Kitchen Floor Plan Basics

Kitchen floor plans can take on almost endless variations. Here's a look at several of the most useful configurations.


+ enlarge image The versatile U-shape plan.

This efficient, versatile plan usually puts one workstation on each of three walls.

Pros: Storage and counter space on three sides maximize efficiency, and the dead-end floor plan ensures that traffic doesn't interrupt the work triangle.

Cons: This isn't the best plan for entertaining or for accommodating multiple cooks, however.

Other considerations: An 8 x 8-foot space is the minimum needed for a U-shape kitchen; anything less won't provide the minimum 4 feet of work space recommended for the center of the room.

For maximum efficiency in a large kitchen, locate one workstation in a freestanding island.

Plan your dream kitchen with our free remodeling guide.

+ enlarge image An L-shape plan

The L-shape plan puts two workstations on one wall and the third on an adjacent wall.

Pros: This layout is more space-efficient than a U-shape plan, especially if the main workstations are located close to the crook of the L.

Cons: Not well-suited to small spaces. Be sure to allow adequate open counter space between the two workstations that share the same wall -- at least 4 feet.

Other considerations: The arrangement of workstations is critical: Work should flow from the refrigerator to the sink and then to the cooktop and serving area.

The area opposite the crook of the L often is an ideal spot for an eating nook.

+ enlarge image An island plan

The island floor plan features a freestanding workstation, usually incorporating either the sink or cooktop.

Pros: This plan works best for large kitchens in which the work triangle would exceed the 26-foot rule if all three workstations were located against walls.

The "26-foot rule" dictates that for maximum efficiency, the perimeter of the work triangle should measure at least 12 feet but not more than 26 feet. Each side should measure at least 4 feet but no longer than 9 feet. (Note: Old-timers may remember the "22-foot rule"; it's the same idea, but not as well-suited to today's larger homes.)

Cons: Island plans are not well-suited to kitchens where two work stations must be on opposite walls.

Other considerations: Allow at least 42 inches of aisle space on all sides of the island; in a two-cook kitchen, 48 inches is better.

In a large kitchen, the island is a convenient location for specialty countertops, such as butcher block for chopping vegetables or marble for rolling out pastry dough. In a small kitchen, consider a portable island such as a rolling cart or table. It won't accommodate a bonafide workstation but will give you extra counter space where you need it.

If the island also includes an eating counter, keep it well away from the cooktop.

The Peninsula Variation

When one end of an island is anchored to a wall or line of cabinets, the result is a peninsula plan. The peninsula kitchen packs all the versatility of an island kitchen, but doesn't require as much floor space.

The cooktop and sink work equally well on a peninsula; moving the sink from against a wall isn't a problem if there is a basement with accessible plumbing.

Like islands, peninsulas give the cook a workstation with a view into an adjacent room rather than just toward a wall. After meal preparation, a peninsula can double as a snack bar or buffet as well as a room divider to help route traffic away from the kitchen.

+ enlarge image The galley plan

Parallel walls mark the galley-style plan.

Pros: The galley kitchen's compact floor plan is ideal for small spaces. Parallel walls let the cook move easily from one workstation to another.

Cons: The biggest drawback is that the work triangle is in the traffic path unless one doorway is closed off. Another negative is lack of a handy gathering spot for kids or guests.

Other considerations: Plan at least 4 feet of space between the opposing counters. For maximum efficiency, consider pairing the sink and refrigerator on one wall with the cooktop centered between them on the opposite wall.

A variation on the theme: Corridor kitchens are simply galley kitchens with entryways on each end. This gives a galley kitchen a more open feel; however, the probability of traffic interrupting the work triangle can make a corridor kitchen harder to work in.

+ enlarge image A one-wall plan for a small space.

One-wall plans are most often seen in vacation homes and small apartments.

Pros: This floor plan is the most space-saving.

Cons: One-wall plans are the least efficient for the cook. Because there is usually a door at each end, through traffic is a common problem.

Other considerations: One-wall kitchens work best when the sink is in the center, flanked by the refrigerator and cooktop.

If space will allow, include 4 feet of counter space on each side of the sink.

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