Small Kitchen Design

Small kitchen design introduction

LWK Kitchens are expert in the design of small or compact kitchens. As a London centric company we are often challenged to create appealing yet fully functional kitchen designs suitable for the restricted spaces common to many London properties. Our clients quite rightly wish to maximise use and enjoyment of their kitchens, but are often frustrated that some kitchen designers do not possess the skills necessary to produce tailored designs that overcome the confines of compact kitchens.

We are frequently faced with the task of maximizing storage and counter-space whilst still creating clean uncluttered designs. Our extensive range of handle-less kitchens is particularly useful in achieving a clutter-free look, and the absence of handles means homeowners never having to worry about catching clothing on them as they pass one another within a limited floor space.

Small Kitchen Design Ideas

There are a multitude of design options and techniques available that work brilliantly within small kitchens to maximise space, and many of which have been specifically designed for small kitchens. Such design ideas are useable within all of our available kitchen range options and a number of which are detailed for our clients benefit as follows:

Colour for small and compact kitchens

Lighter colours are particularly suited to smaller kitchens as they help make a room look larger. However, there is no need to fear this making your room look too stark - we have an extensive colour palette containing subtle tones such as Cashmere and antique white, and of course they can also be combined in two-tone colour schemes. The obvious choice of door finish is gloss, which reflects light and brightens a small kitchen; however we have found that our satin lacquer finishes have proved extremely popular with clients who do not want gloss finishes but are wary of the light absorbing characteristics of matt kitchen finishes.

Why do natural colours reflect light?

Choosing colours that will help reflect light within a room is important. Most surfaces will reflect light as it falls on them but how well this happens depends on the colour, composition and texture of a surface. Without getting too technical, light is an electromagnetic wave and when it hits a transparent substance it is reflected back. The more opaque a surface the less well the light wave is able to do this, for example, a black, matt surface does not reflect light well but instead the light wave's energy is absorbed by the atoms of which the substance is composed, making them vibrate. In turn this vibration generates heat and this is why dark surfaces get warm if exposed to sunshine. It also verifies that dark colours are much less suitable for small kitchens because by absorbing rather than reflecting the light they tend to make a room feel smaller. In respect of other colours, part of the electromagnetic wave's energy is absorbed within a material when it hits it but some is reflected back; how much depends on the colour tone and texture. The lighter the colour and the smoother it is, the more light will be reflected back. This explains why a shiny white gloss would be the best option for enhancing the feeling of space within a compact kitchen.

Natural light for small and compact kitchens

Whilst appropriate use of colour can make a room appear larger there is nothing more effective for this than the introduction of natural light itself. Windows, skylights, glass panels or a glazed ceiling may allow natural light to flood a room creating a spacious and airy feel. If looking to implement any form of glazing then triple glazing would be the recommended option as it offers both improved thermal and sound insulation. Glazing is not always feasible within a kitchen so an alternative that still works to create a more spacious feel is white gloss reflective paint for the ceiling; this works especially well for a low ceiling as it helps effect an illusion of height. A gloss paint finish on ceilings can be nicely complimented with hidden uplighters above wall or tall cupboards, bathing the room in soft, indirect light.

Glass for small and compact kitchens

Formerly within kitchen design the use of glass was mostly limited to the area behind the hob but glass is now increasingly popular throughout the kitchen, particularly across the walls. This works well in smaller kitchens as glass reflects light back over the rest of the room, making it feel lighter and more spacious. White reflective glass wall units work particularly well for this, as do other light colours such as ivory or cream but they are by no means the only colours effective for creating a spacious feel.

Glass can be produced in almost any colour, and even have images printed on it, so warm and vibrant colours or even splashes of bold, strong colour can be effectively combined and coordinated to create the same impression of a larger room, and with a very sleek and modern finish.

Where possible, LWK Kitchens recommend seamless glass, which is one continuous piece of glass with no joins present for generating a streamlined and elegant look. Cut-out sockets may be prefabricated within the glass but an alternative worthy of consideration for a smaller kitchen is to utilise dead end corner space and incorporate pop-up sockets within this area instead.

