Kitchen layouts – everything you need to know
The right design will create an efficient space that’s safe and comfortable for all the family
They may be built for cooking in, however today’s kitchens are usually designed with much more in mind. Depending on the size of the space, you might want to combine cooking and prep areas with dining and living zones all in one open-plan room. This is why it’s so crucial to get to know the most common kitchen layouts so that you can pick the right one for your kitchen.
Most people these days look for a family hub where everyone can come together for their meals, but still have room to do their own thing – to relax on the sofa, catch up with Netflix, browse online or fit in some homework.
Even if you don’t have a huge space, having somewhere in the kitchen to enjoy a glass of wine or dinner with friends will allow you to be part of the conversation while preparing the breakfast, lunch and dinner.
When it comes to the functional part of the space, a good layout will make the most of the available area and keep things well organised, with the most regularly used items to hand.
In saying that, it’s not all about storage. The flow of the kitchen is an important consideration. Especially in an open-plan space or where there are several doorways or an island to work around.
Making the most of the layout to steer traffic away from dangerous hot spots like the hob and towards user-friendly areas instead, such as a breakfast bar or seating area, will ensure that your kitchen is a practical, safe and sociable space for all to enjoy, including both guests and children.
1. How to plan your kitchen layout
In some cases, the size and shape of your room will determine the most suitable design and it’s always helpful to consider the classic ‘working triangle’ idea. This idea was designed to minimise the effort and walking distance between the sink, fridge and cooker by placing them on three points of a triangle.
The approach works with most modern kitchen layouts, although, if you have to run all the appliances and the sink along one wall, you may need to ‘flatten’ the triangle.
To do this, you can simply position the three points in a straight line with just a few steps to walk in between.
To be honest, nothing is really ever set in stone. If the triangle works in your kitchen that’s great, but don’t feel you have to force it to work. You may have to walk a few extra steps, it's worth it if it means you’re able to include an extra element you really like that wouldn’t otherwise fit into the design layout.
2. Are there alternatives to the working triangle?
There are several designers out there who feel that the triangle can be too rigid and prefer to think of the kitchen in terms of zones.
‘Blum’s Dynamic Space’ layout is based on arranging your layout as task zones designed in a clockwise or anti-clockwise route.
Tasks may include emptying the dishwasher with the ability to store your crockery and plates close by, making dinner and keeping all your dinner things together, preparing meals (utensils, chopping boards and bins in pull-outs under the worktop), cooking (store pots, pans and utensils in a drawer under the cook top with bottles of oil and spices in a pull-out close by), and cleaning (materials for cleaning close to the sink).
With everything close to by, you can then create a convenient workflow area.
3. How do I control the flow of people in the kitchen?
The work space can be crucial, however the movement of people around the kitchen area as a whole also needs to be carefully thought out. The main focus is to keep children away from danger spots and stop guests from getting in your way when you're busy cooking or prepping food.
Look at placing the fridge at the threshold so children can access drinks and snacks without getting in your way.
In open-plan kitchens, make sure the route through from the entrance to the garden is unobstructed and think about how best to direct your friends and family to seating areas.
The island unit can be a useful shield for the chef – position some bar stools along the opposite side to give your guests a place to sit and relax at a safe distance. In a large space, consider using two islands to create multiple-flow possibilities.
Try using decor to separate the dining, lounging and cooking areas in a multi-functional space. This can be achieved best by using different floor finishes, paint colours and lighting in each of the zones in your home.
4. Our kitchen is not a standard shape – what do we do?
Not all kitchens are your standard cubes or rectangles. While you may also have tricky features to work around such as pillars or numerous entrance doors. An experienced kitchen designer will have come across most these problems before, so it's best to ask them for advice.
It’s not usually possible to get rid of structural pillars, but sometimes you can move them and even shifting by half a meter can have a huge impact if budget allows.
L-shaped and t-shaped rooms can be effectively split into zones, dedicating one leg to dining or storage, and keeping the working kitchen in the other.
