U-Shaped Kitchen Design – Tips, Ideas And Inspiration

U-shaped Kitchens (sometimes called C-shaped or horseshoe kitchens) are one of the most popular kitchen layouts.

Having a U-shaped kitchen helps maximize the amount of storage and countertop space. It also has the ability to be flexible in its size and shape (to some extent). This makes it the perfect kitchen layout for many spaces.

In this post, I’ll explain what a U-shaped kitchen is, some of the advantages it brings, and look at some different options that might work for your kitchen.

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What Is A U-Shaped Kitchen?

A U-shaped kitchen is a layout that uses three connected runs of cabinets to form a horseshoe (or U) shape.

There are lots of different ways to create a U-shaped kitchen. You could have a long and thin U-shape, a square shape, or have one side of the U-shape longer than the others. It’s a far more flexible layout than you might expect!

Another option is to have a peninsula in your U-shaped kitchen, with one of the runs of cabinets coming off the wall and into the middle area of the room. You can even have a wide U-shape and place an island in the middle.

There really are many ways to U-tilise the U-shaped kitchen.

Working triangle kitchen design
Example Of A ‘Working Triangle’ In A U-Shaped Kitchen

The Advantages Of A U-Shaped Kitchen


A U-shaped kitchen is one of the most practical layouts out there. It lends itself perfectly to the ‘working triangle‘ design principle. This optimises the working flow between your sink, refrigerator, and oven/hob.

Worktop Space

A great advantage of having a kitchen with three sides is that it creates more worktop space. This helps separate your sink and hob, at the same time giving you plenty of open worktop space for food prep. You’ll be thankful for this extra worktop space if you’re a keen gadget user – there’ll be ample room for your toaster, coffee pot, breadmaker, and more!

Storage Space

More worktop space also means more storage space, with three runs of cabinets to fill. For many U-shaped kitchens, these runs are both on the ground and the walls – doubling your already ample storage space.

Just make sure to utilise the corners to their fullest. (more on that below)


Many U-shaped kitchens are designed with one of the three runs acting as a peninsula and breakfast bar area. This is a great way to keep lots of worktop and storage space while also including a social area – especially good if you love entertaining but don’t have space for an island.

The Disadvantages Of A U-Shaped Kitchen

As with any kitchen layout, there are some disadvantages to the U-shape. Here are a few quick disadvantages to consider.

  • Corner cabinets aren’t always practical and can be difficult to get into. You might end up with some wasted space.
  • A large U-shaped area can result in the working zones being too far apart – not great for your working triangle!
  • A small U-shaped area can feel too enclosed and become impractical or unmanageable. You’ll quickly have too many cooks in the kitchen!

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How Wide Should A U-Shaped Kitchen Be?

Ideally, you should have at least 1.5 metres of floor space between cabinets. This means your U-shaped should allow for at least 1.5 metres of space between runs.

1.5 metres allows enough space for two people to move freely in the kitchen and enables you to comfortably open and close doors and drawers while still having space to move around.

You may get away with slightly less space, but at an absolute minimum, you should allow for 1 metre. While at the other end, a little more than 1.5 metres is great, but much more can make the space too large and not very efficient.

If you do have a large space, you may want to consider adding an island in the centre to help create another touchpoint and extra surface space. This also avoids wasted space in the kitchen.

Where Should The Fridge Be In A U-Shaped Kitchen?

The best position for the fridge in a U-shaped kitchen is at the very ends of the ‘U’. This means at the start or end of the worktop, leaving the U-shape uninterrupted.

Much depends on planning your kitchen space and your working zones. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that your fridge should open into the kitchen. When the fridge door is open, you want the food to be looking into the U-shape of the kitchen.

The same is true for tall cabinets. They are best located at the ends of the kitchen counter so they don’t impede movement or break the aesthetic balance. And the doors should similarly ensure you are opening into the kitchen itself.

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How To Maximise The Corners In A U-Shaped Kitchen

Corner space can be a bit tricky to make the most of in a kitchen. However, there are innovative products that allow you easy access to items you store in corner cabinet space.

Two of my favourite space-savers include a Le Mans and the Magic Corner pullout units. These pullout units are excellent innovations. They have a swivel mechanism that allows you to maximise the space in your corner cabinet while allowing for easy access to all items stored inside.

Maximising every inch of the kitchen is important if storage is at a premium. However, sometimes having a corner cabinet isn’t always the most practical solution – especially if you don’t have any corner pull out mechanisms installed.

If, for instance, you find drawers more useful than cupboards, creating a void (empty space) in the corner and putting a drawer cabinet up to the corner instead can provide a more practical storage option. You may feel you’re losing space in the corner, but you gain a more useful cabinet you can use every day.

Always remember: This is your kitchen. The design, layout, appliances and cabinets must work for you and your needs. The perfect kitchen is the best kitchen for you!

Typical Layouts of U-Shaped Kitchens

U-Shaped Kitchen With Island

U-Shaped Kitchen With an Island

This is a perfect example of a U-shaped kitchen with an island. Keeping the fridge, oven and sink on the three runs creates three defined and practical working areas. With the island kept clear, you’ll have plenty of room for food prep and socialising.

U-Shaped Kitchen With Peninsula

U-Shaped Kitchen With Peninsula

A peninsula is great for helping to separate the kitchen zone from the living or dining area in an open-plan environment. Having a peninsula can help softly connect the room (rather than having a wall) while clearly defining the kitchen area.

U-Shaped Kitchen With Dining Table

U-Shaped Kitchen With Dining Table

Rather than a kitchen island, this layout includes a dining table in the middle of the U-shape. This still leaves enough room to move about freely and is perfect if you don’t have a separate dining space in your home.

U-Shaped Kitchen With Breakfast Bar

If you don’t have space for an island but would still like some seating to create a social area, consider a breakfast bar section on a peninsula run of a U-Shaped kitchen. This gives you the best of both worlds – gentle separation of space in an open plan while still offering a place to gather with guests.

Small U-Shaped Kitchen

Small kitchens ideas
Source: Second Nature

U-shaped kitchens can help to maximise every inch of space in a small kitchen. They’re a great option for those who want to squeeze everything they can out of a small space.

Open Plan U-Shaped Kitchen

Having a U-shaped kitchen in an open-plan room can help to section off the kitchen from the living, dining or entry area. Using the third run as a peninsula (with or without a seating area) helps to make the most of the space.

Final Thoughts…

Having a U-shaped kitchen is a great way to maximise space and increase functionality in your space. It also works well in larger open spaces to achieve a clear separate kitchen zone or helps to tie an open-plan scheme together.

Whether you add a table, breakfast bar, island or just leave the space open, consider the U-shape for your kitchen design project.



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.