Small Kitchen Design

Make the most of your space by using a smart small kitchen design.

By Bob Vila | Updated Jun 17, 2019 2:56 PM

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

Small Kitchen Design


The best of small kitchen design focuses on function and flow. No matter the size of the kitchen, smart appliance placement can help create a comfortable, workable environment. Good design dictates that the refrigerator be near food preparation counters, and that sinks be placed next to dishwashers for easy loading. Meanwhile, stoves want workspace and handy storage for cooking accessories, cupboards for pots and pans, and drawers for utensils.

In the food preparation area, the kitchen triangle is the usual standard. It’s actually an arithmetic formula: The sum of the distances from sink to stove to refrigerator and back again should not be less than 12 feet nor more than 22 feet. Furthermore, the kitchen triangle rule specifies that no one side of the triangle should be less than 4 feet nor more than 9 feet. This rule works for almost all kitchens, with the exception of tiny galley kitchens and giant professional ones.

Another standard that can be integrated into small kitchen designs is the center island, a staple in modestly sized and large kitchen layouts. The island can function as a food preparation, dining, or homework station. Counter peninsulas also do service for baking, dining, and food preparation.

Important Details
For those who cook frequently, the option of having a counter with a drop-down surface is often appealing. Another space saver is an integrated sink, which allows fruits and vegetables to be cleaned and scraps disposed of right at the preparation center.

A food prep area might include a wood chopping block or a stainless-steel surface. Raised strips of metal set into a countertop support hot pans and protect the counter against scratches. Drainboards, too, can be integrated into the sink-side countertop for convenient cleanup.

For those interested in baking, a proper countertop is essential. That might mean installing marble or granite countertop sections that will maintain the cold for proper dough rolling. Depending on the height of the home baker, the tasks of kneading and rolling dough can be made more comfortable by lowering the countertop from the standard 36-inch counter height. Experts recommend a rolling counter that is 7 to 8 inches below the elbow for a baking and mixing countertop.

Mix It Up
Busy lifestyles mean that many families are solution-driven. The key to contemporary design is to find a way to do it all in one room. Homeowners are taking advantage of today’s innovative marketplace to create a “mix and match” approach that gives them the utility they need with the aesthetics they want.

The mix-and-match approach is actually a new rule of thumb in kitchen planning and design—“The richer the mix, the better,” says Gin Guei Ebnesajjad, manager of product styling and development, Dupont Surfaces, Corian and Zodiaq. Customers are selecting mixes of colors, textures, and surfaces to meet their individual needs.

In rethinking your colors, go for a 60-30-10 color scheme, which means 60 percent of a main color, 30 percent of a complementary color and 10 percent for an accent color like a backsplash or a trim detail.

Recommended kitchen colors often include shades of tan, peach, yellow and all the many off-whites. Keep the big-ticket items like cabinets on the neutral side and accent with easily interchangeable elements like wall paint, window treatments, and small appliances. That way, changing the look of your kitchen in another few years won’t have to be a major investment.

Get the Job Done
If you have the time and energy, designing and remodeling your kitchen can be fun and a money-saver. However, sometimes it’s better to leave the planning to a pro.

Most retailers and manufacturers of kitchen cabinets offer a free design service. Kitchen designers spend their lives planning kitchens, and they know exactly what their brand products can do. If you have decided upon purchasing cabinets from a manufacturer instead of having them custom built, it is probable that the manufacturer’s own designers can help to work out how to plan the kitchen. The only disadvantage is that these representatives work for the manufacturer and probably will not be impartial.

You might also consider hiring an independent Certified Kitchen Designer. Like their counterparts in the retail kitchen cabinet business, these professional designers work day in and day out designing kitchens and are skilled at making the most of your available space and dollars. Additionally, as industry specialists, they are often the first to hear of new innovations and cutting-edge products. Like architects, they too can do as much or as little as you wish—from simply drawing up a plan to working with the building contractor until the job is completed.