Bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to designing a kitchen. A compact kitchen can function more efficiently than an expansive space with an awkward layout. With some tricks of the design trade in your tool belt, it’s easy to make even the modestly sized kitchen perform.

Smart Appliance Choices

There are many smaller appliances on the market that function almost as well as their larger counterparts. Typically, European appliances are more compact. Consider the 18” dishwasher made by Miele. It can accommodate twelve place settings because of the ingeniously designed rack system. Slimmer sinks are also available; make sure to get one that maximizes the space from front to back. Using a wall-mounted faucet can save space since the sink can be installed almost all the way flush to the wall.

Small but Mighty Ovens

There’s no reason to think that smaller ovens will impede ambitious cooking. True convection ovens that are 24” wide can accommodate fairly large turkeys, and they have a rotisserie that attaches from corner to corner to maximize its size. Above this oven, use a 24” cooktop, whether gas, electric or induction. Electric/induction may be the best choice because the burners can connect and double in size at the turn of a dial.

Chilling Out

The refrigerator is the bulkiest appliance and the most difficult to incorporate into a small kitchen. In the early nineties, Sub-Zero came out with their 700-series refrigerator, which is only 27” wide and 80” high. They also were the first to come out with under-counter refrigerator and freezer drawers, which are great solutions for a tight space. Since then, other brands have introduced similarly sized refrigerators including 24” units.

Strategic Floorplans

After you have chosen appliances, it’s important to lay out the area with ingenuity. The most important space in a kitchen is the area between the cooking surface and the sink. As long as this space is at least 36” you won’t feel cramped during meal preparation. Even if the cooktop has to be within 6-9” of a tiled wall, it’s good to maintain these measurements for ease of cooking. Then place the refrigerator against a wall, tucked away from high traffic areas.

Cabinet Considerations

Avoid wall cabinets, which enclose a space. As an alternative, use floating shelves. Dishes and glasses look great on open shelves and are easy to access and to put away. For closed food storage, use tall cabinets that are as narrow as 6”; you’ll be surprised at the amount of food that can fit into this space. Stop these cabinets at about five to six feet high, since reachable space is the most crucial. Leaving some wall areas free for artwork helps make the place feel more expansive. Additionally, if the kitchen can be opened onto an adjoining room, a tight galley area all of a sudden appears to become a substantial space.

Innovative Inserts

Install shelves on the backs pantry cabinet doors for spices or cans. The shallow adjustable shelves in the back of the cabinet are perfect for items such as bottles, cans, flour, and sugar canisters. Or, use a spice insert in a top drawer near the cooktop. Rather than a tall , space-hogging pantry, use a base cabinet with a countertop topped with a wall cabinet, like an old-fashioned hutch. It can serve as a a pantry as well as a place to store countertop appliances. Best of all, with the doors open (and ideally retractable), it can also offer extra counter space when needed.

When planning your small kitchen, remember that you probably don’t need as much space as you imagine. Keep only the essentials in your kitchen and avoid the myriad of gadgets that you’ll probably never use. Just remember: a professional chef needs hardly any space or utensils to produce a gourmet meal. With efficient appliances and a smart layout, you’ll have a kitchen to rival any grand showpiece—and one in which most importantly, your family and friends will want to eat, cook, and gather.

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