So much has changed in the way we use our kitchens over the last decade. But there's something reassuring in how galley kitchen ideas always adapt to the create a new-found sense of space, and function. The galley kitchen layout works well for most styles and is a practical choice for even the smallest spaces.
Named after a ship's kitchen, galleys were originally designed to be compact, ergonomic and ultra-efficient, maximising every inch of space for both storage and preparation. Professional kitchens also follow a similar linear plan with rows of cookers or hobs divided into specific stations for prepping different types of dishes.
Where there's room for a parallel run of units – a double galley – you can introduce the classic working triangle. This involves arranging the key task zones of fridge, cooker and sink at three separate points so that it's easy to flit from one to the other..
Galley kitchen ideas
‘A single galley kitchen is perfect for smaller spaces,’ says Lizzie Beesley, Head of Design at Magnet. ‘This layout features a row of cabinets on one wall with free space on the other. If you’re looking for small galley kitchen designs, it’s worth considering a single layout.’
‘Larger kitchen areas benefit from a double galley layout, which offers plenty of storage for the floor space,’ adds Lizzie. ‘A double design features cabinets on both sides of the room with free space on either end.’
A double galley is not only a successful layout in narrow rooms that would struggle to accommodate U-shaped kitchen ideas, but have enough width to take two rows of units. It’s a winning format that’s popular in open-plan spaces too, with a long island providing a second leg and creating a sociable seating area and a natural boundary for the kitchen zone at the same time.
Take a look at our stylish ideas to make the most of your space and plan a kitchen layout to perfection.
1. Keep a single galley sleek and streamlined
Glossy, modern units work well in a single galley kitchen layout, as the run of sleek, streamlined cabinets creates the optical illusion of more space. Light-reflective surfaces help to bounce light around the room, great for small kitchen ideas. This effect instantly makes tight and narrow spaces feel bigger and brighter.
Neat handleless cupboards keep the area minimal and smart – with no protruding door pulls or drawer knobs to catch on when you’re working or passing through. Continue the minimalist style by keeping worktops as free of clutter as possible, with neat wall-hung utensil rails to keep tools out of the way.
2. Enjoy extra prep space with a double galley
Where there’s room for a parallel run of units – a double galley – you can introduce the classic working triangle. This involves arranging the key task zones of fridge, cooker and sink at three separate points so that it’s easy to flit from one to the other.
‘Galley kitchens definitely aren’t a disadvantage in your home,’ says Lizzie Beesley, Head of Design at Magnet. ‘They give you the perfect space to create a working triangle, which keeps all of your essentials at an easy-to-reach distance. Plenty of professional kitchens use a galley design to optimise efficiency.'
3. Work a galley kitchen into an open-plan living space
The trusty linear layout of a galley kitchen has been adapted to suit today’s large, open-plan living spaces. The basic design principal is the same (with two parallel runs of units) but an open-plan layout features a wall-hugging galley run, plus a long island unit running parallel. The island acts as a divider between the dining or living area beyond and is a clever way of zoning an open-plan space.
This stylish space has everything - streamlined surfaces for food prep, integrated appliances at practical levels, plus a breakfast bar for quick and easy meals. Beyond it, there’s plenty more space for a seating area or a formal dining table set up.
4. Create flow with flooring
Create flow in a narrow galley kitchen by laying directional flooring. Timber boards or linear tiles laid running the length of the kitchen will make a galley run look longer and create a natural walkway through the space. Herringbone and chevron patterns or long-line planks will all help draw the eye along or try using square tiles laid diagonally to evoke a feeling of roominess.
5. Stretch your space with a side extension
Side return extensions and galley kitchens are a perfect recipe for success. The extra footage gained by extending out to the side gives ample space for a single or double galley kitchen layout, plus extra living space that can be utilised for a dining table or seating area.
