The L-shaped design is the most popular kitchen configuration, according to the NKBA 2019 kitchen design trends. But what is an L-shaped kitchen design? We asked some of the best experts to explain this design and give us advice on how to use it. After all, just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s the right setting for you.
L-shaped kitchen design options
“The L-shaped design consists of two adjoining perpendicular cabinet walls that form a formidable ‘L’ shape,” explains David Shove-Brown, partner at the Washington, DC-based boutique design firm. // 3877. He says its popularity is due to the adaptability of the design. “Typically one side is dedicated to smaller kitchen tasks and acts as a base for the sink and countertop appliances,” says Shove-Brown. “The other ‘wing’ is geared for larger and time-consuming activities, holds the stove and refrigerator, and provides additional storage.”
An L-shaped kitchen design can also take another shape. “There may be a wall with a hob and another with a sink,” explains Joan Kaufman, interior designer and president of Interior planning and design in Naperville, IL. But in this design, the refrigerator may not be in the L. “Often an island is in the center of this style kitchen.” An example of an L-shaped kitchen designed by Kaufman is above. While the kitchen work triangle is efficient, she says island planning is essential to ensure space is efficient. “Determining if an ‘L’ is suitable for a homeowner will largely depend on the floor plan and availability of space.”
Incorporating a window
Michael Radovic, CKD at Display KitchensShe admits that she loves L-shaped kitchens because they are efficient and look great. “Being on Long Island, where there are mostly fancy-sized private homes, we usually add a center island, but the perimeter is where all the action is.” Radovic says that it is preferable to place the sink (and modern faucet) in front of a window, as his company did in the previous design, and that window can provide an incredible view. “The stretch of the L is often along an exterior wall and you can create a large window to an incredible landscape,” says George Bevan, director of the architecture firm. Bevan and associates in Sonoma, CA. “This allows for natural light and full views of the exterior.” However, if you want a window behind the sink, understand how this will change the settings. “It will be a factor in the placement of cabinets and appliances in your kitchen,” Kaufman explains.
Open concept design
Open concept kitchens continue to be popular. “The L-shaped kitchen design provides an easy option to create a seamless flow between the kitchen and adjacent living spaces,” explains Shove-Brown. It does this by keeping kitchen essentials limited to two exterior walls. “Movement through space is more fluid with this floor plan.”
The work triangle can support two cooks.
Chelsea Allard, Vice President of Design, Box Design / Remodeling in Charlotte, North Carolina, she also likes an L-shaped kitchen. “They’re common because they can create a nice working triangle between the refrigerator, the sink, and the cooking surface,” he says. “Now more than ever, we see L-shaped kitchens combined with islands to create separate areas for multiple cooks.” Upstairs is an L-shaped kitchen designed by Allard’s company. Shawn Breyer, Owner of We buy houses Atlanta, agrees that most homeowners and designers enjoy the open layout of this floor plan. “Expand functional work areas so the kitchen feels less cramped.”
It’s great for small spaces
“These kitchen designs work well in lofts with industrial kitchens and open-concept floor plans where the dining room or breakfast bar is incorporated into the space,” according to Ariel Richardson, San Diego-based interior designer and founder of ASR Design Studio. “It’s ideal for small to medium-sized spaces where you want the kitchen to feel like part of a larger space, like a dining room and living room.”
Shove-Brown says she’s seeing many townhomes and apartment buildings incorporate the L-shaped kitchen concept. “This design is also great for condos. The challenge is discovering what people want to see and what people don’t want to see in their space, ”he explains. For example, Shove-Brown says that while L-shaped kitchens keep cleaning and cooking areas separate, everything can be seen in adjacent living spaces. “If you are comfortable with an uninterrupted flow between each one, then an L-shaped kitchen is ideal.”
However, there are some downsides that homeowners should plan to address. “In small and large spaces, be aware of the ‘dead zones’ that can arise from this design,” advises Shove-Brown. “In many cases, the corner space is not being used correctly.” He says the area is not fully equipped for active use, but not quite suitable for storage either. If possible, Shove-Brown recommends limiting the size of this zone.
And if you don’t add an island, Breyer points out another problem. “The problem with the L-shaped kitchen arises when the functional areas are too spread out, making the workspace inefficient.” He says that an island, even one with wheels that can be moved, can shorten the distances between work areas.
However, sometimes there is no enough distance. “In small L-shaped kitchens, appliances can be too close together to provide an effective preparation space,” explains Allard. She points to restored ranch houses that did not have an original dishwasher or microwave as an example. “In those cases, lengthening one side and adding an island can help extend the zones, making them more appropriate for the way we move today.”
Nathan Outlaw, President of Onvico, a general contracting and design-build company in Thomasville, GA, points to two additional downsides. “Compared to a galley kitchen, an L-shaped kitchen is more expensive, due to the added complexity with the cabinets and countertops and the possibility of an island.” And while some families love open-concept styles to maximize social interactions, that can be a retreat, too. “Sometimes an L-shaped kitchen can be too attractive, making it difficult for the cook to ‘kick’ someone out,” says Onvico.