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The average kitchen has all of the traditional components—a sink, refrigerator, range, and oven—but not every kitchen follows the standard “work triangle,” or the path between the refrigerator, range, and sink. 

Some departures from the tried-and-true are due to space constraints; others are purely a result of creative design. Either way, these tweaks can do more than work—they can shine, says Michael Toth, founder of Inspired Kitchen Design

The key? Creating a layout that not only suits the square footage of the space, but also serves your lifestyle needs—like how often you cook and how large your family is. Of course, the first step is to understand what your options are. To help, we asked Toth to brief us on the top kitchen layouts.

 

An L With an Island

Design by IKD; Photography by Kate Jordan; Styled by Raina Kattelson

This style accounts for the vast majority of the designs by Inspired Kitchen Design, says Toth. And it’s easy to see why. The design works well in a wide range of spaces and can easily be scaled larger or smaller. And with this type of kitchen, you won’t want for much. It’s quite easy to establish a functional work triangle, plus you can achieve a space with ample storage. What’s more, this style of kitchen—especially ones designed with a large island—is ideal for families who need additional space to work or congregate. 

Though Toth says it’s nearly impossible to find anything bad to say about this style of kitchen, he notes that it is rather standard, so it may skew a bit too expected for anyone looking for something exceptionally high-design.

 

Galley

Design by IKD; Photography by Ryan McDonald; Styled by Johanna Lowe

Another popular option, a galley kitchen is what you get when two rows of cabinets run parallel to each other on opposite walls of the kitchen. They’re common in urban design and great for couples, because they’re small, but when designed right, are clean and functional, says Toth.

The most successful designs incorporate a functional island and towering units and pantry towers that run at least 96 inches to allow for plenty of storage and even the creation of little stations for coffee, baking, and more, explains Toth. Just note: Because of this, you’ll probably want to stash a little step stool in your kitchen—these cabinets can be hard to access, even for the tallest set. 

 

Big Island

Dried goods kitchen island storage

Design by Velinda Hellen; Photography by Sara Tramp

If you’re a design risk-taker, Toth says creating a standout island is a growing trend in kitchen layouts. The island is quickly becoming the most important feature of the kitchen, he explains. But not just as a place to perch. In kitchens where the layout centers around the island, you’ll find everything—the sink, range, and more—in the island. The island essentially replaces perimeter cabinets and the rest of the kitchen may have nothing more than a small space for washing dishes, he explains. 

This style of kitchen, which is just a little bit daring, makes cooking more enjoyable, since you’re not staring at a blank wall, says Toth. And while it’s perfect for a single person who may not have vast spatial and storage needs, it’s important to note that it can get cluttered fast, if not kept especially tidy. 

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