Unifying color schemes and extending backsplash designs can help make a small kitchen look bigger. The best way to enlarge the usefulness of this focal room lies in making better use of the space it actually offers. Along with thoughtfully implemented lighting, including LED tape placed under cabinets to add countertop illumination, you can approach the task of maximizing a small kitchen from multiple angles. Before you alter your current layout, understand its limitations so you can improve on them.
Study Your Needs
To help you embark on a revised plan for your current kitchen, draw up its existing floor plan on your computer and print out copies so you can annotate them. Track the ways you and your family currently use the kitchen space, including where its workflow slows down if more than one person tries to work in it at the same time. Photograph the room with your digital camera at different times of day and on different days of the week so you can analyze the images for ways to improve the space. Set up your camcorder on a tripod, shoot footage of the kitchen and screen it on your HDTV, watching for patterns that appear in the ways you work, efficiently or not. Use all these tools and views to help plan what to put where in a revised kitchen layout.
Choose cabinetry that places storage in vertical configurations, making full use of wall-space height to expand the area in which you can place small appliances, spices, unrefrigerated foods and cookbooks. Cluster together the items that make up your required tools and utensils for specific types of tasks and store them near the appliances with which you use them to make quick work of assembling what you need for a process or recipe. To extend the vertical arrangement to your cooking appliances, look for an over-the-range microwave oven that can double as a vented or recirculating range hood. These appliance designs can free up counter space, eliminate the need for a microwave cart or enable you to use an existing cart for other purposes.
Cook & Dine
The formal dining room that serves as a standard feature of older homes and still appears in many newer floor plans may not serve your current needs as well as a unified space that makes the food-oriented heart of your home into an area in which family members linger. Extend the flow of your kitchen area into an adjacent dining nook or dining room to place combined functions in what can look like a much larger space because of its dual purpose. If you enjoy hosting dinner parties, you may find that an informal eating space that borders on the kitchen does a better job of accommodating relaxed dining than the separation of cooking from eating.
Along with the use of an over-the-range microwave oven, look to your appliances for other space-saving opportunities. Refrigerator door swings define the amount of space you must leave alongside them to accommodate access to their interiors. A refrigerator with a top- or bottom-mounted freezer uses a single door for each cavity of the appliance, and can offer the most efficient access to interior contents. If its wide doors reduce aisle space or constrain the locations in which you can position the appliance, however, you may prefer to consider a side-by-side design, which uses narrower doors that run the full height of the refrigerator. Some side-by-side designs split up the interior into four quadrants, two at the top and two at the bottom, with one section flexibly configurable either as refrigerated or frozen-food space.
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