A galley kitchen design refers to a kitchen layout that is long and narrow, resembling a ship’s galley. Galley kitchens are common in urban apartments and condos where space is limited. While galley kitchens present some challenges with their confined layout, they also offer many practical benefits. With clever design ideas and chic finishes, galley kitchens can be highly functional, attractive, and efficient spaces. There are many practical and stylish ways to maximize a galley kitchen layout.
Benefits of a Galley Kitchen Design
There are several advantages to a galley kitchen’s linear layout:
- Efficient workflow – The single-file arrangement allows for an assembly-line approach to cooking and clean-up. Moving from one task to the next is easy.
- Use of space – With counters and cabinets running along two parallel walls, the layout makes full use of the footprint. Appliances can be lined up in a row.
- Easy to renovate – Galley kitchens have a simple footprint with less corners, making remodeling projects more straightforward. Installation of flooring, cabinets and backsplashes is simplified.
- Cost effective – Long and narrow kitchens require less flooring, cabinetry and countertops compared to larger L-shaped or U-shaped designs. Galley kitchen updates can often be done on a budget.
Challenges of Galley Kitchens
The biggest challenges in a galley kitchen layout are:
- Traffic flow – The single-file design makes movement difficult if more than one cook is working in the kitchen. Passing others to move about can be problematic.
- Limited floor space – With typically only 3-5 feet between counters, floor areas tend to be very narrow. Large appliances or furniture pieces may not fit.
- Reduced storage – Long and narrow designs mean fewer base cabinets and less pantry space. Maximizing every inch is crucial.
- Poor visibility – The enclosed layout can make it hard to see and communicate between the beginning and end of the kitchen.
Maximizing Space in a Galley Kitchen
There are many design tips and tricks to make the most of the available space in a galley kitchen layout:
Optimize Traffic Flow
- Avoid dead ends that prevent movement. Keep the floor space between counters open if possible.
- Locate appliances wisely, keeping high-traffic areas clear. Position the stove, sink and refrigerator in an efficient sequence.
- Use glass cabinet doors above eye level to keep sight lines open.
- Install a pocket door or barn style sliding door to conserve space. Standard swing doors cramp galley kitchens.
- Use cabinets that extend to the ceiling and cover every bit of wall space possible.
- Opt for deep drawers that hold more than standard cabinets. Drawers are also easier to access.
- Add a pull-out pantry cabinet near the fridge to maximize unused area.
- Use vertical dividers in base cabinets to double storage.
- Mount narrow shelving on the walls above counters for extra space.
Allow for Adequate Counters
- Make counters at least 12-18 inches deep for proper food prep and appliance use.
- Include some section of counter that is large enough to handle rolling out dough or other cooking tasks.
- Add an island, peninsula or drop-leaf cart to increase work surface area if possible. Movable carts can be rolled aside when not needed.
Select Compact Appliances
- Measure carefully and choose slender refrigerator and stove models. Standard sizes may be too wide.
- Install an under-counter microwave or small convection oven to conserve room.
- Opt for a sink base unit with a reduced depth. Avoid bulky farmhouse sinks.
- Choose a slim dishwasher unit or drawer-style dishwasher.
Stylish Galley Kitchen Ideas and Tips
Beyond maximizing the available space, there are many ways to make a galley kitchen both beautiful and highly functional:
Proper lighting is especially important in a narrow galley kitchen.
- Use high wattage bulbs in overhead fixtures to combat dimness.
- Include recessed can lighting in the ceiling for ambient illumination.
- Under cabinet lighting brightens task areas effectively.
- Vertical lighting strips on walls provide directional lighting without taking up space.
The backsplash is a prime spot to add visual interest in a galley kitchen.
- Go for glass, metal or stone mosaic tiles set in interesting patterns.
- Use subway tiles from floor to ceiling for clean lines that draw the eye up and make the space appear taller.
- Try a backsplash that incorporates several decorative materials, like combining metal and glass tiles.
Cabinetry covers a significant portion of the kitchen in a galley design. Choices dramatically impact the aesthetic.
- Select cabinets in a single color to cultivate a seamless, unified look.
- Incorporate cabinets with glass fronts to prevent a closed-in feeling.
- Go for open shelving to break up bank of cabinets and showcase decorative items.
- Use trim details like recessed panels or legs to add interest to cabinet fronts.
The counters are also heavily visible, making material selection key.
- Lean towards light countertops such as white quartz to keep the space looking open and airy.
- Add some pattern or veining in the countertop material for visual texture.
- Consider a contrasting countertop material on the island for a striking look.
Color has a major impact in a galley kitchen.
- Stick with light wall colors like soft whites and grays to maximize brightness in the slender space.
