Designing a small kitchen

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Many of us do not have the luxury of a large kitchen, often because our properties dictate the size of the room.

Whilst in recent years there has been an influx of appliances and gadgetry such as teppan yakis and cavernous wine coolers, many homeowners have had to design a small kitchen, to fit inside the architecture of older homes.

In some cases it may be possible to make structural changes to achieve the space you want, but if you do have to stick with what you've got, there are plenty of things you can do to make a difference.


U-shape designs work particularly well in small kitchens, as they are ergonomic and allow for plenty of hidden storage and potentially a seating area, too. Consider a split-level surface to accommodate a dedicated dining space. Kitchen storage can be maximised with tall wall units, which accentuate the height of the room, while the U-shape enables you to achieve the perfect working triangle with cooker, sink and fridge on opposite sides of the U.

L-shaped layouts can also work in small spaces, with the appliances, such as the oven and hob, on one side of the worktop and a sink on the other. If space allows, you can extend the worktop on one side to create a handy breakfast bar - just add bar stools.

Single and double galley kitchens are also popular in long, narrow rooms, especially those with a door or window at the end. In a double galley, place the sink on the opposite side to the oven and hob, so you can simply turn from one to the other while in a single galley, aim to have a good length of workspace between the two. Ideally you should have the oven and hob at one end of the worktop and the sink at the other.


Function is one of the most important considerations when planning any kitchen and in a compact room it's more crucial than ever that the entire space works in the most efficient way. Try to define different zones for preparation, cooking and washing but if you can't, then you may need to double up some activities. The preparation area for instance could also be the place for informal dining while a glass or ceramic hob can double as a workspace when not in use. Think carefully about your choice of worktops to ensure that the material is suitable for a range of applications.


Before you start, walk around your current kitchen and write down how you use it now and how you would like to use the new one. Where would you like everything to be? What works and what doesn't? Consider the appliances, the sink area, the storage and the amount of workspace. Ask yourself how many people will be using the space, what type of cooking you enjoy and how you would like things to be different. These are all good starting points and can help pin down your priorities.


There are many options for smaller kitchens when it comes to appliances. If you want a freestanding cooker, there are plenty of 50cm, 55cm and 60cm widths to choose from. Built-in ovens can be installed in a vertical column to save space while many manufacturers offer a compact range of ovens, microwaves, steam ovens, coffee machines and wine coolers in a 45cm height instead of the usual 60cm, enabling you to mix and match to suit your needs. Slimline dishwashers are ideal space-savers offering a decent nine place setting while hobs come in a linear design or domino configuration to save valuable worktop space. You may want to consider an undercounter larder fridge for the kitchen and a separate chest freezer for the garage, too.


Lack of worktop space is often a problem in a small kitchen but by keeping it clutter-free and only placing essential and regularly used items on the surface, you will maximise the working area. Consider including an inset birch end grain timber block as an additional preparation space - this will also avoid having chopping boards scattered across the worktop. Flush-fit sinks and hobs will enhance the feeling of space as they make the room appear larger due to their seamless finish. A sink with a glass cover can even double as an extra prep space when not in use.


Once you've trimmed down your kitchen kit, it's time to find a home for it. Resist the temptation to pack as many units as possible into the room, as this will make the kitchen feel cramped and closed in. Instead, use clever storage solutions such as larders and magic corners to make the most of every inch of cupboard space. Open shelving looks great in an alcove as an alternative to a wall unit and is the perfect spot for cookery books and your favourite pieces. Use splashbacks for hanging rails and tambour shutters to conceal small appliances.


Good lighting can make all the difference to a small kitchen, helping to illuminate dark spots while providing task lighting for worktops and cooking areas and a soft cosy glow for everyday use. Use feature lights to highlight open shelving or the interior of glass-fronted cabinets and plinth lights to make the floor space appear larger then team with light-reflecting materials such as high gloss units, glass splashbacks, polished porcelain flooring and stainless steel appliances.


Less is definitely more so don't try to cram too much in. Have a really good sort out and only keep what you regularly use or absolutely love. Be realistic about what your kitchen can accommodate and stick to it. Keeping the design consistent in terms of décor, furniture and flooring will also help create the illusion of space. High gloss handless cabinets, pale flooring and a neutral colour scheme will all help to make the room appear lighter, brighter and bigger.