A galley kitchen design refers to a kitchen layout that is long and narrow, resembling a ship’s galley. Galley kitchens are common in older homes, apartments, and condos where space is limited. The narrow footprint of a galley kitchen requires careful planning to maximize storage, workflow, and functionality. With some creative solutions, galley kitchens can be highly efficient, attractive, and functional. This article will explore galley kitchen design ideas to help you make the most of your narrow kitchen layout.

Key Features of Galley Kitchen Designs

Galley kitchen designs have some defining characteristics:

  • Long and narrow footprint, usually no more than 8-12 feet wide.
  • Cabinetry and appliances lined up on two parallel walls.
  • A central walkway in between the two sides.
  • Limited room for an eat-in dining area or island.
  • Often enclosed on three sides with no open flow into other rooms.

The constrained dimensions of a galley kitchen present unique challenges but also opportunities if well-designed. Planning is essential to create an optimized workflow and adequate storage in the limited space.

Galley Kitchen Design Ideas to Maximize Space

Here are some galley kitchen design ideas to help maximize your storage, functionality, and visual appeal:

Optimize Traffic Flow

  • Place the refrigerator, primary prep zone, and stove top along one wall and the sink, secondary prep zone, and oven along the other wall. This allows you to transition smoothly from fridge to sink to stove on one side.
  • Ensure at least 42-48 inches of clearance between the two walls for a comfortable work aisle. Wider is ideal if possible.
  • Locate high-traffic appliances like the fridge and stove at opposite ends to prevent bottlenecks.

Strategic Storage Solutions

  • Use cabinets that extend fully to the ceiling for max storage. Include tall, narrow cabinets for baking sheets and large pots.
  • Opt for pull-out shelves, lazy susans, and slide-out storage where possible. These provide easy access to items tucked away at the back.
  • Take advantage of vertical storage with spice racks, utility racks, and wall-mounted pot racks and utensil racks.
  • Install an angled or pocket door to make hiding bulky appliances like the toaster and mixer easier.

Multi-Purpose Island Alternative

  • Since a full-sized island may be impractical, consider a narrow island, wheeled cart, or drop-leaf cart. Look for one with storage space inside.
  • Size it to allow traffic to pass by when lowered/open. Use it for additional work space and storage when needed by raising the leaf up.

Visually Expand the Space

  • Paint or stain cabinets in light, bright colors to keep the space feeling open and airy. White, light gray, or light blue are great choices.
  • Use glass cabinet doors on select upper cabinets for an airier look. Display pretty dishware to add visual interest.
  • Install mirrors strategically, like along the backsplash or on the back of a closet door to reflect light and give the illusion of more space.
  • Open shelving also keeps the space feeling less closed in. Just be sure to display items neatly and decorate attractively.

Choosing the Right Appliances

Appliance selection is especially important in a galley kitchen. Look for options suited to compact spaces:


  • Measure carefully to determine the best size. Standard counter-depth models are approximately 24-25 inches. Full-sized models can be 36 inches deep.
  • Consider a small 15-18 cubic foot model placed sideways along a back wall. This saves depth. Alternatively, choose a shallow counter-depth model.
  • Column-style fridges are 24-26 inches wide allowing tight placement parallel to cabinets. Top freezer models take up less floor space.
  • For more storage, opt for a unit with French doors or a bottom-mount freezer drawer.

Ranges and Ovens

  • Slide-in or drop-in ranges fit neatly between base cabinets. Range widths start at 20 inches for compact models.
  • Allow 15 inches of counter space on each side or plan appliances strategically to maximize landing space for hot pans.
  • Double wall ovens are ideal for serious cooks. Or consider a speed oven or toaster oven to supplement a standard oven.
  • Countertop models like induction burners or electric griddles can supplement a small stove top. These tuck away easily.


  • For a galley kitchen, a medium single bowl sink or compact double bowl sink will likely fit best. Undermount installation saves space.
  • Look for narrower models around 25-30 inches wide or choose an angled sink to save space.
  • Consider a small prep, bar, or specialty sink on an adjacent wall to supplement the main sink.

