While there are many variations within each layout, there are four basic kitchen layouts to choose from.
Single-Wall Kitchen Design
The single, or one-wall kitchen design is the most basic and is commonly found in small spaces. This style of kitchen design is great for tiny spaces because all of the appliances, counters, and cabinets are placed against one wall. While this style is practical for small areas, its major fault is that it doesn't make use of the classic kitchen triangle (which is useful for regulating traffic flow and making life easier for the cook).
A galley is a simple design that looks like a corridor. Galley kitchens consists of two opposing counters at least 42" apart. They need to be at least that distance so that cabinet and appliance doors can be opened comfortably.
Galley kitchens are very popular for artisans because they make a great use of space. Highly functional, galley kitchens make use of the kitchen triangle while not taking up a large amount of space. The problem with galley kitchens is that they're not great for traffic flow. At times it can be difficult to accommodate more than one person (depending on the size).
L-shaped kitchens have the same benefits of the galley kitchen but don't suffer the same overcrowding issues. With an L-shape it's easy to keep traffic out of the work triangle.
L-shaped kitchens are great because the opposite corner of the L can be used for a table and chairs or kitchen island.
U-Shaped Kitchen Designs
The U-shaped layout is the most versatile and efficient of all kitchen layouts. It makes the most of the classic work triangle and allows for ease of movement. In this layout all of the appliances, cabinets, and food preparation areas face each other and are directed towards a central point. In larger kitchens there is often an island included in the center of the room allowing for extra workspace and storage.
Kitchen layouts aren't limited to these designs, but most kitchens end up being some sort of variation of one of them. If you're not sure what to do or what kitchen design will work best for your home, try using an online kitchen planner to experiment with different layouts. Then once you've decided on a kitchen layout you can get to work on renovating and decorating your kitchen.