How to plan your kitchen layout in rooms large or small (2024)

Every kitchen requires a certain amount of storage and counter space, a logical flow between appliances and sensible walkways. It takes some ingenuity to balance it all with the more creative wants and needs of a homeowner, and doubly so within a space that is awkwardly proportioned or arranged.

All of the above can throw up some design dilemmas – is your space just big enough to accommodate a galley kitchen, in which case should you fill it with handsome cabinetry and storage? Can you add an island or would a peninsula be a more sensible option? And how much space should you allow to manoeuvre around?

Here we look at kitchen layout ideas for rooms large and small, with design notes to help you navigate the space available in your own home.

Small kitchens

How to plan your kitchen layout in rooms large or small (1)

Save for the galley kitchen (detailed below), small kitchens are arguably one of the most difficult spaces to arrange.

Your kitchen may only take a single run of cupboards – similar to the example shown above – in which case it can be tempting to install as much storage as possible both under your counters and overhead. Whilst this will certainly increase storage capacity, a large bank of cabinetry overhead can feel imposing and make your kitchen seem even smaller.

Introducing some open shelving and hanging rails can create a bit of a visual break, and adds opportunity for decoration. Your corner units would ideally be fitted with flexible pull-out storage to be as useful and accessible as possible.

A peninsula island is a viable option in most small kitchens to create extra storage and counter space, and they certainly don't have to be large or even integrated – anything can be a kitchen island with a bit of imagination. This diminutive kitchen uses an antique dresser with the clever addition of some handy hooks.

"A kitchen peninsula to give all the benefits of a kitchen island without infringing on as much space," says Anne Haimes of Anne Haimes Interiors. "You can even choose pull-out or fold-away options for truly space-saving solutions."

If structural work is feasible, the tiniest of kitchens would benefit from kitchen doors being replaced with an archway to create a sense of openness.

    Galley kitchens

    A galley kitchen is usually very narrow, with units fitted along one or both walls. Similar to your small kitchen, the trickiest part of designing a galley kitchen is in balancing cupboards and drawers with empty space – two identical runs of cabinets facing one another can feel equally imposing.

    "In narrower kitchen spaces, everything can be within arms-length, making it easy for a designer to plot an efficient ‘golden triangle’ of cooker, fridge and sink," says Tom Howley, founder of the eponymous kitchen company. "This layout is appealing because it’s intimate, functional, easy to work in and can look stunning with beautiful floor-to-ceiling cabinetry.

    "Galley kitchens work best when using the full height of the kitchen, so long, slim pantries that allow you to store less-used items on the higher shelves are a great idea."

    If you have a particularly narrow galley kitchen – you need a walkway of at least 1.2m to ensure comfortable access to cupboards and drawers – the standard sizing of integrated cabinets, islands and units might not be suitable, and bespoke options can be expensive. It is usually more cost effective to look for antique alternatives – a simple narrow bench or butchers block can become your version of a kitchen island, and the sizing of antique sideboards or a chest of drawers might work well without the extra cost of buying bespoke.

    Runners are so infrequently used in the kitchen for fear of ruining them with spills, but they are a great design tool in galley kitchens – a narrow runner can highlight the length of a kitchen and direct the eye towards your best source of natural light or some interesting cabinetry.

    If your galley kitchen does have a window to its farthest end, an integrated bench with upholstered cushions and a modest bistro table makes for a wonderful breakfast nook.

    Open-plan kitchens

    An open-plan kitchen-living room can be a gift in the home because it tends to be a real draw for the whole family. In designing an open-plan space, the dilemmas are usually less concentrated to the layout of the cupboards and appliances, and more in the division of the space into distinct living and cooking areas.

    Here, the kitchen units are usually contained to one wall, and a modest island or peninsula will act as a divider to the living space beyond. There is usually sense in placing your sofa parallel to your divider – with a walkway between sofa and island rather than sandwiching them together – ideally to fit bar stools facing towards preparation areas.

    If you use a single colour palette for the entire space, you can zone with rugs or, in lieu of an island, pieces of furniture that can bridge both such as a low dresser or sideboard. When using large rugs to delineate your living area, place your furniture either directly or partially on top – arranging furniture around a rug rather than on top of it usually looks jarring.

    Occasional chairs to add to a country kitchen

    Alcoves and bay windows

    We're seeing increasingly inventive ways of filling alcoves and bay windows in a kitchen.

    Alcoves are great for holding a breakfast nook or turned into a pantry with shelving and a sliding door, whilst bay windows are a natural home for window seats with integrated storage or a WFH corner with an energising proximity to natural daylight and the kettle.

    The breakfast nook is a favourite amongst the Country Living editors – the fabulous example above in the home of Cathy Nordström shows how compact a breakfast nook can be, worked into an alcove that has little use for anything else. Furniture can be a mix of integrated, like a bespoke window seat or built-in bench, or free standing, such as a small bistro table.

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