Layout Inspiration for Efficient Galley Kitchens

If designed thoughtfully, galley kitchens can be highly efficient and smartly organized. Here are some real-world examples of clever galley kitchen designs:

Light and Airy

This light and airy galley kitchen uses a neutral white, gray, and wood color scheme to visually open up the narrow space. The cabinets reach to the ceiling for max storage and glass upper doors keeps it feeling bright. A small prep sink supplements the main sink.

Light and airy galley kitchen:strip_icc()/GettyImages-626381349-3e83d945946b4eb1a007851222173617.jpg)

Photo by Stephen Paul for The Spruce

Clean and Classic

This traditional galley kitchen has a timeless look with crisp white Shaker cabinets and butcher block counters. Pull-out shelves and a sliding range hood maximize efficiency in the compact footprint.

Clean white classic galley kitchen

Image from Houzz

Vintage Charm

Embracing the quirks of an older kitchen, this renovated 1920s galley kitchen has vintage charm. Open shelving fits the narrow space and provides easy access. A mini-fridge is tucked under the stairs.

Vintage galley kitchen

Image from Houzz

Storage Solutions for Galley Kitchens

Since storage space is at a premium in galley kitchens, you need to carefully consider how to maximize every inch. Beyond standard cabinets and drawers, here are some galley-specific storage ideas:

Pull-Out Pantries

Install pull-out shelving to create narrow but deep pantries. Customize with hooks, racks, and bins to organize spices, cans, and other food items. Pull-out drawers below keep root vegetables, onions, and fruits easily accessible.

Under Cabinet Racks

Mounting wire shelves or specialty hardware systems under upper cabinets lets you utilize all available vertical space. Use for frequently used pans, cookbooks, or small appliances.

Narrow In-Cabinet Organizers

Slim racks, tilt-out trays, and slide-out baskets all allow you to neatly organize wider cabinets. Group like items from spices to dinner plates. Upper cabinets can even hide small appliances on pull-down racks.

L-Shaped Corner Cabinets

Custom designing the lower corner cabinet with a sideways L shape provides usable storage space. Install pull-out shelves at the back and vertical dividing racks for cookware storage.

Drawer Divider Racks

Within standard drawers, add custom dividers and organizers to neatly store utensils, cutlery, bakeware, and more. Vertical dividers keep items accessible and tidy.

With a mix of smart organizational products and custom cabinetry, even the most cramped galley kitchen can transform into a highly efficient cooking space.

Flooring Options to Consider

The flooring you choose can make a significant visual impact in a narrow galley kitchen. Consider these flooring ideas:


A classic choice, ceramic or porcelain tile offers durability and easy cleanup. Smaller tiles expand the look of the space. Install on a diagonal or zig-zag pattern to make the kitchen appear wider.

Luxury Vinyl Plank

Vinyl is affordable, waterproof, and easy to install. Choose a plank-style vinyl flooring to give the illusion of hardwood. Wider 6-7 inch planks help expand a narrow kitchen.

Marble or Quartz

A marble or quartz slab backsplash makes a big style statement in a small kitchen. For the floor, use a polished stone tile or marble mosaic to add elegance underfoot.

Painted Wood

Painted tongue and groove floorboards or parquet add cottage style charm. The light color helps brighten the space. Use large 12 inch boards to visually widen the kitchen.

Choosing Lighting for Galley Kitchens

Carefully planned lighting is essential to brighten up narrow galley kitchens. Consider a mix of general, task, and accent lighting:

Ceiling Lights

Install ceiling lights throughout the kitchen to provide overall illumination. Recessed cans or track lighting work well. Space pot lights every 3-4 feet.

Under Cabinet Lights

Mounted under upper cabinets, LED strip lights provide task lighting for the counter space and backsplash below. Controls allow you to vary the brightness.

Pendant Lights

Pendant lights add style while directing light right where you need it most. Mini-pendants work over a compact dining area. Position longer pendants over the central island or peninsula.

