Zero to hero - galley kitchens make the most of narrow or small spaces

Posted 7 March 2016 by Richenda Oldham

Galley kitchens are surprisingly versatile and offer heaps of design potential...

Just because your kitchen is long and narrow or has tricky proportions, doesn't mean that it can't be a fully functioning and efficient space built with style and ergonomic precision, which is where the galley kitchen comes into play.

Galley kitchens take their name from the compact kitchens on ships and are a highly efficient means of optimising space, by concentrating storage and work surfaces into a small area. Professional kitchens have a similar layout based on the classic work triangle, with hob, cooker, sink and fridge arranged in this pattern for maximum productivity.

One of the biggest problems with galley kitchens is to prevent them from feeling like corridors - particularly if they have an entrance at either end. You can break up the run of units by creating an asymmetrical layout with a mixture of tall units and base units on one side and a single run of base units on the opposite wall. 

From a safety point of view, in an open ended galley kitchen with a high traffic flow, you could have the hob and the sink on the same side, to avoid having to turn around with a pan of boiling water in your hand just as a small child comes charging through.

Maximising space

If your kitchen is closed off at one end, there are a number of ways to prevent it feeling like a dead end alley. If you have a window, then it is important to make the most of this and not to block it in any way. You could consider having a stool next to it (but no table), so someone can perch on it while reading or chatting on the phone. 

If there is no window, a mirror will give the illusion of a larger space or it could be turned into a feature wall using a block of colour (paint or tiles) or a stunning mural (a tromp l'oeil window or feature), or even blackboard paint to create a giant board for shopping lists or fun drawings.

Galleys with islands

An island is also ideal for breaking up a larger room - for example a single good sized room could become an open-plan kitchen cum living room with a galley layout at one end, with an island running parallel to the units. The island can also double as a dining area/breakfast bar, and separates the galley kitchen from the sofas/armchairs of the living area.

Streamline for success

To keep the space flowing in your galley kitchen, it needs to feel as streamlined and sleek as possible. So for contemporary kitchens choose glossy white or pale coloured units and opt for push-click doors with no handles. A bank of floor-to-ceiling cupboards on one wall will also help to eliminate clutter and will add to the feeling of order.


1. This linear minimalist galley kitchen features handleless tall units with integrated appliances concealed behind the doors, while the long central island forms a breakfast bar cum food preparation area, Largo-FG and Avance FG kitchen in frosty white, from £15,000,

2. White reflective high gloss cabinets make this sleek contemporary galley kitchen appear wider than it is, Callerton Valencia kitchen, from £15,000,

3 The breakfast bar in this streamlined kitchen replaces a run of units and breaks the space up efficiently to form a practical work area, which is also ideal for socialising, Urbo and Metro matt lacquer bespoke kitchen with Corian and oak work surfaces, from £40,000, 

4. Recycled unpainted timber, a mellow brick chimney breast and open shelves filled with kitchen paraphernalia, give this traditional kitchen warmth and individuality of character, custom built units, from £12,000, 

5. This room's tall ceiling has been taken full advantage of to create an impressive traditionally styled kitchen with a magnificent focal point created around the range cooker, bespoke hand-painted kitchen by Tom Howley, from £35,000,


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