Kitchen Layout guide to create a Functional kitchen design – 2021 edition

If you are planning a kitchen renovation, then you must be looking for kitchen design ideas that works best for the space that you have available. Not everyone is able to build a brand-new house to live in. This means that most people have to renovate their existing kitchen and have to decide on a kitchen design that transform their current space into something that is functional and works for their family.

Our kitchen designers often work with our clients to custom built a kitchen within their current space. We spoke to our designers and they said that deciding the right type of design does not just mean deciding on a U shaped, L shaped or galley kitchen. There are a few technicalities that need to be kept in mind before deciding on a layout for the kitchen. They work by 7 rules that go into designing a kitchen that works for our clients.

In this article we will discuss the following:

  1. 7 core technicalities to keep in mind when designing your kitchen layout

  2. Kitchen Ergonomics 101

  3. 6 Most popular kitchen layouts – which layout is right for your kitchen design?

Whatever shape your kitchen has, it must be livable first. It has to be an area where you can walk around at ease without bumping into things. You need to align your cabinets in a way that when opened they are not bumping into something else. Therefore, space planning is vital before you can decide a shape for your kitchen.

7 Essentials to keep in mind when deciding on a Layout for your Kitchen Design

In the first section of this article, we will discuss the 7 essential features that you should keep in mind before deciding on a layout for your kitchen.

Kitchen Ergonomics and the work triangle

Kitchen Ergonomics is important in order to achieve a great kitchen design. Ergonomics is a study of designing an environment that fits people instead of people fitting into an environment.

A work triangle was initially devised as a measure of efficiency of a kitchen. The triangle ensures that there is a clear pathway from your stove, the cleaning area which is your sink and your refrigerator. There should be no other traffic through this triangle.

1.Foot traffic and designated storage areas

One of the top priorities in your kitchen design should be to ensure that you have a clear primary pathway throughout the kitchen without obstructing the oven or dishwasher doors when opened.

Kitchens are almost always a high traffic area in any household. Your kitchen design must include clear designated areas where you will be storing your appliances, which will be your living area and where you will be doing most of the cooking. Make a list of all your big appliances, your cutlery, your regularly used utensils, your washing area, your cooking area and make sure that your kitchen design includes a designated area for these things. An example below shows a rough drawing of how the areas should be designated in your kitchen designs.

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Create Clear zones for circulation, meal preparation and cooking in your kitchen layout (Image courtesy Room

2.Distance between all your fixtures

It is important for your kitchen area to not be too cramped. There are many kitchen designs that include all the amenities, but they end up having very little space between fixtures. This means that in reality when you are working in the kitchen it will not be a very functional space.

Hence think about the distance between your cooking area and your sink for example. You also do not want your fridge to be too far away from your stove because it will end up becoming inconvenient. Your dishwasher should also be in an easy distance from your sink so that you can rinse and easily load your dishwasher.

3.Distance between your island and cooking area

If you have an island in the kitchen then you should make sure that there isn’t too much or too little space between the island and the cooktop. Islands are usually a great area to prep your meals which means that if its too far from the cooktop then it will complicate things.

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This L-shaped island from our renovation in Blockhouse Bay is installed a good distance from the counters

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L Shaped Kitchen from our Stanmore Bay renovation with a large island with  bar stools and a hob


On the contrary if there is too little space between the island and the stove then you cannot have more than 1 person comfortably cooking and prepping in the area. Also, most island do have storage cabinets built into them and they should be able to comfortably open and not collide with the parallel countertops or yourself.

4.Place the Cooktop and Kitchen first within your kitchen design

A good rule of thumb is always to figure out where the sink, cooktop and the dishwasher goes before deciding on other designated areas. The sink and cooktop are the areas where most of the action happens in the kitchen. Designers often first decide on these elements before designating areas for preparation of storage cabinets. Also ensure that there is ample room around the sink and cooktop. If you have a large island with quite a bit of surface area, then you can install your sink on it as it could provide you with lots of area to work with.

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Everything should comfortably open and not obstruct the pathway or any other fixture in a functional kitchen design (Image courtesy Room

5.Be smart about where you place your cooktop

Ventilation is very important in kitchens so that there is not too much moisture in the kitchen. Too much humidity and moisture in your kitchen will end up making your walls mouldy and ruin your furniture especially if its an open plan setting. You can install a cooktop on your island, but it will be expensive to install a good ventilation system and you will have no splashback to catch all the splatters. Hence, we recommend our clients to install their cooktops on an exterior wall where installing a ventilation system becomes easier, plus you will be able to install and splashback.

