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Galley Kitchen Designs

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The inviting and open kitchen features creative storage solutions and a multipurpose island to maximize space.

Russell Groves added a mirrored wall and lacquer cabinetry to his own Manhattan galley kitchen.

In a small kitchen, it’s crucial to make use of spaces you can’t reach. “We organize with shelving that reaches up nice and high, and use a step stool that’s easy to store or doesn’t take up much space,” says Shaya. “Opt for one that can fit underneath the counter laying down, or if you have a little closet, keep it in there.”

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The best type of trash bin is one that can be tucked away without any trouble. “Under the sink I have drawers that open and I can pull the trash in and out, which is nice and practical,” says Ansel.

Arrange your kitchen based on what you cook. If eggs are your breakfast each morning, make sure the sauté pans are stored close to the stove, and that your extra virgin olive oil and salt are nearby as well. “Cooking can be very frustrating when you find yourself running back and forth to several different spots to get one thing done,” says Shaya. “Then you feel like you’re a bad cook because while you walked six feet to get your spatula, you burned your eggs.”

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You don’t need to demo an entire wall to open up a galley kitchen. “The first thing that I would do is see if there’s anyway [to] create some sort of opening to the other spaces from it,” says Zames. “You could open up just the corner of it and add some open shelving to break that hallway feeling.” She recalls a project where even a small opening made a big difference. “We weren’t able to open it up to the living room, because there were some pipes in the way, but we opened it up partially and put shelves that hung from the ceiling,” she says. “I thought that was a nice happy medium. It kept the kitchen out of the dining area, and you kept the functional storage, but it was still visually connected to the other space.”

“It’s all about maximizing the space,” says Zames. “Do as many built-in items as you can and maximize the counter space—so do a microwave drawer, rather than a microwave on the counter, and have tall storage so you can put away things you don’t use on a daily basis or are bulky.”

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Find hints and tricks for making a small kitchen feel open, efficient and comfortable.

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“I started at a restaurant kitchen that was very, very small with just one table,” says Dominique Ansel, chef and owner of Dominique Ansel Bakery and Dominique Ansel Kitchen in New York City. “Finding storage space was definitely hard to do.”

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If you’re involved in the design stages of your galley kitchen, situate the sink at the end of the narrow space. “You can go and drop things off there, plus it frees up the counter space opposite of the stove for more prep area,” says Shaya. “Prep space is the most coveted space in a galley kitchen where everything’s stacked next to each other.”

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Zames emphasizes the importance of keeping materials consistent and introducing as few lines, or breaks in materials, as possible. “I would always do a cooktop with a wall oven below it—something that’s built into the cabinets, rather than a slide-in range,” she says. “I would do as many panel-ready appliances as possible, keeping it feeling as much like furniture as you can.” The designer also suggests choosing smaller appliances. “Going down to even a 24-inch fridge—which a lot of people gasp at—is very livable and will save you a lot of space,” says Zames. ”You may want to consider doing something that has French doors so that you don’t have to leave a lot of space for a big fridge door.”

Continuing with the practice of modular organizing, Cushman suggests a small to medium-sized rolling cart. “If you don’t have any way to store certain things, like pots and pans, get a rolling rack so you can just move them out of the kitchen when you’re not using them,” he says. “That allows you to store them in a closet or somewhere else.”

Zames notes that there’s lots that can be done in addition to task lighting in a galley kitchen. “You’re not working with pendant lights over an island, but you can do some great decorative fixtures on the ceiling that bring the space together,” she says. “There’s an opportunity with a galley kitchen to be a jewel box, so doing some lighting on the ceiling that feels less utilitarian is nice.”

Your appliances should be evenly distributed throughout the length of the galley kitchen. “You don’t want the dishwasher or oven to be right next to the fridge in case you need to open both doors, and you want to keep the refrigerator far away from anything that produces heat,” says Ansel. Similarly, keep the stove away from windows, which may affect its temperature.

“Another way to reduce that feeling that you’re in a hallway is to break up the materials,” she says. “Keep the base cabinets in a heavier, darker material and then do the upper cabinets in a lighter colors to connect it more towards the ceiling.”

This New York City kitchen was opened up to the rest of the apartment.