A long bank of floor-to-ceiling units running along one wall gives maximum space for storage and integrated appliances and helps maintain a sense of flow between indoors and out. Centrally, a longline island gives plenty of worktop prep space and creates a divide between the dining/living area, without blocking any valuable light.
6. Make the space more sociable
Going for an island galley with a breakfast bar is a great idea if you like to be sociable, as you can cook and entertain at the same time. You’ll find that people will naturally gravitate to the central unit, especially when it’s illuminated with statement lighting.
A large, mirrored splash back is a clever design feature, as not only will it bounce light around the room, but will allow the chef to remain part of the conversation, even when they have to turn their back to their guests!
7. Choose vertical storage to make more of space
'If you need to incorporate extra storage for your kitchen consider placing long, tall cabinets on one wall and leaving the workspace on the other side open, which should mean you don't feel like the units are towering over you,’ says Darren Watts, Wren Kitchens Design Director.
‘Alternatively, extending overhead wall cabinets high up, close to the ceiling, can add extra storage space without infringing on the rest of the kitchen.'
8. Squeeze in a seating area
Don’t rule out having a seating area in a narrow galley kitchen. Often there’s space for a small dining table or a mini breakfast bar at the end of a run of units.
Choose compact, space-saving furniture that won’t take up too much floor space. A small, circular bistro-style table takes up less space than a square or rectangular design. Or consider a gateleg table that can be folded up when not in use, or a wall-mounted drop-leaf table that tucks neatly against a wall.
9. Lose cupboards for open shelving
Swap bulky wall units for a long run of open shelving on one side of a galley kitchen. Wall-to-wall units on both sides of a galley can create a ‘corridor’ effect that crowds the space and makes the kitchen feel dark and enclosed.
Position shelving just above the kitchen splash back to give a neat finish and provide a display area for decorative kitchen items. Matching splash back colour to worktops will give a sleek, uninterrupted finish that will make walls recede visually. Choose a pale light-reflective colour to enhance the sense of spaciousness.
10. Stretch space with a tiled splash back
Add width to galley kitchen splash backs by choosing longline tiles that help to stretch the space visually. Herringbone format wall tiles create lines that draw the eye outwards and along, making the splash back feel longer and wider. Choose pale tiles in a glossy finish that will reflect light and further extend the feeling of spaciousness.
11. Incorporate a plate rack
Wall-to-wall cabinets on both sides of a galley kitchen can make it feel dark and crowded if you're not careful. Break up a long expanse of wall units by adding a run of feature shelving. Wooden plate racks above a sink area add contrast against grey units and give a handy spot to dry crockery.
12. Look up to create height
Pale colours and light-reflecting finishes will make a narrow, galley kitchen feel bigger, by bouncing light around the space. But this doesn’t mean that darker colours have to be ruled out completely. Using a darker colour on base units gives the layout definition, and adding a lighter colour on top units draws the eye upwards and makes the kitchen feel naturally brighter and more open.
‘Be a rule breaker and go for darker tones, such as navy or charcoal, in your layout,’ says Tori Summers Director of Design, Product & Innovation at Howdens. ‘These hues deliver maximum impact, no matter what square footage you have, making them great for creating a striking design. Balance dark tones by opting for lighter colours on other features, like counters and floors.’
13. Add wow with a statement splash back
'While too much detail can be overpowering, incorporating a feature wall or a patterned backsplash is a great way to add depth to a galley kitchen,' says Darren Watts, Wren Kitchens Design Director. 'Consider placing coloured tiles along the space between your worktop and your cupboards.'
'Alternatively, hanging a mirror or bold piece of artwork on the end wall is a great way to show off your personality in your kitchen, and tie your theme from one side to the other.'
14. Keep appliances out of sight
A thoughtful kitchen appliance layout is key to any good design, especially a narrow galley kitchen. Keeping appliances hidden away out of sight will help make a galley kitchen feel more sleek and streamlined. A mix of different doors, finishes and control panels can feel chaotic in a very tight space, so integrating them in kitchen cabinets or concealing in a cupboard will give a flush finish and uninterrupted look.
