The ideal kitchen layout is dictated by space availability and functional requirements (with, at times, a few aesthetic whims piloting the decision as well). As the kitchen becomes a more open space merging into the living room, it would seem that the layout possibilities keep expanding. In truth, there are really only seven main design configurations and even the most unconventional kitchen layouts are usually a variation or combination of those.
The linear kitchen
The most basic, most compact kitchen layout you can get, with all the elements (sink, appliances, cooktop, food prep area, and storage) placed one next to the other on a single wall.
A linear kitchen is best used when you have severe space limitations and all plumbing, electrical, and gas connections are close together along the same wall and would be cumbersome to relocate. However, this kitchen layout can also be a deliberate choice for those who want to keep things simple and don’t need their kitchen to be the center of convivial activities. This solution can be very functional as long as you don’t stretch the kitchen so far and wide that you have to start running back and forth from one end to the other to get things done.
Interesting variation: If you want a compact kitchen but have the space to open it up to the living room and make social interactions easier, Snaidero’s BOARD places all operational areas on a self-supporting system that projects out of the wall unit. This kitchen layout:
- makes it easy for two people to work together without getting in each other’s way;
- extends the available working surface;
- doesn’t force the cooks to turn their backs to other people in the room.
L-shaped kitchen layout
The corner kitchen layout is a very functional configuration whether you have a fairly small or large space. This is because it makes it easy to create the ideal functional triangle among refrigerator, sink, and cooktop, facilitating movement within the perimeter of the kitchen and bringing elements closer together.
The L-shaped kitchen layout has become even more popular thanks to the introduction of practical corner cabinets/tall units with lazy-susans and full pull-out shelves, which make it possible to utilize every inch of corner space. Because it wraps around two walls, this configuration can help create a dedicated intimate nook for your kitchen (while still opening it up easily to the living area of the home).
U-shaped kitchen layout
This kitchen layout spreads the design along three walls and is suitable for both small and large spaces. It is a great configuration for heavy-duty kitchens that need a lot of storage space, plenty of work surfaces and multiple appliances. You can devote each wall to a specific function.
However, this layout can easily become claustrophobic in the absence of windows and if you overdo it with tall cabinets. So, aesthetically it is best to keep the line of sight as light as possible with a mix of cabinets, open shelves, and clear or frosted glass doors. Combined with a central island unit (when space permits), the U-shaped kitchen layout can give you everything you need, working both as an intimate retreat and a full hub for entertaining guests.
Kitchen layout with island
Of course, with the available space, an island can be a great addition to any of the above layouts. An island grants you greater functional freedom, as you can use it for:
- seating and dining;
- an additional work surface;
- storage for often used items;
- the main operational unit, incorporating sink and cooktop;
- an additional sink;
- any combination of the above.
For the island to house elements like cooktop and sink, you must make sure you can move gas outlets, water pipes, and electrical wiring, and be able to have a suspended extractor wood above the island unit. Visually, the island becomes the focal point of the kitchen and is an invitation into the space; a bridge between the kitchen and the living room; the place that activity and people gravitate towards. Whether you use the kitchen just for you and your family or for frequent parties, an island can adapt to your needs and facilitate workflow.
Want to feel like your kitchen is enveloping you, providing all the elements you need within easy reach, and offering a large platform for entertaining? Consider combining an L-shaped kitchen layout with an L-shaped island.
Even if you don’t have a very large footprint to work with, consider whether you could fit a kitchen layout with a small island. At the very least, it could be a practical extra surface and storage unit.
Kitchen layout with peninsula
A peninsula gives you almost all the functional benefits of an island, while being a more practical solution for smaller spaces. Add a small peninsula to one end of a linear kitchen and you’ve got yourself an additional surface and more storage.
Yet, peninsulas work extremely well in larger environments as well. For example, you can add a peninsula to a corner kitchen in an open space, thus virtually creating a U-shaped kitchen layout without the need of a third support wall. A peninsula kitchen layout is also perfect to create a seamless transition between the kitchen and the living area.
The increasing modularity of kitchen cabinet systems has made designing peninsula layouts fairly easy. As such, this type of configuration is becoming more popular.
The “parallel” kitchen layout
The most common example of a parallel kitchen layout features a wall unit housing sink, food prep area, appliances and cooktop, all facing another wall unit dedicated to storage. This is practical because it keeps all gas, plumbing and electrical connections on one side (like in the linear kitchen layout), while increasing storage capacity. A kitchen like this would be almost exclusively used for meal preparation.
Alternatively, for an open space solution with more flexibility, you can also build a parallel layout by combining a wall unit and a very long island facing the living area. The island can be used for storage, seating, dining or it can become the main operational hub of your kitchen. Either way, you now have a multi-purpose kitchen where you can cook, work, and entertain. If you have the space, you can complete this layout with a separate pantry wall.
The circular kitchen
This is a relatively new and less traditional kitchen layout, suitable for those who want to take center stage when entertaining. Like Snaidero’s Acropolis by Pininfarina, round kitchens are showcase pieces made to interact with open spaces and loft-type environments. When designing Acropolis Pininfarina took inspiration from the ergonomic layout of a drum set, where every element is within easy reach. That’s what a circular kitchen offers: compact and simple, this layout doesn’t leave any space for anything but the essential, which is readily available without expending too much energy.
Bottom line? Let your needs and space parameters guide your choice but don’t forget the little variations that can make your kitchen layout a bit different and a lot more personal.