If you buy a property with curved walls, it’s usually because you like the style, so make the most of this with cabinets that follow the curves. Even if this means that you have to buy more expensive bespoke furniture, you may not need a large amount to create an amazing effect.
5. Choose the best kitchen layout for you
Galley kitchen layout
What is it?
Named after the diminutive ship’s kitchen, the classic galley has one single row of units, while the double galley has two, running parallel.
Why choose it?
It can be the ideal layout for narrow rooms, but is also a popular option in open-plan spaces where a long island runs parallel to the units along one wall.
Though it’s traditionally long and narrow, it can be exceptionally functional if planned in a correct manner.
Design tips Try to separate the cooking zone from the wet area with a length of worktop in between, the worktop in total should be at approx. three meters in length.
Aim for at least 1.2m between facing doors and include an efficient triangular cooking zone with the fridge on one wall and the sink and hob opposite or a variation on this theme. If space allows for it, it’s best to avoid having tall units which might accentuate the narrow space.
For the same reason, stick to some paler colours to help keep the room looking light and airy.
Be careful not to install too many wall cupboards, as it may make your kitchen feel cluttered.
U-shaped kitchen layout
What is it?
A common solution for medium-sized rooms is to run the units round three walls in a U shape.
Why choose it? It’s extremely practical, as you can have the cooker and hob at the center, with sink & fridge at either end of the U to create the perfect working triangle.
This layout also can provide plenty of work space, and you can use clever internal fittings to get the most out of the corner cupboards.
With such a large worktop area, a well-chosen surface can come into its own, so pick something nice. Consider solid-surface materials such as Corian, which can sweep around corners in a seamless style.
If the room is compact, try to have at least two meters of space in the center.
Small rooms would also benefit from reduced depth units and worktops, so ask your supplier if this is an option.
In a larger room, you may have enough space for an island or a table and chairs at the center of the U shape. Or, in a classic kitchen/diner, the third leg of your u-shape could be a peninsula – a long island joined at one end to the wall, between kitchen and dining areas.
If your room is open-plan and you spend a lot of time entertaining, you may want to think about having the bulk of your kitchen designed as a u-shaped island, which can then become a real chef's tranquil area. Or you can create a G-shape, with a peninsula joined to one of the walls.
L-shaped kitchen layout
What is it?
The L-shaped kitchen comprises two runs of cabinets at right angles along adjacent walls.
Why choose it? Here you can create the ultimate working triangle with the fridge at one end of the L, the hob on the other and the sink in between. This layout feels open, but can be more tricky to work with.
Design tips Make sure there’s enough space in between each zone and consider installing built-in appliances on one side for ease of use and a streamlined effect.
The best placing has the hob on one wall, and the sink and fridge on the other, but do make sure there is adequate work space between these elements. this can be an efficient layout for one cook, but two may find themselves under one another’s feet – you could include an extra prep sink to ease the pressure.
Island kitchen layout
What is it?
The most popular kitchen element of recent years, an island sits in the center of a room, with worktops on the surrounding walls.
Why choose it? If the space is large enough, an island unit provides a
multi-functional space that can work as somewhere to cook, prep, eat and entertain. It can act as a ‘bridge’, cutting down on leg work between work stations, and, in a large room, it makes the most of unused space.
Design tips Consider incorporating a hob and sink as well as a dishwasher, wine cooler and recycling
There should be plenty of room left over for decent storage. Make sure there’s at least one
meter between the island and all the cabinetry surrounding it, so that you can open all doors and drawers.
Add a worktop overhang to create a breakfast bar seating area, or a stepped-down surface for an informal dining table.
To make the design more functional, position ‘working’ elements along one side of your island so you don’t waste time constantly walking around it. Most people allow 900mm between a wall run of cabinets and an island. However, it should really be 1,100mm minimum to create a spacious feel, especially if you have more than one cook in the kitchen, so you can move past each other with ease.
Get the layout right and you’re a long way towards creating your perfect kitchen.