Galley Kitchens: Unique, Compact, and Efficient

Galley Kitchens - Katie Hastings Design

Photo: Katie Hastings Design

The term “galley kitchen” originally referred to kitchens aboard ships, trains, and planes—compact spaces with tight footprints allowing for maximum efficiency.

Home kitchens can also be galley-like, typically featuring two lines of parallel cabinets separated by a central aisle and, occasionally, a U-shaped return at one end. Galley layouts promote ideal work conditions, requiring minimal movement while working. Though efficient, galley kitchens are tight on space and do best with a single chef at the helm.

Slideshow: 11 Gorgeous Galley Kitchens

Verticality is crucial to the design of successful galley kitchens, and ceiling-hung cabinets, hanging pot racks, and open dish racks are common. Kitchen tools themselves are often wall-hung, and things like magnetic knife racks are helpful tools.

Frankfurt Kitchen Competition before and after

Frankfurt Kitchen Competition. Photo: Interior Design

In 2010, an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in NY displayed a sample of the first mass-produced galley kitchen, designed by Margarete Schötte-Lihotzky back in 1926.

Called the “Frankfurt kitchen” (roughly 10,000 such units were installed in that city at the time), this meticulously planned space included built-in bins for frequently used items like flour, sugar, and rice, as well as a sub-counter bin for collecting scraps during cooking.

Galley Kitchens - Greg Natale

Photo: Greg Natale

Slideshow: 11 Gorgeous Galley Kitchens

Trends towards open floor plans—with combined kitchen, living room, and dining areas—have made galley kitchens less popular in new construction, but for homeowners with an eye towards efficiency or restoration, they can be a great option.

For more on kitchen design, consider:

12 Outstanding Kitchen Island Options
Kitchen Layouts: 4 “Space-Smart” Plans
Award-Winning Budget-Friendly Kitchen Makeover