Whether you’re planning a kitchen remodel, buying a new home, or searching for an apartment, the kitchen design has a big impact on the functionality of your living space.
All types of kitchen layouts have advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to think about your lifestyle, any space constraints, and how you plan to use the room.
Deciding on a kitchen design will help you make decisions that could impact the flow of your kitchen, decisions like where to put the refrigerator or the dishwasher, for instance.
In this article, I’ve broken down the six umbrella types of kitchens. I explain the pros and cons of each type and provide helpful information on how each kitchen layout works with entertaining, traffic flow, and meal prep.
Ready to find the best kitchen layout for your home? Let’s get started.
What Are the Six Types of Kitchen Layouts?
When it comes to kitchen layouts, there are six “umbrella” types. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
Best for: Small homes and studio apartments
The one-wall layout features cabinets and appliances located against a single wall. One-wall layouts are generally found in small homes and studio apartments to save floor space and keep everything within easy reach.
A one-wall kitchen layout allows a cook to perform all tasks in a single workspace. Vertical space is crucial since shelves and overhead cabinets allow for maximum storage and organization. Sometimes these kitchens are equipped with a small island or kitchen cart for additional workspace.
In a one-wall kitchen, all the appliances, cabinets, and countertops are on one wall. One-wall kitchens often feature a compact refrigerator and range that are separated by the kitchen sink.
One-wall kitchens were formerly known as “Pullman kitchens.” They’re affordable and compact, making them ideal for apartment dwellers and homeowners who want to save space and money.
- Compact & saves space
- Optimal workflow
- Limited counter space
- Not as popular
Best for: Small or medium kitchens, or open-space kitchens combined with the dining room
L-shaped kitchens are some of the most streamlined and efficient layouts. An L-shaped kitchen features cabinets built on two sides of a corner, forming an L-shape.
L-shaped kitchens are versatile and allow appliances to be installed along adjoining walls with an open area in the center. A larger kitchen might also include a kitchen island. When configured with a “tip,” the L-shape forms a natural work triangle. Of course, it’s important to consider the distance between the sink, stove, and fridge.
L-shape kitchen layouts are suited for small or medium-sized kitchens, as they allow for proper spacing. Legs of the working triangle should be between 4 to 9 feet (1.2 to 2.7 meters), with all three sides totaling no more than 26 feet (7.9 meters). Larger L-shape kitchens might spread out the workstations too far, making the food prep inefficient and tiresome.
An L-shaped kitchen minimizes “thru traffic” and gives a single cook ample space to cook and prep food. It’s not as conducive for multiple cooks, however.
- Great for corner space
- Easy work triangle
- Minimal through traffic
- Efficient design
- Suited for open-plan designs
- Not ideal for larger kitchens
- Not ideal for multiple cooks
Best for: Small kitchens and tight spaces
The galley kitchen, a.k.a. a corridor kitchen, is a space-efficient option for small spaces. The galley layout consists of two walls facing each other, typically with no corner cabinets to worry about.
A galley kitchen layout has base cabinets, wall cabinets, and all appliances located on either side of the walkway. It’s like a kitchen hallway if you will.
Galley kitchens are small in size, making optimal use of tight spaces. It can feel congested, so it’s a good idea to keep the food preparation on one side of the kitchen. This also isn’t the best setup for two cooks or more.
On the flip side, the galley kitchen layout is a fantastic way to stretch your budget. The main kitchen services (i.e., gas, water, electric) are clustered around one another, so it’s compact.
If the galley kitchen is in-between other areas of the house, there can be a fair amount of traffic through the work triangle, causing frustration for the cook. If the galley kitchen has a wall or pantry at one end, however, that helps keep others out of the kitchen.
- Saves space
- Saves cost on cabinets
- Efficient design for main lines (water, gas, and electrical)
- Can feel congested
- Limited counter space
- Low resale value
Best for: Closed kitchen layouts, separate from the dining area
The U-shape kitchen is a more popular layout, especially in homes without an open floor plan. This particular layout can accommodate small or large kitchen spaces, making it versatile.