- Use bold colors just on accent elements like cabinets or open shelving. Keep other elements neutral.
- Add warmth with natural wood cabinets, butcher block counters or tile backsplashes in earth tones.
Carefully weigh flooring options to suit a galley kitchen.
- Small floor tiles elongate the look of the space versus wide planks.
- Materials like wood-look luxury vinyl are affordable, easy-care options for tight kitchens.
- Polished concrete flooring offers an industrial chic look that’s durable and low maintenance.
Galley Kitchen Island Ideas
Islands are a popular feature in kitchen designs, but including one in a narrow galley requires smart space planning.
Size the Island Carefully
- Limit island size to keep adequate room to walk around it. 36-42 inches square is ideal for most galley kitchens.
- Allow at least 42 inches of clearance on one side of the island if it will be used as a main work zone.
- Consider an island with a slim rectangular or oval shape to save space.
Make It Functional
- Incorporate electrical outlets in the island for appliance use.
- Include compact storage with cabinets or deep drawers.
- Opt for an island that is multi-functional, like one end being a breakfast bar.
- Choose a rolling cart-style island that can be stowed out of the way against a wall or in a corner when not needed.
- Try a drop leaf island that folds down when extra surface area isn’t required.
- Use the island as an informal dining space with bar stools for saving room.
- Integrate sinks into an island to create additional prep space.
Galley Kitchen Peninsula Ideas
Peninsulas likewise allow for more workspace while conserving area.
Extend Your Counters
- A peninsula that extends from one counter run essentially adds usable countertop footage.
- You can outfit a peninsula with cabinets, appliances, sinks and lighting just like regular counters.
Define the Space
- Positioning a peninsula as a room divider separates the kitchen from a dining area or living room without totally closing it off.
Allow Traffic Flow Around
- Unlike an island, a peninsula is attached on one end so you can walk around the other sides. This prevents congestion.
- For a smaller footprint, size the peninsula with less depth than standard counters. A 24-inch depth may suffice.
- A mini peninsula can still accommodate stools for casual dining.
Innovative Storage Solutions for Galley Kitchens
It’s all about maximizing every inch for storage in a galley kitchen layout. Get creative with these storage ideas:
- Hidden waste bins – Install small garbage and recycling bins that pull out of base cabinetry. Use the awkward toe-kick space.
- Spice drawer organizers – Optimize drawer organization with dividers and racks specifically sized for spice jars.
- Tray dividers – Use vertical metal racks that stand inside cabinets to hold trays, cutting boards and baking sheets upright.
- Pots and pan racks – Ceiling-mounted racks create extra room for bulky cookware up out of the way over an island.
- Corner lazy susans – These turntables make the otherwise hard-to-access corner cabinet space fully usable.
- Under stair storage – Tuck narrow cabinets beneath a staircase to capitalize on dead space.
Creative Touches for Open Galley Kitchens
Galley kitchens without an upper wall of cabinets can give off an airier vibe.
- Add a focal point like a vent hood with dramatic detailing over the stove.
- Install floating shelves in place of upper cabinets for display space.
- Opt for pendant lights over the counters to draw attention upward.
- Paint or wallpaper the exposed wall for a pop of color.
- Add architectural interest like recessed rectangular cutouts.
Galleys Open to Other Rooms
With no walls enclosing them, open galley kitchens need demarcation from living areas.
- Use an island, peninsula or breakfast bar to separate the spaces while still allowing flow.
- Change flooring materials like tile to marble between the kitchen and living room.
- Install a railing, counter height shelf unit or textural room divider to define the edge.
- Position furniture like shelving to help distinguish the kitchen zone.
Galley Kitchen Layout Ideas
There are a few standard footprints for laying out a galley kitchen design.
This simplest and most common option has the kitchen positioned along one wall in a straight, single run. One side will have the sink and appliances, while the other has storage and countertops.
Also referred to as a corridor kitchen, this layout pairs two parallel runs of cabinets and counters on opposing walls. One side may contain the appliances and the other the sink and prep space. A walkway separates the two sides.
This design takes a standard galley kitchen and adds a short counter and cabinet run perpendicular to the long run, forming an L-shape. This can provide space for an appliance, island or breakfast bar.
Similar to L-shaped but with a counter run on both ends, creating a U-formation. This allows for work stations on multiple sides.
Galley Kitchen Remodel Ideas
Updating a tired galley kitchen is a smart way to boost functionality and style without taking on the expense of reconfiguring the layout.
Lighten and Brighten
- Paint the cabinets a fresh, pale hue like light blue. Replace outdated hardware.
- Swap out dark countertops for crisp white quartz.
- Redo floors in a light wood-look vinyl plank.
- Add a glossy subway tile backsplash and replace overhead lighting.