Save space at the end of a run of units in a galley kitchen by stacking a tumble drier on top of a washing machine. Stacking kits let you stack one appliance on top of the other and include a central pull-out shelf to make sorting clothes easier.
15. Focus lighting on key prep spaces
Good lighting is essential in a galley kitchen as lack of windows and natural light can make the space feel dark. Use a combination of overhead kitchen lighting ideas and focused task lighting to highlight key areas. Consider under-cabinet lighting, discreetly hidden out of sight, which will illuminate work spaces so there are no dark spots or shadowy areas.
16. Keep it simple
Sleek modern units work well in a galley kitchen layout, as the run of glossy cabinets create the optical illusion of more space. Then neat handleless cupboards keep the area minimal and smart – with no knobs or bars to catch on when you're working. Continue the minimalist style by keeping worktops as free of clutter as possible, and integrating appliances – ideally behind closed doors.
17. Go for a generous galley in open spaces
A galley kitchen needn't mean you're limited for space. Widen the gap of this linear layout to suit today's large, open-plan kitchen plot. If you have the space use it to widen the gap between the base units. The space is still benefitting from the practical layout of two parallel runs of units but with the extra width the design won't feel restrictive.
18. Create a practical flow
Here, wide, handleless units and wood flooring work in unison to lead the eye down towards a glass door, which in turn leads out to the garden path. This makes the space feel less restricted despite it being relatively compact, and strengthens the link between indoor and outdoor living. Even thought has been put into the exterior door – a sliding version that can be pushed back out of sight won't interfere with the flow.
19. Mirror your design
Galley kitchen styles work just as well in country schemes as modern. This quaint kitchen space is bright and fresh with neutral walls and cabinetry, but rustic additions inspired by shabby chic decorating ideas, like a butler sink and open dresser-style shelving, give the space typical farmhouse charm.
Vintage accessories like wooden hooks and wicker storage are pretty yet practical storage solutions that will keep clutter down and make it easier to cook.
20. Stick to a single design to optimise space
Side return kitchen extensions and single galley designs are a perfect recipe as the small space can be optimised for storage and light. Here, a pale colour palette and reflective surfaces exploit the sky lights to the max, while the exposed brick wall adds an interesting urban edge to the look.
21. Go all white to open up a narrow space
Galleys are a good budget choice, as by using clean lines and crisp design, you don't need to spend a fortune to create a functional and stylish kitchen. A all-white scheme can disguise basic units and creates a bright and polished finish. A pretty voile blind will soften the look, while subtle pops of colour can be easily added and changed by way of foliage, fruit and small appliances. The completed look is simple and practical with a clean Nordic feel.
How do I make my galley kitchen more functional?
Long, skinny and with limited space on both sides, get the best out of a galley kitchen by arranging the ‘work triangle’ of hob, sink and fridge with two working areas on one side of the kitchen and the third on the other, roughly centred between the two.
Avoid too many tall cabinets in a galley kitchen as they can overpower the space and make the kitchen feel dark and crowded. Instead of placing them haphazardly, position any tall cabinets at one end of a galley run with tall items like the fridge and freezer close by for a cohesive look.
What is the best colour for a galley kitchen?
Narrow galley kitchens benefit from pale light-reflecting colours, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an all-white kitchen is the only option. Soft shades, like sage green, duck egg or soft neutrals work well in a small kitchen. Try using a single colour across the kitchen on both walls and units so that the eye sees it as one continuous space.
Will you be using these galley kitchen ideas to redesign your kitchen space?
Thea Babington-Stitt is a Content Editor on Ideal Home. Thea has been working across some of the UK’s leading interiors titles for nearly 10 years.
She started working on these magazines and websites after graduating from City University London with a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Before moving to Ideal Home, Thea was News and Features Editor at Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc and Country Homes & Interiors.
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