Kitchens come in lots of different shapes and sizes, but one thing stays the same – the fact that the layout can make or break your kitchen’s efficiency. The way you arrange your storage, appliances, and food preparation areas will affect the practicality of your daily life, from cooking and eating to cleaning and socialising. Regardless of design style, your kitchen’s layout and organisation are key.
Many people want a household hub with designated spaces for everyone to either sit together for meals or do their own thing around the room. There are so many possible zones and arrangements with so much more than just cooking in mind, so it’s crucial to choose the right one for your family.
The right kitchen layout should be functional and comfortable for everyone who needs to use the room, with smart use of all available space. From kitchen triangles to the tragedies you’ll want to steer clear of, this blog explains how to give your kitchen a new lease of life with a different layout.
What types of kitchen layouts are there?
As with any room in a house or business, there are several common kitchen layout designs that are used around the world. That said, it’s not a strict list that you have to choose a fixed layout from – they’re more of a starting point for you to work forwards from. Though these designs are based on functionality, they aren’t set in stone. You can adjust them as much as you like to suit your space.
So, how do you find the most effective floor plan when designing your kitchen layout? The size and shape of the room will be the most significant factors, but things like the positioning of electrical outlets, plumbing and wiring, and windows and doors will also affect where you can arrange units.
To give you some inspiration, here are six common kitchen layouts found in homes and businesses.
Also known as the golden triangle or the working triangle in kitchen design, this is arguably the most popular configuration. The objective is to create a smooth working flow between the three most important areas in any kitchen – the sink, the fridge, and the cooker. With this layout, you shouldn’t have to walk more than three steps to get from one point of the triangle to another.
It’s a relatively simple layout, but incredibly effective. Whether you’re grabbing ingredients to wash, preparing them to cook, or plating food to eat, everything is within reach. Working is fast and easy, with short clear paths between the points of the triangle to minimise effort. Some people find this concept too rigid, but it’s your choice – does the triangle structure work for you?
Another popular kitchen shape is the L-shaped kitchen, which forms an ‘L’ by connecting a run of units and counters along perpendicular walls. One side is usually longer than the other, with the short side often underneath a window or forming a peninsula-style island in open living spaces.
Even in smaller kitchens, this layout is very adaptable. It leaves an open area in the middle of the room that’s ideal for a kitchen island or standard dining table and chairs. Additionally, the ‘L’ forms two sides of a triangle, with three points, so you can incorporate the working triangle if you like.
This flexibility earns the L-shape kitchen a reputation for being the most functional layout – but it’s not the best for large kitchens, as you’re left with two blank walls and lots of empty space.
If you have a larger floor area to work with, the U-shaped kitchen could be your best bet. The ‘U’ is formed by three runs of units around three walls – though one of these may be open to the rest of the room or even the next one, creating a social area that’s perfect for using as a breakfast bar.
Having an extra stretch of units compared to an L-shape kitchen gives the U-shape kitchen a leg up on storage space. With more room to move around, you’ll have to put more thought into where your key appliances will go if you stick with the golden triangle within the U-shaped layout.
Depending on the amount of space available in the centre of the ‘U’, you could potentially fit an island in the middle of the kitchen. This works best when all three parts of the ‘U’ are against the walls, without a peninsula, as you don’t want too many seating options crowding up the room.
Named for the narrow kitchens historically found in ships, where space was at a premium, this two-sided kitchen design features two parallel runs of units and counters. There must be enough space between to turn from one side to the other easily, and for one person to pass behind another safely.
The galley kitchen is most popular in smaller settings, as it usually feels more like a long corridor than a wide open room. These space constraints mean there’s not really anywhere to accommodate a dining area, so an island is likely to be out of the question. Compact galley kitchens tend to be symmetrical, with two points of the triangle on one side and the third point and storage opposite.
The narrow structure focuses more on food preparation space with the long counters on either side. If both ends are closed rather than one being open, this will influence your galley kitchen layout.
The ‘one-wall’ kitchen is basically half of a galley kitchen or an L-shaped kitchen – just one long run of units across a single wall, instead of two on opposite sides or perpendicular to each other.
Also known as a single wall kitchen or a straight kitchen, this layout incorporates all three major work zones (preparation countertops, cooking appliances, and a fridge for fresh food storage) in one line. Its effectiveness depends on the length of that particular wall, as you won’t have enough space to work with if the wall is too short. If you have hidden storage, it can create a tidy visual.
If there’s enough room between your one-wall kitchen units and the opposite wall, you might be able to install a floating kitchen island between them, or a traditional dining zone at the least.
Less well-known than the ‘U’ kitchen but essentially an extension of it, the G-shaped kitchen adds a peninsula to one end of the U that encloses the cooking zone – with a space left to allow people to enter and exit the ‘G’ whenever they need to. This can serve as extra counter space for preparing food or setting small appliances like a coffee machine, or as a high seating area like a breakfast bar.
