Galley kitchen ideas – 12 super-efficient layouts that maximize every inch of space

Galley kitchen ideas, with their linear simplicity, have a timeless appeal no matter how big or small your space

Galley kitchen ideas
(Image credit: Future)

If you are after galley kitchen ideas and inspiration, then you've come to the right place. 

So much has changed in the way in which we design and use our kitchens over the last decade or so, but there is something reassuring in how the galley kitchen has adapted to the new-found sense of space in more contemporary kitchen ideas, and has thrived. 

Galley kitchen ideas – turn this narrow layout into a dream space

Named after a ship’s kitchen, galley kitchens were originally associated with simplicity and tight spaces – there’s not much room for superfluous detail on the average ship. But the reason that galley kitchen layouts work is that they are ergonomically sound – it's easy to place everything so it is to hand.

1. Use galley kitchen layouts in an open plan kitchen

An example of galley kitchens in an open plan layout, with dark blue cabinetry and white marble island.

(Image credit: Future / Darren Cheung)

Open plan kitchens and spacious islands are partly to blame for wall units falling out of fashion – when you’ve got oodles of space to play with, it’s easy to see why you would want to keep the look open and save reaching overhead. 

But wall units will always have a valid place in small kitchens and narrow rooms, where you can make the most of the height and still have usable worksurface. 

Popular options include lift up doors and tall, sleek, flat-fronted doors in a striking material. But if you are really not a fan, consider open shelving or perhaps cubby holes if you need to make use of more height.

If you really want to make a statement in a galley kitchen, paint your units in an entirely different color to the rest of the room to make them sing out. 

2. Create a modern interpretation of the galley kitchen

A sleek white example of galley kitchen ideas, with island and bifold doors.

(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

In recent years, a third galley kitchen scenario has evolved, incorporating the galley layout into more modern kitchen ideas.

'Modern galley kitchens can be part of a much larger space, featuring a wall-hugging galley run with a long island running parallel, separating a living or dining area beyond,' explains Paul O’Brien, director of Kitchens International. 

Although following the double galley footprint, it feels different as it is a lighter, more open and more sociable space. 

3. Declutter with the right storage 

Galley kitchens example in gray with hexagonal tiled backsplash.

(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

Good kitchen storage ideas are perhaps the most important element to consider when planning a galley kitchen. 

Choose a scheme that includes plenty of storage, and if wall units aren’t possible in all areas, go for an abundance of floor units with drawers. 

Also, natural light is key in helping to create space, so if possible include a window and door in your galley kitchen. A neutral color scheme in all areas will help to give the feeling of space.

Simple kitchen color schemes don't have to mean all-white designs though. Here, a tonal palette of subtle blues, grays and taupes blend beautifully to create a stylish gray kitchen.

4. Keep it open and bright

A marble galley kitchen with yellow wall, open shelving and teal chairs.

(Image credit: Future / Paul Raeside)

Galley kitchens have a tendency to look small and cluttered, but there is one way to negate this issue. 

Give small kitchen layouts the illusion of space by going for shelves rather than wall units. 

Keep them the same color as the rest of the cabinetry below for a seamless look, and have fun displaying colorful glass bottles, storage containers and too-pretty-to-hide-away teapots.

5. Trick the eye with light, color and minimal cabinetry

Small galley kitchens example in white with wooden countertops.

(Image credit: Future / Polly Eltes)

A galley kitchen layout is particularly suited to more compact spaces, as it ensures you have the worksurfaces and appliances you need while still providing essential storage for small kitchens.

The trick is to make the space work for you – make it look bigger by using light colors and reflective surfaces.

'Try not to have tall units on both sides in double galley kitchens, as it will become overbearing,' advises Tim Higham of Higham Furniture. 'If possible, try to avoid wall cabinets on one side, opting for open shelving where feasible. This will help to make the space feel larger.'

6. Work a narrow room

A black galley kitchen idea in a narrow room with orange wall and skylights.

(Image credit: Future / Jonathan Gooch)

To make the most of a tall, narrow kitchen, use a mixture of wall cabinets, open shelving, base cabinets and drawers to vary your design and keep the outlook as open as possible.

Make sure you have enough room to move around the kitchen easily without bumping into other people; check there is enough space between opposite runs of units to open drawers, cupboards and appliances, and if it’s a bit of a squeeze consider reduced depth cabinets.   

And last, but certainly not least, it’s essential to get the lighting right, especially in a narrow room. This really has to be planned at the start of the project. 

Overhead natural light is always a bonus – if you are planning a kitchen extension, think about where you can position skylights.

7. Embrace single galley kitchen ideas

Galley kitchens shown in a midnight blue single galley kitchen with black granite backsplash.

(Image credit: Future / Alistair Nicholls)

A single run is kitchen design as its most essential. 

If you only have a single run –  one row – of cabinets, worktop space may be limited, so it makes sense to create different zones for food preparation, serving and cleaning up, often divided by the key points of hob, sink and refrigerator.

