This is a wonderful article on the design options available for small kitchens, written in 2013 by the late Marion John. Marion is missed by many as are her inspirational and pioneering blogs on Kitchen Design. ~ May she rest in peace.
This blog is an invitation blog. It’s not a guest blog because I have written it … but I was invited to write it as a sort of sequel to a blog written by Tim Foley over at Kitchens Fitted. He’s been musing about small kitchens and about how a lot of the interior design blogs don’t cater for the typical small kitchen of his youth “oop north”. Well, I hate to break it to you Tim, but we had a fair few tiny kitchens down south too (I come from Dorset and Sussex originally).~ Marion John
Tim has written about measuring the kitchen and also about choosing your appliances – which is always one of the first steps when you’re planning a kitchen revamp. He’s absolutely right that combination appliances are a good choice in a small kitchen. Think about a free standing cooker – if bending low is no problem – or, if a higher oven is a must, then how about a midi-height housing unit with small appliances stored on top. Midi-height units can be good for larders too; they don’t look as overpowering as very tall ones. Or consider a tower of compact appliances tucked away somewhere – you can get compact dishwashers, coffee machines, wine coolers, combi-microwaves and combi-steam ovens. Decide on your priorities, depending on how keen a cook you are, but just make sure you can reach the top one! Also, look out for handy features like Slideaway oven doors which tuck away neatly under the oven cavity.
When it comes to the sink, and if you’re a keen cook, then don’t choose a small one just because you have a small kitchen. Consider a corner sink or choose a standard one that doubles as a food preparation area, with sliding chopping board and draining tray, or one that can be covered over when it’s not in use, to give you extra working space. Choose a ceramic or induction hob for the same reason – you can use the hob surface to work on when it isn’t in use for cooking. Try to keep microwaves and coffee machines off of the worksurface. They can sometimes fit into the bottom of a wall unit (even if they’re not expensive built-in models) or, if you have the space, consider extra deep worktop, with small appliances stored at the back.
When it comes to storage – think drawers and pull outs, as much as possible. It’s nearly always easier to access items stored in deep drawers, than it is in base cupboards. Keep your most frequently used items at the front of the drawers and you only need to pull the drawer open a little way to get access … rather than having to fully open a door and bend down to look inside.
Don’t just use pan drawers for pans, either. Use them for plastic storage boxes … and crockery too. One of the most useful inserts for a large drawer is a plain timber board with pegs in it. Forget complicated organiser systems. The timber pegs stop your china sliding about and can be used for items of any size or shape. You can also get non-slip liners for the same purpose.
Consider reduced depth units, especially tall larders, if you have anywhere to squeeze them in. They can give you extra floor space, in a narrow room, or fit into areas where standard base units would be too big, and you don’t lose things at the back of shallow storage units. Don’t waste too much wall space on radiators either; think about underfloor heating, or use a tall thin radiator.
I’d agree with Tim that open end shelves are a waste of space (as well as being very untrendy) but long straight open shelves are worth considering in a very small space. They look less crowded than wall units. Use them for cookbooks and for everyday china. Don’t use them for showing off your best china – unless you’re prepared to wash your dishes before you use them – as well as after.
Keep your design in proportion to the size of the room. Using big 600mm wide doors on the wall units won’t help to make your space look bigger. If you need 600 wide wall units, try to get them with two 300 doors instead. If you need a tiny seating area, design one using worktop or buy a special small table. Don’t use a big table pushed up against the wall. Use a kitchen trolley instead of an island
Glass is a good material to use if you want the room to look lighter and airier. Glass table tops, glass wall unit doors, reflective glass splashbacks. You can even use mirrors – if you don’t mind catching sight of yourself all the time.
As Tim says, don’t overcrowd the space. Spend a good bit of time playing around with your plan and try out all the different combinations of units, reduced depth units and angled its that you can think of.
Many small kitchens would benefit from a bit more thought going into their design. Try to leave a little bit of space for some pictures too, if you have any wall space that isn’t right in the heart of the cooking area. Small pictures can help to personalise the space – as well as helping to get that scale right for the room. Add some accent colour in blinds and tea towels too. Small kitchens don’t have to be boring.
If the budget will stretch, then a bespoke kitchen, or units that are made to measure, can help you maximise the space in an awkward small kitchen. If you get stuck, go to a kitchen designer for some help, and then find yourself a good fitter, especially if you have to use standard units and you need a few modifications. If you get the right combination of design, units and fitter … then small can indeed be beautiful!