shorter run can also give you a longer run of worktop and the option to add more wall units above. Make sure you have enough clear worktop space and that your hob and sink have enough distance 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.

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. 

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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 worktop and storage.

If your room is large enough, you could even have an island in the centre around the U-shape to create a central work/social zone 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

Peninsula - G shape design
Peninsula Kitchen Layout – G-Shape layout

A peninsula kitchen layout is where one of the runs of cabinets coming off the kitchen isn’t against a wall. The key difference between a peninsula kitchen is that this extra section is accessible from both sides.

A peninsula layout is, in some ways, an addition to other layouts. It can turn a single-wall kitchen into an L-shaped 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

Island - Open plan concept
Kitchen Island layout – Open plan concept

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 on one side.

Even 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 1-metre 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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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 or 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 Kitchen Layout Is Popular In Small Kitchens?

Single wall or 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 cabinets, 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!

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…

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.

Before you rip out your old kitchen or start knocking down walls for your new extension, consider reading my guide on how to survive a kitchen renovation. – Temporary Kitchen Setup During a Renovation – Top Tips

I hope this has helped give you some ideas and information about kitchen design and kitchen layouts. If you would like to learn more, consider reading my post Top 10 Kitchen Design Tips – From A Kitchen Designer


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Michael from

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.