The extra leg of the G-shape kitchen is best used as a social dining zone, as it removes the need to add a floating island in the middle. If you tried to do both, the enclosed area would feel much too cramped. This is also why the ‘G’ is better for open-plan living areas, with the peninsula facing out.
Advantages of changing your kitchen layout
Even the most well-designed kitchens will eventually need a switch-up. Whether its appearance has grown stale or your preferences and needs have changed over time, you should embrace this opportunity to shake things up. Here are three top benefits of changing your kitchen layout:
➕ Optimising space
When you’re changing things around, you’ll need to clean the place out thoroughly. This means you’ll probably encounter items that have been lingering in the backs of cupboards for years, which you can get rid of if it’s obvious that you don’t really need them. This gives you more storage space to clear off the worktop clutter, streamlining the visible surfaces to improve the space’s efficiency.
➕ Restoring practicality
We’re all guilty of going too long between deep cleans and home clearances, allowing junk to build up in drawers and across surfaces that shouldn’t really be there. When you optimise the available space and either get rid of what you don’t want or organise what you want to keep with out-of-sight storage, your kitchen will be 100% functional again, so you’ll be back on top of your layout.
➕ Freshening up the aesthetic
While being fashionable is secondary to the utility of a kitchen, it doesn’t hurt. You want it to be a space that feels welcoming and that you enjoy spending time in, not just an area that exists out of pure necessity. Moving things around will make the kitchen both look and feel like a whole new room, even with the same colours and finishes – though you could always freshen those up, too.
Kitchen layout mistakes to avoid
Now you know which types of kitchen layout are out there and how changing to one of them could benefit you, it’s time to consider what you shouldn’t do when planning your kitchen arrangement.
As long as the design works for you, that’s all that really matters – but there are still some things you should try to avoid when creating a new kitchen layout for an outdated room. These include:
✖ Not having enough worktops
Possibly the biggest complaint many people have with kitchen design is that there isn’t enough counter space. Of course, not everyone will need acres of worktops for food prep if they don’t cook that much at one time, or often. Still, every kitchen needs a reasonable amount of worktops for comfortably preparing meals and using small portable appliances, like rice cookers or air fryers.
You’ll ideally want as many empty horizontal surfaces as possible in your kitchen, so you have a clear counter free whenever you need one. A convenient way to ensure that your regular worktops are kept clear of clutter is to add a breakfast bar or island that extends the available counter space.
✖ Wasting storage space
There are a lot of things that need to fit into a kitchen, from large fixed appliances to the assorted equipment you need for cooking and cleaning up. This is why not utilising every possible inch of storage space is a waste – especially in smaller kitchens, where it tends to be a tight squeeze.
Striking a balance between keeping clutter concealed and making sure it’s still accessible can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. The key is to invest in smart solutions like pull-out storage mechanisms and drawer inserts, making sure that there’s a specific home for everything. This way, nothing will stick out or get lost; any given item should be exactly where you expect it to be.
Built-in kitchen storage even goes as far as considering where your waste is kept. Why not keep your floor area clear and hide your rubbish and recycling behind a panel with pull-out waste bins?
✖ Obstructing the kitchen triangle
While not every kitchen needs to uphold the golden triangle rule, most do. Wherever you position the most important elements in the room – the sink, the stove, and the refrigerator – they must be installed in accessible places. This not only depends on the location of plumbing pipes and electric wiring, but also on where people can walk to get around the kitchen without anything in the way.
Regardless of the shape of your kitchen layout – whether it’s U, L, G, or anything else – the issues you need to avoid when it comes to the kitchen triangle are spreading the points out too far from each other and locating them awkwardly. There shouldn’t be more than 10ft between each of the points, and there shouldn’t be any obstructions preventing multiple people from moving around.
✖ Forgetting about the lighting
You can’t afford to neglect the lighting in a room as important as the kitchen. The lights must be bright enough and positioned appropriately over work areas to allow you to prepare and cook food safely. This is known as task lighting. However, this can be too much when you just want to sit down and eat or chat, so it’s important to have other options, too – known as ambient lighting.
In combination with ambient lights, you might want to use accent lighting to emphasise a design feature in your kitchen. Layered lighting is both practical for kitchen functions and comfortable for casual use, and your secondary lights can also become focal points in the design – like pendant lights. Under-cabinet or under-shelf lighting is another option for highlighting any open displays.
✖ Passing up on a backsplash
With the high potential for liquids, grease, and steam coming into contact with the wall above food preparation and cooking zones, it makes sense to protect it with a toughened covering that’s both heat-resistant and moisture-resistant enough to last for a long time. Made of tile, metal, glass, or plastic, but a wipe-clean kitchen splashback immediately improves the functionality of the room.
Sure, a splashback may not be necessary for every kitchen, but it makes a great addition when you update your layout and décor. Installing a kitchen backsplash on specific sections of the wall, such as behind the cooker and sink, helps to define zones within the room and gives your layout a clear structure. On the other hand, you can also run the splashback around each wall over the counters.
