Small-House Kitchen Design Ideas

Reader Contribution by Christopher James Marshall

If you’re the one who cooks and your partner is the one who washes and builds, be sure to let it be known that you want a fully function small-house kitchen. You want track lights to focus on the work-space, a vent fan to remove vapors, have several ways to cook, a full-size refrigerator and freezer, and of course the kitchen window is above the sink. In a small-house kitchen you have the convenience of doing every task standing in one spot, or within one or two steps.

Draw your kitchen floor plan and then envision the details when looking face-on, rather than from the top-down, and draw a wall plan that shows the height of the drawers and countertops, the distance from the lighting, window position and dimensions, etc. Small-house design is very much dictated by wall space. 

Compactness is achieved by using pull-out or fold-out work counters. The utility of ways to make things fold and/or slide must be weighed against the frequency of use, e.g. how often are you willing to deploy and stow a board that covers the sink for a temporary work surface. A better choice would be a built-in, pull-out counter board, adjacent to the sink.

A classic opportunity is to locate the refrigerator under the staircase and use the remaining wedge of space for pantry shelves, which can be accessed both through the stairs and from the front. Another opportunity is to have a roll-around box that doubles as a mobile island, with an out-of-the-way place to park it.

Oven options can be on-grid electric, propane, wood, or even a solar oven built into the kitchen wall (reflectors facing south). I happen to use a wood stove and added the oven box, hot water coils, and snow melt tank.  It requires a space of 6 feet by 6 feet from floor to ceiling.

Wall shelving just above head-height is reachable even in the midst of cooking or dish washing. Shelving material that is a grid work instead of a solid will allow you to better see through the shelves to spot items above. Higher shelves are reachable with the aid of a folding step ladder that stows behind a door.

Happy Building and Bon Appétit!

In addition to basic building ability to put up shelves, cabinetry skills are needed to build hinged, sliding, and roll-around features. The materials can be decorative, but they must be functional including water-, heat-, and scratch-proof. Plumbing and electrical skills are needed to install hot and cold water, a sink drain, power outlets, lighting, and exhaust fan.

So, if you’re the one who builds, think about the saucy lasagna that will soon be cooking in your new small house kitchen.

More ideas for your homestead and small house are in Christopher James Marshall’s holistic guide, Hut-Topia: How to Create Sustainable Small Homes and Homesteads. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts hereincluding his articles Dual-Mode Hot Water System Heated with Solar and Wood, Six Things You Can Repurpose into Homestead Mojo, and Livable Space Design for Tiny Homes. Read all of Christopher’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.

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