What Are The 4 Basic Kitchen Plan Layouts? (Design Tips)

As part of our extension, we’re moving the kitchen from the old house into the new part, so we’re having (too) many conversations about the kitchen layout. So what are the main four?

A kitchen layout is defined as the shape made from the walls, appliances, cabinets, and countertops. The four basic types of kitchen layouts are galley, L-shaped, U-shaped, and G-shaped. Most designers vote for the L-shaped kitchen as the most functional. 

Let’s dive down into the topic of kitchen layouts in more detail, and discover what the main 4 are – and why some experts say there are five or even six…

What Are The 4 Basic Kitchen Plan Layouts?

What Are The Four Types Of Kitchen Layout?

A kitchen layout is defined as the shape made from the walls, appliances, cabinets, and countertops. The four basic types of kitchen layouts are galley, L-shaped, U-shaped, and G-shaped.

Let’s start with the galley kitchen. The galley kitchen (aka corridor or parallel style) is a long straight space that has two walls on either side that run parallel to each other. The two walls have cabinets, countertops, and appliances.

The L-shaped kitchen has two walls that (surprise!) are shaped like an L. The two walls connect to each other at a right angle. Both walls have cabinets with countertops and appliances.

A U-shaped (aka horseshoe-shaped) kitchen has three perpendicular walls with countertops, cabinets, and appliances.

Finally, the G-shaped (or peninsula) kitchen layout has three walls like the U-shaped kitchen but adds a fourth attached countertop space. The fourth countertop extends into the kitchen and is often designed to be a space divider or a countertop-height seating space.

Here’s a good link (with diagrams) of the four basic kitchen layouts.

Which Kitchen Layout Is The Most Functional?

Most designers vote for the L-shaped kitchen as the most functional. 

L-shaped kitchens can fit into both large and small spaces. It’s an open design that has a small work triangle but has plenty of counter space for two or more cooks. 

What Style Of Kitchen Layout Is The Best And Why?

This answer depends on the size of your space and your lifestyle.

For small spaces, like apartments, studios, patio homes, and condos, the galley kitchen or the one-wall kitchen (the fifth most common kitchen design) offer the best choice. 

The galley kitchen typically has a compact and efficient work triangle and a good amount of countertop space and storage.

The one-wall kitchen is ideal for a small space, an open-plan space, or a skinny (or shotgun) house. In a one-wall kitchen, all the appliances are located along a single wall with a countertop. This kitchen design offers the least amount of storage and countertop space, so many households add an island.

For small or medium spaces, the L-shaped kitchen layout is the most popular. The L design feels open, even in a small space. The wide-open space is good for more than one cook and it won’t have foot traffic problems. The L-shaped kitchen has plenty of counter space and storage space.

If you have a large kitchen area, then you should consider the U-shaped kitchen. U-shaped kitchens have three walls of storage area and three countertop spaces. It is an excellent design when you have lots of cooks in the kitchen. 

Which Kitchen Layout Offers A Great Deal Of Space?

If you have a large kitchen, the U-shaped kitchen layout offers a great deal of countertop and storage space. 

In a U-shaped kitchen, there are three walls for storage, appliances, and countertop space. This design leaves lots of space for the prep chef to organize and store their stuff, plus countertop space for all that preparation. 

A U-shaped kitchen has space for a baking zone. Or a coffee station.

If the U is wide enough, an island can be added for even more storage and counter space. And, an island gives friends and family a space to sit and visit with the cook but stay out of his/hers/their cooking bubble.

How Do You Plan A Kitchen Layout?

Experts say to start with research, then decide on the budget. Next, measure the space and make a diagram. Once you have a working diagram, make a list of the goods and services you’ll need. Then, recalculate the cost. 

First, research. What do you like about the kitchens you’ve had? What have you disliked? Make a list of all the objectives of your new kitchen. 

Look at kitchens online or in magazines and take photos of what you want or what you want to avoid. Watch videos. Write down practical advice.

Next, decide how much you can invest in your kitchen. Experts say that for the highest return on your renovation investment (ROI), you shouldn’t spend any less than 5 percent or more than 15 percent of your home’s value. 

Measure your space. Buy some graph paper, invest in 3D planning software or find some for free and sketch out your top layouts. Sounds silly, but sometimes marking out a full-scale diagram can be helpful. Borrow some chalk from your kids or use blue painter’s tape and mark the outlines on your cement driveway or your garage floor.

Try to follow practical expert advice about walkway widths (40 to 48 inches), and lengths of counter space between appliances, like between the sink and the stove.

Make the design fit your lifestyle (we like coffee stations), but pay attention to old rules of thumb like the golden triangle. Does your layout follow kitchen triangle rules or is your dream island right in the middle of the triangle? 

Then, crunch the numbers again. Include everything – new appliances, plumbers, electricians, countertop installation, cabinetry, faucets and lighting. 

Think you have your kitchen all planned out? Check out this video on common kitchen design mistakes.

What Is The Kitchen Triangle Rule?

Lillian Moller Gilbreth is credited with developing the kitchen triangle rule. An industrial psychologist and engineer, she did research on the most efficient ways to design a one-cook kitchen. She called it circular routing, and presented her ideas at the Women’s Exposition of 1929. 

Today, circular routing has become the kitchen triangle (aka the golden triangle). The three corners are for food preparation (the sink/dishwasher), for food storage (the refrigerator), and for cooking (the stove).

The legs don’t have to be all the same size, but to maximize efficiency, each leg of the kitchen triangle should be longer than 4 feet but shorter than 9 feet. The sum of the leg lengths shouldn’t be more than 26 feet but not less than 13 feet. 

Other golden triangle rules are that there shouldn’t be any foot traffic through the triangle and there shouldn’t be any obstacles inside the triangle.

What Is The Most Ideal Kitchen Layout For Small Homes Such As Apartments?

In the past, small condos or apartments had galley or one-wall kitchens. Old galley kitchens were often designed for just one cook. Add another cook, and you may need a choreographer. 

Today, galley kitchens can accommodate two cooks if they have wide walkways. A galley kitchen maximizes a small space. With two walls full of cabinets and countertops, it gives the cook ample space to store kitchen stuff and to prepare food. The work triangle is compact.

Another small space kitchen layout is the one-wall layout. As the name suggests, the countertop, cabinets and appliances all line up on one wall. The one-wall layout can work well in open-plan space, like some patio homes or lofts. 

Kitchen plan layout

Some Experts Say There Are 5 or 6 Kitchen Layouts (What Are The Extra Ones?)

The other one or two other common kitchen layouts are the one-wall (aka open-plan) and the island kitchen layout.

The one-wall kitchen layout is ideal for small spaces or open-plan spaces. It is very compact and economical. A kitchen island will help define the kitchen area plus increase the storage and countertop space. Plus, with a little overhang, you can have room for eating or visiting.

Some kitchen designers list the island as another kitchen layout. An island kitchen layout can be U-shaped, L-shaped, galley or one-wall, but includes an island.

Here’s a good reference with 6 kitchen layouts with pros and cons.

Final Words

We’re quite a conventional family without being too stuffy or traditional – and we’re blessed to have a large house, so we’ll probably go with the L-shaped design for our new kitchen.

It just seems to fit the space best, whilst leaving more room for a family kitchen table and chairs – plus enough standing room to have drinks when family and friends come over. 🙂