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5 Tips for Making a Tiny Kitchen Work--Beautifully

7/25/2011 2:41:56 PM

Tags: tips for a small kitchen, small kitchen tips, tiny kitchen, Making This Home, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailThe kitchen in Katie and Martin Clemons’ 480-square-foot apartment in Berlin, Germany, was a disaster when they first saw it. It was 36 square feet and had no drawers, counter space, dishwasher or storage. The previous tenants had kept a refrigerator and freezer, with dishes stacked on top, in the living room. Through hard work and smart design, they turned a nightmare into a dream—the best kitchen they’ve ever had.

Katie and Martin knocked down walls to open up their kitchen space and disassembled the entire kitchen. They rebuilt cabinets and polished them with natural, environmentally friendly varnish. “Using natural varnish does cost more than the ‘standard’ stuff filled with toxins,” Katie says. “However, standard varnish releases a serious amount of toxins. There’s absolutely no way we could have lived in our little apartment. Oh, it’s heaven when going green saves you a load of cash—like nights and nights at a nearby hotel.”

clemens kitchen before and after 

Katie and Martin transformed an unworkable kitchen (left) into an open, inviting space with lots of storage (right). 

Katie offers tips for making tiny kitchen spaces work in a great post on her blog, Making This Home. She let me share them here.

clemens kitchen 1 

1.  Build up. Katie and Martin utilized every inch of vertical space in the back of the kitchen by extending the cabinets to the ceiling. 

2.  Question authority. “We had to question a lot about what society generally thinks a kitchen should have versus what we actually needed in this space,” Katie says. “Turns out we hardly ever use more than two or three burners. So why fill the entire counter with stovetop?”

clemens kitchen 2 clemens kitchen 3 clemens kitchen 4 

3. Choose small applicances. The two-burner stove that Katie and Martin bought was half the price of a full-size one. Because they don’t cook a lot, a half-oven is sufficient. And with a half-size dishwasher, crusty dinner dishes aren’t left sitting in the machine overnight, waiting for it to be filled. They chose a standard German refrigerator, which is the same tiny size that Americans have in college dorms.

4.  Create a super-compact recycling system. Katie and Martin’s system provides an efficient way to sort recycling, which in Germany requires 10 separate recycling piles.

clemens kitchen 7 clemens kitchen 8 

5.Keep dishes and food in a drawer. Katie doesn’t like cupboards because she can’t reach things that are stacked up high. Storing dishes and food in drawers means she can stack more in less vertical space, and it’s easier to access things in the back. 

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JosepH Estep
7/31/2011 9:09:22 AM
Terrific job space utilization. I have a counter top convection oven, 4 in 1 grill, two burner propane cook top and micro wave all on a rolling stand. My kitchen is wherever I want it to be, inside, outside, tableside.

7/29/2011 3:55:34 PM
We're off grid and living in a wall tent while we're building our cabin. The cabin is only 16x24, and our kitchen consists of 10' of wall cabinetry so efficient use of space is essential. We've been using a portable propane two-burner with a tiny grill drawer (one slice of toast at a time) to supplement our primary workhorse... the wood heat stove. We have no oven and do all our baking and roasting in a firepit with Dutch ovens. We've been considering a tiny propane stove/oven/range for the cabin kitchen, and have found a few 20" models that would tuck in at the end of the counter and would handle a few loaves or a small bird. Unfortunately, the newer models rely heavily on electric even though they are gas appliances. Being off-grid we need to sip power, and that includes limiting electric cooktops, toaster ovens, microwaves and kitchen appliances. Eventually we're going to build a huge wood-fired earth oven in an outdoor kitchen, but I'd like to bake my bread without making a bonfire before that! I love all the great space-saving and efficiency ideas for tiny kitchens, they really help with our remote off-grid cabin.

Suzanne Horvath
7/29/2011 8:52:52 AM
I'm hoping to move in the next year or two and downsizing is something I've been planning on. Even now I don't use my full size oven - I have a Breville Smart Oven and I use that instead. And I have my eye on a portable 2-burner cooking unit - I can move it off the counter when workspace is needed or set it up outside when I want to use a wok over high heat. I use a Bodum mini electric kettle for hot water - don't need a tea kettle on the stove. I have two pot racks that can hold pots & pans and large utensils. A sink with a large, integrated drainboard replaces a lot of real estate on a countertop (less counter to install). I just wish Sharp still made those cute, cube shaped microwaves - the size was perfect for small spaces. In the kitchen shown in this article, I would have opted for lighter wood or lightly painted cabinets to be more open visually. But it certainly is an improvement over the "before".

Subhorup Dasgupta
7/26/2011 9:38:12 AM
What a wonderful collection of ideas. Building up on vertical spaces is something that has worked for us, stacking gadgets and storage containers, as has building down, having staggered hanging hooks for pots and pans and dispensers for rolls of sheets, paper, cling, foil, etc. Here is a post that I wrote about setting up a minimalist kitchen, though the context here was budget, and not space. Do take a look.

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