Small Kitchen Design

With the right small kitchen design and the right appliances, you won’t even notice the missing space—until it’s time to mop the floor.

From retirees, to aging Baby Boomers to Generation Y—today’s consumers are looking for smaller homes and that usually means smaller kitchens. But you don’t have to feel cramped as you cook.

Today’s feature-rich appliances are ready to do double-, triple even quadruple-duty to make best use of smaller spaces. With these appliances and/or a good kitchen design, you can still live large in a smaller kitchen. Think of it as choices—not compromises.

“With the economy the way it is, we’re seeing a trend toward smaller kitchen spaces,” said Antony Kirk, senior manager for industrial design for Whirlpool Corp.

Small doesn’t mean second-best. “Regardless of why a consumer decides to live in a smaller space, there is no reason to lose upscale features in the furnishings within that space,” said Marc Hottenroth, industrial design leader for GE Appliances & Lighting.

With less space, you’ll need to plan more carefully. “There’s a great essentialness about a small space,” Kirk said. “Compact living force decisions that make life more efficient.”

Match Your Kitchen to Your Needs

Look at yourself, your lifestyle and your priorities. Do you entertain a lot? Do you bake? Do you bake different dishes at the same time at different temperatures? Do you have small children who ‘help’ in the kitchen?

Someone who entertains might focus more on the refrigerator, ice maker and perhaps add an under-counter wine chiller.

An empty nester might want a wine chiller—with different temperatures for red and white wine—or a beverage chiller that will store sodas, beer and wine. Or, you can get under-counter refrigerator drawers at two different temperatures.

If you need additional refrigerator space, consider an under-counter refrigerator. Or, move that additional refrigerator, wine or beverage cooler into the area where you entertain. Bonus: that keeps people out of the kitchen while you’re preparing the meal.

If you’re a baker, focus on the oven. You may need a double oven so you can operate at two different temperatures. In almost the same amount of space as a traditional wall oven, you could get two ovens—a regular oven good for baking a holiday turkey, topped off with a small oven just right for baking a couple of sheets of cookies. Or, you might want a warming drawer underneath your wall oven.

GE’s Profile offers 6.6 cubic feet of combined cooking space in two ovens in the same amount of room as one oven, Hottenroth said. GE’s Advantium offers four ovens in one: speed cook, true European convection cooking, sensor microwave and warming oven, he said.

Moving to faster cooking, you can get a microwave that does triple duty as convection oven and a vent. Speaking of ventilation, be sure to get a good system—the smaller the kitchen, the more critical it is to have good ventilation.

Maximize Space, Minimize Obstructions

For your cooktop, a smooth surface produces less visual interruption than heavier-duty traditional burners. “The built in, flat cooktops are going to appear much more integrated into the work space,” Kirk said. “Their appearance protruding into the room is much less.”

When it’s time to clean up, the Monogram line offers a slim 18-inch wide dishwasher with either a stainless steel door or a door that can be personalized to match your cabinets.

A dishwasher front that matches the cabinets makes the dishwasher look more integrated into the kitchen.

As you design and lay out your kitchen, check for doors opening.

Remember, a single door refrigerator opens out wider than French doors.

“If you open a refrigerator door, it takes up passage way space,” Kirk said. “A lot of times, kitchens can be a connecting way between other rooms. With a French door refrigerator, the narrower doors allow for more passage space around them.”

Measure To Make Sure

“You have to be real careful with opening and closing doors to make sure you have enough space between counters and actual walking space,” said Hugh Parker, owner of Virginia Maid Kitchens. “It’s critical to take measurements and work closely with the appliance companies to determine what they’re furnishing.”

The small kitchen owner need not feel short-changed. With the small-kitchen appliance options on the market today, he/she need not even feel that challenged to fit all the necessary appliances and components of big-kitchen living into a functional, compact kitchen space.

[Watch as one urban condo-owner's minimal kitchen quarters transform into a spacious and stylish room -- without breaking her budget.]