Plan a Small-Space Kitchen(page 1 of 3)

Create a small-scale, smooth-functioning hub with savvy space planning and chic style.

CI-Jason-Landau-kitchen_s4x3 In a small New York City apartment reflective glass mosaics create an appealing focal point, distracting the eye momentarily from the size of the space. Design by Jason Landau; photography by Peter Krupenye

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:

Browse Pictures of Small Kitchens With 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.

Take a Tour of Small Living Spaces

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.

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