The Complete Guide To Kitchen Layouts

24 August 2021

The Complete Guide To Kitchen Layouts

Kitchens may primarily be associated with cooking, but now more than ever before, they are the backdrop of a whole host of activities, and therefore need to be designed accordingly.

Depending on the size and openness of the space, you may want to combine your kitchen with living and dining areas, or you may be big on entertaining and want to ensure that your new kitchen is perfect for a social gathering. The options are endless, and there’s a lot to consider to ensure that your kitchen design perfectly accommodates your needs.

To help you to plan for the most suitable outcome, here is a complete guide to kitchen layouts and design considerations.


How do I choose a kitchen layout?

More often than not, the shape and size of the space you’re working with will determine what the most functionally layout will be. It’s always important, however, to consider the kitchen work triangle in any design you consider. 

What is the kitchen work triangle theory?

This is a long-standing kitchen design theory based on the idea that there are three primary cooking-related elements and that they should be arranged in a particular way to optimise the functional efficiency of the space.

The three elements are the stove/cooktop, the fridge and the sink. It is suggested that these elements should be arranged in a triangular shape, all a minimum of 4 ft and a maximum of 9 ft apart. The theory also stipulates that each side of this imaginary design triangle should be more than 13 ft but not exceed 26 ft. There should also be no protruding obstacles, thoroughfares or floor-to-ceiling cabinetry in the way of the triangle.

It can be tricky to achieve the triangle within all of these guidelines when it comes to some layouts, but the general consensus among design experts is to work the theory into your design as best as you can. 

 Image courtesy of Houseace Kitchen Renovations 


The kitchen work triangle theory came about in the 1940's, and while it is still very relevant in kitchen design today, the modern needs of the space now require a broader approach. That’s where zoning comes in.

Designing the layout of your kitchen around the variety of primary tasks you will enact can really make for a highly efficient use of space that is a joy to work in. Zoning areas could include:

  • Storage of food, such as the refrigerator and pantry

  • Preparing and cooking of food, including the cooktop, oven and microwave, as well as other appliances such as chopping boards and mixing bowls

  • Storage of cookware such as pots and pans, oven trays and dishes, etc.

  • Plates, bowls and other crockery, glasses, cutlery, etc. 

  • Other appliances like coffee machines or smoothie blenders

Alternatively, your zoning requirements could include work, craft, homework, beverage-making, etc. The list is endless and is purely based upon how you can best personalise the design for your own use.


What kitchen layouts are there to choose from?

There are endlessly clever ways to design your kitchen, but here are the most popular layout choices:


Named so after the classic style of a kitchen onboard a ship, a galley layout can either have one single row of cabinets and workbench (a single wall kitchen), or two running parallel to each other, called a double galley.

For particularly narrow spaces, it’s the obvious (and probably only) choice, but it is surprisingly common in open-plan kitchens when accompanied by a long island running parallel to it.

In small or narrow spaces, it’s more important than ever to introduce some space-saving design elements to maximise the efficiency of the layout. Inbuilt storage features, hidden cupboards and more could really enhance the use of available space.


The same as a double galley but with one end closed off, this layout is commonly used in smaller spaces that don’t require a walkthrough design. The U-shaped design is handy for incorporating the work triangle, as you can have the stovetop in the centre and the fridge and sink at opposite sides and ends.

This layout can result in some heavily crammed corners, so make sure that you incorporate some design elements into the ends to maximise your use of the space in those low end corner cupboards.


Comprising two sides of cabinetry running at right angles to one another, the L-shape layout is a really versatile option and often accompanied by an island to add more workspace, storage and social space.

This layout is perfect for open-plan areas that flow into other living spaces and are handy for optimising your work triangle design, too.

Without an island bench accompaniment, the L-shaped layout isn’t ideal for budding chefs, as the design provides limited bench space and is certainly best suited to solo cooking.


Arguably not a layout design in and of itself, an island bench is an extremely modern kitchen design element, introducing more worktop space and more to a variety of traditional layouts. 

Islands provide an additional, multi-functional space that can be used to prepare food, cook, dine and socialise. It is also a popular choice in larger spaces to act as a zoning buffer between the kitchen and living areas. Adding an overhanging benchtop adds further space while also doubling as a breakfast bar area for family or friends.

Islands are an entertainer’s dream, but it is easy to overlook the need for adequate space around them and only incorporate them into your design if the space truly allows for it. Make sure that there will be enough room for opening doors and draws between your island and other cupboards and appliances.

What if my kitchen isn’t a standard shape?

Not all properties naturally lend themselves to traditional kitchen layouts, and that’s ok. While it may take a little more ingenuity, an experienced kitchen designer will be able to help you with some excellent problem-solving ideas to leave you with a highly unique yet still very functional space.

As mentioned earlier, kitchens are used for so many things these days, that remembering to consider zoning your designs into separate areas of use can help with any design, but particularly when dealing with an awkward shaped room.

Final thoughts

Whether starting from scratch or embarking on a kitchen renovation, designing the perfect layout can be a daunting task, and obviously made much easier by consulting with an experienced designer. First though, simply take the time to fully envision your use of the space once completed - you know better than anyone how important one feature or design element is over another when it comes to your particular preferences and habits.

Obviously you must work to the space you have available, but with a little imagination and some consideration around zoning, you can design a kitchen layout that meets all of your household’s needs!


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