Efficient and compact, a smaller kitchen offers unique design challenges. Where the working triangle has been devoured to the principle of cooking, cleaning, and prep’ zones, let’s look at making the most of your cabinetry first.
Most of us should not fudge our way through free software to design our own kitchens. You might work out the bald, basic components of the layout. Small spaces, like the open galley, often dictate the floor plan.
Still, would you dream up something life-altering? What about a mini-peninsula turned out from one long run of unremarkable kitchen base cabinets, an articulated table nesting in a lesser-used corner or in-counter ventilation married to an induction hob? Prep areas, wet and dry are valuable real estate in a kitchen, and easy to lose in the balance of a truly petite arrangement.
With dedicated professional eyes focused on your unique space, it’s all in the detail. Vouch for collaborative in-house CAD (computer-aided design) help from your architect or kitchen supplier. It’s generally free, and the results could give you so much more room to breathe.
The casual Instagram advice in the 2022 kitchen, is to lose all wall-hung cabinets. Many large, expensive kitchens in large expensive houses, have more cabinetry than they need. Recently traditional floating cabinets have been purged to allow the room’s architecture, ceiling height, and views to flow unimpeded. In a small kitchen, we naturally think vertically where storage is at a premium.
There’s the temptation to scale the walls in a stifling canyon of wall-hung and counter-mounted units together with a conventional pantry. Here too, there’s a reasonable argument to minimise the use of runs of wall cabinets where possible. They can visually stifle the room, especially in the hard-working double galley, shrouding the light from a vital, single window.
Low and lean may be trending, but re-assign that precious storage (add 20% to what you think you need). They offer slender 300mm-350mm depths and set 400mm off the counter, hiding recessed task counter lighting while leaving your prep area physically unaltered. With old-style cabinetwork, they indicate the tops of dressers tacked up in elegant mouldings. Ask your designer to sketch up alternatives. What about working this storage down to the floor in identical pantry units banked on each side of a long prep counter instead? Up to 2,290mm tall including the legs, but just 600mm × 600mm of floor space each. Huge. For islands, avoid lumpy ventilation canopies with the new family of in-counter/in-hob products or retractable, down draft mechanisms.
Where you do go high, consider pale reflective colours and/or metallic finishes and the inclusion of glass for top-tier units to bounce illumination out of every corner. This year’s bold mattes, moss green and navy, are best used rooting down base cabinetry. Magazine illustrations of loft living kitchens in snowy white with a star storage piece in eye-watering colour — it’s a conventional sure-thing.
Glass or even mirror splash-backs can further enhance that sense of fresh spaciousness, softening shadows. Some designers prefer to leave a deliberate shadow gap at the top of any high presses over, say, crown mouldings. Ask for a CAD mock-up to see the influence of pulling back from the ceiling.
Designer Oliver Heath reminds us: “An alternative to eye-level cupboards with doors is to have open shelves. This creates a more relaxed look, which can be used to display crockery, but will need to be cleaned regularly.” ( The Home Book, Cassell). There are hybrid wall unit/shelf designs, with slim floating shelves set under wall cabinetry or cut-out corner niches integrated into high cabinets delivering beautiful, unexpected spaces for key pieces with dedicated lighting and contrasting materials. These smart bites out of the standard German or Italian modular kitchen, avoid a blank stack of kitchen boxes with zero personality.
Storage walls or concealed kitchens take a fitted product to the next level and have been popular since the 1950s.
The idea of placing matching cabinetry and integrated appliances in one full-length and tall modular plane (now with handle-free, bump operation) is highly architectural. If you’re determined on something non-traditional, yet refined, contemporary and supremely functional, some variant of the slab-faced wonder-wall unit, minimalist and cohesive in one frame, can add seamless stature.
This might seem like a monumental, overpowering intrusion, but pared-back, handle-free modernity can create a more calming finish than multiple unit configurations screwed together, that are more aesthetically distracting.
Storage walls offer an anchor point for everything from the dry goods larder, to the fridge, a dedicated espresso nook, stacked ovens, or a slide-out marble counter for rolling pastry. Tailored with some extra counter-space, full wall systems, are magic boxes that take pressure off other prep and wet zones. A double galley can have a more airy arrangement including the sink and hob, reflecting off the storage wall.
Built-in or build-out (using a stud-work false wall), the point is, that it’s all there in one sleek, almost wardrobe-style facade, whether behind a wood laminate or lacquer-like resin slab doors. There’s no chance of a visual overload. The only thing surpassing the popularity of stark modulars in a rubbed black for AW22, is the shallow, walk-in-wardrobe style pantry behind glazed sliders or half wall/glazed divers. A new real “room” in the kitchen/utility suite.
Design guru Terence Conran, advised: “Many people imagine they need a bigger kitchen when all they need is to simply make better use of the one they already have. A few hours of concentrated reorganisation and improved shopping habits might make all the difference.” ( Storage, Octopus).
With the exception of boutique appliances, keep your food and kitchen weaponry out of sight. This maintains clear, expansive sightlines that pull your eye along the counters and walls without a stuttering, visual interruption. You have probably paid dearly for that quartz composite or polished concrete counter, so show it off, don’t litter it up.
Treat those base and wall cabinets (expect width sizings in multiples of 100mm or 150mm), as the supporting frame for exquisitely detailed in-cabinet storage. This micro-management could double the cabinet’s price, but the investment will multiple its useful volume. Customise each area to what it will hold with consideration of how and how often you would retrieve that thing. Typical hinges can be replaced by sliding operation or up-and-overs for top cabinets. Access issues are highly individual, especially when reaching above shoulder height. Divvy things up according to their daily or weekly usefulness, and avoid placing heavy items in top presses.
Some storage dividers will be fixed and some articulated to make use of every cubic centimetre. Kitchen base cabinets and drawers offer familiar 600mm depths.
In the case of islands and bespoke cabinets, depths can run to 920mm — a vast potential ballast, when cleverly divided or retrofitted from a flabby one-shelf wonder. There’s a wide choice of clever products for tricking out new cabinets and retrofitting old ones.
Base cabinet worked into a corner can be transformed with full, three-quarter or half-carousels, or generous pull-out shelf systems. Separate operation for each master shelf is ideal. Slivers of vertical, 300mm dead space can now slide out to carry cans, dry goods, cleaning equipment and more, straight out, or on a swivel. Full-height tandem larders can offer you your goods, as you open the door it’s as simple as opening a large book. Interior drawers? Transformative. Add a small shelf for your toaster and a kettle and you have a breakfast pantry — all the rage in the English south counties.
High-line wire chrome baskets gliding on soft-close runners start at €28 for a 600mm carrying up to a whopping 30kg (the best entry point over laminate and solid wood elements), on kitchenfittingsdirect.ie. Extendable timber Dragan boxes start at just €12 at Ikea. With all cabinet choices and changes, unless you adore them, investigate the prospect of losing that fussy hardware (termed queasily, the new kitchen “jewellery”). A recess pull or bump-operation front can clean up even a budget galley flip currently prickling with hip bruising handles and knobs.