Barbara Rose of S.N. Peck, in Chicago, says most of her clients are making the kitchen the focus of their remodeling and the center of their homes. “More often this is the place people put their greatest effort — the most thought, the most money, and the most space,” she says.

She and her staff work on a range of kitchens from mid-priced to expensive, suburban to urban. Their experience helps them explain the pros and cons of three standard layouts to their clients so they can make the appropriate changes.

U-shaped Kitchens This is one of the most common layouts and is particularly convenient for multiple cooks. The large expanse of counter space gives two people enough space to work without bumping into each other. This layout has an open side that usually leads to the adjacent family room or breakfast area or a combination of the two. “The cook is not isolated,” Rose says. The other side of the U is a dead end, so there is no traffic going through there to disturb the cook.

Most homeowners with a U-shaped kitchen want to find a way to fit in an island. For empty-nesters or young couples without children, Rose recommends putting a cook-top on the island. Her clients also look to their islands for customized storage, wine coolers, and space for seating.

L-shaped Kitchens The L-shaped layout, according to Rose, does not usually provide enough counter space and storage.

Sometimes designers can add additional storage by placing shallow 13-inch-deep pantry cabinets along the wall opposite the L. But today's trend of undercounter refrigerator drawers, dishwasher drawers, and warming ovens requires more counter space. One way to provide that with a remodel is to lengthen the two legs of the L. Designers should be careful to keep major appliances within a few steps of each other, Rose says. Placing an oven at one end of the L is practical, as is placing entertainment items and storage such as wine coolers and glass storage. Another good option for one side of the L is a desk or organizing area for household bills, a phone, and calendars.

The L provides adequate space for entertaining, but it is not ideal. Most clients want to add an island to compensate for the lack of counter space. Rose says islands should only be added if there is enough room for 3-foot-wide aisles on all sides.

Galley Kitchens These are found more in apartments and condominiums rather than houses.

In older buildings, one end of the galley usually has a door that leads to a back hall or service area. They are meant to be compact and efficient and are not suitable for multiple purposes such as entertaining and gathering.

Designers need to make sure to maintain the work triangle. “Be sure to have counter space between the sink and cooktop and next to the refrigerator,” she says.

These kitchens usually do not have windows, or they have one small window on one end. Rose adds recessed lights throughout the space. If appropriate, skylights are also a good way to bring in more light. Placing lighting inside glass or frosted glass door cabinets is also a nice touch, she says.