Planning a Kitchen Layout With New Cabinets

A kitchen can often be updated by simply changing cabinet doors and hardware. Learn how to modify the layout to fit new appliances and additional storage.

Completed Kitchen with Dark Cabinets and Appliances

Completed Kitchen Layout

Planning Your Kitchen Layout

Planning a kitchen is a fairly complex task because of the many different factors that need to be considered. It is also an area in which strict budgeting is necessary since much of the cost of a kitchen is not only in the cabinets, but also in the time and cost of installation. This will also depend on how much you wish to tackle yourself.

Appliances
Decide what appliances you are going to have in the kitchen. Most food preparation in the kitchen is related to the stove, the sink and the refrigerator. Generally, a triangular layout of the three essentials is considered ideal — access is straightforward, and there is room for preparation or storage beside each area.

It is best not to put your refrigerator next to your stove, since the refrigerator will have to work harder because of the warm air around it when the stove is on.

If you want an island in your design, it is best if it does not block your route between sink, refrigerator and stove. An electrical supply for an island can run under the floor, especially if you are installing a new floor anyway. Many people utilize the additional counter space of an island to contain the stove.

Storage
Think about what you would like to store in the kitchen and how you use your kitchen. Pantries and cabinets that extend to the ceiling are great ways to increase the amount of storage in a kitchen. Manufacturers of kitchen cabinets also offer a range of great storage options from lazy susans to integrated garbage cans.

Countertops
Countertops are essential for both food preparation and to accommodate electrical appliances such as toasters, blenders, coffeemakers and freestanding microwaves.

Countertops can also provide an eating space, in the form of a breakfast bar, for example. The underside can be left open, or peninsula cabinets can be installed underneath. In the latter, a wide section of countertop provides a large overhang.

Typical Kitchen Layout

In smaller kitchens, the size and shape of the room will often dictate the layout. In larger rooms there are more options to consider. Typical kitchen layouts are galley, L-shaped, or U-shaped, and may include islands, breakfast bars, and dining areas. Most kitchens are a variation on one of these examples. Typical layouts are shown below with “work triangles” indicating the possible positioning of appliances.

L-Shaped Layout

An L-shaped layout has cabinets along all or part of two adjoining walls. In a larger kitchen this may allow room for a dining area in the kitchen. This layout provides ample storage space and floor space and is therefore ideal for a busy family life.

L-Shaped Kitchen Diagram

L-Shaped Kitchen Plan

An L-shaped layout has cabinets along all or part of two adjoining walls. In a larger kitchen this may allow room for a dining area in the kitchen. This layout provides ample storage space and floor space and is therefore ideal for a busy family life.

U-Shaped Layout

In an U-shaped layout, cabinets cover three walls, and in a larger room one length of the U may be used as a breakfast bar. In a small kitchen, this layout provides maximum storage and appliance capacity, but standing room is limited. It is best to keep the refrigerator close to the door.

U-Shaped Kitchen Diagram

U-Shaped Kitchen Layout

In an U-shaped layout, cabinets cover three walls, and in a larger room one length of the U may be used as a breakfast bar. In a small kitchen, this layout provides maximum storage and appliance capacity, but standing room is limited. It is best to keep the refrigerator close to the door.

Galley Layout

A galley layout uses straight runs of cabinets on opposing walls in a narrow kitchen. As in the U-shaped layout above, floor space may be limited, but wall space is used to its maximum potential.

Galley Kitchen Design

Galley Layout Diagram

A galley layout uses straight runs of cabinets on opposing walls in a narrow kitchen. As in the U-shaped layout, floor space may be limited, but wall space is used to its maximum potential.

Island Layout

An island layout tends to be used either in large kitchens or as a design feature in smaller ones. When appliances are installed in an island, the "work triangle" theory doesn’t apply. Routing utilities may be tricky with this layout design.

Island Kitchen

Island Kitchen Layout Diagram

An island layout tends to be used either in large kitchens or as a design feature in smaller ones. When appliances are installed in an island, the "work triangle" theory doesn’t apply. Routing utilities may be tricky with this layout design.

Dealing with a Cabinet Supplier

Once you have formulated some ideas about what design and style you are looking for, the next step is to speak to your cabinet supplier. Take accurate measurements of the room. Include existing alcoves, room height and width, and heights and widths of windows and window sills. Your supplier may be able to produce a computer-generated design to give you a good idea of what your kitchen will look like.

Standard Cabinet Sizes

Some manufacturers have cabinets in stock, but with others, orders may take weeks or even months to come through. Bear this in mind in your overall planning. Coordinating the delivery of materials is crucial to a smoothly running project, so plan well ahead and confirm delivery dates.

Stock and semi-custom cabinets are built to industry standards. If you buy stock cabinets, use the following as a guide to planning your kitchen. The sizes are developed based on an 8-foot ceiling height. Always check with the manufacturer for their sizes.

  • Base cabinets are normally 34-1/2 inches tall and 24 inches deep.
  • Wall cabinets are 30 inches tall and 12 inches deep.
  • Wall cabinets above a sink or stove can be 12 to 24 inches tall.
  • Cabinet widths range from 6 to 48 inches, and are available in 3-inch increments.

Prepping for Installation

Shopping for kitchen cabinets offers an abundance of choice. Materials, finishes, door profile, configurations, accessories, and door hardware are just the beginning. Before you dream of your perfect kitchen, you'll need to decide on a budget and whether or not you will be installing the cabinets. Most home improvement stores and retailers offer cabinet installation by employees or referrals to independent installers. If you decide to hire someone for the job, always ask for a referral.

Accessible Kitchen Design

If you are planning to design a kitchen to meet your needs for life, you may want to consider including accessible features. The most important considerations are making sure the doorways are wide enough for wheelchairs, that cabinet and counter heights are accessible, and that there is plenty of room to move around the kitchen. Accessories include push-button garbage disposals near the front of the sink, motion-sensor lighting, and lever door handles. Certified Kitchen Designers and the National Kitchen & Bath Association can help you with the design of your kitchen.

Bright Accessible Kitchen

Easy Access Kitchen

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited View original photo.

DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

This kitchen in shades of white and cream was designed with easy accessibility in mind. The layout provides features like doors wide enough for wheelchairs, that cabinet and counter heights are accessible, and that there is plenty of room to move around the kitchen. Accessories include push-button garbage disposals near the front of the sink, motion-sensor lighting, and lever door handles.

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