The Hardworking Home
Smart Ways to Make the Most of a Compact Kitchen
Minimal square footage is no barrier to fulfilling your culinary dreams. These tips will help you squeeze the most out of your space
Jo Simmons December 28, 2014
Houzz UK Contributor. I have been an interiors journalist since 1995, writing several books on design and numerous features for glossy homes mags over the years. For Houzz, I cover decorating ideas and trends and interview designers and professionals for their insights to create in-depth features. My favourite pieces to write, though, are Houzz Tours, as I love exploring and learning about real homes. Call me curious — or nosy!
Houzz UK Contributor. I have been an interiors journalist since 1995, writing several... More
We might all dream of a huge family kitchen, but most of us have to make do with something smaller. That said, whatever the size of our kitchen, the demands we place on it tend to be the same. We want it to function well for preparing and cooking meals. We might also like to be able to sit and eat in there, even if just perched at a breakfast bar. And we need space for a lot of different objects, from chunky appliances to silverware, dishes and food. The good news is, with some clever planning and great design, it is possible to have all these functions in one tiny space, as these inspiring spaces demonstrate.
Use every nook and cranny. It sounds obvious, but where space is tight, it’s essential to make use of all of it. This might mean commissioning custom units. Shelves or cupboards designed for your space, rather than bought off the shelf, can exploit even the most awkward corners or weirdly angled rooflines. Luckily, since the number of units you will be able to fit is limited by the small size of the room, a custom design often will be reasonably economical, too.
Enjoy a little rack ’n’ rail. Wall cupboards can eat into the space in a very small kitchen, but you can still make any wall work for you by adding racks, rails and slim shelves. These can hold things like saucepans, strung up on S hooks, mugs and pots holding cutlery, and even utensils. Covering the wall in blackboard paint helps it to multitask even more, as a place where you could write shopping lists and messages.
Make it streamlined. Chunky and mismatched pieces would eat into the space and make a tiny kitchen feel cluttered. Instead, opt for units with a minimalist look and, as here, a countertop that flows over all the base units and even extends to become a breakfast bar. The minimalist metal legs seen here keep sight lines open. This kitchen is flooded with natural light, so the color on the unit doors invigorates the space without encroaching on it.
Find another home for laundry appliances. It’s not uncommon to find washing machines and dryers installed in the kitchen, but, when space is limited, it’s a good idea to find an alternative home for them. A nook under some stairs can be a good place. Or consider putting a dryer — and perhaps a freezer — in the garage, if you have one.
Choose clever details. There are heaps of clever space-saving elements that can be built into a new kitchen, so if you’re starting from scratch, look for things like slim spice jar storage, knife drawers, toe-kick drawers and integrated chopping boards that can be slid over a sink or pulled out from the wall.
Try freestanding pieces. Freestanding furniture has its benefits in a small kitchen too. If you take the view that where room is tight, it’s important to make every item you place in it shine, then suddenly there is a logic to not building everything in. A freestanding piece containing an oven, sink and cupboards, like this one, looks like a beautiful piece of furniture that fits elegantly into the space.
Raise the ceiling. Rethinking the dimensions of the room and having some architectural work done can make a huge difference to a small kitchen. If yours is in a single-story space, raising the ceiling to expose a sloping roofline would add a huge sense of light and airiness. It also would offer the opportunity to install skylights, which pull in more light than vertical windows. Plus it would create a tall wall against which you can fit cupboards or shelves for maximum storage.
Build up to the ceiling. Floor space may be limited, but vertical space is often the same in a tiny kitchen as in a huge one. So make the most of it by building units that stretch right up to the ceiling — or just nearly. A small gap above tall cabinets can offer just enough breathing room to help keep the room from feeling cramped. Keep infrequently used items on the upper shelves and try using sleek handleless doors, so the units look streamlined and seamless and don’t dominate the room.
Integrate appliances. You may yearn for a huge, freestanding range complete with five burners, but a small-scale kitchen is not the place to install one. Instead, integrate your appliances for a more streamlined look and a space-savvy solution. Building the microwave into a cupboard will free up countertop space, and why not go for a boiling-water tap to dispense with the need for a kettle?
Work in a portable mini island. In addition to built-in units, a small, movable butcher’s block with shelves, like this one, can prove incredibly useful. It would take up very little room while supplying additional storage and prep space. It would also create the relaxed, freestanding look you may have been craving but thought you couldn’t pull off in a small kitchen.
Read more stories about small kitchens
Read more stories about small kitchens
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