They may be small but they can be perfectly formed: the tiniest of kitchen spaces is often extremely efficient – you can wash, slice and cook almost without moving at all, writes Katherine Sorrell
Planning the room
In a small kitchen every centimetre counts, and the first principle of design is the ‘work triangle’ – the movement between the three main areas of activity: cooker, sink and fridge. Each zone should be self-contained, with its own storage and worktop space, but it should also be easy to move between each one. The best way to ensure this is to draw a floor plan with lines connecting each point on the triangle, and avoid placing any obstructions (such as tall cupboards) between them. The theory goes that the most efficient length for each side of the triangle is a double-arm span or about two metres. In practice, however, it is rarely possible to create an absolutely equal triangle, and what matters more is that the three work centres aren’t uncomfortably close or too far apart. In a double galley, keep the sink and cooker on the same side, with the fridge pretty much opposite. In a single galley, you can’t create a triangle at all, but its linear shape means that it’s very easy to use anyway, as long as you don’t make the line too long. Aim to have tall cupboards at one end, then the hob nearby, and the maximum amount of worktop space between the hob and the sink, with the dishwasher next to the sink at the other end. Add a rubbish bin under the sink and, if you have room, add a pull-out larder to store food.
Eating and entertaining
Even in a tiny kitchen, it’s always a good idea to try fit in somewhere to eat and drink. Fold-down tables might work, or perhaps there is room for a small dining table – if it extends for extra guests, so much the better. Or you could add a breakfast bar by forming an ‘L’ shape at the end of a run of worktop, adding a couple of high stools that can tuck underneath when not in use. Bingo! An eat-in kitchen.
Choosing units & worktops
Mixing textures and colours in the kitchen is a growing trend, and top fashion picks at present include metallics, marble and rough, tough industrial accents. Deep worktops and open shelving will update a kitchen of any size, but what matters most in any kitchen is quality. You can find more or less any look at more or less any price – but you do get what you pay for. Check the quality of the carcass: cheaper ones are made from chipboard, sometimes with just hardboard backs, which may be fine if all you want is a budget option. But for a well-used kitchen that you want to last a number of years, opt for plywood or MDF veneer, the thicker the better. Laminate worktops are the budget choice – choose high-pressure rather than low-pressure ones, as they’re more durable. Wooden worktops can also be inexpensive, but avoid ones that are too cheap or too thin, especially if you’re installing them next to a sink, as they’ll just warp and buckle. Splashbacks are often made from the same material as the worktop, though if cost is an issue you could opt for a cheaper alternative, such as ceramic tiles, tongue and groove painted with tough gloss, or a fashionable sheet of clear or coloured acrylic.
Make the most of your space with these ideas
Fit wall cupboards that go right up to the ceiling, storing little-used items right at the top.
Sliding doors are ideal as they don’t intrude into the room.
‘Magic’ corner cupboards (with special mechanisms that let you get to the stuff at the back) allow you to fit more in.
Wall-hung racking systems let you see what you’ve got while still storing it in an organised fashion.
Pull-out shelving and slim drawers (eg in the plinth) all add extra storage space.
Internal fittings help organise cupboards.
When it comes to appliances, choose multi-functional, compact, slimline, built-in and stacking versions.
Reflective and/or transparent surfaces and pale colours make the room seem bigger.
Base cabinets on legs or recessed plinths allow you to see more floor.
Avoid visual confusion by sticking to ultra-plain cabinet fronts with either no handles or very discreet ones.
Larger-than-average floor tiles make the floor seem larger.
Metod Grevsta kitchen, £47 for a 40x60cm base cabinet with shelves, Ikea, tel 020 3645 0000; www.ikea.co.uk.