What Is a Galley Kitchen? - Layout, Tips, Pros vs. Cons

Galley kitchen with marble countertops and stainless steel appliances

The Spruce / Christopher Lee Foto

If there was ever a misunderstood—and often maligned—kitchen layout, it would have to be the galley kitchen. It's called a galley kitchen after the efficient “galley” kitchens of railway dining cars. In the home, it's a classic kitchen layout that's versatile, durable, simple, and about as ergonomically correct as you can get.

What is a Galley Kitchen?

A galley kitchen is a long, narrow kitchen layout with services on one or both sides. An aisle runs down the center of a galley kitchen. Sometimes, the galley kitchen dead-ends at one end or it can be a pass-through kitchen.

If you're remodeling, a galley kitchen can work beautifully as one of the most functional spaces in the home. Even though galley kitchens are space-savers and usually fit the need for small kitchen areas, you might even want to consider installing one in a larger space simply because it works so well.

Galley Kitchen Basics

A galley kitchen is a long, narrow kitchen that has base cabinets, wall cabinets, counters, or other services located on one or both sides of a central walkway. Less often, a galley is called a corridor kitchen because its main traffic lane is a long, narrow aisle.

The countertops can be interspersed with appliances like fridges, sinks, cabinetry, and other functional items.

Since galley kitchens are small, they tend to be less expensive to build or remodel than other kitchen layouts. Also, galley kitchens are ergonomically better than some other kitchen design layouts since key services are clustered near each other. This means that walking toward or reaching for items between the refrigerator, stove/oven, and sink is kept to a minimum.

Galley Kitchen Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Space and cost savers

  • Tight cluster of essential kitchen services

  • Good use of classic kitchen triangle design

  • Less kitchen flooring to purchase and install

  • Perfect for do-it-yourself remodeling

  • Lower cost on cabinets and counters means more money for other items

Cons
  • Not good for more than two cooks at a time

  • Less countertop and storage space

  • Lower resale value

  • Standard sink configurations recommended

  • Hard to fit larger size appliances

  • Poor traffic flow when it's a dead-end galley kitchen (open only on one end)

Pros

There are plenty of advantages to a galley kitchen. For one, a galley kitchen saves space so that other rooms in your home can be more spacious. The layout keeps the major kitchen services such as water, electrical, and gas clustered in the same area using the work triangle. Doing so makes it easier for plumbers and electricians to install or service appliances.

Because countertops and cabinets are the most expensive elements in the kitchen, this cost is drastically minimized in the smaller space. Less floor space means less kitchen flooring that you need to purchase. Finally, because you don't have to spend as much money on pricey countertops, cabinets, and flooring, more money is freed up to spend on appliances, the sink, or on other parts of your house.

Since galley kitchens are smaller, they tend to be slightly easier for do-it-yourself remodeling if the layout is simple with two banks of cabinets with straightforward, rectangular countertops.

Cons

There are a few drawbacks to a galley layout, one of which is that it tends to be too tight for multiple cooks to work at the same time since the space is narrow. Countertop and storage space can be limited in a galley kitchen because there are fewer base cabinets. Clutter can quickly build up and prep space may be restricted.

Resale value may be lower for homes with galley kitchens than for houses with other types of kitchen layouts because homeowners tend to prefer larger gourmet kitchens. Since people tend to gather in a kitchen when entertaining, galley kitchens are perhaps the least welcoming kitchen design when it comes to accommodating guests.

Galley Kitchen Design Considerations

A galley kitchen needs to be designed with thought to its scale. For example, appliances usually should be kept to standard sizes to avoid overcrowding in a galley kitchen. This type of kitchen makes excellent use of the tight, step-saving kitchen triangle design. Typically, the stovetop and refrigerator will be on opposite walls of a galley kitchen, though the refrigerator may be best at one end of a wall. Here are other considerations when planning and designing a galley kitchen.

Keep to the Basics

When building or remodeling a galley kitchen, stay with basics such as upper and lower cabinets, counters, refrigerator, sink, stove/oven, and a dishwasher. There is also typically no room in a galley kitchen for a permanent, full-size kitchen island or breakfast bar. However, you may have options. if there's room, a mobile island at the end of the kitchen may be a good compromise. If there's a window at the end of the kitchen, add a fold-out wall-mount table and a stool for a tiny eating nook.

Minimize Sink Size

Oversized farmhouse sinks or sinks angled at 45 degrees are difficult to fit into most galley kitchens. Instead, look for scaled-down sinks and keep sinks parallel to the counters. Drop-in sinks with built-in rims take away even more countertop space. Instead, consider installing an undermount sink so that the countertop can extend all the way to the sink edge.

Use Space-Saving Devices

Running kitchen cabinets to the ceiling maximizes storage space which is important in a smaller kitchen. Keep to lighter-toned cabinets, some with glass doors to avoid an imposing presence in a galley kitchen. For lower cabinets, make use of lazy-Susans and roll-out shelves to better utilize that often-wasted space at the back of cabinets.

Consider Removing a Window

You can lose a window in a galley kitchen to gain more upper cabinet space. To decide whether you want to remove the window, think about whether the effort and expense will be worth the extra cabinet space. Does the window give you ample natural light and air, and will it be too dark in the space with it gone? If you decide to take out the window, you may need to call in a professional to remove the window, add drywall and insulation, then install a bank of cabinets inside. Outdoors, the space needs to be closed up with siding.

Think About Aisle or Walkway Width

The aisle or walkway running the length of a galley kitchen is its backbone. The space between opposite counters, or the walkway itself, should be a minimum of three feet. Even more importantly, accessibility can become an issue for those who use wheelchairs or walkers. If aisle width is an issue, consider clustering all of the services on one side of the kitchen only.

Use Light, White, and Neutral Colors

Lighter tones can make your galley kitchen feel much larger. Use light and bright materials for counters, cabinets, flooring, and wall paint. Even appliances should be shiny or matte white or stainless steel. For example, consider unstained or lightly stained maple, birch, or bamboo cabinets or white cabinets and countertops to keep the space streamlined, airy, and light.

Watch Now: Designer Kitchen Tips

Article Sources
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