In our last blog post, we took a quick look at ideas for small kitchens. We thought this topic deserved another, more in-depth discussion. A recent article from CNBC reported that the average apartment size is 5% smaller than a decade ago. For studio apartments, where space is already at a premium, this number is closer to 10%. As smaller living spaces seem to be on the rise, we thought it would be helpful to provide a detailed guide with useful resources for those with a small kitchen. To that end, we will begin this guide by discussing some broader topics, such as budget and layout, before moving to specifics like material choice, appliances, and lighting.
The first topic we will be covering is budget planning. Like most financial matters, planning an accurate budget, and sticking to it, can be a difficult task. So, let's take a closer look at what going into planning the budget for a small kitchen project.
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For small kitchens, choosing the right floor plan can make or break their usability. If you are not replacing the cabinet boxes and are looking to do a more modest remodel, then you will be limited by the existing space. However, if you are undertaking a larger project, then you can reconfigure your cabinets and appliances to maximize your space. Below, we will take a look at three common small kitchen layouts. The custom floorplans below were made by the sales team at CabinetNow, who can help you create the perfect layout for your small kitchen.
The Galley Small Kitchen Cabinets
Our first diagram is of a galley, or single wall, kitchen. Often found in studio apartments and other small living spaces, the galley kitchen can be difficult to work with, especially if you have a lot of kitchenware. Here, the appliances blend into the cabinetry, which mixes drawers and cabinets for maximum storage. With custom sizing available, we were able to place two slender, tall cabinets between the oven and the sink. This not only offers storage for spices or baking trays but also extends the countertop so that there is no dead space.
Thinking Creative Storage
Regardless of the layout of your kitchen, always be thinking about vertical storage. For small kitchens, this will help you increase storage without taking up valuable floor space. For this kitchen, the far-right upper cabinets could be reduced in size, so that hooks could be mounted underneath. This would be a great space to hang pots and pans, and, in this kitchen, would be conveniently located above the dishwasher. If you have space, you could also consider a small island. Often, these can be found with wheels, so that they can be used as a movable work surface as well as storage.
The “L” Small Kitchen Cabinets
Pictured here is the longer portion of the “L” shaped kitchen. Often found in shotgun-style homes, an “L” shaped kitchen isn’t as wide as other floor plans. This could mean that you only have space to have cabinetry along one side. Incorporating the appliances, as above, creates an unbroken work surface that can help with storage in a small kitchen. For this kitchen, our sales team chose glass-front doors for the upper cabinets, which will give the space more a sense of more depth.
Thinking Creative Storage
Just like with the galley kitchen, under-cabinet hangers can be effective. However, if you plan to keep small appliances on the countertop, such as mixers or coffee pots, then this may create a cluttered, claustrophobic feel to the room. Again, a movable island is an excellent choice to add storage and a work surface. With an “L” shaped kitchen, you will have a bit more space than a galley style, so you could even opt for a larger island.
The “U” Small Kitchen Cabinets
The “U” shaped small kitchen offers the most wall space for cabinets of the three common floor plans we have talked about in this guide. Having the space to add cabinets that wrap around all three walls, broken up by appliances, can eliminate your storage woes.
With wrap-around upper and lower cabinets, it will best to keep your countertops clean and cleared, so as to not create an overwhelming, cluttered mess. This should not be an issue if you have cabinet space similar to our model. Additionally, our model features subtle flat panel doors, which create clean lines throughout the space. Avoiding overly ornate designs keeps this small kitchen from feeling smaller than it actually is.
While a “U” shaped kitchen can offer lots of cabinet storage, it is not particularly conducive to a movable island. However, if you have space against the wall just outside the kitchen, the moveable island can be a great addition. Outside the kitchen, your island could function as a bar cart or a catch-all. When cleared off, it could be rolled into the doorway to provide an additional work surface.
Thinking Creative Storage
As with the other two layouts, vertical storage is not just a must, but it is likely one of your only options. Shelves, ceiling-mounted hangers, and tall pantries are staples for vertical storage, and with custom sizing, can be made to work in any space.
