Whether you’re thinking about remodeling your kitchen or searching for a new home and weighing your options, the kitchen setup is extremely important. And if you cook a lot, the layout of this room really matters.
Quite a few homes have galley kitchens — and the owners either love them or want to take a sledgehammer to them. But what is a galley kitchen, and how do you know if this style is right for you? Freshome rounded up several experts to help you understand the pros and cons of a galley kitchen. They also provided tips for designing a galley kitchen that you’ll love.
What is a galley kitchen and why is it used?
“A galley kitchen consists of two parallel runs of units forming a central corridor,” explains Ariel Richardson, a San Diego-based interior designer and the founder of ASR Design Studio. The name “galley kitchen” is derived from the kitchens on ships, in which everything is in a straight line.
It’s a great solution when you don’t have a lot of space, or if a house tends to be long instead of wide. “A galley kitchen is generally considered a solution for smaller apartments. We’ve also done some as second kitchens in larger homes, like a mother/daughter set up,” says Michael Radovic, CKD at Showcase Kitchens. “You can achieve a functional and nicely integrated kitchen, one that works seamlessly with the rest of the decor, with a length of about seven to eight feet.”
A galley kitchen is cost-effective
One advantage of a galley kitchen is that it won’t blow your budget, according to Nathan Outlaw, President at Onvico, a general contracting and design-build company in Thomasville, GA. “A galley kitchen will usually be more cost-effective than a large, open kitchen,” he says. “You only have two sets of cabinets with simple rectangle countertop slabs.” That leaves more money to splurge on the latest faucet trends.
A galley kitchen is efficient
But a galley kitchen isn’t only cost-effective. It’s also efficient. “The appliances are easily accessible. Galley style provides a very efficient kitchen work triangle,” says Joan Kaufman, an interior designer and President of Interior Planning & Design in Naperville, IL.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Erin Davis, Owner and Lead Designer at Mosaik Design & Remodeling in Portland, OR. “Because it’s smaller, fewer steps are required in between work areas,” Davis says. “In some galley kitchens, the sink, refrigerator and range are all along the same wall. This can work well as long as there is enough prep space in between work areas.”
However, if the corridor is too far apart — more than 6 feet wide, specifically — Richardson warns that it will lose its efficiency.
Chelsea Allard, VP of Design at Case Design/Remodeling in Charlotte, NC, agrees that a galley kitchen can be efficient. “The galley kitchen is made up of two parallel work surfaces. In a small condo, it may be two walls. Or it could be one wall of cabinetry parallel to a long island,” she explains. “Galley kitchens can be incredibly efficient because they allow a linear path to organize the major work zones: food storage, prep and cooking, clean-up and non-perishable storage.”
A galley kitchen isn’t the best style for multiple people
However, a galley kitchen isn’t typically designed for a lot of — or even a few — people. “Due to size constraints, a galley kitchen really can only fit one or two cooks at a time,” Outlaw explains. “It will be harder to move around anyone in the kitchen.”
Allard agrees and says that unless one of the sides is an island, a galley kitchen doesn’t handle traffic well. “Proper spacing between each counter is critical to making sure there is comfortable space for people to cook and pass by each other,” she says. “A galley kitchen is great for small spaces, but can feel like a runway if it’s too long.” On the other hand, if you have hardwood floors in the kitchen, you may enjoy walking the runway.
There may not be a lot of natural light
And if you’re in the habit of looking out the window as you wash dishes, this may not be the kitchen for you. “Views of the outside may be sacrificed,” says Kaufman. “There’s usually not a sink directly in front of a window. And sometimes, there may not even be a window in the kitchen.”
Consider your appliances
If you’re planning a galley kitchen, plan for your appliances as well. “You should know the specs of your appliances and make sure that the main appliances — sink, refrigerator and stove — are either in a triangle or close to one another in a row,” advises Linda Hayslett at LH.Designs.
“Because galley kitchens are used for smaller spaces, the specs of the appliances are important, especially the fridge and stove.” Hayslett says that many people don’t think about the spacing of these items, but larger sizes can create issues during installation.
Making the galley kitchen feel larger
Even though a galley kitchen tends to be small, there are ways to make it appear larger. “Use light or high-gloss finishes to create a more open feel,” says Richardson. “Placement of light fixtures is essential in creating an illusion of more space.”
Interior Designer Dawn Totty of Dawn Totty Designs in Chattanooga, TN, recommends using a monochromatic color scheme in a light color to give the illusion of a larger, more open space. “I always say the best kitchens are the most well-lit kitchens. But don’t just rely on recessed lighting,” Totty says. She suggests hanging a lantern, chandeliers or some other type of light fixtures to add some personality to the room.
Since space is limited, Totty also recommends placing cabinets as high as the ceiling and utilizing baskets and labeled bins.
“In addition, implement at least two glass-front cabinets for a pretty shine and to break up the heaviness of all-wood cabinets,” she says. “You can have a galley kitchen and an island, too.” Totty recommends either a custom or store-bought island with casters. “It’s a perfect way to create more prep space. [Islands] are also fun to use as a bar or dessert cart for entertaining.”
Modifying the kitchen
If you’re really sold on the idea of a galley kitchen but you don’t have the necessary width, there are ways to make it work. “You can open up the walls on both sides of the kitchen, which can add up to 12 inches of cabinet and countertop space,” explains Shawn Breyer, owner of We Buy Houses Atlanta. If you don’t want to remove walls, he has another suggestion: add a glass door or a large window at the end of the wall. “Adding larger windows is a tactic used in smaller homes. It provides the perception of more space, making it feel less cramped,” Breyer says.