A U-shaped kitchen is a common layout that features built-in cabinetry, countertops and appliances on three sides, with a fourth side left open or featuring a cased opening or entry door. In larger spaces with enough width, U-shaped kitchens are often outfitted with a freestanding island or seating. In smaller spaces, a peninsula may be attached to one side to provide seating and extra counter space while leaving a clearing for moving in and out of the kitchen. The smallest U-shaped kitchens might be built into three sides of a dedicated room with an entry door or cased opening on the fourth wall.
Here are some tips for setting up your kitchen around a U-shaped layout that will help you to make it functional, stylish, and enjoyable to use.
Central Dining Table
If your U-shaped kitchen is large enough, you can always install a kitchen island. But if your kitchen has enough counter space and storage around the periphery and enough depth or width in the center to add a seating area, some people find a dining table and chairs more comfortable than bar seating around an island. An antique or reproduction farmhouse table, or a sculptural live edge style dining table, has presence but a lighter profile, and can be changed out more easily if your tastes change. If you are choosing to include a central table, be sure you leave ample room for circulation and flow around the table.
Add Depth With Paint
To prevent your U-shaped kitchen from feeling too boxy and one-note, add depth with dark paint on the far wall and/or the base of the kitchen island that will help create a focal point and define the space.
A large U-shaped kitchen can have a cavernous feel. Hanging pendant lighting above the island or dining area in the middle of the room will help define the seating area and fill some of the empty vertical space, making the kitchen feel more comfortable to spend time in.
While less common today, older homes and apartments often feature smaller self-contained rooms that house the kitchen. This might feel like a disadvantage in an era when open plan kitchens seem to dominate, but confining your kitchen to a single room with a U-shaped design has advantages. It means that everything will be within a few steps' reach, streamlining cooking and washing up. Keep a small U-shaped kitchen feeling light and airy with a limited palette of soft colors and neutrals.
In a U-shaped kitchen with equal sides, add some low-key drama by creating a focal point on the far wall with a striking piece of slab stone above the stovetop, statement pendant lighting, striking tilework, or a large scale piece of art.
One way to keep a U-shaped kitchen from feeling claustrophobic is by adding open or floating shelves to the walls in place of cabinets. Be sure to keep open storage looking orderly with proper organization, and don't miss the styling opportunity to add colorful glass, accessories, artwork, or other decor elements to make the room feel homey and inviting.
Add interest and break up the boxiness of a U-shaped kitchen by mixing dark and light cabinetry, mixed metals, or a combination of glossy and matte finishes.
A U-shaped kitchen with seamless built-in floor-to-ceiling storage can help you maintain an orderly and minimalist look. While many people choose to add a square or rectangular island or table to the center of a large U-shaped kitchen, one way to add visual interest, break up all those straight lines, and increase flow is to add a round table instead.
U-shaped kitchens with long sides can feel cluttered with cabinets and appliances lining all three walls. Minimize visual clutter with an all-white palette, conceal appliances like the refrigerator behind built-in doors to match cabinetry, and incorporate wood accents on the flooring, kitchen island, or seating to add contrast.
Open and Shut
Reduce visual clutter in a U-shaped kitchen with floor-to-ceiling built-in cabinetry on one of the walls that maximizes vertical space. A mix of open shelving and closed storage will keep it interesting and give you a chance to highlight objects you want seen and hide clutter behind cabinet doors.
One disadvantage of island bar seating is the fact that you have to strain your neck to make eye contact with your dining companions. If your U-shaped kitchen is large enough and wide enough to accommodate a kitchen island, consider adding seating on two sides.
If you a working with a U-shaped kitchen that has a narrow profile and a built-in peninsula, keep clutter to a minimum with under-counter storage and appliances, and leave the surface clear for dining and kitchen prep.
Reduce visual clutter in a U-shaped kitchen with plenty of built-in cabinetry and open shelving to display decorative objects or house everyday items. But whenever possible be sure to leave some wall space free and clear, especially the space around windows. Leaving some negative space will allow the design to breathe and make the room more comfortable.
In a long and spacious U-shaped kitchen, adding a banquette on the far wall adds comfort and means you can reduce visual clutter by adding fewer chairs. If you don't have the room for a banquette, try adding a space-saving bench.
Use Area Rugs
In a narrow U-shaped kitchen, adding area rugs to define the space can make it feel less like a corridor and more like a living space.