Are you feeling crammed into your small kitchen with lack of working counter space, little or no view, plates and platters in other rooms in the house because you simply have no place to store them in the kitchen?
Designing a small kitchen is all about the balance between aesthetics and function and there’s no two ways around it: you’re going to have to wrap your head around compromise. You can drool over photos of huge kitchens you see in magazines and online, but actually a small kitchen can be a lot more functional, if it’s designed to maximize space, and appliances are often huge space hogs.
In North America, we have the idea that everything bigger is better. But when it comes to appliances in a small kitchen, they can gobble up space that you could use more effectively. The engineering of modern appliances means the outside size doesn’t always accurately reflect how much functional space you have on the inside.
But here’s where I strongly advise you to buy the best quality appliances you can possibly afford. The interior space of a high-end appliance is often much more efficient than the bargain brands, they’re designed to be built in which saves precious inches of floor space and they simply perform better. In appliances you definitely get what you pay for.
As Victorian art critic, social thinker and philanthropist said:
“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When
you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay
too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you
bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The
common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a
lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well
to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will
have enough to pay for something better.”
There are several high-end, apartment sized fridges available:
Fisher & Paykel (Pronounced PIKE-le — like pickel but with a long “i”) has a 25″ wide fridge with a bottom mounted freezer that saves big space.
If you’re planning a kitchen in a space other than a home where you won’t be cooking major meals, like in an Airstream Land Yacht, boat or plane, Fisher & Paykel makes a Cool Drawer™ which converts from refrigeration to freezing to cooling and room temperature storage drawer at the touch of a button. Mounted under the counter, it doesn’t require any air space above.
Sub Zero makes a pair of stacked, under counter fridge or freezer drawers in a 24″ width or, if you can tease an extra 6″ of width they make a combination fridge/freezer drawer unit which is a great option for a really compact space.
Liebherr (in the kitchen below) has a completely integrated 24″ wide model which means when I design the cabinetry, I can build tight to either side and the top, which can mean big advantages when trying to squeeze in storage space.
Miele also has a completely integrated model which is 24″ wide with a bottom mount freezer. This is where German engineering really shows its brilliance.
The 700 square foot house above, is the smallest house with the smallest kitchen that I’ve ever designed. It’s a one bedroom bungalow with a basement and a nice little garden. Perfect for a single person, but a doozy of a challenge to design to get any kind of efficiency. Fortunately, I was able to knock down the wall between the 8′ x 8′ kitchen and open it up to the miniature living/dining area. But that left the kitchen with only one 8′ wall and one 6′ wall for appliances and working counter top.
By using small appliances, I was able to give my client 4.5 feet of clear working counter top which was pretty close to a miracle, since the old kitchen only had 2 chopped up bits of less than 1.5 feet each. The small appliances I used were more than adequate for 1 person living.
Miele has a variety of small cooking appliances which are a brilliant use of space in small kitchens. A 24″ wide Miele Speed Oven uses a combination of microwave and convection technology so you have two appliances in one in a tiny space that actually has very good cooking capacity.
For those people who are convinced that microwaves are the second coming of the apocalypse, a Miele Steam oven can fit into the same space as the Speed oven, but uses either convection or steam to cook your food. Vegetables and fish are steamed to perfection with all the health benefits of that method of cooking.
If you’re reluctant to give up gas altogether, Miele has an ingenious mix and match cooktop system called the Combi Set, so you can combine a couple of induction burners with two gas ones and still stay within a 24″ wide foot print.
Otherwise, Miele has 24″ inch wide models of their gas and halogen cooktops which both do a great job.
Wolf, a brand synonymous with professional cooking, also has a 24″ wide induction cooktop, but gas and electric only in the larger 30″ and 36″ wide sizes. They do have a unit they call a “transitional” size of 15″ wide, but it only has 2 burners and two of them will exceed the compact 24″ width.
Fisher & Paykel has a 24″ wide by 24″ high wall oven which could theoretically be mounted in a base cabinet, but they don’t have a 24″ wide cooktop to install in the counter above, so you’d have to mix it with a different brand. This can be problematic depending on each appliance’s requirements for clearance space and wiring, so your designer has to carefully check the specifications to make sure it can be built in that way before you buy.
The kitchen above was slightly bigger than the first one, but still small by most North American standards. To maximize the space, I used a Miele Speed Oven with a 24″ wide Miele electric cooktop above. By mounting the oven in a base cabinet, there is enough space for a deep pot drawer below it. With this configuration, a 5.5″ wide space has good landing counter space on either side of the cooktop and 7 drawers.
The advantage of using a glass-top for cooking, is that in a pinch, it can give you some extra landing space. That’s especially true if you use an induction cooktop. It cooks by shifting the molecules in the cooking vessel so the burners always stay cool to the touch, even when they’re on. The technology is more efficient and the response is truly instant. If I could re-design my kitchen, I would use an induction cooktop in a heart-beat. The thing to remember is that 24″ wide induction cooktops tend to only have 3 burners, whereas a halogen electric top of the same size has 4.
With a 24″ wide oven, keep in mind that you will not be able to use a large baking pan and with induction cooktops, you’ll need cookware that is magnetic. So glass and stainless steel won’t work. But buying new cookware for these appliances can be a cost well worth the investment if it makes your kitchen a pleasure rather than a pain.
3. Washing up
Dishwashers are already only 24″ wide (23 5/8″ for a European brand), but in some situations, that’s still too wide.
Miele’s Slimline dishwasher checks in at 18″ wide and accommodates a place setting for 10.
Fisher & Paykel has a stacked pair of dishwasher drawers that are able to operate independently of one another, so on occasions when you only have a few dishes to wash, you’re not wasting water or energy as though you were doing a full load. However, even better, they have a single dish drawer, which, for a small kitchen means that you can use the rest of the space above or below it for a storage drawer. This is also great for an area that isn’t a full kitchen like a home theatre, or even a master suite with a coffee bar where you want to be able to do just a few dishes at point of use.
You can find a slew of kitchen organization ideas here.
Who doesn’t love looking at before and after photos of a kitchen renovation?! You can find some good ones here.
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