Small Kitchen Design Challenge – Where’s the Luxury?
You’d think creating a small kitchen design would be easy. What do you need, really? A small fridge, range, dishwasher, microwave and some upper and lower cabinets. Declare victory and move on. Not so fast my friend.
In reality, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. You see, you can cheat when you have a lot of space. Even waste a little. In a small kitchen, every square inch counts – horizontally and vertically. Suddenly, you have to weigh the importance of cabinet/counter space vs. range/fridge size, etc. Depending on the client, you may have to consider asking various parts of the kitchen to perform multiple roles/functions.
In this blog post, I will share Sally’s and my struggles with our small townhouse kitchen. Then, I will share a hypothetical redesign of our kitchen and the difficulties I encountered finding 24″ wide appliances with today’s technology, such as a slide in induction oven, an over the cooktop combo convection/microwave with recirculating filter, etc.
OUr townhouse kitchen – A SMALL KITCHEN DESIGN DISASTER
While we have quickly adapted to the vertical layout of our rental townhouse, we have struggled with the kitchen’s layout and its cabinets.
The base cabinets are basically empty particle board boxes, with one small shelf in the back of each cabinet. No pullouts. (We’re doing deep knee bends with regularity. Frequently used items end on the counter, taking up valuable counter space.) Don’t get me started on the drawer glides…
The lovely blind corner cabinet.
Reaching for a mixing bowl on the small back shelf.
The pantry’s 24” deep shelves are adjustable, but they do not pull out. Let me tell you, getting things out of the back of a 24” deep shelf is a PIA.
We purchased a number of wire baskets to somewhat ease the situation.
Getting the baskets down from the top shelf makes you feel like you are taking your life in your hands.
The upper cabinets have adjustable shelves and like any 8’ high upper cabinet, the top shelf is best reached with a small step stool or ladder.
Moving on to the appliances, I have no real beef with the 30” range, the microwave above the range or the dish washer. They do their jobs. On the other hand, the 27” fridge leaves me feeling frustrated on a daily basis. Here’s why.
- The top freezer configuration is for the birds. (I know why it’s there, because the fridge has an ice maker.) The downside is you have to bend over just to see what’s on the first shelf.
- The veggie bins are 6” off the floor. More deep knee bends or kneeling on the floor to see what’s in the bin or on the back of the bottom shelf.
- Wire shelves??? We can do better…
OUR REDESIGNED small KITCHEN – A MODEST PROPOSAL
As renters, I know we can’t just rip out the kitchen and start all over again. But, what if we could? What might our small kitchen design look like? How might it be improved?
Incidentally, both Sally’s Mom and mine now live in apartments in retirement communities. Their kitchens are remarkably like ours. Same empty base cabinets. Same upper cabinets. Same pantry. Same fridge. You get the picture… We now understand why everything they use is on their countertops. Too hard to reach! Too hard to put away!
As I’m writing about our improved kitchen, I’m thinking of our Moms and everyone else living in a small apartment or condo struggling to survive in a similar kitchen.
Using the planning criteria below, I created a new small kitchen design for our townhouse.
- 24″ freestanding convection range with an induction cook top. (Physically no room for a wall steam/convection oven.)
- 24″ over the range convection/microwave with recirculating filter.
- 24″ Bottom freezer/fridge with ice maker.
- 24″ dishwasher.
- Maximize storage with full height pantry pullouts, upper cabinet pull downs and lower cabinet pullouts as required. (To read a recent post I wrote about kitchen storage solutions, click here.)
- Use a corner cabinet pullout, eliminating the blind corner cabinet.
- Combined hangout/buffet/serving area.
Let’s see how finding the desired pieces for my small kitchen design fared.
You’d think with cooking being at the heart of any kitchen I would have been able to find the latest technology and innovations in 24″ widths. That was not the case. Because I had no room for a 24″ wall oven, I wanted to find a 24″ slide in/freestanding range with an induction cooktop. It could not be found. I could find 24″ induction cook tops, but the clearance required below the cooktop for a separate slide in oven would have meant placing the bottom of the oven at about 4″ – 5 ” off the floor. This was unacceptable. (Or perhaps I’m jut getting older and don’t like bending over that far any more.) Instead, I found a Miele 24″ gas cook top below which I slid their 24″ wide steam/convection oven.
