Seventy years ago, the kitchen needed to be a functional space for one person, and one person alone. It wasn’t a gathering area; it wasn’t a communal space that needed to offer convenient flow for a lot of people. It only needed to function for one person, and for that one person, it needed to be exceptionally efficient. Here, the idea of the “work triangle” was born. Functionally, the work triangle kept the chef equidistant at all times from the sink, range, and refrigerator: it’s the perfect operating space in which to cook. But things have changed.
Today, the kitchen is front-and-centre in the house, often times functioning as the heart of the home. This means there can be serious traffic through a kitchen, and often times two, three, or even four people cooking, eating, or just hanging out at a time.
While the work triangle is still functioning, it’s been adapted: today there must be multiple work triangles or “zones” to accommodate the multiple chefs in the modern kitchen. To allow all of these cooks in the kitchen, spaces have had to expand.
The modern kitchen is a very open space today, with few walls, few overhead cabinets, and wide travel zones so that chefs can work around each other and pass through the kitchen with ease. Here are five modern kitchen layout ideas that embrace a need for open, flowing space.
One-Wall Kitchens Featuring Really Epic Island
In smaller homes or even condominiums or apartments, the one-wall kitchen is a blessing: it maximizes workspace while minimizing the actual footprint of the kitchen, allowing for optimal flow and keeping the room open and light.
All cabinetry is relegated to just one wall, and a large island serves as the gathering place and focal point of the kitchen. While most of your appliance and food storage will occur in the cabinetry on the wall (where your refrigerator will rest), the island of today can accommodate all else. Sinks, ranges with ovens, and quick-access storage can all exist at the same well-designed island, making it your principle workspace.
The floating island has two great benefits. First, it can accommodate multiple chefs working together at the same space. And second, working at the island keeps you facing outward and focused on the rest of your house (as opposed to turned away, facing your back wall). Put bar stools and some fun pendant lights at this space – it will draw guests to it, offering a lovely and welcoming space for conversation, communal cooking and fabulous dining. Modern islands can also serve as a design piece unto themselves.
Choose different coloured cabinetry for your island than for the rest of your kitchen (a deep grey island looks truly bold against a white-cabinet kitchen), or let your island really pop with Spanish-style Talavera tiles or shiplap siding. Today’s island is more than just an extension of your kitchen: it’s a working piece of art that can speak volumes about your own unique style.
An L-shaped layout for your kitchen is another ideal choice for maximizing workspace. With the L-shaped kitchen, all cabinetry and counter spaces occupy two walls that adjoin at one corner perpendicularly. For smaller or mid-sized kitchens, it’s a space that allows one chef to work efficiently across the whole area, but also accommodates multiple chefs easily. The L-Shaped kitchen can also be accomplished with cabinetry on one wall and a peninsula that meets cabinetry on one side. For open-concept floor plans, this is a great option as guests and chefs can meet together at the peninsula, yet work and leisure spaces are still delineated.
If the footprint of your kitchen is large enough, you could consider adding a floating island to the middle of your “L.” But don’t push it, the point of the modern kitchen is to allow for free flow and openness, and nothing kills that vibe more so than an island that’s awkward to work around.
If you’re in doubt, or if the “legs” of your L-shaped kitchen are any shorter than about 12 feet, then it’s quite likely that your space is just too small. That said, if the legs of your L are longer than 15 feet, you likely have ample space, and an island could nicely anchor the room around a central focal point.
And if your L is comprised of a wall of cabinetry and a peninsula, do yourself a favour: do NOT put overhead cabinetry above the peninsula. This was a common practice in the 70s and 80s, and it worked wonders in doing one thing and one thing only, which was closing off the room and making it feel small. Keep spaces as open as possible, and relegate overhead cabinetry to walls only.
If the architectural design of your kitchen gives you three good-sized walls and one absent wall that opens to the rest of the house, then your kitchen layout decision is made quite easy. Go with a horseshoe kitchen as this shape will give you maximum workspace and ample flow.
The horseshoe kitchen allows for cabinetry and counter space along all three walls, creating the shape of (you guessed it) a horseshoe. As with the L-shaped kitchen, you might be tempted to fit an island in the middle of your horseshoe. Again, think about ease of movement. If two people won’t be able to pass each other effortlessly between the cabinetry along the walls and the island in the center of the room, then whatever additional counter space you gain with your island just won’t be worth it. The room will be overcrowded, and you’ll feel it.
If your kitchen layout lends itself to an L shape, you can add counter space by building a peninsula that adjoins the cabinetry on one wall, thereby creating what’s more like a horseshoe layout (but without a third wall). Using a convenient online countertop cost calculator is an extremely helpful mechanism when installing a granite or marble countertop in your kitchen. Peninsula’s serve a similar function to islands as they create a middle ground in an open-concept floor plan between the kitchen and living or dining area and can serve as your kitchen’s focal point. Bear in mind, though, that the horseshoe layout does not lend itself to continuous, circular flow the way an L-shaped kitchen or one-wall kitchen does. You might be better off forgoing the peninsula, or at least choosing a floating island instead if movement through the room is going to be an issue.
In the interest of creating open spaces, you might think that the galley kitchen is a fixture of households past. Yet galley kitchens have their place even in modern home designs. The small apartment, condominium, or small home can greatly benefit from a galley kitchen. When space is at a premium and you’ve got two good walls to work with, a galley kitchen will maximize your counter space and storage space. And unless your footprint is utterly tiny, the galley doesn’t need to be cramped. Give yourself a good few feet of space between cabinets on opposite walls so that you and a co-chef can pass around each other with ease. Because galley kitchens can feel somewhat cramped, make sure to keep things light: white cabinetry with white or light-grey marbled granite or concrete countertops will never go out of style. You can also make your galley kitchen feel wider by opting for open-front, glass-paned upper cabinets instead of solid cabinet doors.
Have fun with your kitchen layout, and keep your individual needs in mind. At the end of the day, it’s your kitchen. You know best who will be working there, how often, and how much space you’ll need to operate effectively. Just remember that the spacious, open floor plan doesn’t seem to be going out of style any time soon, so keeping things big, bright, and flowing is pivotal.