With the new consumer focus on “downsizing,” smaller, smarter homes will likely be the new construction norm in the future. Clients planning to renovate will select designers who can manipulate existing spaces, avoiding costly room additions.
While the interest in small homes is not new (several great books have been written about smart, smaller homes), wonderful kitchen examples are hard to find.
Last September, I went on a kitchen tour sponsored by the NKBA Puget Sound Chapter. On the tour, I saw several small kitchens we can all learn from.
Additionally, I recently judged a Wellborn Design Competition, and was inspired by several examples of great small spaces. One in particular from the Portland area caught my eye. So join me in studying several solution-slanted successful kitchens created by Pacific Northwest professionals.
Before we study these award-winning solutions, here are several ideas that these designers employed in their projects:
- Make sure you understand the client’s priorities. Do not assume “downsizing” means “downgrading.” Train yourself to never say, “You can’t have,” or “I can’t do…because…” Replace such negative comments with, “Together, I think we can find a way for all of your requests to be met. We just need to prioritize equipment, thinking about staging activities, planning multi-tasking spaces and possibly moving some activities out of the core kitchen floor space area.”
- Look outside of the boundaries of the existing kitchen to determine if other rooms can “give up” some square footage.
1. Can a laundry room become part of the kitchen, rather than a separate room?
2. Can a coat closet be relocated, downsized or share floor space with a pantry?
3. Can a buffet, entertainment center or other special-purpose section of cabinetry be placed in the adjacent dining room?
4. Can a dining room adjacent to the kitchen become part of the kitchen activity zone or do “double-duty” as the library, home office or other center of activity?
- Find alternatives to a freestanding table or island. Banquettes or bench seating with table and chair combinations have been growing in popularity over the last several years. Islands are being replaced with peninsulas, saving one 36" to 48" walkway on one side. Minimize walkway space anywhere, everywhere, whenever possible!
- Eliminate visual chaos. To make a space look bigger, keep the design details understated. The more activity in the overall surface selections or materials used, the smaller the space will appear visually. I believe this is one of the reasons we have seen such a growth in popularity of quartz countertop materials. Their monochromatic aesthetic is much more subtle than the active pattern movement found in natural stone slabs.
Think carefully about proportion as well. In smaller spaces, mantel hoods should be replaced with interesting – but much smaller in scale – decorative metal and glass ventilation systems. Try to minimize the “bulk” of professional-looking cooking equipment. Major manufacturers are introducing much more streamlined appliance designs that work well in small rooms. Try to integrate the refrigerator so that it does not extend into the room. One solution that has worked for me is recessing the freestanding refrigerator into an adjacent utility or laundry room.
To illustrate some of these creative ideas for smaller kitchen spaces, let’s look at four Pacific Northwest kitchens that provide unique design solutions.
The first kitchen, created by Marie Lail Blackburn, CMKBD, MLB Design Group, in Seattle, WA, features elements that make it extremely efficient, including:
- Investing in a functional corner storage system;
- Locating the dishwasher away from the corner so that it’s accessible;
- Using crisp contemporary appliances;
- Using 12"-deep tall cabinets (rather than 24"-deep base and wall combinations);
- “Stealing” space for the eating counter by extending it around into an adjacent space.