​Tiny cooking space? Try these narrow kitchen ideas

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Modern meets Industrial, Kitchen Architecture Kitchen Architecture Industrial style kitchen
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Very few people will step into a house or apartment and exclaim: “Yay, there’s a galley kitchen!”. But these tiny spaces, distinguished by their narrow layouts with parallel counters, are a fact of life for many urban dwellers.

Named after the narrow kitchens on ships, galley kitchens are small, tight, and not really the epitome of what one would call a dream kitchen. However, they are also known for using what little space is available quite efficiently. How else, seeing as they were designed to be compact, ergonomic, and ultra-efficient?

As you may already know by now, we at homify always search for the silver lining of every cloud, and that includes narrow kitchens. So, to prove to you that a galley kitchen is not the end of the world as you know it (something which professional kitchen planners have always known), we present these efficient narrow kitchen ideas to help you turn that tiny cooking space into an inspired culinary zone.

1. Narrow kitchen ideas: Open it up

Before you pick up a sledgehammer and start tearing down a wall, see if there’s another way to create some sort of opening to the other spaces that adjoin your narrow kitchen. 

For example, you could open up just the corner of the galley kitchen and add some open shelving to break that closed-in feeling. This can ensure a visual connection with the room next door (whether it’s the living room, dining area or whatever else) without resorting to a full-blown open-plan layout. Plus, you don’t lose any of your storage compartments, which, as we all know, are vital for kitchens, especially small ones.

2. Narrow kitchen ideas: Lose those upper cabinets

Modern meets Industrial Kitchen Architecture Industrial style kitchen kitchen architecture,bulthaup,bulthaup b1,bespoke kitchens,contemporary kitchen,white kitchen,industrial kitchen,open plan,integrated kitchen,integrated appliance,gagganau,kitchen island
Kitchen Architecture

Modern meets Industrial

Kitchen Architecture

Speaking of storage, there’s no reason why you can’t play around with yours in that galley kitchen. One idea is to reduce the number of tall cabinets that you're going to use, or consolidate your tall storage into one place. 

A clever way of achieving this is to put the refrigerator and pantry in one area and keep storage focused in that space. Follow this by doing open shelving or limited upper cabinetry. 

Just because that kitchen is narrow doesn’t mean it has to be full of floor-to-ceiling cabinets, after all!

3. Narrow kitchen ideas: Bring in light and dark

Shoreditch EC1: Warehouse Living, Increation Increation Industrial style kitchen

Shoreditch EC1: Warehouse Living


A hallway is a hallway and a kitchen is a kitchen – the one doesn’t have to feel like the other. So, to lose that hallway effect in your narrow kitchen, break up the materials a bit.

Keep the base cabinets in a heavier, darker material. Then, for the upper cabinets, opt for a lighter colour scheme to connect it more towards the ceiling.

4. Narrow kitchen ideas: Get glossy

New York City Family Home, JKG Interiors JKG Interiors Classic style kitchen Marble White
JKG Interiors

New York City Family Home

JKG Interiors

Know what works great with lighting? Glossy surfaces, as they help to bounce the light around and make that small space look (and feel) bigger. 

So, we recommend using glossy tiles or surfaces to brighten up that narrow kitchen. This includes glossy cabinets and/or stainless steel appliances, materials that are a little more reflective to get the natural light to bounce around. 

homify hint: For an even more modern look to go with those glossy cabinets, opt for cupboards with no knobs or handles. This enhances the minimalist style beautifully, plus it’s practical, as there are no knobs or bars to catch on while you’re working in that narrow space.

5. Narrow kitchen ideas: What about wood?

Limetree, Plymouth, ADG Bespoke ADG Bespoke Minimalist kitchen
ADG Bespoke

Limetree, Plymouth

ADG Bespoke

There’s something about natural materials, especially wood, that changes the entire vibe of a space, even small ones. One way to make that narrow kitchen feel more connected to the rest of your small apartment is to do wood-base cabinets. 

This can make your culinary zone feel a little more grounded and those cabinets more like furniture instead of… well, cabinets. 

For the upper shelving, opt for something neutral and light, as well as cool-toned.

6. Narrow kitchen ideas: Light it up

Lighting is vital for any room in your home, but even more so for that tiny work space called the kitchen. And don’t think your work is done once you’ve brought in task lighting for your narrow kitchen. 

Even though you’re not working with pendants over an island, you can still pick some great decorative fixtures for the ceiling to bring that narrow space together. 

Think of your galley kitchen as an opportunity to design a little jewel box – it can sparkle and look quite attractive, which will take the attention away from its tiny layout. And the best way to accomplish this is to do some lighting on the ceiling that feels less practical (but still is) and looks more like décor.

7. Narrow kitchen ideas: Keep those counters clean

When it comes to narrow kitchens, it’s all about maximising the space. Do as many built-in items as you can and leave the counter space open and clean. 

For example, opt for a microwave drawer instead of placing a microwave on the counter. And have tall storage so you can easily store away items not used on a daily basis.

8. Narrow kitchen ideas: Downsize and customise appliances

Contemporary Kitchen in Huddersfield at Bradley, Twenty 5 Design Twenty 5 Design Modern kitchen
Twenty 5 Design

Contemporary Kitchen in Huddersfield at Bradley

Twenty 5 Design

Consistency is key with your narrow kitchen; thus, try and introduce as few breaks in those materials as possible. 

A great idea to try out is to do a cooktop with a wall oven below it – built into the cabinets rather than a slide-in range. This makes the appliances feel more like furniture, greatly enhancing the ambience of that tiny kitchen space. 

And remember that big and bulky items will be the death of your narrow kitchen very easily. Opt for a small, 24-inch fridge, for example. While some people might scoff at this idea, keep in mind that it’s still quite practical and will save heaps of space. 

Speaking of culinary excellence, let’s take a look at The highs and lows of planning a new kitchen.

9. Narrow kitchen ideas: Utilise color and emphasise functionality

If you are looking for more small galley kitchen ideas, think about adding a pop of colour. Light pastel cabinets lighten up this space while also infusing a bit of colour into a rather white kitchen. Bringing in stainless steel appliances complements the cool-toned look. Adding unexpected colour is a unique and subtle way to elevate a kitchen.

This small kitchen emphasises functionality by focusing on what's useful about a kitchen: cabinets for storage, a large sink, enough counter space, an oven, and a stand-out fridge. You won't be missing anything while you're cooking and you might even find that you enjoy having everything within arm's reach.

If your kitchen is more of an open layout, try picking accents that you can use throughout your home and start experimenting with colour in your living room. And if you'd like to break up spaces in your home? Check out this ideabook: How to separate the kitchen from the living room. Sometimes a simple fix can mean a whole new look!

10. Narrow kitchen ideas: Go for a clean, modern look

Creating a truly modern feel is a great way to turn a narrow kitchen into a chic space for entertaining friends. If you want some dimension, think about a grey-toned wood or another mid-tone that won't be too harsh against all-white cabinets. This helps to separate the different areas of the space visually and makes the kitchen stand out.

Adding light fixtures will add a modern vibe along with brightness. Want to maximise cabinet space? Opt for a smaller oven so you can fit in a microwave for convenience.

And to really open up a small kitchen? Leave room for others to join you while you cook. Whether it's a couple of bar stools along the other side of the counter, or a small, separate bar cart, you'll be making the most of your narrow kitchen. This is the perfect space for a city dweller.

Want more galley kitchen ideas to peruse? Check out our UK professionals for local designs.

What other tips do you have for making a narrow kitchen stylish and practical?

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