Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kitchen Do's and Don'ts : Series # 1

What went wrong here? This small kitchen has some big problems.
The sink is wedged between two protruding appliances making it impossible to stand at the corner sink. I like white in a kitchen, just not on these appliances here. Yikes!

Think you can't do anything because you have a small kitchen? Not so.

The sad thing about this kitchen is it looks like the homeowner remodeled and spent money on refinished hardwood floors, new appliances, new tile floor, and new counters and plumbing fixtures. In my never to be humble opinion, they threw money away by not planning this out properly and are stuck with an ugly & dysfunctional layout.

If space was a problem and the homeowner said they didn't want the kitchen to grow an inch, then it's time to get creative and think outside the box. If this was my client, the first thing I would do is have them fill out my questionnaire. Do you cook? How many people live here? Is this a "fix up for sale" or you staying long term? Do you entertain? Have you set up a budget?

Once we know what the parameters are for the project, then the design process begins.

Here are some of my ideas if this was my client. Let's say this is a guest or studio apartment for one person. No need for a large refrigerator like the one in the subject kitchen. I would eliminate it in favor of an under cabinet refrigerator to gain more counters and base storage. A kitchen needs counter space and adequate space between appliances. If this is a studio set up for one person, most busy urbanites never find the time to cook in their homes anyway, opting for take out instead. Although if I could increase the footprint, I would prefer a regular but compact refrigerator, preferably counter depth.

If a family of two or more are living here then a full size refrigerator is a must. Shift it over to the left 18". (Ok, so I am making the kitchen bigger!) Make it counter depth. Sub Zero 30" 611G shown below. Check out the message board on the side. Great!

If the budget is tight, consider a retro style refrigerator. (Careful, some retro refrigerators are more expensive than standard refrigerators). Have it painted a stand out color. Look at that beautiful wall color (shown below) with the punch of green on the refrigerator. Delicious! If you saw either of these two bold colors on a paint chip by themselves you may be afraid. But wait till you pair them. Wow! Here is where white pops and looks so great with the vibrant and dark colors.

The two images above and below I found at a creative blog dedicated to small spaces called Small Space Style. Small spaces can be fun to design. Resources abound! Anything can be beautiful if you try. And it doesn't mean you need to break the bank if you get creative.

The small kitchen could have gone country as well. Simplicity rules with details such as open shelves in place of wall cabinets. You don't need to have wall to wall cabinets. Play it up with paint. Butter Cream Walls. Pick a theme. French Country, Italian Country or Montana Country; why not keep the materials simple and rustic? Keep the budget "shoestring friendly". Or simply splurge on good appliances as shown in picture above. (I do hope that dishwasher shown in the picture above clears the knobs and oven door pull on the range. I would have put the dishwasher on the left, or swapped it with the drawers). Looks like an Ooops!

Case in point: Small Kitchen with too many door ways creates awkward space for appliances.
Here are the before photos. Unbearably small area for breakfast table. In place we used a hutch.

Maybe a hutch found at an Antique Store on an opposite wall for additional storage. Use shelves instead of cabinets as we did with one of my clients. Simplicity.
From rendered view to completed kitchen. I favored a sage green for walls while my client liked the bold red walls. She won. I wish she used stainless steel outlet plates though and dropped the height.

The old space had a small peninsula. No space for a dishwasher. It was used as a mini island.
We put in a door to the side yard. That's her potted herb garden you see. This kitchen used to have three entrances. We close one. It used to have a tiny peninsula and a breakfast table and a huge plate window in front of the table. We 86'd the breakfast table, put in a door in place of the window, made way for a hutch and then opened up the wall off the dining room for seating and openness to the kitchen. Everybody wants to be in Rosie's kitchen!

With another client we claimed storage on a narrow wall with a built in narrow hutch. We gave it height and depth variation for interest. Wall base cabinets save on space in a narrow kitchen.
In the subject kitchen my advise would be to change out the 42" high wall cabinets that only emphasize how small this kitchen is. I don't like the corner wall cabinet or the solid doors. Give corners visual interest.
I would take away the verticalness of the 42" high wall cabinets and in place "cheat the eye" to emphasize a wider space than it really is with horizontal lines by using 30" high wall cabinets. If it's modern, I like the horizontal look of swing up doors.
Small cabinets can make a BIG STATEMENT with Details. Try a base valance at the toe area. The high ceilings are an opportunity and yet the whole kitchen shoved into the corner makes this space unbearably cramped. This is what you call a punishment corner! The tile floor looks funny and with the refrigerator half off of it, this emphasizes the cramped space. The floor should be one material. They should have made this hardwood as well since the rest of the floor is wood. Small spaces don't have to be ugly.

Another photo from Small Space Style. Notice the 24" range and 30" Wide Sub Zero. Love the detail of the semi-backsplash at the island. Tre Chic!

If there was an opportunity to increase the budget, I would expand out this kitchen along the refrigerator wall. Banish the L shape shown and replace with An island separating out the kitchen from the living space would allow for more counters, a proper place for the sink and maybe even some barstools on the back of the island for seating.
If there is no space for an island, I would stretch the length of the L shape to reposition the appliances. Here is another view of my customers small kitchen while we were in progress. The bag from Nordtroms on the range is holding the tile samples. Don't worry, the gas is not connected! (PS., yes, that is marble, yes it is honed, and yes, it is staining. But my client is Italian and would not have it any other way. )

For a larger budget, I would add some clerestory windows along that wall where the refrigerator sits. Placed at ceiling level around the edge of the room are very effective ways of bringing in natural light without sacrificing wall cabinet storage. They could also be vented to add a natural way of cooling the space.
Here is a great idea for a small kitchen (picture shown below). Loft style. Monochromatic with a punch of color. Textural elements with the wood fireplace mantel and sheer draperies add warmth to the space. Clean details with the white cabinets, white walls and stainless steel make the small square footage of the kitchen become one with the rest of the room, making it appear as one large space. Great details for a small kitchen! This kitchen says "Ahhhh!" Who wants take out when cooking in this space looks so tantalizing?


ennistbp said...

Very thoughtful and helpful comments. Thank you for taking the time to share this with cyber friends. I'm amazed, though that most of these small kitchen went with 36" pro ranges. I just bought a 30" Wolf today, as I couldn't bear the extra almost $3k just to add 6 inches (including range and hood). Also, you mentioned outlet height. What is your recommended height?

Laurie Burke, Kitchen Designer said...

True statement about the 36" ranges. Mostly people are looking for more burner space. The pro ranges do get very pricey. Although many clients stick with the 30" because they can't bear to lose cabinet space in small kitchens. What I like about the Wolf is that you can get high BTU output on all burners. Just wish they would offer a self cleaning oven feature in their dual fuel ranges. I don't know why they don't.

With your outlet height, start at 6" above your counter. (Watch out for tile patterns. Sometimes it looks funny with the outlet going through a border.)

Peggy Deras, CKD, CID said...

Yikes is right Laurie!

This looks like a "creative contractor" kitchen to me.
I can't imagine anyone who cooks being dumb enough to invest in such an arrangement.

You'd have to be Olive Oyl to fit in that corner!

This truly is a Kitschy Kitchen.


Jengi said...

Very interesting comments. What about awkward kitchens? I'm getting ready to remodel and with my u-shape at 180" wide, I can't decide which is best to use a 48" range, 36" AGA, or a cooktop and double ovens. How do you know what is the best move to make? As a graphic designer, not kitchen, I have many ideas but need solid advice on the subject of how much is "too much" in a range.

Laurie Y. Burke said...

If you can post your pictures in an email, I can critique your space so that other viewers can view options for this space.

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