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What are U-shaped kitchens?

One of the most popular kitchen layouts, a U-shaped kitchen allows you to create an excellent ‘working triangle’, and is ideally suited to nearly any size or style of kitchen.

Tatton Kitchen by Magnet. A beautiful easy to use kitchen with traditional features with stylish modern touches.

Great for both large and small kitchens, the U-shaped layout is one that has been popular for many years. It’s perfect for traditional or contemporary kitchen designs, and can help improve storage potential, while creating an efficient flow that adheres to the ‘kitchen triangle’.

As the name describes, the layout is in a U-shape, making the most of available floor space and giving you an ergonomic solution that fits the demands of a busy household.

If you want maximum worktop space with minimal walking distance between work areas, a U-shaped design could be the right style of kitchen for your home. 

While it’s not the most cost-effective design option, and very small kitchens can feel cramped with a U-shaped design, this layout works well in most sizes of kitchen.

Read our guide for U-shaped kitchen ideas, as well as tips and advice on making this layout work for you.

Ludlow kitchen. Our latest Shaker door, with a modern country-style. Available in all 20 Magnet Create colours.

The best lighting for a U-shaped layout

When it comes to getting the U-shape kitchen right, lighting makes a huge difference. This is because the U-shape generally occupies more wall space. While this is great for providing additional storage and helping you keep your kitchen clutter-free, it can also make small spaces feel even smaller.

The right lighting, in the right places, can completely transform and elevate your U-shaped kitchen, making it appear light and airy while also giving you visibility so you can conduct everyday tasks with ease.

If your kitchen doesn’t get a lot of natural light (for instance, if you have a north-facing kitchen), you can use lighting fixtures to bring more light into the home. Daylight bulbs are designed to imitate natural light, creating a subtle and gentle warmth to offset the cold, blueish light that north-facing rooms normally get.

You may even want to consider smart light bulbs, which allow you to adjust the light temperature accordingly, providing you with an easy way to tailor the warmth/coolness level based on location, mood or season.

Pendant lighting is a fantastic option, as this gives you a central lighting source that can illuminate all sides of your cabinetry. Glass pendant lights work particularly well, as they deliver design impact without sacrificing the open feel of the kitchen.

In addition to a central light source, you may want to consider LED spotlights. With ceiling spotlights, you get instantaneous illumination and directional lighting for essential kitchen tasks. 

If you’re worried about three-sided cabinetry causing poor light distribution in your kitchen, under-cabinet lights can solve that issue while also providing an ultra-contemporary finish.

Colour schemes to complement U-shaped kitchen ideas

Choosing the right colour scheme can set the mood, reflect or absorb light, and create the illusion of space in a U-shape kitchen. 

For instance, monochromatic colour schemes are perfect for minimalist homes and can make your kitchen appear larger than it actually is.

A harmonious colour palette, which uses colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel, can generate gentle gradients that are easy on the eye, resulting in a comfortable, calming and relaxing space. 

You could also opt for complementary colours, which use striking colour contrasts - adding a touch of drama to your space.

Kitchen colours aren’t just limited to the walls either - consideration should be given to countertops, cabinets and flooring too.

Cabinets

Your kitchen cabinets form the foundation of your kitchen design.

Choosing the right colour scheme for your cupboard doors and selecting the right finishing touches is paramount to creating a kitchen that fits your lifestyle and personality.

Light vs. dark colours

When it comes to light and shadow play, dark and light hues juxtapose each other beautifully. You can use one to create a certain look - or combine both to achieve depth and dimension.

To prevent a small U-shaped kitchen from feeling too enclosed or boxy, opt for a light colour scheme of modern neutrals or soft pastels. These shades will reflect light around the room and will make your kitchen appear more spacious.

Incorporate dark colours for something striking and dramatic, and combine with softer hues for a three-dimensional effect.

Bold colours

Going bold with your colour scheme will make your cabinets stand out, and give an otherwise lacklustre space a powerful injection of brightness.

Bold cabinets work well in modern kitchens and can be a great way to display your personality.