6.Keep Vertical Storage in Mind

Storage is one of the most important components of a functional kitchen design. A kitchen can be beautifully designed but if it lacks storage then it makes for a bad kitchen design. Not everyone has the choice of having large and spacious kitchens with numerous storage cabinets for storage. However, a lack of space however does not have to equate to lack of storage in small kitchen designs. You can think about building vertical storage on the walls that can be accessed by kitchen ladders. You can store items that you do use very frequently in the higher cabinets and you can incorporate a movable ladder as part of your kitchen design. You can also install open shelves and hanging hooks on the walls which can add another dimension to your kitchen design.

7.Create a Floor Plan and Visualize Your Kitchen in 3D

Once you have decided on materials, dimensions, and aesthetics of your kitchen, make sure that you create a 3D plan for your kitchen. Most renovation companies like ours provide 3D drawings for clients so that the client can visualise the kitchen before manufacturing and installation begins. Even if you are doing a DIY project, it is always a good idea to generate 3D drawings for a kitchen via an app or a designer.

6 Most common Layouts for your Kitchen design – Which one is right for your space?

Now that we have discussed the essential dimensions and distances required for a functional kitchen design, lets discuss the 6 most popular kitchen design layouts of today.  A good layout will help you maximise the space available to give you a functional kitchen for your family.

A kitchen is different from all the other rooms in a home as ergonomics has a huge role to play in its design plan. Getting the right heights and distance between objects is important for its functionality.

1.U-shaped kitchen

U shaped kitchens work well if you have a lot of space available. U-shaped kitchens have counters on three walls of the kitchen forming a U shape. These types of kitchens offer ample space to eat, cook and entertain. Larger U-shaped kitchens can also accommodate an island in the middle to provide additional bench space.

U shaped kitchens are usually found in a standalone room of itself or in the corner of a large room. The modern U-shaped kitchen has evolved from being made on three walls into an L-shaped kitchen with a disconnected island to for a U shape. This allows people the flexibility to enjoy an open planned living which is the most popular style today.

Project specifications + Photos Guru and Neeta’s modern U-shaped Kitchen Project

If you do have a small kitchen then a U shaped kitchen is possible to have but opt for the modern U-shape design with an L-shaped kitchen and a narrow island that can double as a breakfast bar.

Project specifications + PhotosAmber and Craig’s U shaped Kitchen renovation in Hillsborough

2.L-shaped kitchens

An L shaped kitchen is great for small spaces like apartments and units. They are different from U-shaped kitchens as they have one less wall where you can put counters and storage. It is great for small families, couples or single inhabitants of a house.

While there is less counterspace and storage available in an L-shaped kitchen, it is a more cohesive design for smaller spaces. With ingenuity and some innovation, you can maximise storage by building storage vertically and reach these spaces with a trendy kitchen ladder.

Project Specifications + PhotosL-shaped Kitchen design + Large island in Blockhouse Bay renovation

L shaped kitchens are also great if you have a corner that is not being used and if you are looking at maximising this space. If your kitchen is in an open plan living, kitchen and dining area then you can potentially build a small island that can double as a dining and do away with a dining table all together. This will give you more bench space and you will not be stuck with a dining table that you do not use.

3.Galley Kitchen:

Galley kitchens have two parallel walls with countertops and a walkway in between them. Traditionally galley kitchens often feature in standalone rooms of their own. This style is very popular in older Auckland homes with more people choosing to remove one of the walls to integrate the galley kitchen into an open plan living space.

Galley kitchens work best if you have a narrow room and prefer your kitchen closed off from the rest of the house. A galley kitchen can easily be converted into an open style kitchen by demolishing the wall between the kitchen and the living space. If you are demolishing a wall that has countertops adjacent to it then you can convert this row of countertops into a long island instead. This way you can keep the storage and work bench space. Another great way to integrate a galley kitchen into your living space is making a large open window without a glass pane on the wall that has one of the countertops adjacent to it.

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We designed this kitchen for a client that wanted to integrate her Galley kitchen into the rest of the living space. She still wanted to keep the storage which meant that our next best option was to create a window and extend the counter into an island which was used for casual dining.