- Tear out base cabinets and replace with deeper drawer-style ones.
- Add a floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinet or shelving unit.
- Install ceiling-height cabinets going all the way to the edges of walls.
- Replace standard shelves with pull out shelves and drawer inserts.
- Refinish existing cabinets with new stains, paints and hardware.
- Replace laminate countertops with durable quartz.
- Switch out backsplash tile for on-trend penny tile or marble.
- Replace worn vinyl flooring with wood-look planks.
- Knock down upper wall cabinets and replace with shelving.
- Enlarge small windows or add skylights.
- Swap solid cabinet fronts for glass ones.
- Remove doors and add open shelving units for display space.
Galley Kitchen Layout Pros and Cons
The linear galley kitchen design has both advantages and disadvantages to weigh.
- Efficient workflow
- Cost effective renovation
- Ample countertop space
- Simple traffic flow
- Easy to clean
- Limited floor and storage space
- Can feel confined
- Poor visibility from end to end
- Difficult for multiple cooks
- Reduced options for work triangles
Galley Kitchen Inspiration
While galley kitchens share some common traits, there are still endless possibilities for creating a look that’s fresh and unique with smart layout and design choices.
Some inspiration can be drawn from these beautiful galley kitchen examples:
Exposed brick, black steel cabinets, concrete counters and pendant lighting create an urban industrial vibe with contemporary style.
Classic White & Wood
White shaker cabinets paired with a marble-top island and light wood flooring achieve a timeless, traditional aesthetic.
Glossy cabinets, stone waterfall peninsula, stainless appliances and accent lighting generate minimalist style.
Subway tile, butcher block counters, open shelving and farmhouse sink attain a cottage style galley kitchen.
White cabinetry with black accents, light woods and decorative open shelves emit a Scandinavian feel.
Mixing natural wood, colorful mosaic tile, stone counters and paneled cabinetry results in an eclectic, unique look.
With some creativity and careful space planning, a galley kitchen can be highly functional and beautiful. The hallway-like footprint allows for an efficient workflow and effective storage solutions. Open up and modernize a tired galley kitchen with lighter colors, streamlined cabinets and updated finishes. Embrace the linear layout and make it a highlight with decorative backsplashes, accent lighting and chic accessories.
Galley Kitchen FAQs
What are some pros and cons of a galley kitchen layout?
Pros of a galley kitchen design include efficient workflow, ample counter space and cost effective renovation. Cons can be limited floor space, confined feeling and problematic traffic flow.
What size should a galley kitchen island be?
Ideally a galley kitchen island should be 36-42 inches square to allow enough clearance around it. Larger islands will start to clutter the limited floor space.
How wide should a galley kitchen be?
Galley kitchens are typically about 8-15 feet wide. Anything less than 8 feet wide starts to become quite cramped. Wider than 15 feet and it’s better categorized as a single-wall kitchen layout.
Is a peninsula or island better for a galley kitchen?
Peninsulas allow for added counter space while still leaving room to walk around them, so they are often a better fit than an island in a narrow galley kitchen.
What storage solutions work well for galley kitchens?
Smart galley kitchen storage ideas include pull-out cabinets, vertical dividers, under-cabinet racks, ceiling pot racks, lazy susans, under stair units and drawer organizers.
What backsplashes look nice in galley kitchens?
Long subway tile, mosaic tiles, marble slabs, horizontal wood planks or a combination of materials make for attractive galley kitchen backsplashes.
How can you make a galley kitchen feel more open?
Using glass cabinet doors, open shelving, skylights, enlarge windows, pendant lights, lighter colors and visually interesting backsplashes help a galley kitchen feel more spacious and airy.
What flooring is best for small galley kitchens?
For visually expanding a galley kitchen opt for small floor tiles or planks, light-colored woods or stone look materials. Stay away from very dark or very large flooring patterns.
What color cabinets are best for a narrow kitchen?
Light and bright cabinet colors like white, light gray, beige and light blue help keep a galley kitchen looking open and airy. Dark cabinets can make it feel overly enclosed.
How do you arrange appliances in a galley kitchen?
Typically the refrigerator is at one end, then the stove, then the sink in an efficient assembly line order in a single galley. Appliances can alternate sides in a double galley design.
While galley kitchen layouts present some challenges, there are also many benefits and possibilities with this practical footprint. Taking steps like maximizing storage, allowing for proper work triangles and traffic flow and selecting space-enhancing finishes allows a galley kitchen to be highly functional and beautiful. Clever remodeling projects can transform tired galley kitchens into contemporary, chic spaces. With careful planning, style-enhancing details and smart storage solutions, galley kitchens can become efficient and enjoyable heart-of-the-home spaces.