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How to Choose the Right Kitchen Layout for Your Home

Written by Joe Roberts

Published on December 13, 2022


How to Choose the Right Kitchen Layout for Your Home

Do you want to optimize your kitchen for greater style and functionality? Read our guide to learn about popular kitchen designs for your remodel.

To provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we consult a number of sources when producing each article, including licensed contractors and industry experts.

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Your kitchen’s design is one of the most important in your home, but it’s also one of the trickiest to get right. Most rooms are simply designed for style, comfort, or functionality, but your kitchen has to embody all three at once. A kitchen that’s strictly utilitarian can feel cold and unwelcoming while a kitchen that’s too cozy can be inefficient and difficult to work in.

Designing your kitchen is all about striking the right balance for your needs. If your kitchen is mainly for hosting cocktail parties and game nights, then you should prioritize style and comfort, especially if you don’t cook often. If you’re always toiling over your oven, stand mixer, or cooktop, though, then you’ll need the space to be functional first and foremost. 

Whether you’re designing a new kitchen or renovating an old one, we can help you choose a kitchen layout that meets your requirements. Keep reading, and we’ll analyze common kitchen designs and provide tips for designing the kitchen of your dreams.

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What are the six types of kitchen layouts?

Most kitchens built nowadays follow one of six floor plans. They’re not all equally functional for everyone, though, so we’ll evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each one to help you choose the best kitchen layout for you. 

1. The single-wall kitchen layout

The single-wall kitchen layout is the best option for tiny spaces like studio apartments and small condos. This design arranges all of your fixtures, appliances, and cabinets along one wall, making it the most low-profile kitchen design.

The one-wall layout comes with a few key drawbacks, though. First, it usually has the least counter space since the same counter has to house the kitchen sink and the stovetop. This leaves little surface area for microwaves, cutting boards, and coffee makers.

Secondly, because everything in a one-wall kitchen is arranged in a straight line, this is one of the least ergonomic kitchen designs. Going from the fridge to gather ingredients to the sink to prepare them to the oven to cook them requires a lot of running back and forth. Other layouts require less running around because they allow you to arrange items across from each other.

Lastly, this design goes from zero to “too many cooks” faster than any other. Because a single-wall kitchen has so few counters and every appliance is directly in another’s path, the space can feel crowded if more than one person is working or hanging around in it.

On the plus side, their small size makes single-wall kitchens very affordable to build. If your budget is tight, your space is small, you live alone, or you don’t cook often, consider a one-wall kitchen layout. If none of these characteristics describe you, though, this probably isn’t the right kitchen layout for your needs. 

2. The galley kitchen layout

Think of a galley kitchen as two single-wall kitchens built directly across from each other. Depending on how you design your galley, the second counter can feature built-in fixtures like a sink, cooktop, or dishwasher, or you can just use it as a work surface. You can also build base cabinets under the second counter or upper cabinets above it for extra storage space. 

Be aware that if the two counters are too close together, the space between them can get cramped. When you’re designing a galley kitchen, make the walkway between the two counters at least four feet wide. Don’t make it any wider than six feet, though, since too much space will require long walks and lots of reaching between the counters.

If your kitchen doesn’t have enough space for two counters with four feet of empty walkway between them, this layout won’t work for your needs. A single-wall or even an L-shaped kitchen might be a better fit. This also isn’t an ideal layout for entertaining guests since it’s so narrow. 

However, if you’ve got a mid-sized condo or townhome and you plan to primarily use your kitchen for cooking, this could be the best layout for you.

3. The L-shape kitchen layout

Like a galley kitchen, an L-shape kitchen has two countertops, but they meet at a 90-degree angle and they’re usually built into the corners of kitchens or dining rooms. This layout offers all the same benefits as the galley kitchen—extra countertop space, more storage, and additional room for appliances—with a few benefits of its own. 

The first benefit is that you don’t need to worry about traffic flow since this design doesn’t result in a narrow walkway. The open design of an L-shaped kitchen leaves plenty of room for people to walk around each other when they move between appliances, kitchen storage, and workstations.

The second benefit is that this layout can wrap nicely around a dining area, so it’s very conducive to socializing. Place a dining set in the cradle of the L and you can use the kitchen for gathering with friends as well as cooking for them. This is also a great design for an open-concept home where the kitchen, living room, and dining room share the same space. 

L-shape layouts work best in small and mid-sized homes, though they aren’t as functional as U-shape or peninsula layouts for especially large kitchens. If you’ve got limited kitchen space but you need a more serviceable layout than a single-wall can offer, an L-shape kitchen is a great choice. L-shaped kitchens are also relatively affordable to build. 

4. The U-shape kitchen layout

A U-shape—or horseshoe—kitchen takes the L-shape layout and adds another countertop along the third wall of the kitchen. This third counter offers even more space for work areas, kitchen cabinets, and open shelving, so it’s a great option if you have a lot of space and a lot of mouths to feed. 

