Galley kitchens originated on Navy ships, where efficiency reigned over aesthetics. Small and narrow, the galley kitchen gets a bad rap for its perceived limitations.

Instead of a challenge, David Benton sees the galley kitchen as an opportunity to squeeze maximum style in a linear layout.

Benton, an architect with Rill Architects, designed a luxurious, modern galley kitchen for his Northwest D.C. home, ignoring many of the myths associated with remodeling this type of space.

SchoolHouse Electric & Supply Co.:
Charles Almonte:
Rill Architects:
GE Cafe series:

He created separate prep, cooking and entertainment areas. He did away with all the overhead cabinets on one side without giving up storage. He used two different-color cabinets in different styles, and he even covered an entire wall in schoolhouse white tile.

It works because Benton embraced the space's horizontal lines, using them to create cohesion among the elements.

One of the more stunning elements is the white tile wall where cabinets used to be. Interrupted only by a window and stainless-steel range hood, the horizontal tiles complement floor-to-ceiling glossy cabinets on the opposite side.

"Rather than making it feel like a hallway, getting rid of those upper cabinets and putting that glossy white tile on the one side and the glossy white cabinets on the other that reflect the light really brightens the space," Benton said. "Keep things light, up high at eye level so you're not feeling boxed in."

All the lower cabinets, except for those under the sink, are drawers. "I find that drawers are much more useful than doors for lower cabinets," he said. "You really utilize the full depth of the lower cabinets. Things don't get lost in the back."

The lower cabinets are custom white oak with a horizontal grain. This is where Benton splurged. The tall white cabinets were purchased from stock, but a custom-built wall next to them makes them appear custom as well. Benton used brushed-nickel hardware on both sides for a consistent feel.

Interior designer Charles Almonte recently did a galley kitchen for a client who splurged on high-end tiles for the backsplash. He believes the galley's challenges present a chance to get creative about space.

"In some galley kitchens, compact-size appliances are considered to allow for more cabinets. Instead of a full-size [24-inch dishwasher], an 18-inch-wide, compact dishwasher can be considered," he said. "Using compact-size appliances is a great way to maximize space in a galley kitchen."

Benton selected appliances that appear more upscale than they are, from the GE Cafe series. "They are the entry-level commercial-looking appliances," he said.

These stainless-steel appliances, the refrigerator, range, microwave, dishwasher and gorgeous hood totaled about $5,000, about the cost for a Sub-Zero fridge.

He finished the look with overhead lights from SchoolHouse Electric & Supply Co. "to add a vintage touch, so everything is not so sleek and modern. So everything is not too cold."