Small Kitchens: Basics, Layouts, and Design Tips

  • 01 of 03

    No Need To Worry If Your Kitchen Is Small

    Kitchen in a vacation cottage
    Scott Barrow/Corbis/Getty Images

    Recently, there has been a wave of popularity for the small, cottage-style house, aptly called The Not So Big House (after a series of books by Sarah Susanka). But does the small kitchen get any kind of love?


    Small Is The New Big


    While I will stop short of publishing a manifesto extolling the virtues of small kitchens, I do happen to think that the small kitchen is a great thing. Massive, football field-sized kitchens with islands (that are about the size of real islands) were the "in...MORE thing" in the 1990s. But no one ever stopped to consider the fact that bigger kitchens have some serious problems.


    5 Points That Make Small Kitchens Winners


    Rather than belaboring the cons of the big kitchen, let's cut straight to the chase and look at positive aspects of small kitchens:


    1. Efficient Design - A tighter work triangle, making for a more ergonomically correct and efficient work space.
    2. Less Expensive in Terms of Materials - More to the point, less expensive in terms of quantity of materials. Which leads to...
    3. Ability to Buy Higher-End Materials - Because you are purchasing less materials (i.e., a 30 sq. feet of Corian instead of 300 sq. feet), you can afford to upgrade quality of materials, if so desired.
    4. Simplified Kitchen Design - Admittedly, this is a "glass half-full" view. With the small kitchen, you have fewer options in terms of designs. Remarkably, this can be a good thing.
    5. Maximize Living Areas - Less space is given over to the kitchen, which means more space for living room, family room, or dining room. Or, you can create entirely new rooms that may not have been possible with a huge kitchen: a small office to the side, sewing room, or a breakfast room.

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  • 02 of 03

    Small Kitchen Have Compact, Sensible Layouts

    Galley Kitchen Design
    Galley Kitchen Design. © Lee Wallender - Licensed to About.com

    Your range of small kitchen design layouts is limited. But that's a good thing. For one, by maximizing the functionality of the space, there will be less unused dead space. Open expanses of flooring and high ceilings are great, but they don't help you cook an egg.


    Galley Style Kitchen Design


    The galley or corridor style kitchen is the most popular layout for the small kitchen. Services (dishwater, stove, sink, etc.) are clustered within a small area. Storage is reserved for upper and lower...MORE cabinets--leaving counter space free for cooking purposes. A galley kitchen can fit in a space as narrow as 8'.


    Most homeowners find the one-wall kitchen layout too tight for their needs. Essentially, it is half of a galley kitchen...with less than half of the amount of counter and cabinet space. Also, you'll find that you may need to sacrifice nice-but-not-essential services like dishwashers.


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  • 03 of 03

    Small Kitchen Design Tips

    Tile back splash, ventilation hood and stove in kitchen
    Spaces Images/Blend Images/Getty Images

    Since you don't have the vast, limitless space of a huge kitchen, you need to be a bit more economical in your design. The funny thing is, you won't find it too hard to do.


    For one thing, kitchen services "like" to be close together. Dishwashers need to be near water supply and drain areas (i.e., sinks). Fridges with automatic ice makers need a water supply. Kitchen cabinetry tends to be clustered together into cohesive units, rather than spread out. So, pulling together a tight kitchen...MORE really makes sense.


    • Realize that kitchen islands are space hogs and are not always as useful as they may appear. Try to craft a design that doesn't include an island.
    • Push cabinetry to the ceiling. Often, kitchen cabinetry has an open space at top. While this does create a more airy feel, it's a luxury you cannot afford in the small kitchen. After all, would you rather have a dead space...or 12 feet more of shelving room?
    • The downside of pushing cabinetry up is it feels more claustrophobic. Cure this by installing glass cabinet doors.
    • Go for neutral colors. Darker colors will make the small kitchen feel oppressive and smaller.
    • Larger floor tiles. Counter-intuitive, yes, but small flooring tiles make a room feel smaller.