Mirrors for small and compact kitchens

Similar to plain or coloured glass, mirrors reflect light and in doing so effectively add a sense of space to a room, making it feel larger, but mirrored finishes also create a tremendous perception of depth; doubling the depth of the appearance of a work surface for example. We have a stylish selection of mirrored glass available including plain, bronzed and smoked mirror, as well as our cracked mirrored glass option which was introduced to LWK Kitchens as of January 2013. The latter offers a very modern and distinctive twist as an alternative to the more conventional splashback options.

Mirrored glass is a beautiful addition within a kitchen design but if incorporating this behind a hob then only toughened mirrored glass should be used in this location otherwise the heat produced can damage the glass. The toughening process ensures the glass withstands any heat exposure but a drawback of this procedure is that it is a more expensive option.

Use of tall wall units or extra units

Tall wall units are excellent for maximising on otherwise unused space at upper levels of a kitchen. These units are ideal for storing household items that are infrequently used, or that need putting out of reach of children as a safety precaution. The maximum height option for one of LWK Kitchens tall units is 910mm but if space permits they can also be stacked one on top of another. For the handless system this 'doubling up' is only possible with push-to-open catches, though in our experience this proves to be an advantage as too many handles on show can easily make the kitchen too cluttered or 'busy.' Our tallest units measure 2360mm from the floor (including plinth). Should room space permit this height can be added to from a selection of wall units, ranging up to 910mm in size, for a total maximum height of 3270mm. At this height, the units are clearly out of reach, but whilst not recommended for storing everyday items, they are still easily accessible via store-away stool or ladder systems.

Space maximising Solutions for Small Kitchens

Research by Blum GmbH (a manufacturer of kitchen storage technology) concluded that the useable space in a kitchen could be increased by 55% with effective integration of suitable storage solutions. LWK Kitchens manufacturing partner have one of the most expansive catalogues of storage solutions available from any kitchen manufacturer. We offer tall pull-out larders that slide out on beautifully engineered, damped supports, and then rotate outwards through ninety degrees for easy access to their voluminous shelving. Le Mans Corner units are precisely shaped to allow their trays to glide smoothly around a corner and fully extend outwards, vastly increasing the use of existing space within a deep cabinet that would be otherwise unreachable; effectively they bring their contents to you! Carousels perform a similar function and furthermore base units containing tables that fold out and upwards create additional workspace, particularly useful for appliances such as blenders or bread-makers. This technology greatly enhances the usability of small kitchens, and helps keep worktops clear and uncluttered.

Appliances for small kitchens

LWK Kitchens have the experience to plan and specify appliances that will enhance any compact kitchen design. We are an official displaying dealer for Miele, Neff, Siemens and De Dietrich, and we are also able to source a wide range of other appliances too, so from ovens with 'slide-away doors' to microwave ovens designed to fit within wall units, we can help our clients choose appliances best suited for them, and for the layout, shape and size of their kitchen.

Integrated appliances

Integrating kitchen appliances is one of the best ways to physically maximise on limited room space as integration neatly houses appliances out of sight, out of the way, or both. Rather than freestanding fridges, freezers or microwaves, these modern and highly functional appliances may be built seamlessly into the furniture units. This allows more free space in the kitchen and in so-doing creates a cleaner, tidier look. Similarly extractors can be integrated into cupboards without filling them, leaving further storage room. We can also specify sinks fitted with internal chopping boards which either pull or fold out when needed to extend the available work space.

A further option that LWK Kitchens can offer is the installation of heaters within the kitchen plinth and in so doing this eliminates the need for radiators fixed to the wall, meaning cabinetry can be fitted there instead.

Compact and multi-functional appliances

LWK Kitchens can supply a range of compact appliances that have been specifically designed for small kitchens including dishwashers, ovens, freezers and washing machines. Dishwashers can be scaled down from the standard appliance size of 600mm to a more slim-line 450mm. Multi-function appliances are great for small kitchens as they reduce the number of appliances required, such as a combined washer/dryer which would leave a separate dryer entirely redundant and devoid of purpose. Similarly a fridge with a built-in freezer draw might suffice over accommodating a separate freezer and furthermore a multi-function oven featuring oven, grill and microwave would leave no further requirement for a separate microwave.

