A galley kitchen design comes with its own set of challenges, but with some creative thinking and clever solutions, there are many ways to enhance this narrow kitchen layout. From lighting and storage to appliances and decorative details, small upgrades can make a galley kitchen more functional and visually appealing. With smart planning and strategic changes, it’s possible to transform a cramped galley into an efficient and inviting culinary space.

Assess the Existing Layout and Storage

Take stock of how the current galley kitchen is organized. Look for wasted space that could be better utilized or inefficient storage areas to improve.

  • Consider removing rarely used bulky appliances to free up room for more practical options. An underutilized standalone freezer or extra fridge may be able to be removed.
  • Evaluate cabinet storageorganization. Are upper cabinets difficult to access? Are bottom cabinets disorganized or hold seldom used items? Adjust contents to make the most of available storage space.
  • Look for gaps between counters and appliances that could fit extra drawer bases or pull-out shelving. Even just a few inches can add usable storage.
  • Determine if the sink base cabinet can be converted to a roll-out tray system for storing pans and baking sheets vertically to maximize space.

Lighting Upgrades

Proper lighting is essential in a galley kitchen with limited natural light.

  • Replace any old fluorescent box lighting with LED recessed lighting to brighten up the space. Position lights to highlight the main workstations.
  • Under cabinet lighting illuminates countertops and tasks. Hardwired or battery-operated LED strip lighting are easy to install options.
  • Overhead pendant lights centered over the sink or cooking range add task lighting while contributing decorative flair. Choose a style that enhances the overall kitchen aesthetic.
  • Natural light is invaluable. If possible, replace solid cabinet doors with glass fronts and add windows over the sink or countertops. Skylights or solatubes can funnel natural light into interior galley kitchens.

Rethink Flooring

Galley kitchen floors take a lot of abuse. Changing the flooring can instantly update the look of the space.

  • Durable engineered hardwood offers lots of style options that can warm up a narrow galley kitchen.
  • Luxury vinyl plank flooring comes in wood, tile, and stone looks while providing water resistance and easier maintenance than the real thing.
  • Classic white subway tile is affordable, cleans up easily, and reflects light to make the space feel more open. Use large format tiles to minimize grout lines.
  • Sheet vinyl is inexpensive and practical, offering a huge variety of colors and patterns. New resilient vinyl options are much improved over old linoleum.

Open Shelving for Display and Access

Replacing some upper cabinets with open shelves can make items more accessible and add style to a petite galley kitchen.

  • Floating wood, metal, or glass shelves give a lighter, more open feel compared to closed cabinetry.
  • Opt for thicker shelving units to hold day to day dishware. Add rails or brackets to accommodate spices and cooking essentials.
  • Utilize wall space at the ends of runs of cabinets or near the cooking range to display cherished dishware and decorative items.
  • Shelves should be high enough to avoid interfering with countertop tasks yet low enough to easily access contents. 12-15 inches of clearance above countertops is ideal.

Multi-Purpose Island or Peninsula

Islands work beautifully for entertaining and as a casual dining spot. But a peninsula can be equally useful in a tight galley kitchen.

  • A peninsula creates a natural separation between kitchen zones and makes an efficient prep surface and informal eating bar.
  • Include base cabinets and drawers for enclosed storage and an overhang or raised counter for seating.
  • Add a second sink or integrate specialty appliances like a wine fridge into a peninsula to enhance functionality.
  • For resale, favor a peninsula over an island since it utilizes space efficiently. Removable stools allow a peninsula to double as workspace when not in dining mode.

Smart Countertop Solutions

Countertop space is at a premium in galley kitchens. Choose surfaces and accents that cater to both form and function.

  • Quartz and solid surface materials are durable, low maintenance options perfect for compact kitchens. Choose neutral colors to give the illusion of more space.
  • Incorporate countertop accent tiles sparingly as a backsplash alternative. Tiles with texture or metallic glaze add interest without overwhelming the narrow space.
  • Undermount sinks maximize work surface area. For a contemporary look, choose stainless steel or a crisp white apron front sink.
  • Extend countertops to the edges of base cabinets to eke out every possible inch of workspace. Add a finishing strip to complete the look.