Countertops

There are endless options with kitchen worktops. Not only the thickness, design and material choice, but also the colour. Whether you prefer rustic or industrial, organic or composite, there’s a countertop to suit your preferences.

When it comes to choosing a colour scheme, lighter countertops present a clean, crisp look and can help to distribute light evenly around the room (handy for small U-shaped kitchens that get dark quickly when the sun shies away). While darker countertops show marks less easily, and can add an interesting and modern edge to your kitchen design.

Matt colours

As well as deciding between light and dark tones, you'll also need to think about the finish. Matt countertops are less reflective than glossy countertops and, as a result, present a much more contemporary, on-trend look.

This harmonises well with Scandinavian-style kitchens, minimalist kitchens and Japandi-style kitchens.

Combined with a U-shaped layout, matt frontals can bring a space right up-to-date, keeping it looking fresh and on-trend. It can also make your U-shape counters look and feel seamless, helping them blend in with their surroundings.

Another key benefit of matt worktops is being able to reduce glare from artificial light, which makes cooking and food prep a lot easier. 

Glossy colours

If you’re worried about light distribution, flow or movement in a smaller U-shape layout, glossy worktops could be the solution. These reflective surfaces have a sheen that is aesthetically appealing, while possessing the unique ability to improve lighting.

A high-gloss countertop is also handy for hiding fingerprints and smudges, making it ideal for busy kitchens.

Granite, marble and quartz are excellent options, and each of these offers a wide selection of colours for you to choose from.

Ludlow kitchen. Our latest Shaker door, with a modern country-style. Available in all 20 Magnet Create colours.

Adding an island

For larger kitchens, including an island in your design could maximise your storage and worktop space even more. A U-shaped kitchen with an island boosts functionality, while also creating a central focal point.

If you want your kitchen space to be more sociable and suitable for entertaining, an island can be the perfect spot to gather, serve drinks or enjoy interactions with others.

With kitchen units on three sides, it’s important to choose the right size island to complement the U-shaped layout. Leave ample space for traffic flow and make sure your island isn’t positioned in a way that hinders mobility when cooking or cleaning.

Adding a breakfast bar

The U shape layout is usually combined with three vertical walls, but it can also have wall-less sides, giving you additional space for a breakfast bar. For instance, if one side of your U opens out onto an open-plan room, you can add stools to create a sociable seating/dining area.

This is a fantastic alternative to having an island as a central focal point and gives you the perfect place to serve food and drink, entertain guests, or just grab a snack in the middle of the afternoon.

Integra Dunham Kitchen by Magnet. Premium painted matt finish with unique door style available in 20 colours.

Installing handleless units

Integrated handles are a popular feauture in contemporary U-shape kitchens, especially if your home is on the smaller side. Every little helps when it comes to space-saving, and handleless cupboards and drawers ensure a seamless style that is smooth, sleek and ergonomic. 

When you have cabinets on three sides and minimal floor space, integrated handles can make all the difference, improving flow and movement and keeping your home looking clean and clutter-free. 

You can combine handlesless frontals with narrow-depth cabinets to optimise your small kitchen area further, and we offer a number of smart storage ideas at Magnet to maintain a well-organised cooking zone.

How to design your U-shaped kitchen

With uninterrupted kitchen worktops along three sides, the U-shaped layout is a style that is highly efficient for any style of home. You’ll benefit from more storage, more work areas, and a formation that makes everything you need to cook and clean easily accessible.

But there are some downsides to embracing U-shaped kitchen ideas, such as the potential for feeling cramped and possible traffic jams when there are multiple cooks. 

So careful planning is required for achieving a harmonious U-shape design that allows for perfect manoeuvrability while being pleasing to the eye.

Tatton Kitchen by Magnet. A beautiful easy to use kitchen with traditional features with stylish modern touches.

For ideas and inspiration, you can take a look at our real-life customer kitchen makeovers, which will give you a few pointers on kitchen styles, colours, materials and different layouts.

From Shaker-style and country cottage kitchens to sleek and modern designs, there are so many ways to make a U-shape kitchen layout work for you.

Want to discuss your needs and ideas? You can book a Design Consultation with us at a date and time that suits you.