7 Benefits of a Galley Kitchen

Austin Interior Designer Amity Worrel Explains Why She Prefers a Galley Kitchen

Galley Kitchen Ideas

Galley kitchens tend to get a bad rap, especially on interior design shows. The first thing made-for-TV designers will do is blow out a galley kitchen wall to make space for an island that overlooks the living room. Now, your refuge for quiet movie nights and gatherings with friends is interrupted by the looming shrine to housework that accounts for 75% of your renovation budget. Forget about having time to enjoy yourself; there are dirty dishes stacked on the island that require washing! Well, this interior designer is here to rescue you from the deserted kitchen island and show you all the benefits of a galley kitchen. 

What is a Galley Kitchen? 

If you’ve been following the blog through the years, you know I’ve advocated for galley kitchens with smaller footprints and closed-off layouts before. So, here we go again! I just love a galley kitchen and all its efficiency, ease, and economy. 

Typically self-contained in their own room, galley kitchens feature two parallel banks of cabinets, counters, and appliances with a walkway down the middle. This layout maximizes space to offer increased storage, an efficient work triangle, and a smaller footprint that keeps necessary cooking utensils close at hand. 

While some kitchen floor plans keep you running circles around islands, the galley cuts down the steps required to prepare a meal and allows you to shut away the mess and actually enjoy the dinner party. 

Small Kitchen Design by Amity Worrel

Practical Design Served From the Galley

There’s a reason why they put galley kitchens on trains, planes, and ships — meals get cooked faster in them! At the turn of the century and through the 1920s, there were a few key figures who were proponents of smaller, more efficient kitchen plans that would help ease the burden of housework. (Why we’ve regressed to putting up monuments to domesticity in our homes, I’ll never know.) 

Ladies’ Home Journal Columnist and Author Christine Frederick wrote New Housekeeping: Efficiency Studies in Home Management in 1913, which outlined standard practices of home organization to speed up tasks and ease the load of domestic chores. In it, she created an early outline of what would become the kitchen work triangle, a layout in which the lines between the stove, sink, and refrigerator (or icebox in her day) form to make a perfect triangle. The design reduces the steps needed to cook a meal, increasing efficiency. 


Galley Kitchen
Frederick’s Kitchen Layout Diagrams from New Housekeeping: Efficiency Studies in Home Management


A few years later, Frederick’s book inspired Architects Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky and Ernst May in Frankfurt, Germany, who were working to design new post-WWI housing. Space was in short supply, and efficiency was among the utmost concerns. While Schütte-Lihotzky admittedly hated cooking, she knew how important it was to create a practical space for the job and looked to Frederick’s diagrams. In 1926, she designed the “Frankfurt Kitchen,” a compact galley design that allowed for easy and efficient meal prep, freeing women to return to more leisurely pursuits. 

So, why did galley kitchens ever go out of style? 

7 Benefits of a Galley Kitchen Layout

It’s time to get off the island. Here are my seven favorite benefits of a galley kitchen layout. 

Substance Over Style 

The kitchen is a workspace, not a showpiece. My clients who opt for galley kitchen layouts spend less on counters and cabinets, allowing them to invest more in the beauty and comfort of their leisurely spaces. A kitchen is for feeding yourself. Why put this task on display? We should make the job as easy as possible and separate from the rest of the home. 

More Efficient

Bigger is not always better. Contrary to popular belief, small kitchen floor plans are more efficient than larger ones. After all, the galley on a ship has to feed hundreds! With a smaller plan, the items you need are more accessible, and you can prepare a meal without running circles around an island. 

More Gourmet (or Not) 

Many folks think they want an open-concept “chef’s kitchen.” Well, there is no such thing. Chefs cook on a line in the galley. If you actually like to cook, a galley kitchen offers a more efficient, gourmet layout. If you don’t like to cook (like me), it gives you more space to stretch out and relax in your living spaces. 

Closed Kitchen
Closed Kitchen by Amity Worrel

Easier to Clean 

Closed kitchen layouts are easier to keep clean because the mess is contained in one room. In open plans, dishes pile up in plain sight, and splatters have a way of making their way into other spaces. Have you ever seen the galley of a ship? It’s spick and span spotless because it’s just easier to clean up. 

Less Messy (and Smelly) 

Speaking of cleaning, walls also keep the kitchen smells from seeping into your living room rugs, upholstery, and curtain panels. I, for one, don’t want to smell the burnt chicken I made in my living room upholstery days after the fact. This becomes a much larger concern as maximalism trends and homeowners layering in more textures.

Less Distracting 

Open-concept kitchens let noises drift even more so than smells. Have you tried watching TV while someone is banging away in the kitchen? It’s impossible. I love the way a galley kitchen is tucked away and allows the rest of the home to be silent during cooking time. 

Actually More Social 

Many folks like the idea of the kitchen being open to increase a “social” feel. When in reality, they end up spending more time cleaning up their kitchen to be presentable rather than socializing. Galley kitchens are actually more social because they allow you to get the work done, shut away the mess, and get back to the party. 

Galley Kitchen Ideas
Built-in Banquettes by Amity Worrel

Variations on the Galley Kitchen Layout

While I am such a proponent of the galley kitchen, my ideal kitchen layout is actually a variation of the floor plan. Rather than a strict galley, I like to have a layout that includes a small dining area at one end for intimate family meals or to provide a spot to relax between tasks. Ideally, it will have a bank of windows to look over the garden and let in much-needed natural light and airflow.

The Recipe for a Low-Stress Home

A galley kitchen has many benefits, but my favorite is that its powerfully efficient design decreases the time needed to prepare a meal, freeing up moments for relaxation and bonding with the family. Why have a kitchen showpiece that demands you to always be clean, perfect, and ready to serve? 

A galley kitchen is there to serve you, not the other way around.

Amity Worrel

Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.



Austin Interior Designer, Galley kitchen