Kitchen makeovers for small rooms

Written by reagan alexander
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Making That Little Kitchen Big

Kitchen makeovers for small rooms
Small space cramping your kitchen style? Then, open it up. Consider replacing space-eating upper cabinets with shelves to open up the space.. (Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

A small kitchen shouldn't be neglected! While every one would probably love to have a huge kitchen, that's not always possible. In the case of a less-than-ideal sized cooking space, I always refer back to the old saying: it's not the size that matters, it's how you use it!

— Joshua Rose, co-founder of FORM, a Los Angeles-based interior design firm

Akitchen isn't just where meals are made, it's the heart of a home. A place where friends and family come together, where memories are crafted. Welcome a person into your kitchen, and you welcome them into the very essence of you home. For some, during these times of economic uncertainty, it's a place that has got physically smaller, but conversely grown in import, reclaiming it's role as not just a meeting place, but a room where the woes of the outside world dare not intrude. It's the room in your home where you escape the untidiness of the day, and embrace the untidiness of the ones that you love. It's said that a clean kitchen is the sign of a wasted life, and that a messy kitchen is a happy one, but as the modern world seems to close in, and force us into smaller, and smaller spaces, finding extra space in your kitchen where none seemed to exist before becomes as all important as a long-treasured family recipe.

Embrace Your Space

Unless you're fortunate enough to find a genie in your tea kettle, as far as kitchen space goes, you're going to have to resign yourself to working with what you have, but that's no reason to get discouraged. Even in the smallest of kitchens, extra space is there, often hiding in plain sight. The key is to know not just where to look, but how to look.

Even the tiniest of kitchens hold promise. "A small kitchen shouldn't be neglected! While every one would probably love to have a huge kitchen, that's not always possible," said Joshua Rose, co-founder of FORM, a Los Angeles-based interior design firm. "In the case of a less-than-ideal sized cooking space, I always refer back to the old saying: it's not the size that matters, it's how you use it!"

While cupboards and cabinets seem like the most viable and traditional option for storage, Rose points out that they not only eat up space, but can make even a large kitchen seem claustrophobic.

"Upper cabinets may add storage, but come with a hefty price in a small space, and they make a small room top-heavy," Rose said. "Get rid of them and replace them with open shelves which you can run all around the room."

Once you've opened up the room, the key is to avoid any clutter that may now be in plain sight.

"The one caveat with this is that you MUST keep your stuff organised on the shelves," Rose warned. "Whether it be dishes or cereal boxes there is no room for a mess."

For those who are reluctant to give up their cabinets, renowned designer Paul L'Esperance offers up another option.

"Use lattice inserts instead of solid panels," L'Esperance said, "The lattice on the cabinet doors will make your eye look further instead of stopping on a solid surface, almost like a mirage, it will give an airy softer feeling to a smaller kitchen."

And if you're inclined to keep them, another easy way to make the cabinets easier on the eye is to dress them up, which is easier, and more economical than it sounds.

"One of the most important items is to have great looking cabinet knobs," L'Esperance added. "A beautiful knob will change an existing cabinet for a small amount of money."

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

While most of us may associate darker colours with limited space, it turns out that a simple, yet measured combination of both light and dark helps to create a healthy illusion of more room even in the closest of confines.

"It is a common misconception that you have to paint small spaces a light colour to make them feel larger," FORM's Rose said. "In my experience, just the opposite is true, so paint your kitchen a dark colour. If you keep your ceiling white and your trim, cabinetry, and woodwork light, the depth you get from your walls will be so beautiful, it will actually give you a greater sense of space."

For those unsure about taking the leap of faith into the darker hues for the entirety of their kitchen walls, Todd Nickey of Nickey-Kehoe Interior Design offers up a simple, yet aesthetically stimulating solution.

"You can create the illusion of space with a dark back splash or even mirror backsplash," Nickey said."When space is tight it's best to not know where the end is."

Look Up

With most people looking to the countertops as the main spatial battleground of the kitchen, the ceiling is an oft overlooked, and increasingly underutilised player when it comes to creating the illusion of more room in the main gathering spot of the home.

"When you have a small kitchen, vertical is your best friend," Todd Nickey said. "Make sure that all the space is used up, all the way, and paint the ceiling white or bright so that your eye is drawn up."

One way to go as far as raising the ceiling without actually raising the roof (or breaking the bank for that matter), is to apply a bit of Michelangelo's craft and craftiness.

"A great detail I love to use is to have a beautiful painting done on plywood, or tongue and groove boards, and then to attach it to the ceiling in a frame to resemble a arbor or skylight," Paul L'Esperance said. "It opens up the room, making it appear larger, and best of all, the cheaper the board you use, the more authentic it looks."

Not only can a ceiling create the illusion of more open space, if you have the urge to take out those cabinets, it becomes a more-than-handy place to hang kitchen utensils that a cook might want to keep nearby.

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