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Why have a galley kitchen?

The galley layout is most commonly selected for small rooms or open plan spaces, where it’s important to maximise wall space and keep your kitchen area neatly contained.

A double galley is an easy layout to implement the ‘golden triangle’ arrangement of positioning your sink, fridge and cooker at three points within reach of each other, while still allowing each appliance its own space.

Some people also like the element of allowing traffic through the kitchen to connect different rooms or lead outside. If you have doors at both ends of your room, a galley kitchen acts as a natural walkway through the home.

How wide should a galley kitchen be?

When it comes to galley kitchen designs, it’s all about the Goldilocks principle; not too big or too small, but just right! Too narrow and you won’t have enough space to manoeuvre, but too wide and you’ll find you struggle to reach things efficiently.

A double galley kitchen should ideally be around 1.5 metres wide, but if you live alone you may be able to get away with as narrow as 1 metre if you’re really challenged for space.

If you can only afford to make your double galley kitchen 1 metre wide, you may find it preferable to opt for a single galley and install all your appliances along one counter.

Don’t forget that with a single galley kitchen, there may be the possibility of adding a kitchen island or breakfast bar instead of a second worktop unit, if this shape is more suited to your available space.

How to lay out your galley kitchen

The most important thing to get right in a galley kitchen is finding the perfect width between units for your needs, but there are other considerations as well.

Start by laying out your golden triangle; in a double galley kitchen this will feature two appliances on one counter and one on the other. You’ll need to think about the heights of your appliances here; if you need a full height fridge, consider how this will fit in with your cabinets.

You’ll also need to choose between symmetrical or asymmetrical counters. In a symmetrical layout, the counters on both sides will mirror each other as closely as possible, whereas an asymmetrical approach allows you to be a bit more creative. You could have different lengths of counter, or play with the levels; putting tall units on one side and base units on the other, or mixing tall and small units on one side.

Galley Kitchen Layout
Instagram: @chippendalekitchens

Colour schemes for your galley kitchen

Your colour scheme can be particularly important in a galley kitchen, where you should be aiming to play down the narrow shape and open up the space.

A golden rule for making a room seem wider and more spacious is to use dark colours on lower units and light shades higher up. This gives you a lot of flexibility; you can keep it simple with monochrome, pair white top cabinets with brightly coloured base units, or mix light and dark shades of one colour.

Embrace a contemporary trend like navy blue, dark green or black for your base cabinets, and balance out with a white quartz or marble countertop and metallic accessories. Then you can add white upper cabinets, or choose an open-shelf or unit-free wall for an extra sense of space.

Galley Kitchen Colour Schemes
Instagram: @valeest1969

Reflective surfaces can also help to make a space seem more bright and open by reflecting the light around the room. An effective galley kitchen idea is to install white base and top cupboard units, broken up by a coloured splashback between the two to add a contrasting colour into the scheme.

Galley Kitchen Reflective Surface
Instagram: @kbkstudio

Choosing your kitchen units

Your choice of kitchen cabinets will partly be dictated by whether you decide to have a symmetrical or asymmetrical galley kitchen design.

If you’ve chosen to have a symmetrical layout, you’ll have to decide whether to fit top cabinets on both sides of your galley, or go without them all together.

Your storage needs may make top cupboards necessary, but be aware that in a galley kitchen this can emphasise the narrow shape of the space and feel oppressive, especially if there isn’t much natural light. We would advise limiting your cabinets to base level only, but you’ll have to compromise on which approach best suits your needs.

In an asymmetrical layout, you have more flexibility. You could have upper and lower cupboard units on one side of your kitchen, and also merge a full-height fridge and any other tall units or appliances into this side.

Galley Kitchen Units
Instagram: @enfieldkitchencentre

Meanwhile, on the other side you can stick to just base cabinets, allowing your kitchen space to feel more roomy. This approach works particularly well in an open plan galley kitchen, where the absence of high cupboards offers a direct view from the kitchen into the rest of the living area. This is the best layout if you want a social kitchen, where you can work in the kitchen while also chatting to guests.