Photos and Project specifications  Open style Galley Kitchen (or one wall + island Kitchen) in Epsom

4.Island Kitchen:

Kitchens in the past always featured islands which were predominantly used for prep work in kitchens. Islands phased in the past few decades as the space available for them became lesser and other kitchen designs provided more storage.

This however has changed in the past decade as islands of today feature storage cabinets on all sides, they provide extra prep space and act as a small breakfast nook. Installing an island is not possible for all spaces but there are more sleeker styles available today. It is possible to incorporate a an island in L-shaped, U shaped and Galley kitchens as long as there is enough room to move around all the counters.

Read20 Top Kitchen design trends for 2021 and 10 trends to avoid

5.Peninsula Kitchen:

In peninsula kitchens your island extends from the rest of your kitchen. This type of island provides more benchtop space or a dining area when there isn’t much space available for an standalone island. This works especially well for L-shaped kitchens as seen in one of our renovations below. Lynette’s family really wanted a breakfast nook in their kitchen design but did not have the space for an island in the middle of the kitchen. Hence we created a peninsula design for her kitchen which allowed her to have her breakfast nook without making the area cumbersome.

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We custom built a peninsula kitchen for this renovation in Bucklands Beach which added additional bench space as well as added a breakfast nook for our clients.

Project specifications of the above Kitchen

6.Two Island Kitchen:

This type of kitchen is only possible for a kitchen design which has a large space to work with. You can create a lovely 2 island kitchen which can be installed in the middle of the kitchen design with a pathway in between them. You can use one of the islands for prep work and in the other you can even install a cooktop and make that your cooking area. Two islands of a smaller size work better than one large island in the middle as there is more accessibility available with two small islands. It is also better for walking around and the general flow of your kitchen.


Featured Projects

Urban Luxury Kitchen renovation in Parnell – An open plan U-shaped Kitchen

This townhouse was centrally located in Parnell but the kitchen was tiny and lacked counter space. We completely changed the layout of this kitchen by first moving it from the left side of the area to the right. We then added cabinets in the dining area as an extended storage space. This cabinet featured shelves with internal lights which could be opened when required. To see Before and After pictures and project specifications see more

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Entertainer’s Dream Kitchen and Bar – A modern U shaped Open plan kitchen

Guru and Neeta from Massey had a closed off kitchen which did not let them enjoy an open plan living. They wanted to renovate to introduce a feel of luxury but also make it an open space which could double as an entertaining space. We opened up the space for them and also extended the kitchen counter towards the lounge to act like a bar. The black and white see more


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Kitchen, Lounge and Dining room renovation in Massey

Cottage Style Kitchen in Mangere Bridge – Peninsula Kitchen

This was a special kitchen as it was about incorporating natural elements into the kitchen to reflect our client’s country surroundings. The kitchen was dated and was transformed into a chic country style kitchen complete with treated real wood as bench-tops, butler’s sink, floating shelves and cabinets that were wrapped in Dezignatek Thermoform with a ‘Ronda’ pattern to give them cabinets a vintage look see more

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Full kitchen renovation in Mangere Bridge, Aucklandd

Open Plan Galley Kitchen in Epsom

We renovated this historic bungalow in Epsom to make it more functional for a young family. The materials used were durable and easy to clean. This open style galley kitchen allows our clients the freedom to spend quality time within one space. See full details for this project here

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Further Resources for your house interior design

  1. Ideas for Bathroom renovations in our bathroom renovation gallery of bathrooms we have renovated in Auckland
  2. Ideas for Kitchen renovations in our kitchen renovation gallery for kitchens we have renovated in Auckland
  3. Featured projects and Client stories to see specifications on some of the projects.
  4. Real client stories from Auckland.


Do you have a In-house Kitchen designer?

Yes, we do have an In-house Kitchen designer who will help you create a Kitchen design for your kitchen renovation. We provide all our clients with 3D drawings when we create a proposal for you.

What kind of Kitchen layout is best for me?

This will depend on various factors. Read our article on Planning your layout for a functional and practical kitchen design here to understand more about the layout that is right for you :

Do I have to get my own plumbers and electricians?

We provide a full renovation service for any given area. This means that our service will include design, demolition, sourcing of all renovation materials from local supplier showrooms, custom built cabinetry, installation of all cabinets, flooring, fixtures, project management and all trades like electricians, plumbers, grouters, builders, tilers, and any other trades.

Still have questions unanswered? schedule a no-obligation consultation with the team at Superior Renovations

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