Renovating a Small Kitchen? 10 Questions to Ask Before You Begin

As the manager of the kitchen department in IKEA's Paramus, NJ, location, Carol Smith is used to helping customers create their dream kitchen, even when space is limited. Here, she shares 10 things to consider before planning your own renovation.

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How many people use the kitchen?


The needs of a family will inevitably be different from those of an empty-nester. A family might want food storage lower or the microwave more accessible so that older children might help themselves to their after-school snack, while a couple might opt for an island with a cooktop and bar sink.

How often do you cook or entertain?


A serious entertainer may want wall ovens, undercounter beverage refrigerators, or even additional room for appliances, so a layout will need to accommodate these extras while maintaining a clean, uncluttered counter space.

Will you need space for dining?


If you will, consider space-saving options, such as folding bar stools or designs that tuck under a counter or work island.  If even modest space exists, a kitchen island may be a worthy consideration.

What are your must-haves?


Homeowners should have an idea of their “must-have” features as well as secondary, or “nice-to-have,” features. Budget will ultimately determine which items will make it into the final plan.

Where will your work triangle fit in?


Even in a small space, try to achieve the “work triangle,” that optimal configuration between the stove, refrigerator, and sink. Rolling carts offer storage and workspace, and their mobility frees up built-in space to accommodate the triangle.

How can you maximize storage space?


Cabinets up to the ceiling line are great for occasional storage like holiday bakeware and turkey platters. They also offer a great opportunity to use handy step stools!

Are you using every bit of space?


Pull-out interiors and rotating carousels can make accessing tough corners much easier. Even drawer organizers can make a big difference. Better organization translates into more space, and in a small kitchen that’s a plus.

What will be on display?


In a small kitchen, an uncluttered look is essential. Many people like the decorative effect of glass doors on cabinets, but always ask yourself, “What’s going behind the glass?” Stemware can look beautiful; canned goods not as much.

Is there anything you can part with?


Clearing out your cabinets before demolition provides the perfect chance to take stock of what you have. Purge those broken springform pans and old electric juicers! Keep what you really use and get rid of the rest.

Which colors or surfaces will visually expand the space?


Lighter colors and reflective surfaces like stainless steel, chrome, and high-gloss fronts tend to open up a small space. But never underestimate the magic of lighting! Undercabinet lighting and other options can make small, gloomy spaces appear more inviting.

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