First, think about appliances. There are many smaller appliances on the market that function almost as well as their larger counterparts. Typically, European appliances are more compact. Consider an 18” dishwasher made by Miele as one example. This dishwasher can accommodate place settings for twelve because of the ingenious design of the rack system. Many slighter sinks are also available; make sure to get one that maximizes the space from front to back. Using a wall-mounted faucet can help since the sink can be installed almost all the way back to the wall.
There’s no reason to think that appliances that are less big will hamper cooking ability. True convection ovens that are 24” wide can accommodate fairly large turkeys, and they have a rotisserie that attaches from corner to corner to maximize its size and use. On top of this oven, use a 24” cooktop, whether gas, electric or induction. Electric/induction may be the best choice because the burners can connect and double in size at the turn of a dial. As for the refrigerator, which is the bulkiest appliance and the most difficult to find space for in a small kitchen? Back in the early nineties, Sub-Zero came out with their 700-series refrigerator, which is only 27” wide and 80” high. They also were the first to come out with under-counter refrigerator and freezer drawers, which work beautifully in a tight space. Since then, other brands have introduced similarly sized refrigerators, and there are even now 24” units available.
After you have determined appliances, it’s important to lay out the space with ingenuity. The most important area in a kitchen is between the cooking surface and the sink. As long as this space is 36” or more, you will be comfortable preparing meals. Even if the cooktop has to be within 6-9” of a tiled wall, it’s good to maintain these measurements for ease of cooking. Then place the refrigerator against a wall, nestled away where it’s less obtrusive.
Attempt to stay away from wall cabinets; as an alternative, use floating shelves. Dishes and glasses look great on open shelves and are also easy to access and to put away. For closed food storage, use tall cabinets that are as narrow as 6”; you’ll be surprised at the amount of food that can fit into this space. Try not to take these cabinets all the way to the ceiling. Instead, stop these cabinets at about five to six feet high, since reachable space is the most crucial. Leaving some wall areas free for artwork helps make the place feel more expansive. Additionally, if the kitchen can be opened onto an adjoining room, a tight galley kitchen all of a sudden appears to become a substantial space.
For cabinet storage, it helps to install shelves on the backs of wall or pantry cabinet doors for spices or cans. The reduced adjustable shelves in the back of the cabinet are then the perfect size for items such as bottles, cans, flour, and sugar canisters. Use a spice insert in a top drawer near the cooktop. Rather than a tall pantry, use a base cabinet with a countertop and then a tall wall cabinet with the bottom removed that sits on top of the base cabinet. That can then be a pantry as well as a place to store countertop appliances. Best of all, with the doors open (and ideally retractable), it can also double for extra counter space when needed.
When approaching storage needs for your small kitchen, it’s also good to realize that you probably don’t need as much space as you initially thought. Only have the essentials in your kitchen and avoid the myriad of gadgets that are professed to be “must-haves” but that you’ll probably never actually use. Just remember: a professional chef needs hardly any space or utensils to produce a gourmet meal!
Overall, keep in mind that a kitchen is as good as the thoughtful design and ease of use behind its creation. Forget that old maxim “bigger is better”; with well-considered appliances and layout in place, you’ll have a kitchen to rival any grand showpiece—and one in which most importantly, you and your family and friends that want to eat, cook, and gather.