Another option is to bring in wood to make the kitchen feel more connected to the rest of the apartment. “In that case, I would do wood-base cabinets that would feel a little more grounded and more like furniture than cabinets,” Zames says. “For upper shelving, I would do something neutral and light and cool-toned.”

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Few people will step into a potential apartment or house and think, Oh yay! A galley kitchen! But the pint-size spaces, distinguished by their narrow layout with parallel counters, are a fact of life for plenty of urban dwellers. “It’s so often that we get projects that people ask us to open up the galley kitchen,” says designer Sarah Zames, founder of the Brooklyn-based firm General Assembly. “But there are cases where you can’t do that, such as in prewar buildings where lots of times you can’t move pipes the way that you would want to.” There are also instances where you might not want your kitchen to feel like a part of your living room. “It’s coming back into style to consolidate your kitchen and not necessarily have it open,” says Zames. “I’m getting more people asking me to do that. It’s not always a given that you want everything open.” If you’re sticking with your hallway-like space, either by choice or out of necessity, there are plenty of galley kitchen ideas to make the most of your meager square footage and create a less claustrophobic feel. Zames shared her tips on how to enhance your galley kitchen, whether you’re doing a full renovation or just trying to clear a little counter space.

When arranging his own kitchens, Cushman focuses on modular organization with mobile containers. “It’s how you take advantage of every little space,” he says. “I went to the Container Store and picked up all kinds of little shelves, racks, and other containers that can easily be moved.” Baskets, shelves, and trays help you prioritize the items and ingredients you use most, but are still easy to move aside when needed.

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By following a few simple guidelines, you should be able to make a smaller galley kitchen space seem larger and function more efficiently.

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Keep one modular tray available for spices, and arrange which ones you’ll need before you start cooking. “You can get nice hard plastic or bamboo trays that are modular,” says Cushman. “Use one for spices you’ll need for a certain dish, selecting them before you get started. When you’re done, you can put them back in the cupboard away from heat and light.” It may be tempting to stash all your spices by your stove, but remember that heat and light can damage the color and flavor of spices.

Zames recommends using glossy tile or surfaces to brighten the space. “With materials, you can use things that are a little more reflective,” she says. “Getting as much natural light bouncing around in there as possible is pretty key.”

Yes, even chefs do it: Stack those pots. It saves space. “I pile up pots the best I can like Russian dolls, putting the small ones in the big ones and as many as I can together,” says Ansel. This is not the time to be concerned about how perfectly symmetrical the items in your cupboards look.

If you’re in the planning stages of your galley kitchen, consider how your cooking space will be lit. Are there windows? Will the lighting already in the space be enough? “In small spaces like galley kitchens, good lighting is very important,” says Ansel.

“The kitchen in Shaya is probably the size of an Amtrak car,” says Alon Shaya, executive chef and partner at Shaya restaurant in New Orleans. “Everything is in one straight line, and there’s barely enough room for two people to walk through at the same time.” Read on to learn how his team makes the most of the small space.

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A twin pendant light adds style in Brady Tolbert’s galley kitchen.

One side of the kitchen should be exclusively for cooking. “Your stove should be in the middle on one side, along with other appliances, so the other side is all open cooking space,” says Shaya. “It also frees up space of two people to be cooking in the kitchen at the same time, which is sometimes really hard to do in a galley kitchen.”

When it comes to color schemes for your small galley kitchen, light and bright is a great idea—lighter colors tend to open up spaces, whereas darker ones create a cozy feel but can make a small space feel claustrophobic.

Get inspiration for a small galley kitchen design, and prepare to add an efficient and attractive design to your kitchen space.

You can also consider hiding appliances entirely, behind cabinets or with paneling that mimics the look of your cabinet design. Clean lines give the impression of a larger space, whereas multiple appliances arrayed throughout the space can make it seem cluttered. The note about clean lines can apply to cabinets as well—you’ll want to keep these as simple and unadorned as possible, since any intricate designs may serve to crowd the space.

Welcome big style into your small kitchen with design ideas, from color and countertops to seating and storage.

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If you don’t have room for a trash bin near your cooking space, use a bowl for scraps and other rubbish. “I always keep a large bowl on my counter as I’m cooking, so I can throw onion skins, paper towels, and anything else in,” says Shaya. “Then when I’m finished, I’ll take that bowl and just throw out all the contents at once.”