A U-shaped kitchen layout wraps around three walls, effectively dividing the kitchen from the rest of the house. The U-shape design provides plenty of room for food preparation and ample storage with cabinets and counter space on three walls.
The U-shape provides a natural work triangle, with cooking appliances and the kitchen sink placed on different sides.
Plus, with plenty of space for storage, smaller kitchen appliances can be stored in the kitchen cabinets, creating even more room on the countertops. I’m talking microwaves, toasters, coffee makers, etc.
Another benefit of the U-shaped kitchen is that two or more cooks can operate at the same time. This kitchen layout is great for social cooking for holidays or for a big family.
Even though U-shaped kitchens are efficient and make the best use of space, the corners can become pinch points. Pull-outs or cabinet Lazy Susans maximize space and help cooks access those hard-to-reach spaces.
In larger kitchens, you could place an island in the center. This could give extra space for serving, food prep, and even seating. But it could interrupt the workflow, so you’ll have to use your judgment.
In a small space, a U-shape can feel confining. In that case, open shelving can open up the space and create some breathing room.
- Plenty of counter and storage space
- Natural work triangle
- Can accommodate two or more cooks
- Designed to keep traffic out
- Promotes social cooking
- Can reduce floor space
- Can make large kitchens feel too spread out
- Can make small kitchens feel cramped
Best for: Large kitchens centered around entertaining and socializing
When it comes to kitchen layouts, the island layout is one of the most popular types of kitchen for new builds. If you’re designing a new kitchen, this layout has a lot going for it.
The kitchen island is freestanding cabinetry that supplements counter space in the kitchen. They can range from small to large and come in stock islands or custom-built options.
The island can be the main food prep surface, provide extra cooking space, or house the sink. It can also function as an extra seating area or provide additional cabinet storage. The sky’s the limit when it comes to the functionality.
The island is centrally located, serving as a traffic controller in the kitchen layout. For large kitchen layouts, a double island can provide space for socializing while simultaneously creating a separate entertaining and cooking area.
Mobile islands can be helpful in a galley kitchen, an L-shaped layout, or a U-shape kitchen layout. Moveable islands let owners change the layout as needed.
In many modern kitchen layouts, homeowners like having elevated stools with an elongated counter space on the non-prep side of the island. This setup is conducive to entertaining and socializing while cooking.
With an island layout, it’s important that it fits with the other kitchen cabinets. Homeowners can purchase additional base cabinets from the manufacturer to ensure everything is an exact match.
Alternatively, users can choose an island as a standout piece for the kitchen area. In this case, you would go with something in a different color or material to contrast the rest of the space.
The trickiest part of island kitchen layouts is the size and spacing. Too big of an island can mess up the traffic flow and overwhelm the kitchen space. Too small of an island can look awkward and limit functionality.
That’s why it’s best to work with a professional to design the space proportionally and appropriately.
- Extra amenities
- Extra seating area
- Promotes social cooking
- Extra storage space
- Requires more space
- May disrupt workflow
- Sizing can be tricky
Best for: Large or medium kitchens with a breakfast bar or nook
A peninsula layout, also called a G-shape kitchen, has cabinets and major appliances along three walls like a U-shaped kitchen, but with an attached kitchen island, forming a “G” shape. Peninsulas can serve as a breakfast bar, provide additional storage, or create extra prep space.
A peninsula kitchen layout is perfect for assisting with meal prep while someone else is cooking. As a child, my parents had this configuration. My siblings and I would peel potatoes or snap beans on one side of the peninsula while my mom used the stove on the other side for cooking.
The G-shape is also an excellent solution for those who have an enclosed kitchen but want to get the feel of an open-concept kitchen without having to knock down walls. It can still appear congested, especially with upper cabinets above the peninsula, but you can easily solve that problem by not having upper cabinets.
A peninsula kitchen layout is best for those who want to use every square inch of space while maintaining a level of openness.
- More space for appliances
- More workspace
- Provides flexibility
- Accommodates multiple cooks
- Can appear congested
- More complicated
- Too much storage space
- Traffic flow can be tricky
How to Design a Kitchen Layout
Whether you’re building or reconfiguring a kitchen, you need to choose the best layout. Before deciding on a kitchen design, however, you should take into consideration all the factors that influence which types of kitchen layouts would be best for your home.
