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Go Small or Go Home

With small kitchens, organization is critical.

By ElizaBeth Marcocci   

The key to designing a small kitchen is good planning, utilization of space, functionality and perfect styling. One that meets the client’s wants and needs. Since that’s the same criteria needed for a medium or large kitchen, what is the difference? 

In 2020, there were approximately 36.2 million people living in single person households in the United States. The share of adults living alone has nearly doubled over the past 50 years. The average size kitchen in a 1500 sf. home is 103 sf. Small space kitchens not only reside in urban areas but rural areas as well. 

“By designing with purpose, we create spaces which reflect healthier lifestyles.” 

They encompass both condominiums and small homes. NKBA defines a small kitchen as less than 150 sf., that is roughly a 12’ x 12’ space or less. I believe that a small kitchen takes more planning, thought and creative use of finding space where it doesn’t exist. In helping our clients to design the perfect kitchen, a designer must explore ways to increase storage capacity and usable countertop work space while utilizing options for smaller appliances.  

Organization is key in the small kitchen. Grouping like items together is helpful in knowing where to find them when you need them. Becoming organized is a skill we can teach our clients. Organization relieves stress, makes cleaning and cooking a joy and frees up more countertop space.

Encourage your clients to take an inventory of all of the kitchen gadgets they use on a daily and weekly basis. Items that are used infrequently can be stored outside of the kitchen work space. With the assortment of cabinet and drawer inserts on the market, organization is easy. 

Many small kitchens have limited countertop space which can be increased in several ways. By utilizing smaller appliances and sinks, we can gain needed inches for expanding the countertops. The innovative work station sink allows more countertop space and the option for the sink space to be utilized with a cutting board, drying rack and strainer, freeing up precious countertop space. 

Another way is by designing a multi – use countertop that is out of the way until needed such as a countertop that pulls out of a base cabinet or one that is on casters and can be slid in and out of the kitchen. The latter can be used as a desk, extra dining or prep space.  

The use of smaller appliances creates an opportunity for increased base storage as well as countertop space. Consider the 24” dishwasher vs. the 18” dishwasher. Using an 18” dishwasher saves 6” of space which might be better utilized as an increase in drawer space. The same applies to the 30”, 33” or 36” refrigerator being replaced with a tall 24” refrigerator or various base refrigerator options.  

Another option is refrigeration elsewhere in the home. 24” cooktops and ovens replace the 30” standard ones and gain another 6” of storage space. There are inches to be gained everywhere.  

There is not one solution for all small kitchens, but by careful planning and creative ideas, a well thought out functional kitchen can be achieved. Every kitchen is unique and each client brings their own set of issues and challenges to the process.

Getting to the root of the problem with your clients is key. You can’t fix the problem if you don’t know what it is. Listen, investigate and identify the problems, design with functionality in mind, plan your cabinet organization and consider the use of smaller appliances to meet your clients needs.  

At the end of the day, the kitchen is a necessity, a place to gather, eat and cook. By designing with purpose, we create spaces which reflect healthier lifestyles. 

ElizaBeth Marcocci CMKBD, CAPS is a designer for Mother Hubbard’s Custom Cabinetry in Mechanicsburg, PA, has been in the design industry for over 35 years and will be featured at KBIS.