Paul S. Bartholomew
Distinguished by two parallel counters with an aisle in between, the galley kitchen can get a bad rap. This is mostly due to its narrowness—the galley layout is pretty much always reserved for small spaces, and can even be carved out of an actual
hallway—but we promise you can make one incredibly functional and efficient. The first thing is to shift your mindset: With all your kitchen appliances and storage in arm’s reach, there’s a reason galley kitchens are so popular. (No running around the island to get to the ladder to get down the blender!) Plus, these layouts almost always accommodate standard appliance sizing, so they’re easy to renovate and redecorate. Ahead, get inspired by 15 galley kitchens from designer portfolios we love, and jot down your favorite galley kitchen design ideas to try in your own home.
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Be Bold With Paint and Wallpaper
Inject a small galley kitchen with personality by choosing a cheerful, unexpected color for your cabinets (designer Anna Spiro chose coral and lime green here), and use a fun wallpaper above the backsplash. Neither paint nor wallpaper takes up any room, but they add a whole lot of fun. Spiro opted for a marble countertop and backsplash material to dress it up.
Build In Proportional Furniture
Nanette Brown extended the backsplash all the way up every wall for a jewel-box effect in this Manhattan galley kitchen. Because the room is so narrow, she opted for a skinnier dining table and bench that doesn’t eat into the pathway when not in use.
Add Shelving on the Back Wall
In this Tamsin Johnson–designed kitchen, the polished concrete materials, architectural lighting, and avant-garde artwork make the small space stand out. Floating shelves on the back wall allow for a display moment and also take advantage of all vertical space possible.
Mix Metals and Add Plants and Outlets
This galley kitchen designed by Corinne Mathern brings us to two great ideas. One: Adding a little touch of greenery will enliven any space, no matter how small. Two: Don’t forget to think about essentials, like outlet location, when renovating a kitchen. Covered by a pretty bronze switch plate that speaks to the mixed metals in the six fixtures and conveniently tucked into a countertop corner, this is a great example to follow.
Install Smart Task Lighting
Zellige tiles glisten in this small galley kitchen designed by Shapeless Studio. One frequent complaint about the galley layout is the lack of task lighting, but here’s a workaround! Install task lighting under your cabinets to brighten up your prep space.
Soften the Room With Fabric
We’re loving the old-fashioned scullery look here from deVOL Kitchens, and it’s full of smart design tricks, too. First, if you’re worried about so many enclosed cabinets looking bulky, but you still want to hide away unsightly essentials, try installing a rod and hanging a curtain over your cabinets; the fabric leaves a softer impression. And second, experiment with interesting combinations of paint colors and hardware!
Choose a Statement Hood and Range
A metallic hood and bold blue range bring some personality to this room while everything else remains simple and traditional for a nice balance in this kitchen designed by Cameron Ruppert Interiors.
Throw a Runner Down the Aisle
Ferrarini Co. decided to focus on incorporating really beautiful details—lighting, hardware, shelving, and materials—to make this galley kitchen pop. The design team doubled down on stylish selections, like cabinets in Farrow & Ball Off Black, that embrace the tinier footprint. Paired with white walls, the dark color doesn’t swallow all the light. A runner is also always a good call in a galley kitchen, for coziness.
Avoid Blocking Light With Cabinets
In this modern farmhouse galley kitchen designed by Andrew Flesher, several surprising choices that work really well (what’s that they say about high risk? The lower cabinets are actually drawers, and they bounce all the natural light thanks to a white high-gloss finish (you could achieve something similar with an IKEA hack). And instead of blanketing the wall with cabinets, he decided to keep the windows, which give the tiny room an ethereal glow.
Replace a Wall With a Rolling Counter
To gain counter space, the designer of this small galley kitchen customized a movable bar slash doorway. When you need to get in and out, you can easily roll it out of the way but it also helps keep the kitchen separate from the living area.
Swap a Solid Door For Glass Alts
In this kitchen by Balsamo Antiques and Interior Design, tall interior glass doors create the illusion of a much bigger space, and the black lacquer paint is a testament to embracing darker, cozier spaces instead of forcing them to look big and bright with all-white interiors. Though modern in many ways, the open shelves display antiques from the occupant’s travels for a timeless look.
Create Partial Separation With Glass Partitions
Crosby Studios used glass interiors to frame a tiny breakfast nook off of a galley kitchen. It makes the eat-in kitchen feel a little larger and more distinct since it separates the cooking and dining areas—but the transparent arch ensures that the two spaces can still share the light.
Alternate Cabinet Types
In this kitchen designed by Shawn Henderson, the white brick backsplash allows for a more modern, fresh mood as opposed to the industrial and darker presence of unpainted bricks. The combination of enclosed and exposed upper storage keeps the small space from feeling claustrophobic.
Designer Heather Hilliard added color to this galley kitchen with buttercream-painted walls and pops of turquoise blue upholstery on the cushions and curtain trim. If you don’t need extra counter space, then consider carving gout a breakfast nook in the back corner under the window. (Bonus: company for the cook!)
Add Extra Counter Space With an End Table
One of the biggest downsides of a galley kitchen is that you usually can’t fit in an island. But in this kitchen, a small freestanding worktable is positioned at the end of the hall for a little extra counter space. Pull up a stool to use it as a casual dining bar, too.
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