So, What Exactly Is a Kitchenette?
Find out the pros and cons of scaled-down kitchen living and whether a kitchenette is right for your home and lifestyle.
While browsing through apartment listings, you’ve likely come across the term “kitchenette.” If you’ve ever asked yourself, what is a kitchenette, the answer is actually quite simple. The suffix “ette” just means “small,” so a kitchenette is basically a small kitchen. But don’t think of it as a standard kitchen crammed into a restricted space—a kitchenette may not come with all the appliances found in a regular kitchen, and the ones it does have are often scaled-down. While kitchenettes aren’t for everyone, they’re great in some situations. Keep reading to find out when it makes sense to install a kitchenette or rent a home that has one.
Kitchenette vs. Kitchen
While the most noticeable difference between a kitchen and a kitchenette is size, a kitchenette differs in other ways as well.
Unlike a kitchen that often occupies its own room, a kitchenette always opens into an adjacent room, usually a living room or a great room.
There’s also a big difference in kitchen storage. Storage space is at a premium in a kitchenette. While regular kitchens often have one or more rows of both upper and lower cabinets for stashing pots, pans, and packaged foods, kitchenettes rarely have more than just a couple of cabinets.
Kitchenettes also have much less countertop space than kitchens do. Standard kitchens offer ample room for preparing food from scratch, but kitchenettes may have a single small countertop surface, and it’s usually located right next to the sink.
As well, appliances are smaller in a kitchenette, and some may not be included at all. While a kitchen will have a single oven or even double ovens, kitchenettes rarely have ovens, and if one does, it will be a tiny scaled-down model or a toaster oven set on the countertop. Oftentimes, kitchenettes offer only a microwave for heating up foods. Instead of the four-burner range found in a kitchen, a kitchenette may feature a small two-burner range or just a hot plate. The refrigerator in a kitchenette is often downsized to a mini-fridge, and it may not have a freezer compartment.
Kitchens are designed for moving back and forth between appliances and work areas and are planned around the kitchen “work triangle,” a time-tested layout created by arranging the range, the sink, and the refrigerator in a triangle pattern. A kitchenette, on the other hand, doesn’t feature the work triangle and is often located along a single small wall or tucked into the corner of a larger living area.
Where They Work
Kitchenettes are not found in standard homes that are built to house large families, but they’re perfect in other spaces.
- Studio apartments: Defined as a single room with a separate bathroom, a studio apartment almost always comes with a kitchenette rather than a full kitchen. The size of the single room—which will also contain a bed, living room, and dining area—is a factor, however. For example, a large penthouse studio apartment with more than 1,000 square feet of living space will often have a complete kitchen, while a smaller studio apartment with 400 square feet of living space, or less, will usually have a kitchenette. Kitchenettes are usually the norm for small inner-city apartments.
- Tiny houses: The tiny house movement introduced the most compact homes with less than 400 square feet of living space—and some as small as 80 square feet of living space—so there’s no room for a full kitchen in these diminutive dwellings.
- Dorm rooms: A kitchenette in a dorm room might consist of just a mini-fridge, a microwave, and a small sink, with both the fridge and the microwave positioned on a countertop above a single cabinet where students can stash cups or bowls.
- Holiday cabins: For those who want to spend their weekends at the lake or in the mountains, a holiday cabin is a great investment. These small structures may follow the open design of a studio apartment or may feature one or two separate bedrooms for sleeping. To keep holiday cabins affordable, a kitchenette is often included rather than a full kitchen.
- Granny pods: These converted sheds or garages are designed to house elderly relatives (or guests) and are located on the same property as a larger home. Depending on size and budget, a granny pod may include a kitchenette, although some are designed with only a bathroom, bed, and small sitting area if the person staying there eats meals in the larger house.
Pros and Cons
Whether or not a kitchenette is the right choice for you will depend on your current lifestyle. If you’re single, always on the go, and spend most evenings out with friends, you might not need or want a large kitchen. If you’d like to cook and entertain at home, however, a kitchenette might not be adequate. Before renting an apartment with a kitchenette or opting to install one in your home, consider some of the pros and cons.
- Kitchenettes are low maintenance. Usually, a quick wipe down and occasionally scrubbing the sink are all it takes to keep one clean and tidy.
- If you’re planning the layout of a tiny house or granny pod, opting for a kitchenette will leave valuable space for furniture and other amenities.
- A microwave and hot plate are all that’s necessary for preparing a wide variety of tasty fare, and you can find an endless assortment of kitchenette recipes online.
- The lack of appliances in a kitchenette means it’s not possible to cook several dishes at the same time.
- Food for just one or two servings is typically all that can be prepared in a kitchenette, so you won’t be able to host a meal for a larger group unless you order takeout.
- Storage space is severely limited—you won’t have room for an assortment of pots, pans, and bakeware.
Optimizing a Kitchenette
While a kitchenette is small and limited in many ways, it can still be a functional space for preparing small meals. If you’re living in an apartment that has a kitchenette or you’re planning to install one, the following tips will help you get the most out of this compact kitchen space.
- Install hooks on the side of a cabinet to hold hanging utensils or small pots.
- Maximize efficiency with shelving. A single shelf on the wall behind the sink can hold spices, jars, or a cup collection.
- If you want a fresh cup of coffee in the morning, skip the bulky coffee maker and invest in a small French press.
- Keep the colors light in a kitchenette. Cheery yellow walls and white cabinets will make a tiny kitchenette feel open and airy. Avoid dark tones that can make the room appear even smaller than it is.
- Consider replacing a small kitchen table with a counter-height island, such as the Winsome Suzanne Teak Table (available from Amazon) that serves as an eating bar and can double as an extra kitchen countertop when more food prep space is needed.