How to design a U-shaped kitchen

Published: 22 November 2023

When embarking on the journey of designing your dream kitchen, one of the pivotal decisions you'll face is selecting the ideal layout.

The choices are diverse, ranging from L-shaped, U-shaped, straight-line, to galley kitchens, each tailored to suit different kitchen shapes and sizes. Among these layouts, the U-shaped, often referred to as the horseshoe-shaped kitchen, has emerged as a beacon of efficiency, particularly well-suited for medium-sized and spacious kitchens.

What sets the U-shaped layout apart is its ingenious utilisation of three walls, a feature that allows it to maximise available space like no other. The U-shaped layout lends itself naturally to a well-structured workflow. It offers ample countertop space, fostering organised task zones that encourage an efficient culinary experience.

What is a U-shaped kitchen?

At its core, a U-shaped kitchen is characterised by its configuration, which resembles the letter 'U.' This layout typically utilises three walls, creating a continuous workspace that encapsulates the cook within a functional and versatile culinary haven.

The 'U' formation offers an unbroken flow of cabinetry, countertops, and appliances, making it a fantastic choice for those who prioritise efficient kitchen design.

The essence of a U-shaped kitchen is in its ability to envelop the cook in a world of culinary potential. With everything within arm's reach, from cookware to utensils, ingredients to cutting boards, it allows for an uninterrupted cooking experience. This layout is perfect for those who relish the idea of having a dedicated, self-contained kitchen space where they can master their culinary craft.

The benefits of a U-shaped kitchen

There are plenty of benefits to having a U-shaped kitchen, among which:

1. Ample countertop space

In a U-shaped kitchen with countertops on three sides, you can readily split it into three distinct cooking zones. This arrangement enhances kitchen organisation and prevents your pots and pans from overcrowding a single space.

Just remember, for this layout to work comfortably, we recommend having a kitchen that's at least nine feet wide.

2. Extra storage

The remarkable storage potential of a U-shaped kitchen cannot be overstated. Having three walls to work with opens up a world of options for cabinets, drawers, and pantry solutions. Each item, from pots and pans to dishes and kitchen gadgets, can have its own designated space. This results in a well-ordered, uncluttered kitchen where you can effortlessly find what you need.

3. Efficient workflow

Efficiency is at the heart of a well-designed U-shaped kitchen. The work zones – for preparation, cooking, and cleaning – are intuitively arranged following the patterns of the golden triangle rule.

The idea behind the golden triangle rule is for your kitchen to have three important focus areas: one for cooking, one for preparation, and the other for washing. This way you can transition smoothly from one task to another, creating a well-choreographed dance within your kitchen. This means less time spent searching for utensils, ingredients, or cookware and more time devoted to crafting delicious meals.

4. Potential challenges

In the design of a U-shaped kitchen, one notable challenge to contend with is the potential limitation in creating a dining area. The U-shaped layout, by nature, utilises three walls efficiently, maximising workspace and storage, but this can sometimes result in a trade-off when it comes to integrating a dedicated dining space.

For those who cherish the idea of a traditional dining table where family and friends can gather, this layout may seem initially limiting. A sprawling dining table often requires more open space, which can be at odds with the enclosed structure of the U-shaped kitchen.

However, creative solutions are at hand to address this challenge without sacrificing the efficiency and organisation that the U-shaped layout offers. One of the popular strategies is the inclusion of a kitchen island with seating.

Assessing your needs and space

Before embarking on the design journey for your U-shaped kitchen, it's essential to take a close look at your cooking and lifestyle requirements. Everyone's kitchen needs are unique, and your kitchen should be tailored to cater to your specific demands.

Consider factors such as:

> Cooking style: Are you an avid chef who needs ample prep space, or do you prefer quick and easy meals?

> Family size: How many people do you typically cook for? Will you need space for large family gatherings or regular entertaining?

> Storage needs: Do you have an extensive collection of kitchen tools, pots, and pans that require substantial storage space?

> Dining preferences: Do you enjoy informal dining, or do you require a formal dining area within the kitchen?

Understanding these aspects of your lifestyle and cooking habits will guide the design choices you make for your U-shaped kitchen. For instance, a family of four may need more storage and seating options compared to a single individual living alone.

Considering the intricacies of a U-shaped kitchen design, partnering with a designer or contractor becomes pivotal, especially as precise measurements are paramount for success.