Whatever the size of your room, try to keep the mix of colors and/or textures to two or possibly three – that includes the walls, floor and ceilings as well as the cabinets.

It is cheaper to change the walls five years on than it will be to buy and install new cabinets – so if you’re not sure, neutral kitchen cabinet colors may be the best option. 

8.  Work a galley layout into a large kitchen

Galley kitchens illustrated by a large neutral room with marble island and wooden furniture.

(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

The galley layout can work just wonderfully in a large kitchen. 

The presence of two runs of units provides an architectural frame to a dining table or kitchen island in the centre, while in open plan areas an island or run of units provides the cut-off between living and cooking zones.

Introduce a small dining area into galley kitchens by opting for a compact dining table, which can be pushed against an unused wall. 

9. Light up small galley kitchens

A black galley kitchen with white walls and countertops and statement lighting over a breakfast bar.

(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

Kitchen lighting ideas can make or break both the aesthetics and function of a galley kitchen. 

'Keep galley kitchens as uncomplicated as possible – a simple layout and cleverly placed lighting will completely reinvent the space,' says Naomi Dean, furniture and showroom designer at Harvey Jones. 

'Opt for worktop spot-lights, that will not only brighten your workspace but will illuminate the rest of the area. This will instantly brighten your kitchen and add the effect of more space.'

10. Opt for handleless cabinetry

A white galley kitchen with handleless doors leading onto a dining area with large windows.

(Image credit: Future / James Merrell)

To make the most of available space without overwhelming a compact open plan room, consider a kitchen with handleless doors. Technological advances in push-open and close doors means that it has become possible to dispense with handles in both wall and base cabinets. 

Stone or wood floors are also a practical solution for galley kitchens that will help to create a layered, texturized effect. 

11. Keep cabinets at eye-level

Galley kitchen ideas with scandi interiors

(Image credit: Alexandria Hall)

Keeping walls cabinet-free at eye-level can make a galley kitchen appear wider. It’s also more comfortable to use kitchen countertops without cabinets looming above, so you won’t waste an inch of prep space. Position any tall storage required, e.g. fridge-freezers or larders, at the entrance to the room and you’ll naturally look past them. 

‘We deliberately avoided upper cabinetry to avoid closing in the airiness of the room. It also gives the original ceiling cornicing and architraves more breathing space,’ explains designer Jack Trench. ‘The base units are deeper than standard to maximize storage and counter space.’

12. Freshen up your color scheme

Galley kitchen with blue cabinetry

(Image credit: Paul Craig)

‘Using pale colors in a long, narrow kitchen is a great way to open up the room and helps to reflect and diffuse the available natural light,’ says Mark Mills, managing director of Mereway. 

Blues with yellow or grey undertones are ideal; red undertones will take you towards purple, which is more moody than upbeat. Think sky blue, duck egg and soft teal. Polished countertops and kitchen backsplashes ideas, again in pale tones, also boast light-reflecting powers. Make the flooring your darkest choice and go for a warm white on walls and ceiling. This graduation from dark to light is an established way to square-up elongated rooms.

What can I do with a galley kitchen?

Perhaps you're thinking, what can I do with a gallery kitchen? Well, galley kitchen ideas are designed to be both compact and ultra-efficient, maximizing every inch of space for both storage and preparation. Named after the space-efficient ship's kitchen, this popular linear layout is designed to work with ergonomic ease.

Professional kitchens also follow a similar linear plan, with lines of ranges or hobs divided into specific stations for the preparation of different types of dishes.

Where there is room for a parallel run of units – a double galley – you can introduce the classic work triangle, arranging the key task zones of fridge, cooker and sink in this pattern to cut down on the footwork between them.

This is not only successful in narrow rooms that have enough width to take two rows of units, its exactly the format that is so popular in open plan spaces, with a long island providing the second leg, often creating a sociable casual seating area and a natural boundary for the kitchen space at the same time.

How do you maximize a galley kitchen?

To maximize galley kitchens you simply need smart ideas. A good kitchen designer will be able to come up with solutions for the trickiest of spaces but if you feel you want to explore the room’s potential further, and are perhaps considering structural work, it is worth consulting an interior designer or architect. 

In double galley kitchens, storage ‘walls’ or ‘banks’ are a great solution for both open plan and closed schemes, by giving over the whole wall to a combination of storage and appliances. 

Storage can be organised in pull-out larders or increasingly popular pantry ideas – both have narrow shelving which makes products easily visible. 

A mix of both drawers and cupboards can serve you well in any kitchen, and can be designed in such a way that any handles and all the cabinetry lines align.  

Drawers are great for pots, pans, chinaware and ingredients, as you can pack a lot into the space and still access it easily. Fitting drawers under the hob also puts the maximum range of utensils, dishes and ingredients such as herbs to hand. 

Cupboards excel at hiding larger pieces of kit, including food mixers and perhaps even a trusty countertop microwave. 

Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.

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