The 24″ over the range convection/microwave with recirculating filtration was even more frustrating. I could not find one. After a long search and much muttering under my breath, I finally found a Haier 24″ microwave with recirculating filtration.
Upper cabinet pulldowns were a mixed bag, as they come in 24″ and 36″ width only. I could place Rev-A-Shelf’s 24″ pulldown over the microwave, while settling for adjustable shelves in the 12″ units to the right of the microwave.
Looking at the storage wall, you’ve probably noticed Sally and I prefer drawers in our base cabinets as opposed to cabinet doors and pullouts. We find them to be more convenient because they are approachable from both sides. Whereas with pullouts behind a door, you are locked in to approaching the pullout from one side.
We deliberately kept the pantry storage at standing height on the left and right sides of the wall, with the glass front doors in the middle for “pretty”, such as china, crystal, wine glasses, etc. Because I designed the storage wall at 15″ deep, I could not take advantage of Hafele’s or Rev-A-Shelf’s tall wire pullouts, which needed 24″of depth. Sally and I went back and forth on storage wall depth vs. countertop surface. The countertop won.
The “where things go to die” blind corner cabinet to the right of the storage wall was addressed by utilizing Hafele’s Magic 2 corner unit.
Finally, the Wet Wall. This was actually the easiest to work thru. We have Hafele’s Magic 2 corner unit on the left and to the left of the sink, a 12″ panel ready Kitchen Aid trash compactor. Under the sink, I think we could install the Hafele Portero pullout for cleaning supplies. (In the real world, I’d wait until sink and disposal were installed to be sure of fit before ordering.) To the right of the sink, a 24″ wide Miele panel ready dishwasher and 24″ wide Miele bottom drawer freezer/fridge. Above the fridge, we turn to our friends from Rev-A- Shelf for our upper cabinet pull down. (Remember, these only come in two sizes – 24″ and 36″ wide.)
small kitchen design take aways
We all know condos and rentals in urban environments are becoming smaller. Today’s consumers have the option of having fresh, prepackaged meals delivered to their doors on a daily basis. In general, consumers are becoming aware of the benefits of wellness, fresh food in there diet and needing be less wasteful. With these things in mind, I was surprised at how difficult it was to consistently find 24″ wide appliances showcasing attributes associated with today’s luxury kitchen. (See Matrix Below.)
- There’s a hole in the market.
- Freestanding/slide in 24″ ranges with gas or electric/ceramic electric cooktops were much more difficult to find than I thought they would be. 24″ ranges with integrated induction cook top, I could not find at all.
- 24″ wide gas and electric/ceramic cooktops were readily available. Miele, Bosch and Viking made 24″ induction cooktops. The caveat here is the induction cooktops require enough clearance below them that placing an oven below was no longer a viable option, while my research showed you could do so with a gas cook top. Something is going on here. At 30″ wide and up, freestanding ranges with induction cookings are offered. Marketing? Packaging? Demand?
- Convection seems to be the norm for wall ovens, with steam, steam/convection and speed trailing behind. Miele and Viking were the only manufacturers to offer all four options.
- Why is there no convection/steam option offered with a freestanding range?
- I actually found sous vid offered in a 24″ Gaggenau wall oven.
- Microwaves, OY!!! Lots of 24″ built in and counter top offerings. Add a recirculating filter? Just one, by Haier. Is this a packaging problem?
- However, you could find a 24″ wide recirculating hood if you were willing to give up the interior space on the cabinet above the range.
- I was surprised to find so few 24″ wide bottom mount fridge/freezers.
- 24″ wide dishwashers were a dime a dozen..
- I wish upper cabinet pulldowns were available in more widths.
- I wish tall pantry pullouts were available in more depths.
- Blind corner cabinets should be banned… 😉
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