Beyond Small: Ultra-Compact Kitchen Units That Include Everything

Very Small Kitchen
Very Small Kitchen. Aliyev Alexei Sergeevich / Getty Images

You think you know what a small kitchen is?  You might say that a small kitchen is a counter or two, plus stove, oven, and sink, all reduced to a tiny footprint.  If that's what you said, you're wrong.  Because the truly tiny kitchen is way smaller than even that and structured in a completely different way.

Until now, compact kitchens have been unclassifiable oddballs that no one really in their right mind would install. Compact kitchens fall in the twilight area between a vacation home and primary residential spaces such as condos that have smaller-than-small kitchen space.

But with the tiny house movement and a greater awareness that bigger isn't necessarily better, these lilliputian cooking spaces now have greater appeal to more homeowners.

Not Just a Small Kitchen But An Entirely Different Thing

Average kitchen size hovers on the upper end of 100-200 sq. ft.  The 10' x 10' kitchen is regularly held out as a benchmark for estimating kitchen remodel costs.  Thus, a small kitchen is around 100 sq. ft.

But a compact kitchen means packing a nearly full-service kitchen into a postage stamp-sized space--as little as 6-10 square feet.

The Ups and Downs of Small

One downside is the cost:  you can put together a similarly sized site-built kitchen for less money.  But most kitchen base cabinets and wall cabinets are not meant to be unified in such a tight package.  By incorporating the idea of small into the original plan, compact kitchen designers are able to pack more features into less space.

One great upside to buying a compact kitchenette is that most of the work is already done for you--no piecing together of disparate items.  This value is especially apparent on the commercial level when you need to put together lots of kitchens.

Features That Define an Ultra-Compact Kitchen Unit

  1. Bundled, Unified:  These compact kitchens are usually meant to be assembled as a single unit.  They may ship as one unit or, in the case of larger compact kitchens, several pieces.  In the end, though, these pieces will become one unit.
  2. Galley-Style Layout: Typical site-built galley kitchens run in a straight line with no interruption between amenities.  This is the same layout you will find in most compact kitchenettes.
  3. Integrated Backsplashes:  No need to make a backsplash with these compact kitchenettes, as they come with backsplashes integrated as a stainless steel back wall.
  4. Small Refrigerator: Some can accommodate full-capacity refrigerators, but most have fridges that are roughly the size of bar fridges.
  5. Spartan Design: It's hard to go wild with kitchen configurations in such a small space. Companies that sell efficiency and compact kitchens tend to focus on upgraded finishes when they want to notch up the style.  ACME does have one model, the CL60DW, that is available in an attractive and trendy bamboo finish--it even has slab cabinet doors.  
  1. Contractor-Grade Finishes: Materials such as melamine, Thermo foil, and stainless steel are typical, though as previously mentioned, some companies are providing Corian, solid wood, and even eco-friendly options.
  2. No-Name Appliances: While usually solid and fully functional, these are not GE Profile and Viking appliances.
  3. Total Widths: Width of the entire unit tends to range from 48" to 72".  One company, ACME, offers kitchenettes in widths as low as 30".

Extras

Features that are considered normal in site-built kitchens are optional extras for kitchenettes:

  • Range-and-Oven.
  • Double sinks.
  • Shelf for the microwave.
  • Dishwasher.

Cost

Prices for better compact kitchens, such those from ACME Kitchenettes, begin at around $1,500 for simple 48" wide unit containing 2 burners set into a stainless steel sink, 14" x 16" sink, refrigerator, and storage under the counter.