Small kitchens demand bold choices
Dealing with a small kitchen involves more than “knocking down walls.”
Julie Ann Metz, designer at Plumber's Supply in Plum, says she considers that solution in many tight cooking areas, but solutions also can be as simple as changing the direction that doors swing.
Other options include using General Electric's Micro Kitchens and Kohler's sinks, which provide work areas in layers.
Many home experts agree that tight kitchens are a common problem in the region, which has lots of older homes.
Expanding the room is the obvious and frequent choice, Metz says. But she says owners who make that move quickly realize that a kitchen project is not cheap.
“Little kitchens are not necessarily inexpensive ones,” she says, noting that opening a kitchen into a dining room often means doing something to another room as well.
But clients have to “open their horizon” — and their rooms — to create the social space they want their kitchens to be.
Regis McQuaide from Castle Shannon's Master Remodelers says he often has to look toward a form of “reverse engineering” that deals with finding space rather than a home for appliances or cabinets.
Functionality can be found in the way elements fit, McQuaide says.
In an extremely tight home, one answer may be to rethink the way appliance and cabinet doors open. Often, he says, they get in each other's way, blocking people from standing or walking through.
Moving features around can open up usable space — and even a little can mean a lot in tight settings.
McQuaide and Mark Uchida from A ReMARKable Kitchen in Blawnox agree that tight kitchens often are in houses so small that even demolishing a wall doesn't help.
In those cases, he suggests making a pass-through with a counter space in the dining room. That does not cost the use of a room and allows a spot for guests to gather.
“You try to find a blend between functionality and beauty,” he says.
In a similar way, Uchida says, simple moves can result in big gains. He says sinks sometimes are mounted in the middle of counter areas with two Simple Susans — circular storage shelves — at each end. That creates two small counter spots that are not good for much.
He says moving the sink to one end results in a longer, more practical counter area — a good move in a tight space.
Condensing and combining functions can save space, too.
Lou Lenzi, director of industrial design for General Electric, says the company is nearing development and marketing stages for what it calls Micro Kitchens. In one of them, the sink and dishwasher function, cooking operation and refrigerator job will all be provided in a 6-foot-long, counter-high appliance.
He says GE designers are developing the mini-unit to fit into the tiny “apodments” of millennials, or small, urban homes of downsizing baby boomers.
Prices and availability have not been decided, but they could be out later this year, he says.
Also as a space saver, Kohler Co. has released a sink in which grated racks, a cutting board and a colander stack on one side. They can be slid out and the levels can be changed to allow use — eliminating the need for some counter space. The sinks sell from $1,099 to $1,287.
Corey Klassen, an award-winning kitchen designer from Vancouver, likes the idea of small appliances in the kitchen. He says Europeans have been using them for years in their tight spaces.
Sometimes, small kitchens cannot be made into the social area that has become so popular, he says.
He won a National Kitchen and Bath Association competition in kitchen design for work on a galley kitchen in Vancouver that basically stayed the same.
One effective strategy in such an instance is to get members of the house to change their work habits.
For instance, he says, the person cooking can stay in the kitchen while another concentrates on distributing food or drinks.
“A lot of times, you just have to use some behavior analysis on what to cook or how to cook,” he says.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7852 or firstname.lastname@example.org.