Colors and Materials for Your Small Kitchen
The National Kitchen and Bathroom Association (NKBA) released a study in 2016 that found the average new single-family home has a kitchen of around 160 square feet. As we saw above, this is a trend shared with newly built apartments. In this section, we will cover some ways to make your space feel more open, without doing a complete remodel.
If your cabinet boxes are in good shape, or if replacing them is not an option, then refacing them can be a great way to not only freshen up your space but also can make a small kitchen feel more open. When refacing your kitchen, you will need to select a material, such as wood types, for the new cabinet doors and drawer fronts. As you explore options, don’t forget to keep your budget template handy, so that you know what is within your price range.
Wood Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts
Solid wood cabinet doors and drawer fronts can be an excellent investment, and they will likely increase your ROI. For a small kitchen, avoid darker colored woods, as this will make your already small space smaller. If you plan to paint your cabinet doors, MDF, or medium-density fiberboard, can be a strong, budget-friendly option. The best part is, once it is painted, you won’t really be able to tell the difference.
Thermofoil Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts
Aside from wood options, at CabinetNow we also offer thermofoil cabinet doors and drawer fronts. Thermofoil is a vinyl laminate that is heated and pressurized onto an MDF core. Our thermofoil cabinets come in a wide variety of colors and textures, so finding something you like won’t be too hard. The downside, however, is that thermofoil cabinets do not last as long as solid wood, nor do they have the same impact on your ROI.
Whether they are new doors or doors you already have, a fresh coat of paint can go a long way. It can be a great way to update your kitchen to a more modern look, and it can even make your small kitchen feel bigger. The best way to achieve the latter effect is to choose bright colors for your cabinets like whites, yellows, or reds. Brighter colors will help reflect light throughout your space, which will give it the effect of feeling larger.
Go For a Trendy Two-Toned Paint Job
If you are interested in adding space and creating a trendy, modern look, then a two-tone paint job is for you. You can accomplish this by painting your lower cabinets a darker color than the upper cabinets. This will help add depth to your small kitchen, and it looks stunning.
As you get ready to paint your cabinets, be sure to check out our guide on preparing your cabinets for painting. If it is your first time painting cabinets, you may also benefit from Good Housekeeping’s guide on 13 mistakes to avoid as you work.
Make the Most of Your Small Kitchen
If remodeling and refacing are out of your comfort level, there are other ways to improve the functionality of your small kitchen. We will look at 3 areas where you can make upgrades to maximize your space:
Without proper lighting, your small kitchen will feel even smaller. If you have lots of natural light, this might not be a concern for you. However, if your kitchen lacks windows and you aren’t able to install them, then you will need to explore lighting options. Under-cabinet lights can be a budget-friendly option that will not only improve visibility, but it will also make your small kitchen feel bigger. This effect could also be achieved with properly placed lamps.
When space is at a premium, you have to carefully choose not only your cabinets and layout but also your appliances. While in the past this was more difficult, today many companies are producing compact appliances that don’t sacrifice performance. When browsing, take note not only of the dimensions of the product, but also its possible uses. Many appliances today are not made to serve just one purpose, but rather can be used for a variety of tasks, such as an air fryer that is also a dehydrator, toaster, and proofing oven. Check out this recent Forbes article on compact appliances and the companies making them!
3. Odds and Ends
Beyond lighting and appliances, there are other products that can help make life easy in a small kitchen. Things like hanging fruit baskets, stackable plate and bowl sets, and collapsable work surfaces can provide you with the storage you need, without making the space too cramped to move. Check out this great Buzzfeed article on 27 products that work perfectly for small kitchens.
Final Thoughts on Small Kitchens
Despite being small in size, there are many factors that go into creating a small kitchen that is both functional and comfortable. However, if you start your project with careful planning and thorough research, then you will no doubt be able to create the small kitchen of your dreams. Don’t forget that every chef has their own style, so don’t be afraid to mix and match to find a combination that works best for you. If you are having trouble or would like some help with planning, please feel free to give us a call at 1-855-669-5222 or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to working with you!
Don’t forget to download our Kitchen Remodel Template!