Kitchens have five basic layouts, which include the single wall, galley, G-, L- and U-shaped arrangements. When you add an island to any one of these kitchen layouts, it creates a slight variation on the basic design. The layout of the kitchen governs the ease in which you can prepare and cook food -- not the colors, cabinetry or style. It defines the placement of cabinets, countertops, sinks, appliances and furniture. No kitchen layout is complete without careful thought of the work triangle that incorporates the steps between the stove, refrigerator and sink or prep area.

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This G-shaped kitchen incorporates a bar on one leg.

One-Wall and Galley Kitchens

One-wall kitchens just like they sound: All the appliances, cabinets, sink and countertop align on one wall. This kitchen arrangement is typical in apartments, small homes or houses with open floor plans that incorporate a dining and living room in one space. A variation of the one-wall design incorporates two walls -- the galley kitchen. The galley kitchen includes a wall of cabinets, stove, countertop and sink opposite the wall that contains more cabinets, the refrigerator and more counter space, depending on the design. At one end of a galley kitchen sits the dining room, often with a mudroom or laundry room at its opposite end.

The L-Shaped Kitchen

The L-shaped kitchen offers an alternative to the one-wall kitchen plan by adding a slight leg that juts out into the room a bit or is added to the corner where two walls join. The countertop space, sink and cabinetry fill both walls with appliances placed according to the work triangle. L-shaped kitchens can have an island that runs parallel to one of the walls to make a larger work and food prep area.

U- and G-Shaped Kitchen Layouts

U-Shaped kitchens typically have a countertop, sink, dishwasher and cabinets situated at the bottom of the U-shape, with countertops, cabinets and appliances on either side that run parallel to each other and perpendicular to the base. The G-shaped kitchen presents a slight deviation of the U-shape kitchen with a countertop area that extends from one side of the legs. The countertop usually includes a work area on one side and a breakfast bar on the other.

The Work Triangle

A key element of kitchen design is to incorporate a work triangle in the layout. Careful thought determines the optimum placement for the sink, stove and refrigerator: The three points of the triangle usually with one of these on the opposite wall to the other two. When designing the work triangle, avoid creating it so that kitchen traffic passes through it, interrupting workflow. The total length of all three legs should add up to at least 12 feet minimum and up to 26 feet maximum.