15 Galley Kitchens That Will Make You Want to Downsize

Stephan Julliard

It’s not up for debate: There’s more to a great kitchen than the delicious, mouth-watering meals you make in it. As one of the most frequented areas—if not, the most—of your home, your kitchen deserves to look just as good as the rest of your home. However, before you choose an eye-catching backsplash, illuminating light fixtures, or the perfect shade of paint, you’ll need to think about your kitchen’s layout.

When it comes to kitchen layouts, the galley style often gets a bad reputation for being constricting and cramped. But, in reality? A galley kitchen is full of inspiration—you just need to know where to look. To help, we’ve culled the archives and asked the professionals how to make the most of the galley kitchen. Whether your style is traditional or contemporary, or your project low-lift or a full-blown, there’s something below for every space.

What is a Galley Kitchen?

Though galley kitchens traditionally refer to cooking spaces in planes, trains, and boats, they have been reimagined for residential spaces too. “[They] have always solved the question of how to house a kitchen in a small dwelling, so they are still desirable and popular in urban settings where we live in smaller footprints,” explains Sarah Sargeant, principal of New York-based firm Cochineal Design. Unlike other kitchen layouts—which often have freestanding appliances—galley styles have their ovens, dishwashers, fridges, and microwaves built into the design so they don’t compromise on counter space.

Galley kitchens are ideal for small spaces, but they do run the risk of feeling a bit claustrophobic. Fortunately, Sargeant has a suitable solution. “We love to use a mix of upper cabinets and open shelves to break up the monotony,” she shares. “There are many ways to jazz a galley kitchen up, you just have to think beyond white cabinets and subway tile!”

Go ahead, keep scrolling for the very best galley kitchen ideas to create a culinary space that’s equal parts stylish and savory.

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Pair With a Pop of Color

When it comes to your galley kitchen, a little bit of color goes a long, long way. In this West Village apartment, Cochineal Design painted the cabinet in Farrow & Ball’s Preference Red, which creates plenty of contrast with the marble countertops and backsplash. Rounding out the look are Smeg appliances and vintage Peter Celsing sconces, courtesy of 1stDibs.


Mix and Match

For a more whimsical approach to the galley kitchen, take a cue from Jean Louis Deniot, who doubled down on a blue and white palette in this French home. From the checkered tiles to the custom, color-blocked cabinets, this galley kitchen is eye-catching without being overwhelming.


Design an In-Dining Experience

Just because a galley kitchen has limited square footage doesn’t mean it can’t be a multi-purpose space. In his Milan apartment, Dimorestudio’s Emiliano Salci placed a petite bistro table and chairs by the window, making the kitchen an even more high-trafficked room. Dinner with a view? Yes, please.


A Marble Marvel

Speaking of marble, why not cover your entire kitchen in the precious material? In this Parisian pad, designer Hugo Toro punctuated the Brèche de Médicis marble kitchen with custom red lacquer from Redfield & Dattner, offering a happy medium between luxury and livable.


Build a Breakfast Nook

For a more permanent take on the idea, commit to the look with a full-fledged breakfast nook—just as Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet did in this Monaco apartment. The kitchen table and chairs—both designed by Pierre Jeanneret—offer a well-appointed space to kick back, relax, and enjoy a delicious dish.


Add an Island

Want to maximize your working space? Create the illusion of a kitchen island, just as Thom Filicia did in his Manhattan apartment. The designer added a bar cart from his eponymous home decor collection with Vanguard for serving and meal prepping. (Unlike an island, you can easily move your bar cart out of the kitchen should you need more room.)


Embrace the Elements

Bring the great outdoors inside with natural materials. When designing his family’s Alpine retreat, architect Tobias Petri kept his materials simple. “We used larch wood from the nearby mountains, concrete, and the [found] stone. That’s it. Nothing else,” Petri says. “No fancy materials. No fancy tiles. Simple and local.”


Keep it Simple

In Ku-Ling and Evan Yurman’s New York apartment, the couple selected minimalist, slab cabinet doors to put the Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances from and center. Of course, simple doesn’t mean boring. The duo warmed up this pared-back space with a vintage pendant by Max Ingrand for FontanaArte and Hans Wegner chairs.


Style Your Shelves

Create the illusion of an airy, seemingly larger space with open shelves. In this small studio apartment, designer Charlie Ferrer enlisted custom green shelves, which pop nicely against the vintage Italian wallpaper, white subway tiles, and Maynard Monrow. The result: A happy medium between form and function.


Create Contrast

What’s black, white, and chic all over? This galley kitchen in St. Petersburg. For a simple-yet-effective dash of drama, designer Tim Veresnovsky employed custom, high-contrast eucalyptus veneer wallcovering, cabinets, and a lone chair. A range from Ikea completes the area in style.


Go for the Bold

Just like a powder bathroom, your galley kitchen is a great spot to inject bold colors and patterns. In this prewar apartment, designer David Netto embraced a maximalist spirit with geometric flooring and custom navy cabinets, complete with hardware from E.R. Butler & Co.


Redesign With a Rug

If statement-making tile isn’t your thing, create a warm, welcoming environment with a rug runner. In Emmy Rossum’s Manhattan apartment, an antique Stark runner gives this galley kitchen a cozy edge.


Maximize With a Mirror

If you want to make a small galley kitchen appear larger, simply add a mirrored wall to the mix. The way light will bounce off the reflective will create the illusion of a generous culinary space. Not sure where to start? Take a cue from Bill Wackermann’s house tour, which is outfitted with light blue cabinetry and marble countertops.


Let There Be Light

When it comes to decorating your galley kitchen, the only way may quite literally be up. Internet mogul Michael Bruno turned his all-white kitchen into a wow moment with the 19th-century light fixtures, which were sourced from a Paris flea market.


Pack on the Powerful Pigments

As Jeffrey Kalinsky’s minimalist New York apartment proves, an all-white galley kitchen doesn’t have to be boring. Here, Bulthaup cabinetry and Corian countertops are offset with terrazzo flooring, colorful serveware, and a round pendant from Bega.


Capitalize on Your Countertops

Want your galley kitchen to pull double duty? Turn your countertops into an island by scooting a few chairs on the opposite side. Augusta Hoffman’s East Village home nails the look with the help of three woven stools.


Grow Your Indoor Garden

Breathe some life into your small galley kitchen with fresh greenery. In his Mexico City home, furniture designer Mark Grattan incorporated a leafy tree in a locally-sourced planter. Mexican yellow travertine and a handmade rug from Oaxaca complete the bright space.

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