I’m old enough to remember the forerunners of Small Kitchen Designs such as the Scullery and the Kitchenette Although Wikipedia defines both as supplementary additions to the main kitchen, they mustn’t have researched down our way because in most houses “up north”, they were the main kitchen.
Isolated little backrooms where Mams’ slaved over a hot stove for hours on end to put some scran on a plate for the family.Small Kitchen The usual fayre was “offal” but perhaps ‘awful’ described it better in our house – sorry Mam.
Classy Kitchen Expectations
Ah, the days before the sophistication of TV Chefs and Grand Designs…….How things have changed. Now we’re fed on a diet of designer lingo that insists we incorporate dining tables, islands and curves into our designs. The serving hatch of the 70’s is out and open plan areas where the living and cooking spaces are combined are now the order of the day. Food too has become more art than function but is that really conducive to a better life? Isn’t it all a bit pretentious to believe that our social lives are better served by classier looking kitchens and plates?
There’s something exclusive too about most designer blogs and home interior mags on and offline that irritates – most seem jazzed up to cater for, and target only, those with kitchens the size of football fields.
I get it, of course, that retailers know that’s where their next big buck will often come from but what about those customers with limited space who may not have the luxury of space. Where are all the ’25 Kitchens even the cat can’t be swung in’ mags or the ‘Teeny weeny tiny’ Kitchen Design blogs?There’s a whole mass of kitchen buyers in this category and if I may offer a few practical tips on the space you have and ways of using it to its best potential, from one who fitted both large and small kitchens in a career spanning over 30 years: Small Kitchen
Firstly, go grab that tape measure from the back of the kitchen drawer. No, not the rolled up clothing tape….
And….. let’s begin
You’re planning for a kitchen so there are certain essential components you have to incorporate and they are: The Sink, The Cooker, The Fridge and not forgetting the Extractor Fan – Leaving the door open may work in summer but have you forgotten what it’s like cooking when it’s brass monkeys?
Washing machines and dryers aren’t, strictly speaking, considered kitchen items but in the event that you have a Scullery or “Utility Room” as they are nowadays known, then bingo, you’ve found them a home. If not then I’m sorry but your kitchen cabinet space has just been reduced if you want to incorporate them in your design
Measuring your Space
Ok, measuring your space to determine what will fit is the next task. Door openings can restrict the kitchen area if they open incorrectly and you should consider re-hanging them if they don’t allow you to walk directly into the primary kitchen area rather than having to make a right or left when you enter.
Oh and those islands do look great in the fancy mags with lots of people chatting around them whilst sipping champagne but if your kitchen can just about afford you to feed the cat never mind swing it, then I’m afraid the only island you’ll be sipping champagne with friends around is Fantasy island so let’s put that one to bed, It ain’t gonna happen unless you decide most of the living room is surplus to requirements and you can knock through.
If you are the “cat…swing…can’t” person , look away now while I temporarily go off kilter and talk about how to arrange an Island in the Kitchen. A good rule of thumb for the island scenario is as follows: For comfortability, you require a minimum of 900mm all around a central island, regardless of its size, so, for instance, if you consider standard cabinet sizes at 600 mm and your kitchen is a U-Shaped design, then to fit an island in between you’ll require free space between each front profile of 1800mm + the size of your island. The larger the free space the better but it’s a simple enough calculation – 600mm + 600mm + 1800 +Islandsize = The ability to fit one. If however, your kitchen area is larger still and allows for an island that is not restricted by the cabinetry either side, then lucky you, you’ve got a spacious social hub for entertaining unlike the mini kitchen owners whose kitchen entertaining is only possible if they make it on to your guest list.
And back to “cat – swing ……… “ and the more restrictive design possibilities:
Measuring up – let’s take into account that you don’t want to cram kitchen cabinets into every conceivable bit of space because, for one thing, even the cat will have to go and it won’t take long before you’re feeling like you’re under attack from Space Invaders every time you head for the stove.