Accent Lighting

Rope lights under cabinets or inside glass cabinet doors provide a soft glow. Wall sconces flanking the sink boost visibility for washing up. Display shelving can also be lined with battery-operated LED strips.

Creating Stylish Ambiance in a Galley Kitchen

Aside from the practical layout and storage considerations, don’t overlook the importance of aesthetics in your galley kitchen design. Some key elements for achieving stylish ambiance in the space include:


The backsplash offers a prime opportunity to add visual interest through texture, materials, or color. Try glass, ceramic, or metal tiles or panels.

White kitchen with blue patterned tile backsplash


Update dated galley kitchen cabinets with new knobs and pulls in polished metal, glass, or unique shapes. This one change can completely transform the look.

Light Fixtures

Use pendant lights, sconces, and under cabinet lighting to elevate the style as well as the function. Mixing metal finishes like brass, nickel, and oil rubbed bronze adds depth.

Color Scheme

Paint the cabinets, walls, or install a colorful backsplash to inject personality into a tired, all-white galley kitchen. Play with bold hues or opt for an inviting color palette.

Galley kitchen with green cabinets

Photo by Decor Aid on Pinterest

Decor Touches

Warm up a compact galley kitchen with some carefully selected decorative accents. Try framed art, greenery, pendant lights, ceramic bowls, or sculptural vases.

Galley Kitchen Remodeling Tips

For older galley kitchens in need of a full renovation, here are some key remodeling tips:

Open It Up

Consider removing walls, a doorway, or the ceiling to open the galley into an adjoining room. Even a pass-through window can make the space feel less closed off.

Add Interesting Architectural Elements

Work with unique structural components like exposed beams and brick walls. Built-in banquettes, half-walls, or a raised eating bar also customize the layout.

Install Window Splashes

Window splashes utilize wasted space between countertops and windows for extra storage. These custom panels accommodate wine racks, open shelving, and built-in appliances.

Borrow Space

Can any adjacent room or closet space be converted into an expanded pantry or storage zone? Even a few reclaimed square feet make a difference in a galley kitchen.

With careful planning and custom solutions, galley kitchens can be just as beautiful and highly functional as any spacious layout. The constrained footprint simply requires some clever problem solving and strategic use of every inch. Embrace the long narrow proportions and unlock the potential of your efficient galley kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions About Galley Kitchen Designs

What are the typical dimensions of a galley kitchen?

Galley kitchens are usually about 8-15 feet long but only 6-9 feet wide between the opposing counters and cabinets. There is often 42-48 inches of walking space down the middle.

What appliances work best in a galley kitchen?

Standard 30-inch wide refrigerators and ranges can fit well. But for more room, consider narrower or apartment-sized appliances. Drawer-style fridges, slide-in ranges, and smaller ovens maximize space.

How can you add seating in a galley kitchen?

Look for narrow pub-height tables or stools that tuck under overhangs. A small bistro table works well at one end. Extending the counter overhang also creates space for seating.

What kind of sink works best in a galley kitchen?

Aim for a compact single bowl or narrow double bowl sink around 25-30 inches wide. An angled design provides extra clearance. Add a second prep or bar sink along another wall for added convenience.

Should cabinets go all the way to the ceiling in a galley kitchen?

Yes, installing full-height wall cabinets maximizes every inch of available storage space. Just be sure to include some glass-front uppers or open shelves to keep it from feeling too closed in.

How do you create lighting for a galley kitchen?

Opt for ample overhead lighting in the form of recessed cans, track lighting or multiple pot lights. Under cabinet LED strip lights provide task lighting. Mini-pendant lights work over a bistro table area.


While galley kitchens present some unique design challenges with their narrow footprint, the layout also enables an efficient workflow when planned properly. Getting creative with storage, choosing space-saving appliances, and maximizing every inch vertically can transform even the tiniest galley kitchen into a highly functional and beautiful culinary space. With an airy color scheme, style-defining backsplash, and modern amenities like pull-out shelves and specialty lighting, you can enjoy all the charms of a thoughtfully designed galley kitchen.