Other substitutions might include a water filtered tap, which eliminates the need for filtering your own water. This has the added benefit of being instantaneous, as would a boiling-water tap in place of a kettle, providing instant hot water and extra counter space.

Wall-Mounted and rail hanging solutions for walls

With limited space within a small kitchen it is advisable to seek advice for the best possible storage options, particularly for kitchen appliances and utensils to ensure they are easily accessible without taking up otherwise valuable kitchen space unnecessarily.

There are a wide variety of possibilities for this including a range of magnetic storage solutions. A magnetic knife rack fixed to the wall area beneath high wall cabinets saves on draw or counter space. Similarly magnetic spice rack sets can be adhered to the wall and in doing so free up cupboards for other usage. A flat based extractor hood can double up as the perfect shelving for cookbooks, and bulky items like pots and pans can be neatly stored courtesy of hooked hanging rails or wire racks.

Make use of plinth

Plinth is used within a kitchen to fill the gap that would otherwise show between the floor and the base of a unit. Many people view this as a 'waste of space' and so aim to reduce the height of the plinth as much as they can but an alternative option for maximising on this space would be to integrate plinth draws. These simply offer further low level storage space for household items, such as a foldaway stool required for occasional access to high level cupboards.

Plinth might also be used to house low level lighting. Plinth lighting is typically installed to help create a warm and inviting ambience, and can be fitted in a range of colours. Especially for a kitchen with limited space, the right placing can contribute to the impression of a larger room.

Accommodating challenging wall angles

For any kitchen design it can be a challenge to effectually accommodate an awkward room shape or wall angle. However, for a small kitchen where space is at a premium it is essential that such angles don't compromise the storage or worktop surface area available in the design. Firstly, these angles must be measured accurately; LWK Kitchens use a combination of digital angle measuring and theodolite measuring techniques depending on the complexity of the room shape. Once we have accurate floor plans we can produce precision drawings which the factory in Germany use to produce angled units, reduced depth units, variable angled posts, and so forth. Through such means we are able to overcome the challenges of difficult room angles and offer a unique, space-maximising design.

Islands for Small Kitchens

LWK Kitchens have extensive knowledge and experience of installing both floor-fixed and free standing islands for compact kitchens that are simultaneously beautiful and practical, and which maximise rather than compromise space. With careful planning, fitting an island or peninsula into a small kitchen is entirely possible and achievable with a design that is still unique, appealing to the eye and which also caters for the needs of the individual homeowner.

Small kitchen island planning

When planning a kitchen it is essential to know the room measurements to ensure enough space for an island, as well as sufficient and comfortable space to move and work around it. Kitchen Islands for small kitchens are typically long and slim, but can be sized up or down as required. The bigger the kitchen the more options available but the island must be kept in proportion or it risks overwhelming the rest of the kitchen.

To implement an island into an L-shaped kitchen the minimum room size required would be approximately 3550mm x 3950 mm. This would allow for an island that is 1200mm long and 900mm deep. The kitchen units can protrude to a depth of 650mm from the wall, and a minimum distance of 1000m between the worktop and the island creates a comfortable and safe space for passage. At LWK Kitchens we encourage 1000m as a minimum allowance of space, however this can be reduced to 800mm upon client request (providing all cupboard and appliance doors, either on or around the island, can still be easily opened without coming into contact with one another).

Small kitchen island ideas

Every kitchen island, and especially a Small kitchen island must be designed to successfully meet the needs, habits and lifestyle of the owner so it is important to identify what these are during the planning stage, following which different possible arrangements or configurations can be considered accordingly (though ideally without interrupting the 'work triangle' flow).