Galley Kitchen Breakfast Bar
Instagram: @chippendalekitchens

If your galley kitchen is closed on both sides and your wall looks too bare without top cabinets, consider some open shelves or opt for a slim row of high cupboards that sit just above eye level. Either of these approaches will add an extra element of interest to your wall, while also providing extra storage space.

Planning your storage

This brings us neatly onto planning your galley kitchen storage! As mentioned, in a narrow kitchen it’s best to avoid upper cabinets on both side of the kitchen if possible, so you need to think carefully about how to optimise your design for maximum storage space.

Tall cupboard units can be a secret weapon in galley kitchens; try positioning one at the end of one of your units, and group it together with any other tall appliances like your fridge, or a built-in waist height oven with storage above and below.

Galley Kitchen Storage
Instagram: @buildbaseboston

These units will allow you to tuck away the majority of your kitchen equipment or food items in one place, removing the need for top cabinets. You can arrange your storage so that everyday cooking utensils are easy to reach in your lower cupboards where you need them, and other kitchen items are hidden away in your tall cupboard. Simple!

Open shelves are another option, and can serve a second purpose as a decorative feature in a galley kitchen. If you have only base cupboards, you’re likely to have at least one empty wall that you may feel needs some finishing touches!

Open shelves do need to be kept tidy, so invest in some plastic containers or pretty mason jars to store food or utensils in an organised way. Intersperse storage containers with decorative elements like vases, pots or clocks to ensure the shelves aren’t too full, as this will make the whole kitchen feel messy and disorganised, particularly in a small galley kitchen.

Galley Kitchen Open Shelves
Instagram: @sheratonkitchens

Another approach in an open plan galley, with one counter run facing out across the living area, is to install upper cabinets a little higher, slightly above head level, so that you still have a run of storage cabinets without compromising your view of the living room.

Selecting flooring

In a galley kitchen, wood panel flooring that runs with the length of the kitchen will make your galley run look longer and follow a natural walkway feel through the space. Avoid busy patterns, or wood flooring that is placed across the width of the galley.

Galley Kitchen Flooring
Instagram: @cameokitchens

As with cabinets, lighter shades on the floor will make the room feel larger. Colours that match your base cabinets can also open up the space, as this creates a seamless flow between the floor and units.

Galley Kitchen Light Flooring
Instagram: @mackintoshkitchens

Glossy flooring materials are a great small galley kitchen idea, as light can reflect off the shine of the floor to lighten and brighten the space.

Lighting up the room

A simple but elegant lighting design for galley kitchen is to install a row of pendant lights running through the middle, illuminating the walkway through the kitchen and maintaining the symmetry of the parallel counters.

Galley Kitchens Pendant Lighting
Instagram: @chippendalekitchens

Consider some brightly coloured statement lamps, on trend metallic wire pendants, or go minimalist with bare bulbs for a more industrial look.

If you want your lighting to be more subtle, simple LED spotlights in the ceiling are the way to go. LEDs can subtly illuminate the key worktops and food prep areas in your kitchen, and offer a clean, timeless style in your kitchen.

Adding extra features

Breakfast bar

If one side of your galley kitchen faces into an open plan living area with no top cabinets, you can add a breakfast bar to the outside on your counter unit.

Simply add a row of stools to the outside, and you could consider using a different material on this section of your worktop to make it stand out as a separate dining space.

Galley Kitchen Breakfast Bar2
Instagram: @buildbaseboston

Wall mirror

A wall mirror on one side of your galley kitchen will make the space seem bigger, and reflect light around the space more effectively.

It’s also a useful feature in an open plan kitchen while hosting guests, as you can see people behind you in the kitchen even while cooking!

Galley Kitchen Wall Mirror
Instagram: @sheffieldkitchencentre

Statement wall

In a galley kitchen, you can take advantage of a narrow wall at one end or the other to design a statement wall, which draws attention without dominating the look of your kitchen. If you have a door at one or both ends, introduce a bold colour or patterned wallpaper to frame your entrances.

You’re now ready to bring your galley kitchen design to life! Browse our kitchen ranges to get started.