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How to layout a kitchen

Design a kitchen layout carefully, thinking about your everyday needs and lifestyle. Get this right and you'll have a practical kitchen that will function smoothly and be aesthetically pleasing for years to come. A well designed kitchen is a solid investment if you get it right, so good ergonomics are key.

How to layout a kitchen

Designing a kitchen layout. Image by Holloways.

Kitchen layout tips

  • Store your plates and glasses near your dishwasher so you don't have far to go to put things away.
  • If you like to entertain, consider using your island unit as a breakfast bar as well as a food preparation area. Just add stools.
  • If you have kids, create a play area in your kitchen space so you can keep your eye on them while you're cooking.
  • Consider which way you'd like cupboard doors to open, depending on whether you're left or right-handed.

How do you use your kitchen?
Think about how you will use your kitchen space. Is it used socially by the whole family? Do you need room for a dining table or a breakfast bar? Does your kitchen double up as a home office? You should also consider the amount of storage space you need, including cupboards, drawers, fridge and freezer space. Read our article on
how to organise your kitchen for advice on overhauling your storage space and getting rid of clutter. It's also important to work out where your appliances will sit so you can make sure the plumbing, electrics and lighting are in the right place.

Putting your plans on paper - accurately
Draw out your kitchen layout to scale on a piece of paper. Measure the height to the ceiling, the distance between walls and mark out where the doors, windows, radiators, electrics and plumbing are. When measuring the height and width of the walls where you want to put cabinets, don't forget to take into consideration the space you need for doors and drawers to open. If you want to put a cabinet under a window, the minimum distance between the window frame and the floor should be around 100cm.

To help you get it right, download kitchen planner software from the internet and play around with different options. Most companies offer a kitchen design service – just take along detailed measurements of your room including window positions, plumbing and power points.

Six design options for laying out your kitchen:

1) The working triangle
A key feature of kitchen design is the working triangle which is the three key workstation points you move between when preparing food - the fridge, cooker and sink. Keep them within easy reach of each other for both convenience and safety reasons, and be aware of potential obstructions such as doors that will get in the way if they're open. The triangle kitchen layout method was established in the 1950s, but there’s also the modern layout approach based on 'store, prepare, cook, and wash’. Interior designer Gordon Whistance explains these methods in our video: how to lay out a kitchen.

2) The island kitchen layout
If you love to entertain, this is the ideal layout. Typically, this plan consists of a run of units with cooker, fridge and sink in a row and a work surface in between each. A kitchen island sits opposite the single row so you can prepare food and face out to your guests. Alternatively, you can use the island unit to house your cooker and make the canopy a striking focal point. Take a look at our kitchen island design ideas for inspiration.

3) The L-shaped kitchen
If yur kitchen is L-shaped, consider adding a breakfast or dining table in the room with the units on two adjacent walls as this will free up space on the other side of the room. Make sure the sink, hob and fridge are separated by preparation areas. Using the space this way is ideal for entertaining or for families.

4) The U-shaped kitchen
If you're a keen cook and take your food seriously, this is the perfect shaped kitchen. Not only do you have the luxury of having plenty of worktop space for food preparation but you'll also have plenty of storage space for utensils and foodstuff.

5) 'All in a row' kitchen layout
If you're short on space, this is the simplest, most space-efficient kitchen solution. It's ideally suited to kitchens that have at least three metres of wall space without the interruption of windows and doors. Unlike the U-shaped kitchen though, you have to walk from one end of the room to the other to reach everything. It's a good idea to place the sink in the middle of the run with a worktop separating it from the fridge and cooker either side, as this is where you’ll spend most of your time. For more space-saving solutions, read our article on how to design a small kitchen.

6) The galley kitchen
This is the kitchen choice of most professional chefs as it offers plenty of areas for food preparation. It is also the most efficient use of kitchen space with the shortest walking distance, as the two sides are typically just a few metres away. Don't consider this shape if there's a door at either end of your kitchen as there would be too much traffic coming into the room, which could be a safety concern. Make sure you have enough space to safely open drawers fully on both sides. Place the sink and cooker on the same side to minimise the risk of accidents when you’re transporting hot water to the sink to pour away.

More advice on kitchen design
For additional tips on designing your kitchen and planning your kitchen layout, take a look at the following articles:
Open plan kitchen design ideas
How to save space in small kitchen
Designing a small kitchen
Small kitchen design ideas