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7 Kitchen layout ideas explained by professional designers

Planning a kitchen isn’t easy, but these kitchen layout ideas will help you find the perfect design for your home.

U-Shaped Kitchen
  • L-Shape Kitchen Layout
  • U-Shaped Kitchen
  • Kitchen Layout With an Island
  • White kitchen with a kitchen island.
  • Galley Kitchen Layout
  • Peninsula Kitchen Layout 
  • White traditional-style kitchen

Your kitchen layout is one of the most essential parts of getting the most out of your space. It's all about finding the best kitchen layout for your square footage — aesthetically pleasing and practical for how you use your space. But settling on an idea isn't always as easy as it might sound!

So whether you're designing a kitchen remodel or a new kitchen build, check out these seven kitchen layout ideas to find one with everything you want and need. You'll likely combine multiple kitchen layouts, making small tweaks to create a unique design idea that fits your style. So keep reading to get inspired.

1. L-shape kitchen layout

One wall and an additional smaller wall of cabinets and counters

L-Shape Kitchen Layout
Photo: Ashton WoodsThis L-shape kitchen features farmhouse-style spindle back chairs and pendant lights.

Ideal kitchen size: Works for small, medium, and large kitchens

Perks: Flexible and space-efficient; works well with adjoining living rooms for an open-plan feel

The L-shape is one of the most popular kitchen layout ideas. It usually features one bank of cabinetry along a window wall and a second, larger bank of cabinetry on a perpendicular wall. This layout leaves plenty of floor space in the middle of the room and increases the flexibility of the design.

"The L-shape kitchen is best known as a space maximizer, as the corner is extended and provides more usable space," explains Leigh Spicher, National Director of Design Studios at Ashton Woods Homes. "However, an L-shape layout can make it challenging for more than one cook to move around, as the right angle may slow down traffic. This is either positive or negative depending on how you like to cook."

2. U-shaped kitchen layout 

3 walls of cabinets and counters

U-Shaped Kitchen
Photo: Ashton WoodsA U-shaped kitchen features three walls of cabinets and counters.

Ideal kitchen size: Works best for medium and large kitchens

Perks: Lots of easy-access countertop and storage space

The U-shape kitchen layout is popular for those who enjoy lots of cooking and baking. It features kitchen cabinets along three adjacent walls, which means you get one more group of cabinets than the L-shape kitchen layout idea. However, if you place upper cabinets on all three walls, it has the potential to feel enclosed if it isn't balanced by windows or open space.

"The U-shaped kitchen offers the most storage space with great flow in and out of the kitchen. If space permits, you can place an island in the middle to maximize function," explained Leigh Spicher.

3. With an island

Additional base cabinets centered in the kitchen

Kitchen Layout With an Island
Photo: Ashton WoodsCenter islands in kitchens are often used as a work area and a dining table or breakfast bar.

Ideal kitchen size: Works well in medium and large kitchens

Perks: Extra storage, workspace, and flexibility

Kitchen layout ideas that incorporate an island are popular in open-plan homes. The center island can be multifunctional, serving as a work area and a dining table or breakfast bar with barstools around the perimeter. Center islands were initially designed with function and food prep in mind, so the counter space often features a built-in stovetop, faucet, or pull-out cutting board.

White kitchen with a kitchen island.
Photo: Caleb VugteveenMost kitchen islands tend to have bar-height countertops.

"Island kitchens are very popular and can be combined with either a U-shaped or L-shaped kitchen," commented Jil Sonia McDonald, Founder of Jil Sonia Interiors. "I usually suggest refraining from installing a cooktop or sink in the island to maintain a larger, more usable counter prep space."

4. Galley kitchen layout 

Center aisle where both sides of spaces are utilized

Galley Kitchen Layout
Photo: Ashton WoodsA galley tends to use both sides of a narrower kitchen space.

Ideal kitchen size: Works well in medium and small kitchens

Perks: Maximizes kitchen storage in narrow kitchens; one of the most efficient designs for cooking

A galley kitchen may be the only layout idea that fits a narrow kitchen. It's a traditional kitchen design that's efficient for basic cooking, featuring a center aisle with cabinets on either side. This layout helps ensure you have enough space, and you can create more storage with a tower pantry if needed.

In small spaces, open shelving and natural light can create the illusion of spaciousness. Task lighting above work surfaces and other layers of lighting will also help keep the kitchen space bright.

"The galley kitchen originated in ships where narrow vessels had a bank of cabinetry on each side of an aisle," explained Jil Sonia McDonald. "Today's modern kitchens often feature a window above the sink on one side with the fridge and cooktop on the opposite side."

5. Peninsula kitchen layout 

Peninsula Kitchen Layout 
Photo: Ashton WoodsA peninsula kitchen includes an island attached to perimeter cabinets instead of free-standing.

Includes a kitchen island attached to perimeter cabinets instead of free-standing

Ideal kitchen size: Works well with small and medium kitchens

Perks: Can separate two spaces (e.g., an open kitchen and living room floorplan); adds extra storage and seating area options

The peninsula kitchen, also known as a P-shaped or G-shaped kitchen layout, is an excellent option if your kitchen floor plan doesn't have room for an independent island. It features an attached kitchen island that juts out from the wall — this island serves as a natural room divider that can double as a food prep or dining area.

This layout encourages interaction with others during food preparation. It was originally designed and popularized in the 1980s to add storage, prep space, or even functionality (e.g., cooktop or sink) to a small kitchen. This layout makes for a great breakfast area and is a wonderful design for a small kitchen where people can eat on the peninsula counter without disturbing the chef.

"Many homeowners still love this design, but the floating island is also popular as it provides better passage," commented Leigh Spicher. "The connecting point between the corners can also create additional storage (opt for an interior lazy Susan)."