For example, for an enthusiastic cook who lacks sufficient work surface area in their existing kitchen the addition of an island may proffer increased workspace. Similarly if short of space but seeking an area at which to eat or socialise then a small kitchen island with seating may present a suitable solution. Alternatively islands are effective within an open plan kitchen/ living area where homeowners would like to mark a physical distinction or visual separation between the two regions. Contrary to this, but depending on the layout of the home there may be an option for knocking down an existing wall which separates two rooms, creating a large open plan space, perfect for accommodating a larger kitchen and island.

Implementing appliances within an island

Depending on the size of the kitchen and space permitting, islands can offer excellent housing options for appliances such as a small refrigerator, wine cooler or microwave, or if the work surface is large enough then it may include a hob or extractor hood.

Compact appliances are ideal for islands as they are scaled down in size and similarly Islands work well for integrated appliances, saving on counter space and if desirable hiding them from view. However LWK Kitchens would advise against incorporating sinks into an island as they tend to draw the eye and in doing so detract from the appeal of the island as a focal point of a room.

Plumbing and electrical wiring in an island

For a sink and/or waste disposal to be included, plumbing within the island is a requirement for ensuring access as well as drainage for water. How your water will drain is an essential consideration if you wish to fit a sink within the island, eg. Should it drain away under the floor? Similarly if you plan to put a hob in your island, how will extracted air be funnelled outside your property? In addition, electrical wiring is required for appliances; wiring under the floor ensures the appliances work without having any unsightly or dangerous cords draped or lying loose across the kitchen. The additional electrical sockets may prove very advantageous for cooking, as are pop-up sockets, which can be hidden from sight when not in use, clearing space and again not detracting from the splendour of the kitchen.

Small kitchen storage

Aside from creating increased surface area, one of the main benefits of an island for a small kitchen design is the possibility for storage solutions. The best use of the island is usually determined by the layout and provisions within the rest of the kitchen. If storage space is lacking elsewhere then extra drawers or pull out shelving may prove worthwhile, and are very useful for large pots and pans that take up a lot of space (but need to be accessible as frequently used). Further options include a wine-rack, pull out recycling bins, or spice drawers. However particularly within a compact kitchen, a solid island design may easily appear overwhelming so an alternative for extra storage might be open shelving, a combination of both, or even multi-level shelving. Open shelving is easily accessible and effective in keeping the space looking light and airy.

Please visit LWK's Accessories & Storage for further detail on how small spaces can be utilised for maximum impact).

Kitchen island style

Whether ultra-modern, or a more traditional country style, islands are a tasteful additional to any kitchen and typically represent the focal point of any room, no matter how big or small. With this in mind they can be designed in keeping with the other units present, or as a total contrast, depending on individual taste and the desired look. Whilst this is true, it is advisable that the height of the kitchen counter should be consistent with the height of the other kitchen units. The exception to this would be if creating a place to work or eat at in which case a lower level island section would work, or alternatively a higher level if including a breakfast bar/ and or bar seating. A breakfast bar prove best for a small kitchen that lacks space for a dining area because even if the island is quite narrow, it can still provide additional seating area.

LWK's range of curved units may not be best suited for a small kitchen island as they tend to require plentiful space but Floating Designs for Handleless Kitchens would be a great option!

An island or peninsula?

The term 'Peninsula' is derived from Latin and essentially means "almost an island.' This translates very literally in terms of kitchen design as a kitchen peninsula appears very similar and has the same effect as an island, except is still fixed to the main body of the kitchen at one end, usually to a wall or run of cabinets. Therefore, just as so aptly defined, it is not quite but 'almost an island.'

If incorporating an island into a small kitchen is proving problematic, then a peninsula might work as a great alternative; they look as good and are just as versatile, yet take up much less floor space than kitchen islands as there is an absence of passageway at the attached end. The additional space provided by a peninsula is typically used either as additional work surface area, or to provide an additional seating area. A peninsula can be fitted with storage solutions or appliances in the exact same way as an island but if to be used as a cooking area, or if there will be more than just one person using it, then remember during planning the layout that unlike an island, there is only one way in or out within this space!