These Galley Kitchen Designs Make Small Spaces Work

Updated 11/19/19

 Design: Malene Birger

Galley kitchens: the curse of the city-dweller. Sure, these function-over-form workhorses might've been just fine back in the day, but in a post-prewar world, we're used to using the kitchen for socializing as much as for prepping meals—which can make these appliance-lined hallways a bit of a sticking point when apartment hunting.

But with great space challenges comes great opportunity for stylish solutions. We've spotted more than a few galley kitchens that have us reconsidering our previously dismissive stance. And while some are little more than a SMEG refrigerator wide, the occupants have managed to cram more than their square footage's share of style into these hardworking nooks. From luxe textiles to high-shine hardware, they're every bit as Pinterest-worthy as kitchens two or three times their size—and that's a feat worth celebrating.

Click through to see our favorite clever configurations for galley kitchens.

01 of 20

Counter Service

It's all about the repetition. A stately row of gold-toned pendant lights makes a huge impact along this lengthy counter expanse.

eastmoreland pendant
Rejuvenation Eastmoreland Pendant $269 $215
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02 of 20

On A Roll

That never-ending grocery list is no problem, thanks to the infinite scroll of a wall-mounted butcher paper roll. Now you'll never have to run back out to the store for that *one* thing you somehow forgot again (hey, we can dream, right?).

wall mounted paper roll
RETTEL Kraft Paper Roll Wall Mount $45
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03 of 20

Subway Transfer

Just when we thought we were over the subway tile trend, this switch-up made us reconsider. Instead of the classic white subway tile with grey grout, this appealing colorblocked kitchen turns the timeless design on its head, using grey subway tile and white grout instead. And just like that, we're back on board with this look.

grey subway tile
Ivy Hill Tile Ceramic Subway Tile $6
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04 of 20

Light & Airy

Blame it on our recent all-green-everything kick, but there's something so light and refreshing looking about these ultra-pale sage green cabinets in an otherwise all-white space.

05 of 20

Mix Master

Galley kitchens can present some challenges because of their limited footprint, but they can offer some unique opportunities too—like using the distinct countertops to your advantage. This designer paired one butcher-block countertop with a stainless steel surround by the sink—two textures that create a unique (and functional) mirror image.

06 of 20

Heart Of The Home

The best way to add drama without compromising space—this custom galley kitchen features extra-wide heart oak floor planks that go up the wall and continue onto the drawer fronts for a seriously stunning effect.

07 of 20

Blue Dream

We've seen plenty of blue-painted cabinets over the past few years, but this muted, Tiffany-esque shade is something new...and we think it might just be the next big thing. (We love how the designers incorporated cabinetry around the historic fireplace in the space, too.)

08 of 20

Going Grey

When your range is this ornate, it only makes sense to show it off. A rich, warm grey tone highlights the architectural detail of this oversized range, letting it proudly stand out from the all-white cabinetry.

09 of 20

Back To Black

Is it just us, or do these matte-black handles look ultra-modern against the dark colored cabinetry? We've never seen tone-on-tone look quite so cool.

Keep the floors light to prevent the small space from feeling claustrophobic.

matte black hex handles
CB2 Hex Matte Black Handle $13
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10 of 20

Orange Crush

Orange you glad this kitchen isn't boring? Painting the interior of the glass-fronted cabinets in a bright, eye-popping shade might just be our new favorite kitchen remodeling trick—and if it encourages you to take the look to the next level with coordinating wallpaper, so be it.

savuti orange wallpaper
Cole & Son Savuti Wallpaper in Orange $150
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11 of 20

Love On Top

Um, how brilliant is this? We're calling it right now: wallpaper on the top, tile on the bottom is the new "business in the front; party in the back."

12 of 20

Tread Lightly

Proof that any galley kitchen can look Instagram-ready if you know how to style it. Replacing standard-issue floor mats with luxe Moroccan textiles is a quick ticket to worldly, boho-beautiful vibes. (Want to embrace an even more eclectic look? Pair two similar-width rugs for a budget-friendly option that's jungalow-approved.)

moroccan runner rug
D + K Renewal Moroccan Rug $380
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13 of 20

Art School

If you ask us, there's always room for art. Cabinet sides are the perfect place to display small pieces—just use a command hook or similar adhesive option to ensure you don't damage the cabinet veneer or break through to the interior.

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Counter Intelligence

When counter space is at a premium, it's time to think creatively. Hooks are a galley kitchen owner's best friends, and we love the pulled-together, polished look of an adaptable multi-hook system like this one—it's so much more refined than individual ones scattered about.

ferm living brass hooks
Ferm Living Kitchen Rod with Brass Hooks $95
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15 of 20

Open Season

Upper cabinets cramping your style? Create a more airy feel by removing the doors of a few choice cabinets to display cookbooks and other aesthetically pleasing essentials like this apartment-dweller did.

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The Tile Files

Less is more? Not from where we sit. A bold mix of tiles has us swooning over this minuscule kitchen.

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Layer Apparent

We get it—once you start rug shopping, it's tough to stop. Layer a few lightweight woven options to create a cool custom look like this one (and switch 'em out to your heart's content).

block print rugs
Eclectic Goods Block Print Runner Rugs $132
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18 of 20

Check, Please

It should come as no surprise that fashion designer Malene Birger's kitchen is so utterly chic. We're taking notes on her expertly-mixed scales and high-contrast color scheme.

checkerboard tile
Merola Tile Black and White Checkerboard Porcelain Tile $16 $10
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19 of 20

Star Light, Star Bright

When there's not much space to move, use every chance you can to draw the eye upward. While you might not be able to add a vaulted ceiling in your rental apartment (sorry, guys!), a unique light fixture (or three!) can go a long way toward making the space feel more open.

Star Light
Birch Lane Single Star Pendant $51
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20 of 20

Cabinet of Curiosity

Not enough upper cabinets in your space? Rather than heading to the hardware store for some standard-issue options, forage at flea markets for unique vintage finds or pieces of furniture to repurpose. (We think this wall-mounted glass-front cabinet looks way cooler than anything you'd find in a custom cabinetry catalogue, tbh.)

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