Compared to other rooms in your home, kitchen and bathroom designs are unique in the proportion of immovable elements they contain. This is why such a high fraction of your budget is focused on cabinetry and counter space. And this is why getting the layout right is critical to your satisfaction with the remodel. Save money, save steps and save disappointment with careful planning,
Fortunately, an existing-space renovation gives you lots of budget-friendly options for improving kitchen layout. The old joke about the three keys to successful business—location, location, location—rings true to anyone who has tried to work with a kitchen that just doesn’t “fit.” Having counters and cabinetry located where you need them can be critical to whether you love or loathe your kitchen.
Since the basic kitchen layouts are well-known, here’s a brief review plus some thought-provoking suggestions for unique features that enhance your design without straining your budget.
L-SHAPED LAYOUT: Perfect for all kinds of kitchens, large and small, the L-shaped layout occupies two adjoining walls. If you tend to lose useful space in the deep corner where walls intersect, consider angling a portion of the counter to reshape the area. Explore cabinets with lazy-susan or pull-out features to maximize your use of corner space. However you arrange appliances, freedom of movement is assured in this layout. Aesthetically an L-shape fits beautifully into an open floor plan. Add a free-standing island for quick meals and buffet service—a particularly good choice if the party always seems to end up in the kitchen. An L-shaped layout also maximizes space for a dining table and chairs in an enclosed kitchen space.
U-SHAPED LAYOUT: This layout tends to bring a special smile to the faces of dedicated cooks, with its promise of enough storage for everything. A U-shaped layout lets you think about a wall of pantry cupboards, specialized beverage storage, and a world where Grandma’s roaster never has to live in the garage again. Consider adding a narrow shelf above your main work area so that you can lay out the array of spices, herbs and special ingredients that make your cuisine so special. The three-wall plan puts a bit more distance between the preparation and consumption of food, and cooks who love sociability may find that design element slightly isolating. For cooks who love the magic of the process, the message is simple: three walls of storage and workspace, with the cook at the center! Who could want more?
G-SHAPED LAYOUT: Who could want more? Someone who chooses the G-shaped kitchen layout. Its addition of a partial fourth wall lets you include the missing element in an L-shaped design—other people! Admittedly tricky in a small space, a G-space is wonderful for corralling the formless kitchen space necessary for large families or several culinary enthusiasts. If your kitchen plans rely on bread-baking, juicing, indoor grilling or other space-taking specialized equipment and techniques, consider a G-plan as the best way to let two or more cooks work simultaneously at “stations” without collisions or conflicts.
ONE-WALL LAYOUT: Ideal for an apartment, beach house or other vacation home, the one-wall layout has an undeserved reputation for being dull. Add versatility and literal dimension to this compact kitchen plan with specialized storage options. A one-wall kitchen layout with tip-out trash, built-in wine-rack, vertical tray storage and counter-level pantry pull-outs may be small, but it’s definitely not dull. Tell those who ask that you’ve chosen a single-side “Pullman” design—many of the built-in or multi-use design elements we take for granted today were created when transcontinental rail-travel was the height of modern luxury.
GALLEY LAYOUT: Another form of travel has made great contributions to efficient modern kitchen design. The spatial constricts and other challenges of cooking on shipboard produced a kitchen design that maximizes cooking efficiency in narrow space. The secret to great galley design is measurement—all cabinet and appliance doors must open and close without impeding other movement. Make your galley kitchen special with a specialized storage choice—enough space for all the spices that make your cooking so delicious, or a floating rack that keeps your beloved wine glasses in perfect condition. Extend your galley space with a small storage or serving island outside the doorway, especially if your kitchen opens only into one other space. If your kitchen opens at both ends, use a similar island strategy to reduce short-cutting traffic.
ISLANDS: Islands have a lot of uses in kitchen design: an extra food-prep counter; a family snacking and dining option; space for an extra sink or a specialized appliance like an indoor grill; and storage—lots of welcome storage. It’s important to remember, though—adding an island to your design adds a lot of possibilities, but those possibilities can also overload your island, leaving it messy and useless.
One great aspect of an existing-space renovation is the limit set on overloading an island. You’re not adding plumbing or power, which lets you focus on four major uses: food preparation, supply storage, casual snacking or dining, and hospitality. (That may seem disappointing, but children who grew up eating all their meals next to the island sink will tell you it could make being a hungry kid feel a little bit second-best. An existing-space island, on the other hand, can do service as a comfortable kitchen table where everyone feels welcome (and nobody gets spattered or splashed!). An existing-space island lets you solve some storage problems conventional cabinetry may find hard to accommodate. Finding a home for the fish-poacher, the heirloom family pasta pot, the apple-peeler and the whole big jar of lovingly-collected cookie cutters lets you keep up family traditions without pulling down the attic stairs. And laying out a festive meal buffet-style may let you keep your party shoes on long enough to dance in them.
Putting an island outside your official kitchen space lets you control traffic and provide hospitality without crowding. Putting an island inside your kitchen makes it even more the center of your family and heart of your home.