Pros and cons of the most popular kitchen layouts

When you're designing a new kitchen, the way your units and appliances are arranged can have a huge impact not just on how the room looks but on how well it will work. Here, a team of experts give their advice on four different shapes.

1. Gallery Style

This type of arrangement has units fitted along one or on two opposite walls. Floor space between the units needs to be at least 1.2m so that there's comfortable access to cupboards and drawers, and enough space to turn and get to appliances on the other side of the room. With units on both sides, the sink, cooker and fridge are best positioned conveniently close on either side, not directly opposite each other. On a single run, place the sink in the middle with the fridge and cooker on either side, leaving at least 1.2m between them if possible.

'With careful planning a galley kitchen needn't feel cramped,' says Graeme Smith, senior designer at Second Nature Kitchens. 'A tall larder, for instance, will hold a surprising amount of provisions. Use a mix of materials and finishes, and include either glazed wall units or open shelving so the room doesn't feel hemmed in.'

Pros: If well-planned this design can be efficient and streamlined.

Cons: It can feel a bit like a corridor with appliances far apart.

2. L-Shaped Scheme

An L-shaped layout is an open arrangement with a table or island added if space allows, and it's easy to retain the work triangle of sink, fridge and oven by spacing them out on both walls. Good lighting is important as natural light may not reach the whole room.

Combining a section of tall cupboards with floor and wall units creates varied storage and breaks up the layout. Alternatively, use wall and base units on the longest wall only, then install base units only on the short wall. In a small kitchen, opt for a hob and built-in oven as they will look sleeker than a cooker.

L-shaped kitchens offer optimum counter space but remember the three-point placement of the hob/oven, sink and fridge that allows you to successfully move between the three areas. The appliances should be no less than 1.2m apart and no further than 2.7m.

Pros: It's adaptable and spacious with the possibility of adding a table or island.

Cons: A large kitchen could mean appliances are far apart with a lot of walking between them.

3. U-Shaped Units

This layout is formed by lining three walls with cupboards or by adding a peninsula that brings the units around to create the shape. Don't make this run too long, however, as you could feel cut off from the rest of the room. Of all the possible layouts in a kitchen, the U-shape is potentially the most effective and ergonomic. The wraparound shape can make the most of a compact kitchen, but is equally effective if you have the luxury of more space.

If there's enough room, add an island or a dining table and chairs within the U-shape, remembering that you'll need at least 1.2m for easy access all around it.

Pros: You're surrounded with units so appliances are within easy reach and are more accessible.

Cons: The two corners need to be fitted with flexible storage to be as useful and accessible as possible.

4. Central Island

An island looks impressive, and provides storage and extra space for food preparation and eating. As you'll need at minimum of 900mm between the island and units or wall, it's unlikely to fit into a small kitchen. Islands start at around 1m square, but 1m by 2m is better, though it could fill a larger space provided it doesn't obstruct movement between the main appliances.

Appliances – such as a hob, wine cooler or small sink – can be fitted, while a worktop overhang of 30cm to 45cm will create a breakfast bar to use with stools. Consider the height and design of your stools. Ones that tuck under your breakfast bar will give a streamlined. You will also need to think about directing the electricity and water supply to the centre of the room, which will add to the costs.

Pros: Can make good use of a large kitchen by offering storage and convenient food-preparation areas.

Cons: Takes up a lot of space in small to middle-sized rooms and may block access.