Designing for a Small Kitchen

A dialogue with empty nesters, retirees or single occupants living in a small apartment or second home begins with: “I have a small kitchen and nothing can be done with it.” The goal is to ‘magically’ increase the perceived size of the space and improve the total ergonomics with an aesthetic that is both physically and psychologically satisfying.

FUNCTION: Size + Placement = Efficiency.

  1. If you rarely cook using more than two burners, a 24” stove placed against the side wall provides more work space on the remaining counter top. Tile or small filler will protect the wall.
  2. Install a 12” or 24” cook top in a 3” thick counter top placed above the dishwasher.
  3. A microwave/convection oven can sit on a small refrigerator.

4. If you don’t fry on the stove, a hood may not be necessary. A full height cabinet now adds more storage (protected on the bottom by sheet metal).

5. 15” deep wall cabinets increase storage which is the same nose clearance as over-the-stove microwaves.
6. Horizontal doors that lift-up, flip-up or slide provide access without swinging open in your face.
7. Pot drawers need open only 12” for access, whereas rollouts need fully opened doors.
8- If floor space allows, pull base cabinets forward a few inches for a deeper counter top.
9- Lazy Susans and specialty corner pull outs waste space, especially in base cabinets, and are expensive.

Instruments in an orchestra are grouped together for the best sound. So too should cabinets for the most pleasing arrangement. A group becomes a sculptural form to be visualized as such. And, viola, we have art!
10- When the amount of appliances equals the cabinetry, a matching panel on the dishwasher or matching the cabinet to the appliances (with white, black, stainless steel or melamine imitation) will avoid the ‘missing tooth look’. The idea that a metal dishwasher is a machine misses the point. A small kitchen is not a miniature large kitchen.
11- Having the sink and counter top the same color creates a cohesive visual element by eliminating the big hole. Stainless steel, slate, solid surface.

12- To maximize an increased perception of length, horizontal doors and an open shelf relieve the predictability and monotony of all doors and lead to or becomes the focal point. “Less is not more. Less is a bore.” Robert Venturi.
13- To create height and highlight the refrigerator’s functional and physical presence, match the 24” deep upper cabinet material to the refrigerator. The remaining cabinets can be normal height as a horizontal contrast for decoration and not overwhelm the room. (Side panels and a small cabinet with crown molding atop a large stainless steel refrigerator resemble an Easter bonnet on a muscle man.)
14- Top doors of stacked cabinets should: (a) never be wider than high; (b) be square; (c) not more than 62% of the lower door height.

15- Kitchens can feel wider by varying the depth of the wall cabinets.

16- Flat panel doors designed with cut outs of various sizes and shapes generate vitality and movement.
17- Biophilic amenities should also include cabinet proportions with the Golden Ratio based on the Fibonacci numbers.
Behind the decorative façade are forms that have the same significance as the entire universe. “People are creatures of nature; hence an architecture which conforms to nature would confirm what is basic in people.” Frank Lloyd Wright.

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