Kitchen layouts: The pros and cons of different set-ups

So you’ve got a list as long as your arm for what you’d like in your kitchen. I don’t blame you. My wishlist is a long one too: open shelving, a walk-in pantry with neatly stacked jars of dry goods, a breakfast cupboard, range cooker, large dining table…I could go on! What with appliances, worktop space, dining space, enough storage, making the most of the room’s size and getting it looking good, there’s a lot to think about when planning which types of kitchen layout could work best in your home.

Narrowing it down to one takes time and expertise, so think about what you want and then speak to a designer who can advise. Things to think about include:

  • where does the light come in and at what times of the day?
  • where are windows and doors placed?
  • where do the water and power mains come in?
  • what appliances do you need to include and how can they be placed most efficiently?
  • how much preparation space do you require?
  • what does your room measure and how much of this space is designated for the kitchen, if it’s an open-plan room?
  • do you want to include seating as part of the kitchen design?
  • do you like a streamlined look or prefer things on display?

Your chosen kitchen designer will ask you these questions (and probably more – more questions is a good thing, by the way!), so it’s a good idea to have a think of some answers before you head off to a showroom for an appointment.

They’ll then be able to use their knowledge to suggest the best types of kitchen layout for your space, as well as for your needs. Play around with different ideas and see how different configurations could work in your home (ask for CAD drawings to see it drawn up).

Also be prepared to compromise if needed. An island might be on your wishlist (it’s on many!), but if your room is smaller and an island may hinder the functionality of the kitchen rather than make it better, it’s worth looking at alternatives. After all there are many types of kitchen layout to consider. Without further ado, let me take you through them…

Kitchen island layouts

An island brings the kitchen into the centre of the room – something that is especially important in larger spaces, where otherwise there might be furniture around its edge and a yawning gap in the middle. When it comes to types of kitchen layout, an island is up there with the most popular.

The layout: As the central focus of an open-plan kitchen, an island is usually coupled with wall units of some kind and, depending on the space available, can be used with all other layouts.

With a multi-functional island, the Infinity Plus Autograph Elements kitchen in Concrete Oak Matt is available from Wren Kitchens.

Best for: Larger kitchens, so there is space to move around the island, particularly if it is used for socialising and entertaining.

Pros: A flexible solution to many a layout conundrum, an island can be used to create the main prep surface in the kitchen, or as the cooking or washing up centre (or both). With the addition of barstools it can also serve as a breakfast bar, or drinks and socialising space. It can further make a useful zoning divide between the working and dining and relaxing areas of an open-plan room.

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Cons: Larger islands can be awkward to manoeuvre around, so make sure food storage, prepping, cooking, and wet zones are all in easy reach of each other, and that walkways are at least 1m wide. So if your kitchen is too small, you may need to think about an alternative solution – like a small breakfast bar pull down or portable butcher’s block.

This kitchen island with a Caesartone Statuario Maximus 5031 worktop, offers plenty of storage and also features a spacious sink area.

Galley kitchen layouts

A double galley layout is a simple choice when you’re talking types of kitchen layout, but there;s no denying it can be very a practical one – perfect for making good use of a kitchen that is long rather than wide. A double galley is sometimes called a ‘galley’ kitchen and is common in Victorian homes where the kitchen leads to the bathroom or door to the outdoors.

The layout: Two parallel runs of furniture, built on opposite walls.

The classic-contemporary Arbour kitchen by Harvey Jones is shown here as a stylish double galley.

Best for: Compact and long and thin spaces.

Pros: Efficient use of a narrow area, especially if the sink, cooker, and fridge can be positioned in the classic working triangle layout. It typically offers more storage and prep surface than a single galley, because cabinetry and worktops can be built on two walls rather than one. It also offers the opportunity to differentiate functions on two sides of the room, such as cooking on one side and the wet zone on the other.

This double galley layout is packed with functionality, including a breakfast bar, cooking zone, built-in chopping board, and plenty of storage. Second Nature’s Milton kitchens, shown here in Alabaster.

Cons: Allow sufficient space, usually no less than 120cm, between the parallel runs, so you can move with ease between them. Also be aware that outward opening drawers and doors may create obstructions. Sliding doors can be a neat solution, as can pocket doors which slide into recesses either side of the opening of a tall cupboard so they are out of the way when the cabinet is in use.

There’s also a single galley kitchen which is ever so slightly different.

The layout: A single run of units, complete with appliances and worktop, set along one wall, named after the compact galley kitchen found on ships.