Open-shelving displays dishes and glassware in a kitchen designed by Emily Henderson.

Small galley kitchens can get hot, fast. “Having a nice hood is important, especially when you cook a lot,” says Ansel. “It sucks up all the heat and humidity and helps keep the temperature of the room lower.”

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Galley kitchen design features a few common components, and chief among them is the traditional layout for a galley kitchen—these kitchen designs generally feature a narrow passage situated between two parallel walls. Normally, one wall features cooking components including the stove and any other smaller ovens, as well as storage elements. The opposite wall is usually home to the sink and any other cleaning fixtures, plus more storage. Smaller galley kitchens generally cut out the otherwise occasionally featured island between the two walls, as this can be an impediment to movement within a particularly small space.

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Zames used a darker shade on the lower cabinets and added open shelving in a light wood.

Clean out the old ones right now — they’re hogging valuable cupboard space. “We all tend to hoard spices because you buy, say, turmeric for one recipe but then only use a quarter tablespoon,” says Shaya. “Then a year and a half later, it’s still taking up space and covering up the salt.” Toss or donate old spices. After a few months, they lose much of their original quality anyhow.

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Many of today’s homes feature large kitchens that serve as spaces for cooking, cleaning and gathering. If your home is a cozier affair with a more efficient kitchen, you may want to consider options for small galley kitchen design.

Corian counters and stainless-steel cabinets from Bulthaup help streamline the galley kitchen by Lee F. Mindel.

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Finally, consider adding efficient storage options like lazy Susans, cabinet door organizers and tall pantry storage to your small galley kitchen. This will help ensure that everything you have to store is close at hand but organized efficiently behind closed doors.

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There are plenty of tricks that can help you expand the appearance of depth, height and width in your kitchen, and the best way to start is at the bottom. Firstly, make sure that floor boards run lengthwise, to create the illusion of a longer kitchen space. If you plan to feature a backsplash or other wall design, consider arranging the tiles in opposition to the floorboards’ orientation—this will help to create the illusion of depth in the space. Finally, consider raising cabinets or appliances off the floor—if they’re flush, the entire space will seem shorter, but raising them slightly will give the appearance of a space with more height.

Warm woods line the galley kitchen in designer Richard Mishaan’s renovated 16th-century residence in Cartagena, Colombia.

It makes it simpler to spot what you have and where it is, and visually expands the space. “I like open shelving because it makes a tight space look a little bigger,” says Shaya. “If you close up all the cabinets, they tend to make the space feel small.”

Though countertop space is crucial to preserve in a galley kitchen, storing a few select items there can simplify your cooking process. “Try to set up your kitchen so things you might need in an immediate situation are easily available,” says Cushman. “You can use a plastic container for things like spoons, tongs, and other commonly-used items. That way, if you need something like tongs to pull out something that’s overcooked, you can grab it quickly.”

“When I was working on an original menu for one of my restaurants, I actually created all the dishes in my home kitchen,” says Tim Cushman, chef and owner of Covina in New York City. “It was very important that I maximized the space that I had.”

The kitchen may seem like an odd place for a filing rack, but it can be a space-saving way to store your cutting board. “I get a filing rack from an office store and use it to hold cutting boards on the counter,” says Cushman. “When it sits vertical instead of flat, it opens up space for you to cook.”

A narrow kitchen with yellow laminate flooring has grey built-in wall cabinets and matching cabinets under white countertops. A single ceiling light illuminates the room.

Built-in storage and appliances keep the countertops clear in this Manhattan galley kitchen.

If you’re designing a small galley kitchen or looking to remodel an existing one, it’s likely that job one for you will be to maximize the space you have to work with. Kitchen lore states that the ideal width of a galley kitchen aisle is approximately 4 to 6 feet—but whether your small galley kitchen is dead on with that measurement or even smaller, you can create a more efficient space and also add design features that can expand the area visually.

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“The goal when designing a galley kitchen is to make it feel the least cavernous as possible,” Zames says. “Reduce the number of tall cabinets that you’re going to use, or consolidate your tall storage into one place. She recommends putting the refrigerator and pantry in one area and keeping storage focused in that space, then doing open shelving or limited upper cabinetry.

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