Beware of using this layout in a small kitchen, though. Since a U-shape kitchen only offers one way in or out, it can have the same elbow room problem as a galley kitchen if there isn’t enough distance between the opposing counters.

A U-shape kitchen isn’t as good a space for entertaining as an L-shape one since it requires more floor space for its counters and leaves less room for a dining set. A U-shape floor plan is only ideal for a kitchen designed as a separate space from the dining room.

Additionally, the third countertop makes this layout more expensive than both galley kitchens and L-shape models. If you need all the workspace, though, and you’ve got room in your home and your budget, a U-shape layout could work best for you and your family. 

5. The peninsula kitchen layout

A peninsula kitchen is shaped similarly to a U-shape kitchen, but it has a key difference: the third counter isn’t built along a wall. Instead, this third counter is more like a half wall separating an L-shape workspace from your dining room.

Because of this layout, peninsula kitchens offer as much counter space as a U-shape kitchen, but they can solve the U-shape’s hosting problem. Many homeowners line the outside of their peninsula’s third arm with bar stools for guests to sit at and look into the kitchen. 

Peninsula kitchens still have the U-shape’s one way in, one way out issue, though, so you need to leave plenty of room for foot traffic when designing one of these kitchens. 

On the plus side, a peninsula kitchen can be cheaper to build than a U-shape model. They’re almost always more expensive than a galley, L-shape, or single-wall kitchens, though. 

6. The island kitchen layout

Island kitchens are usually among the largest models, and they’re also among the most functional. An island kitchen features a long L-shape against one corner with a kitchen island in the cradle of the two arms. This island can be outfitted with a sink, a stove, a dishwasher, or cabinetry.

Like the peninsula kitchen’s third arm, the island can also be lined with bar stools for hosting, so it’s a great option for socialites as well as serious chefs. And, since the layout of an island kitchen leaves it open on two ends, it isn’t prone to traffic jams like galley or U-shape kitchens. 

The only downsides of this type of kitchen are space and cost. Island layouts take up a lot of room, so they can only be built into larger kitchens and they’re typically the most expensive of all the designs. If money is no object and you’ve got an immense space for your kitchen, though, you can’t do better than an island design. 

Using the kitchen work triangle to arrange your kitchen

Whichever kitchen layout you choose will offer various options for arranging your fixtures and appliances, and there’s no one right way to arrange any two spaces that use the same layout. This will depend entirely on your preferences, but think carefully. Finding the best arrangement is fundamental to making your kitchen as efficient as possible.

 There are three important questions to ask yourself while going about arranging your kitchen:

  • Where should the fridge go? 
  • How far should it be from your stove? 
  • How far should either be from your sink?

To find the answers to these questions, it can help to think of a triangle with each of your kitchen’s three most important work zones—the fridge, the oven, and the sink—as one of its points. Arranging these items in a close triangle instead of a straight line will mean less walking and reaching between them during food preparation.

Ideally, the triangle’s three sides should all be roughly four feet long, so your sink should be four feet from your fridge which should be four feet from your oven which should be four feet from your sink. The space between each work zone can be occupied by cabinets, counters, and appliances you can use when moving from one to the other. 

And while four feet between each work zone is optimal, it isn’t always feasible. Don’t worry, though. It’s more of a guideline than a rule. If the space between your fridge and your oven is actually four and a half feet while the space between your fridge and your sink is only three, your workflow probably won’t suffer. 

As long as you’ve designed a work triangle that fits in your space and helps your kitchen run as efficiently as possible, you’ve succeeded.

How much does it cost to remodel your kitchen?

Kitchen remodel pricing varies depending on several factors, the most important being size. The more square footage your kitchen’s floor plan takes up, the more expensive it will be. The price of materials and labor for full kitchen remodels averages at $500 per square foot.

Simple cosmetic remodels—like replacing your backsplashes or trim instead of restructuring the kitchen—can cost as little as $100 per square foot, though, so pricing also depends on how intense your project is. Slightly shaking up the interior design will be much cheaper than installing an island or converting a single-wall kitchen to an L-shape. 

Check out our kitchen remodel cost guide to get the full scoop. 

Find the right kitchen layout for your home

As one of the most important rooms in your house, your kitchen should run exactly how you need it to. While proper organization, the right appliances, and comfortable seating will make just about any kitchen more homey and functional, the actual structure of your kitchen can be a game changer for your workflow as well as your social gatherings.

Got a design picked out? Use our tool to find the contractor who’ll make it a reality

Written by

Joe Roberts Content Specialist

Joe is a home improvement expert and content specialist for Fixr.com. He’s been writing home services content for over eight years, leveraging his research and composition skills to produce consumer-minded articles that demystify everything from moving to remodeling. His work has been sourced by various news sources and business journals, including Nasdaq.com and USA Today. When he isn’t writing about home improvement or climate issues, Joe can be found in bookstores and record shops.