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Kitchen Design Five Layouts & The Triangle

Kitchen Design Five Layouts & The Triangle

Kitchen Design Understanding Common Layouts

When you are talking to your bath & kitchen designer or experienced design build remodeling company it is always good to understand the basic language and terminology of the profession. A kitchen layout or configuration is the arrangement of the kitchens components. The cabinets’ appliances and counter top form a layout. These layouts are so common that they have become part of the terminology of the industry. A part of the layout is the “work triangle” formed by the walking line(s) formed from refrigerator to sink to range.

A Kitchens Working Triangle

NKBA rules, which are more like guidelines, suggest:

NKBA Kitchen Triangle

Kitchen Triangle

  1. If there is only one sink it ought to be between the other two components or across from the food prep area or the range.
  2. The triangle should not be interrupted or encroached upon by more than a foot by a peninsula or an island.
  3. Ideally traffic through the kitchen has another route. A difficult rule to comply with in small kitchens with certain configurations.
  4. That the total distance of these three lines not exceed 26 feet.
  5. Want more NKBA Rules it’s free to visit here.





Basic Kitchen Layouts

Basically there are five ways 99% of the kitchens in the USA are configured. The five layouts are:

Single wall.     All components cabinets, counter top, and all appliances are on one wall.

Galley               All the components are on two opposing walls.

L shape            All components on two walls that are connected at a right angle.

U shape           All components on three walls, two parallel walls each connect to a third wall.

G shape            A U shape with a fourth line of cabinets trying to complete a circle or square.


Each shape has its plus and minuses, and some are simply better and more efficient than others. If the space is large enough there can be an island added to any of these configurations. Islands do not have to be rectangular or square; they can be any shape that gets the job done and please the owner. Of course an island is an island, by definition you can walk all the way around it. Peninsulas can be confused by home owners as island because a peninsula by definition does not have a wall behind it however it’s physically connect to the rest of the cabinetry and an island is not.


Understand the five basic kitchen layouts and which one you have in your house. You and your designer, taking into consideration many things such as space and budget, may decide to work within the space at hand or expand the space by knocking down non load bearing walls, replacing load bearing walls with exposed or hidden headers to open the space. Maybe the space envisioned will require a kitchen bump-out or even an addition. The larger space may allow you to change to a completely different layout or add an island to the existing layout. Of course sometimes all that is really necessary is to replace the cabinetry and countertop exactly as the kitchen was originally configured.

An L Shaped Kitchen Design.

L Shaped Kitchen Design Silver Spring MD

L Shaped Kitchen Design

What is depicted is small but could be much larger. You can easily see what kitchen designers mean when they talk about the work triangle. Sink, stove refrigerator typically make up the triangle. Another way to understand the work triangle as the kitchen gets larger is clean up, cooking, and storage. These are also called work stations and there can be more than three making it a work rectangle! This layout can be pretty efficient and can lend itself well to an open floor plan or dedicated kitchen table.

A project example: Bethesda MD a long L shape all white cabinetry with a long island.




The U-Shaped Kitchen Design 

U Shaped Kitchen Design you might see in Rockville MD

U Shaped Kitchen

Just looking at a U-shaped kitchen and it’s easy to imagine how efficient it would be for all tasks. There are three contiguous counter tops which all seem close at hand. Unfortunately for entertaining it’s a box canyon where everyone is in the cook’s way. In a larger kitchen an island can fill the middle and if large enough there can be multiple cooks and multiple work stations.

If your house has an original kitchen from the 1980’s or before the corners in this layout or the triangle above could be dead corners and they can be made exponentially better with corner solutions such as a blind corner pull out or a super-susan. Often in small configurations the counter tops get pretty cluttered up so try to get the microwave off the counter top on the wall above 54” or in a base below 36”.

Great example of a U shaped designed Kitchen in Silver Spring MD.


Kitchen Design in the Shape of a G.

G Shaped Kitchen Design Layout Potomac MD

The G Shaped Layout

The G-Shaped Kitchen is a U-Shaped with a fourth wall or peninsula. If the box canyon of a small U shape is a problem the G shape is traffic jam for sure. Even in a large scale one way in and one way out has to be really well thought out. A simple solution to make things better is to open as many walls as possible and add a pass through opening.

It’s not uncommon for there to be essentially a hall way through a G shaped kitchen design Kensington MD example here.







Single Wall Kitchen Layout.

Single Wall Kitchen Layout

Single Wall Kitchen Layout

Single wall configuration… think small DC condominium. Certainly think small. There is no work triangle it’s more like a working line with three work station in a row. If this configuration is large it’s long and skates may be necessary. The best way to improve this layout is to knock out the opposing wall. This may feel like you are losing your dining room but in today’s real estate market an open entertaining floor plan beats a dining room that is only used during the holidays.

A single wall layout does not have to be small. For an example of a large single wall kitchen design with an island on Capitol Hill DC click to this project.


Galley Kitchen Design

DC Galley Kitchen Remodel

Galley Kitchen Layout

A double wall kitchen. Double parallel walls with a hallway in between an exterior door at one end; are often seen DC neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights, Petworth and Capitol Hill. Like the single wall the best improvement is to knock down a wall and start making a larger space. Shifting the back door to the other side of that classic DC porch front will allow a number of better configuration a triangle, a triangle with an island. Even a single wall with an island if you don’t want to move the door.

A Galley kitchen project in DC.


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