This Sebastian Cox kitchen by Devol features handy hooks and open shelving to create clever additional storage in a more compact space.

Best for: Narrow rooms, or those with limited space. In an open-plan room a galley run along one wall is a practical way of fitting in the kitchen.

Pros: Provided there is space for the fridge, cooker, and sink, as well as sufficient work surface and carefully planned storage, this can be an efficient layout – a ‘working wall’ with everything in easy reach.

Kitchen layout

Husk Kitchens design door fronts to go on Ikea units, so you can create a bespoke-style look in your space.

Cons: Without the luxury of lots of space, every detail needs to be carefully thought through to ensure there is enough storage and prep surface. In a narrow room, sliding cupboard doors, a dishwasher drawer and fridge drawer, or a French-door fridge may work better than standard fittings because of clearance issues. This layout is often combined with an island or dining table, if space permits, offering extra work and serving surface.

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L-shaped kitchen layouts

L-shaped types of kitchen layout can be very functional with cooking and sink areas at right angles to each other, and the addition of an island can help clearly define the kitchen area within a large open-plan living space.

The layout: Units built on two sides of a corner, at right angles to each other.

L-shaped kitchen layout

A simple shaker with a painted finish, Second Nature’s Fitzroy in Copse Green optimises storage space in this L-shaped layout.

Best for: Compact kitchens, and often also used in larger rooms when combined with an island or dining table.

Pros: Streamlined and efficient, because everything is in easy reach. It also works well if there are two of you who like to cook at the same time, provided sufficient work surface is included and the hob and sink are placed on different runs.

Cons: The corner of the ‘L’ can be a pinch point where storage space can be wasted. You may wish to consider pull-outs for corner base units to make contents easy to access. In a larger kitchen, the addition of an island is a good way of bringing the kitchen into the centre of the room, rather than limiting the furniture to its perimeter.

U-shaped kitchen layouts

Now that kitchens are becoming larger, we see fewer classic U-shaped designs – but the layout is still very useful. A modern interpretation is to combine an L-shape of units with a peninsula that serves as a sociable bar and a bridge between kitchen and other areas of an open-plan room.

The layout: Units on three walls, or in a U-shape built out into the room.

U-shaped layout

A U-shaped layout provides plenty of worktop space. Shown is the Calacatta Gris from the Ceralsio collection by CRL Stone – a highly stain and scratch resistant surface.

Best for: Compact kitchens, but it can also work well in larger rooms as a way of bringing the furniture into the centre of the space.

Pros: Because it wraps around you on three sides, this layout works well to define a cooking zone within an open-plan room – useful if you want to keep guests and children from getting under your feet. It can also offer generous amounts of work surface and storage.

Cons: Two corners can make for two sets of pinch points, so look out for pull-outs and carousels to ensure no corner cupboard space is wasted. In a small room this layout can create a closed-in feel, so consider open shelving rather than wall units if necessary.

Double island layouts (yes, really)

When one island isn’t enough, could you split your large space into very distinct zones by including two? Bridge the gap with a breakfast bar, effectively creating a U-shape island unit. This works when you have a very generous space to work with.

The layout: Two separate islands, usually serving different functions, in the centre of a large kitchen.

Type of kitchen layout

Two side-by-side islands allow the cook to interact with guests sitting on barstools in this kitchen by Martin Moore.

Best for: Large rooms where there’s sufficient space to ensure good flow and walkaround space.

Pros: A double island layout is great for socialising, as they allow you to easily define clearly separated cooking and dining areas while creating a dynamic and functional layout. Focus on zoning the spaces to make this layout work for busy households. You could have one island operating as a more relaxing breakfast bar with seating and drinks, for example, while the other island houses a cooking space with integrated hobs.

Cons: This layout is only possible if you have enough room. Don’t sacrifice floorspace for the sake of it.

Kitchen layout

Modulnova’s Twenty Fly kitchen collection from Designspace London features islands functioning as two separate cooking areas in Piasentina Senda stone to create a functional space alongside tall cabinetry in walnut.

So, which will you go for? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to check out Irina’s 6 tips to getting your kitchen layout right too.

Updated: 12/7/21

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Afton Jackson
    8th June 2021 at 7:14 am

    I was really interested in your example of a wide-layout kitchen that had double islands in it. Having this much space could allow us to host bigger and better dinner parties whenever we have guests around, something we plan to do a lot of when people are allowed to visit each other again. Once I find a remodeling contractor in the area, I’ll make sure I ask them to help me achieve this.

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