Ideal for small spaces, U-shaped kitchens (sometimes called C-shaped kitchens) can accommodate only one or two cooks, depending on the width of the U. As its name suggests, this configuration features a horseshoe-shaped work area, with cabinets and counters running around three sides with an open end for access. At its most narrow, it can be as compact as a galley kitchen. Going a bit wider (if your space allows) might seem desirable, but go too wide and you reduce efficiency, because the points of contact within the work triangle (stove, refrigerator, and sink) get too far apart. Have a look at 10 of our favorite U-shaped kitchens to see how to strike the right balance and figure out if the U is the right layout for you.
Above: A diagram illustrates how the ergonomic kitchen work triangle (stove, fridge, and sink) works in a U-shaped kitchen. Image via Kitchens Interior Dezine.
Above: Julie's horseshoe kitchen in Mill Valley, CA, is small but efficient. "Dinnertime drop-ins are a frequent occurrence, and I love to cook, so it was important to me that the kitchen be outfitted for action," she says. Her architect, Jerome Buttrick, provided well-designed storage that allows for all of the necessities to be kept on hand but out of sight. Inset open-shelving creates an eye-catching mixing bowl display. For a full tour and dissection of the kitchen, see the Remodelista book. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista.
Above: New York architect Kevin Dakan brings texture to the back wall of this Brooklyn townhouse kitchen with glazed subway tile that runs all the way up to the ceiling. Image via Kevin Dakan Architect.
Above: When jewelry designer Kathleen Whitaker remodeled her turn of the century home in Echo Park, Los Angeles, she found she liked the way the existing U-shaped kitchen formed a separate cooking area from the dining area. Whitaker's only update was to repaint the cabinets in Avocado Peel from Martha Stewart Living. Photograph by Nancy Neil. N.B.: Take a stroll through Whitaker's equally inviting garden in Tropical Paradise in LA's Echo Park.
Above: A butler's sink and overhead open shelves provide the focus in designer and blogger Sarah Sherman Samuel's small cabin kitchen on the shores of Lake Michigan. Image via Smitten Studio. (N.B.: Have a look at Sarah's newly remodeled kitchen in LA employing what she calls "the ultimate Ikea hack": Ikea cabinets and custom doors).
Above: The ceiling in this white U-shaped kitchen with stainless steel appliances has been raised to give the space more definition. Image via Sortrachen.
Above: Prop stylist Erin Bennet-Jenkins removed a wall between the cooking and dining area of her 1926 Craftsman house in Atlanta before installing a U-shaped peninsula. Image by Amy Herr and Tracey Brower via The Kitchn.
Above: Architect Tim Barber designed a U-shaped kitchen for a new house in Palisades, CA. Running beadboard behind the open shelves enhances the traditional cabinetry detailing. Image via Tim Barber Ltd Architecture.
Above: In the remodel of this U-shaped kitchen in Portland, Oregon, Opal Blue Tiles by Heath Ceramics create a bold backdrop. Architect Michael Howells of Howells Architecture & Design offers his insight on the essentials for a successful remodel in Rehab Diaries: An Oregon Kitchen with a Dose of Downton Abbey. Photography by Anna M. Campbell.
Above: A U-shaped peninsula kitchen brings crisp modern detailing to an ornate, tall-ceilinged 19th-century room. Image courtesty of Kvik A/S.
Above: New York firm RAAD Studio introduce warmth to a modern kitchen by using hand-rubbed steel and lap-joined teak.
As the warm weather approaches, is it time to think about your outdoor kitchen? Get started with 10 Favorites: Ultimate Outdoor Kitchens. Like the look of Heath Ceramics Tiles but fear they're out of your budget? Read Tile Intel: A Budget Remodel with Heath Seconds.