Take the following sizes and transfer this to an area plan. Piece of paper, pen and a ruler will do. It’s not difficult and all you need is to determine the following elements – Room Height, Width and Length. This will immediately allow a designer to determine the possibilities but safe to say there won’t be too much possible in small spaces. Window sizes are important and it’s essential that you relate the size of it to the elevation it is located. – in simple terms, measure the distances above the window, below the window and to each side of the window and transfer these to your plan. If there are any obstacles that would have to be overcome in the final design such as a boiler, boxing in or any stairwells, treat them as you would a window and take measurements in relation to the wall they are on.
Use of combined components in your cooking area and cupboard space will serve you well so what are the options? Freestanding cookers, oven/hob/extractor combine two cook areas in one section of the elevation and use of a tall housing will better utilise the height of your room to create more space.
Your sink area is always best located in front of a window but for many this isn’t possible.
Under Cupboard lighting
Bridging units above the sink area are not only a good means of creating more space, the undersides can provide you with additional lighting. Lighting takes on greater importance when it comes to small kitchen designs given that a natural light source may not be a luxury you can call upon
Fridge and Freezer or Fridge/Freezer?
Consider your culinary skills for this one. Are you a dab hand who likes cooking from fresh or are your requirements more in the form of slapping a frozen pizza, pie or burgers in the oven? If it’s the latter and if you have the space then a combined housing on a single section of the wall elevation can incorporate sufficient space for separate fridge and freezer to serve your needs. If however, you harbour ambitions to take over from Heston and buy all your produce fresh then maybe there’s a lesser need for the freezer space and you could use a little extra worktop space for the preparation. An undercounter fridge with a freezer compartment would seem the right choice here.
Yes, those American Fridge Freezers are great aren’t they? Huge compartments and cold filtered water and ice cubes on tap… I know..I know but you’re running away with yourself now. You can’t fit one in there so forget it.
…And so to kitchen cabinets. You’ve decided on the appliance types and as they are necessary in order for this small space to be defined as a kitchen, the remainder of the space left will house whatever cabinets you feel are necessary to your needs. Simple rule is don’t overcrowd the space and make good use of modern accessories that make 21st century kitchens far easier to work in than their yesteryear counterparts.
Personally speaking, I’d forget the end wing or open end cabinets, they’re about as trendy as serving hatches are and your space is at a premium remember so unless your cook book display is vital to your culinary needs I’d ditch the idea.
So far I’ve concentrated on restricted space and the assumption I’ve made here most likely takes into account two elevations for your kitchen furniture and appliances, (if you have more then why are you reading this?), but what if you’ve got only one elevation and that ‘Kitchen Triangle’ principle we read about becomes a bit of a nonsense?
Working with a Designer on Small Kitchen Designs
Well you’ll be pleased to know that there are a growing number of manufacturers catering for you with mini kitchen solutions that minimum effort in the way of design and installation. A quick Google search will bring up many of the options available to you including my favourite, this little baby below. Nice eh? You can even swing the cat a full 360 in this revolving kitchen pod and who needs walls?
If you choose not to go down the all in one, mini kitchen route then this is the point where I must part company with you all because the creative talents of kitchen design are best left to those who ply their trade in it daily and that sure isn’t me. However, if I must impart a tip or two here, then it’s important that to distinguish that Interior Designers and Kitchen Designers are two different disciplines and my advice would be to seek the services of a Kitchen Designer unless you fancy your own chances at coming up with something that works for you.
Colours, lighting schemes, accessories and most importantly your own ergonomic requirements can be conveyed to whoever you choose to undertake the design. This may be you and if so then take time to study the cabinetry sizes offered by your chosen supplier as they do differ.
Finally, before I head off into the wilderness of the kitchen blogoshere, here’s something a little innovative that myself and the late Marion John worked upon before she passed away. Marion is missed by many as are her inspirational and pioneering blogs on Kitchen Design. ~ May she rest in peace.
This is a wonderful article on the design options available for small kitchens, written by Marion in 2013 as a type of design focused sequel to mine here.
Innovative Design options by Marion John