What is the Best Layout for a Galley Kitchen? Design Rules to Maximize a Narrow Space

Kitchens come in all shapes and sizes, and galley kitchens present a particular challenge with their long, narrow footprint. However, with careful planning and smart design choices, galley kitchens can be highly functional, attractive, and enjoyable to cook in. Here are some key design rules and tips for maximizing a narrow galley kitchen layout.

Choose the Optimal Traffic Flow Pattern

The first major consideration in a galley kitchen is planning the traffic flow. Since the space is narrow, you want to avoid collisions between the refrigerator, stove, sink, and cabinets. Here are some standard galley kitchen traffic flow patterns to consider:

Single File Traffic Flow

This classic galley layout has the refrigerator, sink, and stove all lined up on one wall. The cabinets and prep space are on the opposite side. This allows for easy movement in a single line. However, multiple cooks can bump into each other.

L-Shaped Traffic Flow

The sink, stove, and prep space take up one leg of the L shape. The refrigerator and cabinets are on the other leg. Cooks can work simultaneously at the prep and cooking areas. But the tight corner where the L meets can get congested.

Opposite Triangle Traffic Flow

The sink is at one end, the stove at the other end, and prep space and fridge in the middle across from each other. Cooks can move freely from station to station. But stretching across the narrow space can be tricky.

Parallel Kitchen Islands

This layout adds two kitchen islands parallel to the walls. The islands can house the sink, stove, prep space, and cabinets. The fridge is on one wall. The aisle between the islands allows for easy movement.

Analyze how you cook, how many cooks are typically working, and what tasks you flow between, to select the optimal traffic pattern. Allow for at least 32 – 36 inches of clearance for aisles and work areas.

Optimize Storage With Smart Cabinet Design

Galley kitchens need tall, shallow cabinets that maximize vertical storage without intruding too far into the room. Consider:

  • Floor-to-ceiling pantries for dry goods and small appliances.
  • Drawers instead of cabinets for easier access to contents.
  • Pull-out shelves and Lazy Susan turntables in corner cabinets.
  • Deep drawers under the stove and sink to store pots, pans, and cleaning supplies.
  • Glass-front upper cabinets to allow light to penetrate.
  • Open shelving for frequently used items.

Also look for unused nooks and crannies between studs or appliances to install extra shelves. An optimized storage scheme minimizes clutter on the counters.

Use Space-Saving Appliances

Full-size appliances limit your options in a galley kitchen. Look for apartment-sized or narrow models to save inches:

  • 18-inch wide dishwasher instead of 24-inch standard size.
  • Slide-in range instead of freestanding to eliminate the gap between counters.
  • Counter-depth refrigerator rather than standard depth.
  • Microwave with vent fan eliminates need for external vent.
  • Shallow sink base cabinet with plumbing moved to the rear wall.

You can also stack appliances. A microwave or warming drawer over the oven frees up counter space.

Include Design Elements to Brighten and Open Up the Space

A galley kitchen can feel dark and confined. Use these design techniques to make it feel more open and inviting:

  • Light wall colors like white, light yellow, or light green to maximize brightness.
  • Glossy subway tile or glass backsplash to reflect light.
  • Undercabinet lighting to eliminate shadows.
  • Windows at both ends of the galley to draw natural light through.
  • Glass cabinet doors and open shelving for a breezy look.
  • Pendant lights over islands and prep spaces for task lighting.
  • Mirrored backsplash to create illusion of width.
  • Visually extend the kitchen by eliminating walls between dining and living areas.

Add Functional Features at the Perimeters

Make use of all the vertical space around the edges of the galley kitchen:

  • A narrow spice rack to hold jars and seasonings.
  • A built-in utensil organizer near the prep space.
  • Floating shelves for cookbooks.
  • A bar with hanging pots and utensils to leave the counters clear.
  • A fold-down table or stools on one side for informal dining.
  • Shallow hutches to store serving ware.

Carefully Select Flooring

The flooring needs to be durable to withstand heavy use and spills. But dark floors can make a narrow kitchen feel smaller. Look for:

  • Durable natural stone or porcelain tiles in a light color.
  • Luxury vinyl plank flooring which resembles wood but is waterproof.
  • Sheet vinyl flooring with texture and patterns to mimic wood or tile.
  • Washable seagrass or sisal rugs over hard floors to warm up the look.

Summary of Key Galley Kitchen Design Strategies

To recap, the essentials for maximizing a long, narrow galley kitchen are:

  • Choose a logical traffic flow pattern with adequate clearance.
  • Use space-saving cabinets, drawers, and appliances.
  • Brighten up the kitchen with light colors, glass elements, and lighting.
  • Add functional features like racks, shelves, and fold-down elements around the edges.
  • Select durable, easy-clean flooring in light colors.

With some creativity and careful spatial planning, your galley kitchen can gain functionality and style. The constraints of the narrow space will push you towards smart solutions that ultimately create an efficient and inviting kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions About Galley Kitchen Design

Here are answers to some common questions about optimizing a long, narrow galley kitchen layout.

What are the standard widths for a galley kitchen?

A typical galley kitchen width is 8 to 15 feet. Very narrow galleys can be 6 feet or under. Ideal clearance between counters, islands, and walls is 32 – 36 inches.

What is the best galley kitchen sink placement?

The sink is often placed at one end of the galley for easy access. But a central sink placement allows convenient access for multiple cooks. Near a window is ideal for natural light while washing up.

Where should the stove go in a galley kitchen?

Some options for stove placement include at the end opposite the sink for triangle workflow, in the center for equal access from prep and clean up areas, or on an island to distance it from walls and cabinets.

Should a galley kitchen have an island?

Islands work well for extra prep space and storage. Two parallel islands create handy workflow. But islands protruding into the room can impede traffic in an already narrow space.

What backsplash works best for a galley kitchen?

A mirrored or glass tile backsplash maximizes light reflection in a dark, narrow kitchen. Neutral stone like marble also keeps it light. Bold patterns can make it feel more confined.

How do you arrange cabinets in a galley kitchen?

Use tall pantries at ends and corners. Put glass fronts and open shelving on top to keep it light. Use deep drawers and pull outs. Floating shelves add storage without taking floor space.

What color should I paint a narrow galley kitchen?

Stick with light, bright colors like white, light gray, pale yellow, or light blue green. Darker colors will make it feel smaller and more cave-like. Add pops of color with appliances, stools, and decor.


Galley kitchen layouts present unique challenges, but they can also foster smart, space-saving solutions. Focus on opening up the space with lights and glass elements. Think vertically to maximize storage. And select multi-functional, slimline appliances and fixtures. With careful planning centered around logical workflow, even the narrowest galley kitchen can gain comfort, utility and style. Use these design rules as a guide, but also get creative with unique galley kitchen ideas tailored to your cooking needs and tastes.