✖ Lacking adequate ventilation
Another major concern that shouldn’t be overlooked when planning your cooking zones is kitchen ventilation. You’ll need a cooker hood with a strong extractor fan above your stove to prevent unpleasant food odours from lingering and potentially harmful smoke or gases from building up over time. After all, nobody enjoys breathing stale air laced with the scent of last night’s dinner.
This is not only important for enclosed kitchens, where smells and gases can quickly accumulate when trapped in a smaller space, but also for open-plan kitchens. The smell of cooking spreading throughout the rest of the home isn’t always pleasant, but good ventilation can keep it in check.
Kitchen layout tips that always work
With every kitchen being different in the workable layouts for their space and size, it’s difficult to say that any kitchen layout idea will truly always work. However, there are some general tips that you can adjust to suit the unique conditions of your kitchen, which should improve things overall.
✔ Maximising natural light
We’ve discussed good kitchen lighting already, but we didn’t mention just how important natural light is. Having access to as much natural light as possible during the day and maximising its distribution throughout open spaces is crucial to keeping the space functional and comfortable without relying too much on artificial lighting. This is why kitchens need windows or glass doors.
Whether it’s a skylight, a celestory window, or French doors, it’s best to have as much glazing as possible around the kitchen to flood the space with natural light while the sun is up. You can use blinds and glass coatings to control temperature and privacy levels if needed. Where extra glass doors or windows aren’t viable, you should opt for high gloss finishes to reflect what light there is.
✔ Creating a streamlined flow
To create a spacious kitchen layout that doesn’t feel too cramped or disconnected, you should work on linking the different zones with décor elements that make the transition feel seamless. Examples include using the same flooring and worktops throughout, or continuing the colour scheme via appliances and soft furnishings in each area. There shouldn’t be too many visual breaks.
Don’t forget about directing the flow of foot traffic, either. There should be a hazard-free primary pathway throughout the kitchen with easy access to the main sections of the room. You may want to place the fridge near the door, for quickly grabbing snacks without disrupting people cooking. If you have a back door leading to an outdoor space, there should be an uninterrupted thoroughfare.
✔ Getting the balance of units and appliances right
As we’ve mentioned before, any attempt at forming a kitchen triangle should limit the distance between the three points. The efficiency of the layout decreases the more you have to travel to get from one area to another, reducing your productivity. Everything you need to prepare and cook a meal, and clean up after yourself, should be easy to reach – or it quickly becomes inconvenient.
Since the sink requires fixed plumbing, it’s often best to place this component first. The cooker is generally located on an exterior wall, as it allows you to install an extraction fan to the outside. Of course, you can install a cooker and hood above an island, but this is likely to be more expensive.
You don’t want to spread the sink, stove, and fridge too far apart, but there should be enough units in between them for adequate storage and countertop space. If your kitchen is on the small side, look for multi-use appliances to make the most of the space you do have, and opt for built-in ones.
✔ Softening the functional space with textiles
The functionality of a good kitchen layout may depend on the practical elements and streamlined connection, but it’s only as effective as it is comfortable to use. Bringing textiles into your kitchen serves the dual purpose of softening the ‘hard edges’ of your runs of units and helping to define areas. For example, textured-effect wall panelling in one section can make it feel self-contained.
In an open-plan situation, where there’s no wall dividing the kitchen from the wider living area, you can partially separate the two zones with a brick, stone, or timber frame leading into the kitchen. Using materials that are also used throughout both zones helps to prevent them from feeling too disjointed –rugs on the kitchen floor and cushions on seats in dining areas achieve a similar effect.
✔ Being smart about concealed storage
A significant part of arranging an appealing kitchen layout is keeping the clutter out of sight. Simply shoving everything into cupboards and drawers isn’t the right way to go about it, though. Cooking and dining equipment should be easy to find when you need to use it, so you’re not digging through piles of assorted junk every time. Instead, focus on organisational mechanisms.
It’s also a good idea to embrace vertical storage options. No matter how little square footage you’re working with, you can always add more storage going upwards rather than outwards (unless you’re unlucky enough to have a very low ceiling, too). Try stacking built-in wall appliances like double ovens, creating a tall pantry cupboard, or adding wall hooks and overhead hanging racks.
Ready to order new kitchen units online?
There’s more than enough information in this blog to give you plenty of inspiration for rearranging your kitchen layout, so why not get started today? If you’re going full refurb and overhauling your entire kitchen as part of this layout makeover, don’t forget to browse the complete kitchen units available to order online from Kitchen Warehouse. We have all kinds of styles and finishes for you to choose from, plus a selection of kitchen accessories, from handles and hinges to taps and sinks.
Need some help with choosing the right configurations of units for your new kitchen floorplan? You can always contact our team to discuss any of the products for sale on our website, and receive expert advice. Just give us a call on 01765 640 000, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.