Create a small-scale, smooth-functioning hub with savvy space planning and chic style.
Kitchens have morphed into multifunctional hubs where families gather to cook, entertain, pay bills, plan schedules, do homework and watch TV. But not everyone has enough square footage to serve all those functions and circulate comfortably.
Some kitchens, particularly those in walkable urban locations, may be long skinny galleys or tiny boxlike rectangles. That doesn’t mean you can’t cook together, house favorite equipment, sit, eat and make your space look stunning. You just have to do so on a smaller scale with smart planning and prioritizing. Here’s how:
Small Kitchens, Smart Design
Choose the right-sized equipment. Appliances occupy the most space in any kitchen and represent a hefty outlay, second only to cabinets. Choose according to your cooking needs, but know that many manufacturers are designing smaller-sized appliances that function as well as their bigger counterparts, just without some bells and whistles. You can find 18″ rather than 24″ dishwashers, 24″ rather than 30″ wall ovens, 24″ instead of 30” or 36” refrigerators, and sinks smaller than the standard 30″.
Prioritize choices based on your space and cooking style. If you love to entertain, go for a bigger range and refrigerator, says Jason Landau of Amazing Spaces, but scale back on counter space and storage. Or go with a big 36″ range with big oven and a microwave, but maybe do without a wall oven. You might also consider a 30″ single-bowl sink, possibly with integrated drain or cutting board to gain another work surface. In one small 8 ½’ by 9 1/2’ Los Angeles kitchen, Melissa Salamoff of Salamoff Design Studio gave her clients the standard-sized equipment they wanted but left out a microwave.
Always try to place appliances according to the old-fashioned triangle concept to save steps, whether in a galley, L- or U-shaped layout. In some cases, you may find a spot in an adjacent room or closet for items you want but had no room for in the main area, such as a wine cooler, Salamoff says. Even your garage can house a secondary oven or refrigerator, so it can become a staging area at holidays, says designer Cheryl Kees Clendenon of InDetail.
Budget smartly on cabinets and shelves. Cabinets are key to smart kitchen layouts and happy cooks. But because cabinets represent the biggest outlay of dollars for most remodeling jobs, about 50 percent to 60 percent, you should think hard about how many you want — and really need.
Start by measuring your existing cabinets’ linear feet. Decide if you need the same amount, more, or could get by with fewer.
Consider if you can go with some open shelves; they cost a lot less, keep the kitchen looking bigger and more open, but you need to be a neatnik. Clutter makes kitchens seem smaller.
Optimize storage. Having enough room for everything can be tricky with so many tempting gadgets. Here’s how to find space:
Give away anything you don’t use regularly. Bid goodbye to yesteryear’s fondue pot or go smaller with a hand-held rather than stand mixer.
Go vertical with cabinets — as high as you can — and install over extra windows if you have a spot for a skylight. Replace cabinet fronts with glass to make your space look bigger.
Find storage in unexpected places: on a small shelf above a range, in cubby holes that replace a hood, under a sink, on the inside of cabinet doors, or in toe kick recesses.
Save room at the end of a cabinet run for a tall cabinet since most small kitchens don’t have space for a walk-in pantry. Install adjustable shelves within for flexibility for tall cereal boxes or tiny jars.
Design pullout shelves in base cabinets, but with adjustable shelves that have been cut back from the face 4″, so you can spot quickly what’s in the bottom, suggests Clendenon.
Divide a few cabinets so you have room for long, thin, tall items such as cookie trays, muffin tins and extra cutting boards.
Hide smaller appliances in cabinets, but avoid tambour doors that are awkward to flip up and access, Clendenon offers.