Named after the narrow kitchens on ships, galley kitchens rooms may be tight, but they’re also known for using what little space there is very efficiently.
But having a small kitchen doesn’t have to mean making style sacrifices.
From contemporary monochrome to calm Scandi-inspired looks, we’ve rounded up a few stylish galley kitchen ideas that have made it into the pages of Livingetc.
Galley kitchens were originally designed to be compact and ultra-efficient, maximising every inch of space for storage and preparation. So when it comes to designing a practical space, there’s plenty we can learn from them.
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A large, mirrored splashback will bounce natural light around the room to make a narrow space appear more expansive, and will also allow the chef to remain part of the conversation – even when they have to turn their back to their guests!
Meanwhile high-gloss cabinets and walls in crisp white will give a modern space a sleek, clean look.
Going down to a smaller, built-in fridge, is still very liveable, will help you reduce the amount of food waste, and will also save you a lot of space in a small galley kitchen.
Using cabinet doors that slide open rather than pull outwards won’t interrupt the flow, and make it easier to manoeuvre around an admittedly tighter space.
Although we’ve seen a lot of sleek, contemporary styles, galley kitchens work just as well in country schemes. Rustic additions like a butler sink and open dresser-style shelving will give a galley kitchen that typical farmhouse charm, while vintage accessories like wooden hooks and wicker storage are pretty yet practical storage solutions that will keep clutter down and make it easier to cook.
Make the most of your galley kitchen with our roundup of small kitchen inspiration.
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This kitchen is really functional and the glass wall units and adjacent terrace add a sense of space. Having a wall of windows make this galley kitchen feel less restricted despite it being relatively compact. Breaking up the colour or materials in a galley kitchen - like this black and white scheme - also helps to reduce that feeling that you're in a hallway.
Get the look: The cabinetry was designed by architect Vincent Van Duysen. Try Plain English for something similar. The work surface is Carrara marble. Find a match at Mandarin Stone. This is a Lacanche range cooker.
A painted floor and ceiling, varnished pine units in pale pink and jewel tones cupboard knobs give this galley kitchen an upbeat feel.
Get the look: Handles, Haute Déco. Cabinets and floor in SC662; walls and ceiling in Traffic Green, both Papers and Paints
The aim when designing a galley kitchen should be to make it feel the least cavernous as possible. Opting for either open shelving or limited upper cabinetry will help the space feel less cramped.
This kitchen feels fresh, but not clinical, thanks to the mix of sleek, custom-made stainless-steel units, teamed with marble, oak and patterned tiles. With only modest storage space in the kitchen, shelves are lined with large glass jars filled with pastas, pulses, rice and spices so the cupboards are easier to maintain.
Get the look: The steel cabinetry, door fronts, moulded sinks and freestanding cabinetry were all made to measure by Charlotte Crosland Interiors in collaboration with Alternative Plans. The aged-oak parquet floor was laid by FPS Flooring. For similar splashback tiles, see Neisha Crosland’s Tulia designs for Fired Earth.
If you prefer dark colours, features with a gloss finish will allow light to bounce around, creating the impression of a larger room. Try to contrast dark units with lighter worktops and flooring, to avoid overwhelming a small space.
While too much detail can be overpowering, incorporating a statement wall or wallpaper (or for something simpler, a patterned backsplash) is a great way to add depth to a galley kitchen.
This wild wallpaper bring lashings of personality and humour and leads your gaze to the dining area, beyond.
Get the look: The ocelot-print wallpaper on the ceiling and lining the arch is Pantanal by Osborne & Little. The candle is by Diptyque.
Sleek modern units work well in a galley kitchen layout, as the run of light reflecting cabinets create the optical illusion of more space. Then neat handleless cupboards keep the area minimal and smart – with no knobs or bars to catch on when you’re working. Continue the minimalist style by keeping worktops as free of clutter as possible, and integrating appliances – ideally behind closed doors. This streamlined scheme flows from the family room to the dining area at the back of the house.
Get the look: For similar handleless cabinetry, try Bulthaup. Ikea sells runners like this one.
Light, neutral coloured cabinets will instantly create a bright atmosphere. They can be paired with either laminate, granite or timber worktops for a sophisticated finish.
Whisper-blue walls set the tone in this kitchen, where bespoke joinery is offset by brass handles and a Victorian-esque tap. The bespoke kitchen includes deeper-than-average work surfaces, with tops made from Carrara marble.
Get the look: Find similar cabinetry at Harvey Jones. The walls are painted in Dimpse estate emulsion by Farrow & Ball. These are Conroy wall lights by Jamb.
This kitchen didn’t seem spacious enough for a dining table and a kitchen island, but this super slender island does wonders to divide and zone the spaces. People will naturally gravitate to a kitchen island, so going for an island galley with a breakfast bar is a great idea if you like to chat, as you can cook and entertain at the same time.
Breaking up the floor space with a rug helps to zone the kitchen, and makes the space appear wider.
Get the look: This is Mobalco cabinetry from Intervari. The Zellige splashback tiles are by Emery & Cie. This is the Molecular ceiling light from Rockett St George.
This cool, contemporary kitchen came with solid eco credentials – underfloor heating is fed by an air-source heat pump and a rainwater tank supplies the dishwasher, washing machine and WCs. Nothing is superfluous in this streamlined space and it’s the absence of clutter that keeps a sense of peace. Kitchen cabinets conceal fold-out larder storage and the appliances.
Get the look: The dining table is bespoke from Another Country. The bench with built-in drawers is by John Eger. The chairs are Longworth from Garden Trading. This is the Sebastian Cox kitchen by DeVOL.
Calm, considered and completed, textures are kept natural and there’s an air of serenity in this galley kitchen.
Get the look: This is the Sebastian Cox kitchen by DeVOL.
Whenever possible, opt for open shelving, which will help to maintain an airy atmosphere within the small space, while still giving you storage. It's also a great place to display your prize appliances and accessories.
The wall of kitchen cabinets in this galley kitchen is made from Ikea carcasses fronted with plywood. They reach from floor to ceiling, a clever solution to prevent any dust from accumulating on the tops of cupboards. They also help to maximise storage space, and elongate the room.
Get the look: The kitchen carcasses are from Ikea. The polished-concrete worktop is by Mortise Concrete.
You don’t need to knock down an entire wall to open up a galley kitchen. Opening up the space above just one kitchen counter will break that hallway feeling. This way you still separate the kitchen and dining spaces, but they are at least visually more connected and this will help make the kitchen feel less cramped.
Here, a dividing wall was removed to create one fluid space.
Get the look: Dining table, Bill Amberg. Chairs, Josh Duthie at Chairtastic. Pendant light, Rossana Orlandi. Rug, Nanimarquina. Similar green vase, Nkuku.
Go all white to open up a narrow space. Use glossy tiles and reflective surfaces will bounce natural light around and brighten the space.
To maximise the space and prevent it from looking cluttered, create as many built-in items as you can to maximise the counter space. Tall storage is great for hiding away the things you don't use on a daily basis or are bulky, while hiding appliances like microwaves behind cabinet doors will make a galley kitchen appear larger and tidier.
Get the look: Ceiling light, Stickbulb. Salt and pepper mills, Peter Ejvinsson and Emmy Larsson for Artipelag.