Optimizing Space in Your Galley Kitchen

Curious how to get the kitchen of your dreams within a narrow space? Here’s the skinny: some careful planning, judicious use of storage and small renovations can give a galley kitchen quite a pop.

The long and narrow galley kitchen traces back to tiny spaces set aside for a single cook to feed the onboard crews of waterborne vessels, both small and large. This style was then passed on to long-distance trains of the early 20th century, where a galley arrangement maximized customer seating while retaining a tight and efficient space for food prep—as long as kitchen workers were few and coordinated. 

In a residential home, the galley kitchen often serves as a space saver. Kitchens were often isolated, out-of-the-way functional places prior to the Great Depression. The galley kitchens of the day were dark with limited amenities and could be rooms away from the dining area. 

 Galley Kitchen Design IdeasPhoto by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

Today, galley kitchens may be inherited or they may be designed as a preference by serious foodies, seeking a single-function dedicated meal preparation destination. In either case, how you use your kitchen for storage, workflow, and convenience makes the difference between improvised and optimized. Here are some key points to consider to make the most of your galley space.

Galley Kitchen

Plan the flow

Design builds around the kitchen triangle, an aesthetic form and practical function arising from placement of three key kitchen workplaces: the fridge (storage), sink (preparation), and stove (cooking). 

Key to the concept is these three elements are close (but not too close) with countertop space between each workplace. The parallel counters of a double-walled galley split the trio between them. The sink might be centralized on one side with the fridge and stove at either end of the other. Another layout may put the stove on its own. 

The work triangle forms logical divisions of labour in any kitchen. As you optimize a galley kitchen, keep the triangle in mind to help meet your needs and priorities. 

Build around your style

A baker needs room to work and roll out dough before popping things in the oven. Flour, yeast, sugar, measuring cups, and bakeware all make sense near this counter for easy access.

When entrees are top of the menu, roasting pans and spices may be more practical at hand, while baking supplies are relegated to the pantry. Optimize space by putting the most-used items, consumables or tools, near their most-used places. The less you must move to perform the most common tasks, the bigger your galley kitchen feels. 

Consider both workflow and your cooking style before you plan a makeover for your galley, whether you do the renovation yourself or hire a contractor.

Tips and tricks for a galley kitchen

Tips and tricks for a galley kitchen

Using workflow and cooking style as your framework, you can start with the practical elements of optimizing the kitchen. 

Treat your counter space as sacred

Think through the reasons for all items that take up permanent residence on your countertop. Relocate everything possible to another location. Your last cleaning step after every kitchen session should return the counter to its pristine and barren condition, inviting your next meal prep. 

Organizing Kitchen spacePhoto by Photoholgic on Unsplash

Use the walls

Even salt and pepper shakers can steal counter space, but they’re no further away in a rack on the wall above your counter. Shelves, spice racks, and utensil holders keep your regular tools at hand while still being out of the way of the pizza dough you’re rolling. 

Compartments with storage in the kitchen

Compartments within storage

Think of this as an expansion of the cutlery organizer or spice rack idea. Use baskets, bins, and organizers in every drawer and cupboard to create dedicated spaces. Oils and vinegars, baking powders and sodas, sugars and sweeteners—there are endless groupings that can help you define clear locations for virtually anything. 

Compact Kitchen appliance

Compact appliances

While it’s nice to own and work with full-size mixers and food processors, be honest about your needs. If you have a compact kitchen, a mega appliance steals proportionately more of your countertop. For instance, immersion blenders are drawer-friendly and even more versatile than countertop versions. 

 Built-in Kitchen appliances

Build it in

If it’s possible in your space, recess appliances like microwaves, convection ovens, and coffee makers into the wall. Even shallow shelves sunken between wall studs can dramatically increase your at-hand capacities. 

Modern Kitchen Lighting

Add light

You won’t want to work in dark corners, so eliminate them. There have never been more options for versatile task lighting. Add LED lights that fit your needs (and budget) to brighten under-used spaces. You can add passive light, too, by choosing light colours for walls, cabinets, and flooring. However, don’t be afraid to add splashes of darker hues. They can give a sense of depth that expands your perceived space. 

Remember, there’s no reason your galley kitchen needs to represent compromise. Using these tips can help make the space you have into the type of kitchen you’ve always wanted. 

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