At More Kitchens, we elevate your experience by offering a comprehensive, fully project-managed service. Our bespoke approach means every detail is tailored to your unique needs. With a team of design experts guiding you through the process, rest assured that your U-shaped kitchen will not only meet but exceed your expectations.

Embrace the precision and personalised touch of our full design and fit service as you embark on creating your dream kitchen.

Planning the work triangle

The kitchen work triangle is a fundamental principle in kitchen design, focusing on the efficiency of the space and the relationship between three key areas: the stove, the refrigerator, and the sink.

These three elements represent the core zones for cooking, food storage, and dish cleaning, and their placement significantly impacts the flow and functionality of your kitchen.

In a U-shaped kitchen, the work triangle can be skillfully integrated to enhance your cooking experience.

Option 1

Option 2

Here's how you can optimise it within this layout:

> Placement of key appliances: Begin by placing your stove, refrigerator, and sink along the three arms of the "U." Ideally, they should form a well-balanced triangle, ensuring that each zone is easily accessible from the others. This arrangement minimises the need for excessive movement while cooking.

> Consider work zones: Within each arm of the U-shaped layout, create specific work zones. For instance, dedicate one side to food preparation with a countertop and cutting space, another for cooking with the stove and oven, and the third for cleaning with the sink and dishwasher. These zones keep related tasks close together.

> Avoid obstacles: Be mindful of any obstacles or interruptions within the work triangle. Ensure that cabinet doors, islands, or other fixtures do not impede the flow between the key areas. This guarantees a seamless transition between tasks.

Designing for efficiency and functionality

A U-shaped kitchen layout offers a wealth of opportunities for effective storage solutions. To maximise your storage capacity:

> Utilise upper cabinets: Install upper cabinets along all three walls to make use of vertical space. These are ideal for storing items you don't need to access regularly, such as kitchenware and cookbooks.

> Opt for deep drawers: Deep drawers are excellent for pots, pans, and larger kitchen items. They provide easy access and visibility, ensuring that you don't have to dig through cluttered cabinets.

> Consider pull-out pantry: A pull-out pantry can be a lifesaver for keeping dry goods and kitchen essentials organised. It offers efficient use of space, allowing you to see and access items with ease.

> Clever corner solutions: Corners can be challenging, but there are solutions like pull-out shelves or Lazy Susans that make the most of these spaces.

> Tall cabinets: Use tall cabinets for items that are infrequently used, like small appliances or seasonal dishware.

Selecting materials and finishes

Choosing the right materials for your U-shaped kitchen is a significant decision, as it affects both aesthetics and functionality. In this section, we'll explore how to pick the best countertops, backsplashes, and cabinetry materials, along with the impact of colours and finishes. These choices will not only shape the look of your kitchen but also determine its durability and maintenance requirements.



When it comes to countertops in a U-shaped kitchen, consider materials like granite, quartz, or solid surface options. These are not only durable but also resistant to staining and easy to clean. The choice of colour and pattern can significantly influence the kitchen's overall aesthetic.


A backsplash not only protects your kitchen walls but also adds a decorative touch. Tile backsplashes, whether ceramic, porcelain, or glass, offer a plethora of design possibilities. Be sure to choose a style that complements your overall kitchen theme. For a modern look, consider sleek, monochromatic tiles, while a classic kitchen may benefit from subway or mosaic tiles.

Cabinetry materials

The material for your cabinets sets the tone for your kitchen's aesthetic. Wood is a popular choice, with options like oak, cherry, or maple. For a more contemporary look, consider glossy laminate or lacquered finishes. It's important to balance aesthetics with practicality – choose materials that suit your lifestyle and maintenance preferences.

Incorporating lighting solutions

Depending on your preferences, there are plenty of options when it comes to lighting for your U-shaped kitchen. We recommend thinking about:

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting is the backbone of your kitchen's lighting design. It sets the overall mood and brightness of the space. In a U-shaped kitchen, consider overhead fixtures like chandeliers, flush-mounts, or pendant lights. These provide a warm, inviting glow, ensuring that your entire kitchen is well-illuminated.

Task lighting

Task lighting focuses on practicality, ensuring that your work areas are properly lit. This is crucial in a U-shaped kitchen where efficient task zones are key. Under-cabinet lighting is an excellent choice for illuminating countertops, while recessed or track lights can be directed at key workspaces like the stove or sink.

Accent lighting

Accent lighting adds a touch of drama and highlights specific design elements in your U-shaped kitchen. Use it to draw attention to features like open shelving, artwork, or architectural details. Track lighting, wall-mounted fixtures, or LED strips can create stunning visual effects. For more information, read our guide on kitchen lighting.

