Kitchen Shapes


The next big step in the kitchen planning process is deciding what shape the kitchen will be, and determining who will use the kitchen and how often.

Although deciding on the shape seems restrictive, it actually narrows down the possibilities and makes the planning easier. The goal on deciding on a shape it to make your kitchen as efficient as possible, with the food preparation, sink and cooking areas close together. A good rule of thumb is to keep a piece of countertop between the sink and cooktop on which to prepare food.

Another good idea is to place the fridge between the main doorway into the kitchen and the main cooking area so that the other people in the house can have easy access to the fridge (without having to walk through the cooking area). The fridge shouldn’t be located next to the oven/range or cooktop, however, due to the temperature differences.

There are four main shapes a kitchen can have: Single Galley kitchens, Two-way Galley kitchens, L-shaped kitchens and U-shaped kitchens. There are also variations on each with the addition of an island. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Single Galley kitchens

Single Galley kitchens have all the important areas in a line (next to each other) on one side of the kitchen. Most often seen in vacation homes and small apartments where space is at a premium.


You get a lot of floor space and everything is compact and to hand. Walking distance between the main work areas is minimal but you might end up having to walking up and down the line a lot if you have a large kitchen (see ‘Two-way Galley kitchens’ below for a better solution).


You lose out on storage space as there won’t be a lot of space below the countertop. However, you can improve things by installing a big storage cupboard or a high refrigerator at either end of the galley. The least efficient layout for a cook. Also, people will be walking through the kitchen area if there is a door at either end of the kitchen.

Two-way Galley kitchens

Two-way galley kitchens have the main areas on both sides of the kitchen. Can be a good solution if your kitchen connects two rooms.


This layout provides a lot more storage space below the countertop. Walking distances are minimized as storage is in front and behind you, so most of the time you just need to turn around to get to the other cupboards.


None really, except bear in mind that there must be enough space between the two galleys (for people to walk through/around) and for you to be able to open the oven door and look inside.

L-shaped kitchens

The L-shaped kitchen is shaped like an ‘L’. The most common kitchen layout, it requires less space and offers more flexibility in the location of workstations than the others. It also works well when the kitchen is next to an open room such as the dining room or lounge, as long as your appliances don’t create a lot of noise.


This layout gives a lot of workspace and storage space below the countertop. The walking distance between the main zones in your kitchen is also minimized. The space saved can be used in the kitchen as a dining area.


One disadvantage is the use of the space under the countertop of the ‘L’, but this can be resolved with clever storage solutions (see ‘Storage’).

U-shaped kitchens

The U-shaped kitchen is shaped like an ‘U’.


A U-shaped kitchen provides the maximum countertop and storage space. If the room allows, one of the legs of the U can be used as a breakfast bar. People will also walk across the open end of the U (rather than through the kitchen).


It can get a bit claustrophobic sometimes, though, as the wall cupboards run all around the room. Also, the floor area is reduced. And if the appliances are too close together, you’ll be hemmed in at the corner.

Island kitchens

Only suitable for larger U- and L-shaped kitchens in which the work triangle would break the 26-foot rule if all three workstations were located against walls. Careful planning is needed to prevent wasted journeys around the island.

In a U-shaped kitchen, leave at least 10 feet between the legs of the U which will allow for a 3-foot-wide island and adequate walking space around it. In an L-shaped kitchen, allow at least 42 inches of walking space on all sides of the island.

The island can be used for either storage, a cooktop or a sink. A cooker canopy can make a focal point of this area of the kitchen.

In a larger kitchen, you can install a butcher block on the island for chopping vegetables, or a marble slab for rolling out pastry dough. In a smaller kitchen a moveable island may be better, such as a cart on wheels or table. If you intend to use the island as a table to eat from then keep it well away from the cooktop.

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