Innovative Storage Options

Carefully edited kitchen tools and dinnerware help prevent a cluttered look. Maximize every inch of storage space with these solutions:

  • Dedicate drawers near the stove and fridge for utensils and cutlery. Customize them with compartment organizers and trays.
  • Pull-out vertical storage systems in base cabinets keep pans, cutting boards and bakeware easily accessible and tidy.
  • Slide-out spice racks, tiered holders and wall mounted rails keep spices organized and at your fingertips while cooking.
  • Deep drawers under the stove hold pots and lids. Use removable racks to divide and organize.
  • Shelves or rails on the insides of cabinet doors store small appliances at eye level.

Appliance Ingenuity

Appliance placement and selection play an oversized role in a compact galley kitchen.

  • Measure carefully before purchasing appliances. Adjustable shelves and removable doors on fridge and ovens allow for a more custom fit.
  • Prioritize function over form. Unique refrigerator shapes may intrude into the room. Focus on counter depth and standard sizes.
  • Place the fridge and dishwasher at opposite ends of the galley with the stove and sink in between to establish distinct work zones.
  • Opt for front control ranges and wall ovens to save space. Models with wireless connectivity allow remote monitoring.
  • Compact microwaves can be installed above wall ovens or eye level. Models with exhaust fans eliminate the need for separate hood venting.

Decorative Details with Purpose

Even in a petite galley, small decorative elements contribute visual interest while serving practical needs:

  • Floating shelves above the stove corral spices and serve as display space for cherished cookware.
  • Attach a thin shelf along the backsplash to hold oils, spices and gadgets hidden from view but easily accessed when cooking.
  • Mini wine racks go vertically on the wall or inside cabinet doors to store essential cooking wines.
  • Built-in cutting boards provide extra prep space. Look for wall mounted or pull-out options to tuck away when not in use.
  • Bistro strings of lights add soft illumination above open shelves. Clips allow the lights to be repositioned as displays change.

FAQs About Enhancing Galley Kitchens

What are some ways to make a galley kitchen appear wider?

Using reflective surfaces like stainless steel, glass, and mirrored backsplashes visually expands the space. Light colors on walls, cabinets, and counters reflect light to make the kitchen feel more open. LED lighting also brightens up the space.

How can you add seating to a narrow galley kitchen?

Look for space to add stools along a countertop or peninsula. Stools with a small footprint that slide under when not in use are ideal. Bench seating at the end of the kitchen is another option.

What type of sink works best in a galley kitchen?

An undermount sink maximizes work surface area on the countertops. For a contemporary look, choose a crisp white apron front or stainless steel sink. Single deep basin sinks are practical and make clean up easier.

What is the best place for the fridge in a galley kitchen?

It is generally best situated at one end of the galley, away from the stove and sink. Place it across from the dishwasher to establish clear kitchen work zones if space allows. Opt for counter depth models to minimize protrusion into walkways.

How can you add more storage to a galley kitchen?

Use every inch of available space! Install pull out trays or shelves in existing cabinets to neatly organize contents. Add functional rails along walls to hang commonly used pans and utensils. Replace some upper cabinets with open shelving.

What type of flooring works best for galley kitchens?

Durable and water-resistant options like luxury vinyl plank, sheet vinyl, and porcelain tile are good choices. Large format tile minimizes grout lines that can get grimy. Tile with some texture adds interest but is still easy to keep clean.

What style of lighting works well in a galley kitchen?

Led recessed lighting provides overall illumination. Under cabinet lighting directly lights tasks on the countertops. Mini pendant lights add style and supplemental task lighting over the sink and stove. Natural light should be welcomed whenever possible via windows, skylights or glass cabinet doors.

Transforming a Galley Kitchen

While the narrow layout presents challenges, galley kitchens offer the advantage of a logical and efficient workflow. Following basic design principles suited to modest spaces allows you to overcome the limitations of a galley to create a stylish and functional kitchen. Rethinking storage, lighting and appliances along with a dose of creativity can help transform a cramped galley into a pleasurable culinary environment.


With innovative storage solutions, upgrades to surfaces and lighting, strategic changes to appliances and smart choices in finishes and décor, it is possible to enhance a cramped galley kitchen into a highly functional and inviting space. Assessing the existing layout, improving workflow and storage while increasing light, opening up sightlines, and incorporating multi-purpose elements allows you to work around the size restrictions of a galley kitchen. The narrow galley layout lends itself well to establishing logical kitchen zones, allowing you to create an organized and efficient culinary space even in a petite footprint. With clever planning and custom solutions, a modest galley kitchen can be upgraded into a chef’s delight.