Adding personal touches

Your U-shaped kitchen is a canvas for personal expression, a place where you can infuse your unique style and personality. When adding personal touches, consider:

> Cabinet hardware: Swap out standard cabinet handles and knobs with ones that match your preferred style, whether it's classic, modern, or eclectic.

> Colour palette: Use colour to convey your personality. Consider a bold accent wall, a unique colour for your cabinets, or colourful bar stools to inject vibrancy into the space.

> Open shelving: Embrace open shelving to showcase your favourite dishes, glassware, or decorative items. This not only reflects your style but also adds a personal, lived-in touch to the kitchen.

> Artwork Hang artwork that resonates with you. A gallery wall, a single statement piece, or even your children's art can add a personal touch.

> Plants: Bring the outdoors in with potted plants or a herb garden on a sunny windowsill. Plants infuse life and a sense of vitality into your kitchen.

> Unique kitchenware: Display unique kitchenware or vintage pieces on open shelves. Antique dishes, quirky mugs, or handcrafted pottery can become both functional and decorative elements.

> Personal photos: If you're fond of family photos, consider a small gallery wall or a bulletin board for a rotating display of cherished memories.

Designing for small U-shaped kitchens

Designing for small U-shaped kitchens presents unique challenges, but with the right approach, these spaces can be both efficient and stylish.

To optimise limited square footage, start with an efficient layout that minimises unnecessary distances between work zones, making the kitchen feel more spacious.

Select compact appliances and consider pull-out and pull-down features to maximise functionality without compromising on space. Creative storage solutions are vital in small kitchens, including vertical storage with tall cabinets, corner cabinets with clever mechanisms, and open or floating shelves. Drawer organisers, magnetic strips, and rolling carts help keep everything in its place.

Additionally, opting for light and neutral colours on walls, cabinets, and countertops can create a more open and airy atmosphere, making your small U-shaped kitchen feel larger and more inviting.

Budgeting and cost considerations

When planning a U-shaped kitchen design, it's crucial to understand the costs involved. Costs can vary significantly based on factors like the size of the kitchen, materials, and desired features. Setting a realistic budget from the start is essential to avoid overspending.

To establish a practical budget, begin by researching the average costs of U-shaped kitchen renovations in your area. Consider your specific needs and preferences, and be prepared to make some trade-offs. Prioritise expenses by focusing on essential elements like cabinetry and countertops while being more flexible with less critical components.

On average, a mid-range U-shaped kitchen renovation in the UK can cost between £8,000 to £15,000, but this can vary depending on the job. However, for high-end designs with premium materials and appliances, the cost can exceed £20,000 or more.

Working with a designer or contractor

We have a team of experts who can offer design and fit service and advice as well as project manage it - offering you overall peace of mind when it comes to your kitchen design.

Our in-house experts bring design expertise and technical knowledge to the table. They can help you optimise the layout, select the best materials, and handle the construction process efficiently.

Collaborate closely with our designer or contractor, sharing your ideas and expectations while considering their valuable input. Our bespoke kitchen service can make your U-shaped kitchen dreams a reality.

Can we help you design your U-shaped kitchen?

Embark on your U-shaped kitchen design journey with confidence, armed with the knowledge that your space can be a perfect reflection of your unique needs and preferences.

At More Kitchens, based in Yorkshire, our team of design experts is ready to turn your vision into reality. With these insights and a confident mindset, our bespoke kitchen service can give you peace of mind to embark on your U-shaped kitchen design journey, transforming your kitchen into a space that reflects your personality and serves as the heart of your home.

Book a free design appointment with us now, and let's create a kitchen that not only meets but exceeds your expectations. Your dream kitchen is just a call away!

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Senior Designer

Julie joined the Passmore team in August 2019 as a direct result of continued growth and company expansion, particularly the acquisition of the concession showroom in Mirfield.

A senior interior designer of bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchens for just over 30 years, Julies first-hand experience, design expertise and breadth of industry knowledge makes her a fantastic addition to the sales and design team.

Having started her career at a local chemical company in the drawing office Julie quickly turned her hand to interior design first moving to Magnet before settling at Norwood Interiors where she remained for 28 years.

Outside the office Julie is a lover of fine wine and good food, perfectly mixing the two while socialising with friends and enjoying some well-deserved R&R in sunnier climates.

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