6. One-wall kitchen layout 

One wall of cabinets and counters

[Image: Credit Ashton Woods]

Ideal kitchen size: Works well in small, one-wall kitchens

Perks: Efficient, functional, and space-efficient

The one-wall kitchen layout is usually found in small kitchens — in some smaller spaces, it's the only kitchen layout idea that works. It features cabinets along a single wall, usually with upper and lower cabinets, to allow for storage space.

While a one-wall kitchen doesn't create a traditional "work triangle" between the sink, stovetop, and refrigerator on its own, you can create one by adding a kitchen island. Leigh Spicher recommends adding an island to add storage and create proper zones.

"This layout is generally used in less spacious kitchens and where all the appliances are located on one designated wall," said Jil Sonia McDonald. "With this layout, homeowners often pull up their dining room table as a substitute island if it works with the space and floorplan. This way, food prep can be done and then simply cleared away so that you can use the same table for eating. 

7. Double L-shaped kitchen layout 

Ideal kitchen size: Works well in large kitchens

Perks: Allows space for additional features and appliances; good for two cooks in the same kitchen

A double L-shaped kitchen layout features a classic L-shaped kitchen layout with an additional L-shaped island on the opposing side. This layout creates two workstations, making it easy for two people to work alongside each other. It's best for spacious areas and makes it easier to include things like wine coolers or a second cooktop.

With the L-shaped island on one side and the L-shaped kitchen layout on the other, you'll want to find a balance between lower and upper cabinets. This helps keep the layout open and allows for bright, natural light. Also, you'll likely want to add task lighting at each workspace to keep everything functional.

5 Tips for choosing a kitchen layout idea

These tips will help you decide which kitchen layout(s) will work best so you can create the perfect design for your home.

1. Create a floor plan

Regardless of how big your kitchen is, creating a floor plan is always the best idea. You can adjust your floor plan as new ideas come to mind, helping you create a layout you'll love.

You can find free online tools for creating floor plans, and many feature other options, like choosing materials (e.g., a stainless steel sink or subway tile backsplash) and accents. Alternatively, you can save time and head to a kitchen designer for a bespoke plan.

2. Maintain a comfortable distance between main features

White traditional-style kitchen
Photo: Caleb VugteveenWhen considering your kitchen layout it's essential to think about spacing to ensure you can complete tasks without too much clutter.

As you create your floor plan, keep your main tasks in mind: food prep, serving, and cleaning up. Also, consider the size of your work triangle, which is the path between your sink, stovetop, and refrigerator.

You don't want your stove across the room from the kitchen sink, but you also want to keep space between busier areas for safe and efficient cooking. The work triangle in this kitchen from Jil Sonia Interiors is relatively compact (but not crowded) in the spacious area.

3. Place the main features first

It's best to place your main areas and features in order — usually the sink, fridge, and cooktop. This placement helps you prioritize their locations, making it easier to create a work triangle you're happy with. Then, you can add other appliances and features around this foundational design.

4. Keep vertical storage in mind

Tall, vertical storage is ideal for creating convenient cabinet space whether you're working with a compact and small kitchen or a large, open kitchen. Vertical storage is also a great way to incorporate pantry storage.

For example, we recommended a tower pantry for the galley kitchen layout idea — this lets you add pantry space to an otherwise small kitchen.

5. Make the most of your space with clever storage

Clever storage ideas allow you to maximize your space, and they're especially useful for small kitchens. For example, this kitchen layout made excellent use of a narrow space by adding a vertical pull-out pantry.

FAQs about kitchen layout ideas

What is the most effective kitchen layout?

The most effective kitchen layout depends on your kitchen size and windows and doors. For example, an L-shaped kitchen with an island is often an ideal choice for modern homes with medium-sized floorplans. Meanwhile, a galley kitchen may work better in small apartments, and a double L-shaped kitchen is often an excellent option for large homes.

What are the rules for a kitchen layout?

Choosing a kitchen layout idea isn't just about what looks good — you'll also need to keep some essential rules in mind. Here are the basics:

  • Work triangle: Ideally, each side of your work triangle should be between 4 and 9 feet

  • Doorway: Kitchen doorways should be at least 32" wide; for swinging doors, make sure they don't interfere with appliances, cabinets, or other doors

  • Walkways: For one cook, walkways should be at least 42" wide; for two cooks, walkways should be at least 48" wide

  • Counterspace: Aim for at least 158" of useable countertop space (including islands); countertops should be at least 24" deep with at least 15" clearance above

  • Spacing: If possible, include at least 24" of countertop beside a sink for food prep; 12" -15" of countertop on either side of your cooktops; 15" of countertop beside the refrigerator

  • Dishwasher: Place the dishwasher within 36" of the nearest edge of the prep sink

  • Seating: Allow about 30" of space per person for any dining area; 36" of space behind chairs or stools; 50" to 60" width for any walkways behind dining area seating

Does the sink need to be under a window?

Placing the kitchen sink under a window allows you to clear out unwanted smells while making plumbing more practical in traditional house floorplans. However, this is only sometimes possible in today's homes, as some kitchens don't feature windows.

Some designers recommend against installing the primary sink in an island, as sinks often attract clutter and messes. But a kitchen island is an excellent location for a secondary prep sink.

What is the difference between an island and a peninsula kitchen?

Island kitchens and peninsula kitchens use an island in their layout, but they have different designs.

  • Island kitchen layout: An island kitchen features a detached kitchen island — the island is free-standing with space and walkways around it.

  • Peninsula kitchen layout: A peninsula kitchen features a kitchen island attached to the wall, serving as an extension to existing cabinets or countertops.

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