Floor Space, Storage Space & Counter Space
How much floor space do you have to work with? Do you need more counter space or cabinet space than you currently have? How much room would give you enough space to prep meals and store dishes, cookware, etc.?
These are questions that influence the best kitchen layout. When thinking of kitchen layout ideas, it’s helpful to divide the kitchen area into zones. There’s a cleaning zone, where you’ll wash dishes. There’s a food preparation zone, where you’ll chop vegetables, mix sauces, and roll out dough.
The cooking zone is where you’ll cook food, usually on a range or cooktop. There should be a food storage zone, where you’ll store dry goods. Finally, there will be a non-food storage zone, where you’ll store cookware, serving dishes, cooking utensils, small appliances, and more.
This will heavily influence your kitchen design. For instance, your dishwasher and sink will be in the cleaning area, so they should be close to your everyday dishes. Your food prep area should have easy access to mixing bowls, whisks, knives, etc. Thinking about these zones will help you plan your space effectively.
Traffic Flow, Seating, Dining
Do you want a lot of traffic in the kitchen, or do you prefer to cook without interruption? Do you want extra seating or an eating area in the kitchen? Do you prefer a separate dining room? These are all questions that can influence kitchen layout ideas.
For example, an L-shaped kitchen will allow you to work efficiently as a solo cook, but it will prove challenging for multiple cooks. An island kitchen, however, will work with an open design and allow people to congregate and socialize in the kitchen space.
A U-shaped kitchen layout will maximize efficiency with a natural work triangle, but it’s difficult to get extra seating with a u-shaped kitchen. On the other hand, a peninsula could double as a breakfast bar and provide an extra eating area, but it could feel cramped.
Thinking about how you want your kitchen to feel and function will help you decide on the best kitchen design.
Appliances can be a costly part of kitchen remodels. Do you want to keep the existing appliances to save cost? Do you want to upgrade them, or even change the configuration? Appliances are central to kitchen design, so you have to consider how you want them to serve you in your kitchen space.
Are you going to have your range built into the kitchen island? If so, you’ll need an island-specific range hood. If you have a one-wall kitchen, are you going to put the refrigerator on the left or right side of the kitchen? If you want a large sub-zero fridge, you’ll need a kitchen layout that accommodates it.
What is your budget? In a dream world, the best kitchen design wouldn’t be influenced by budget constraints. But we don’t live in a dream world. The amount of money you have to spend heavily influences the types of kitchen layouts available to you.
Knocking down walls, reconfiguring electric or water hookups, and replacing appliances are all expensive changes. Completely changing kitchen layouts is a pricey venture.
If you are unhappy with your kitchen layout but have a limited budget, perhaps there are small changes you can make. Open shelving, a mobile kitchen island, refacing cabinets, and even painting your fridge (yes, that’s a thing!) can make a big impact on a small budget.
What is a Small Kitchen Called?
A small kitchen is sometimes called a kitchenette. This term refers to a kitchen area of less than 80 square feet (7.4 sq. m.). A kitchenette usually has a microwave, a small or under-counter fridge, and possibly a coffee maker. Kitchenettes are common in dorms, hotels, mother-in-law suites, small apartments, and office buildings.
What Makes a Great Kitchen
Ultimately, what makes a great kitchen is how well it functions for you. Does it make cooking more efficient and more enjoyable? If so, then it’s a great kitchen.
There are several types of kitchen layouts, but the best one is a highly personal decision. Don’t sacrifice your own sanity to get the maximum resale value. If a change adds to the value of your house AND serves your needs? Great! If you have to choose, though, you should choose your own needs and preferences over an imaginary future buyer.
Bottom line, your house should serve your lifestyle, not impede it.
Kitchen Layouts: Last Thoughts
Now that you’re armed with info on the types of kitchen layouts, you’ll be ready to choose the best one for your home. Once you’ve decided on a kitchen design, you can tackle organizing your kitchen to make the most of your space.