Small-space kitchen solutions

Determining the size of the kitchen you are planning will be an important first step in developing the design and layout of the space.

July 15, 2013
Cabinets have various shelf and drawer configurations that affect the amount of

Cabinets have various shelf and drawer configurations that affect the amount of shelf/drawer frontage the cabinet offers.

Kitchens come in all sizes. Often this is dependent on the space allocated within a house, but it might also be a factor of the number of cooks or others using a kitchen at one time. Kitchens can be too small to be effective for adequate storage, workspace, and workflow. They can also be too big, with work centers spread out so far that a cook has problems preparing a meal without expending a great deal of energy moving about the space. In some larger spaces, multiple prep centers or zones can be planned to create a smaller work area within the larger space.

Research indicates Certified Kitchen Designers (CKDs) are designing kitchens in ranges that could be categorized as follows:

  • Small kitchen: Less than 150 square feet
  • Medium kitchen: From 151 to 350 square feet
  • Large kitchen: Greater than 350 square feet

Determining the size of the kitchen you are planning will be an important first step in developing the design and layout of the space. In particular, storage requirements are specified according to kitchen size. All food preparation areas of a kitchen arrangement should be measured to determine the size of the kitchen.

Kitchen counters

Although the landing areas give the cook some space to place items temporarily and to complete a few tasks, they do not fulfill all of the requirements of the counter area. A preparation area should be provided near the sink, and it should be a minimum of 36 inches wide by 24 inches deep so that at least one usable work area is provided. This area could overlay the landing areas of the sink and refrigerator centers if the landing areas are 24 inches deep.

Counter area is also used for storage in nearly all kitchens; for example, the counter area provided 10 percent of the total storage in the small kitchens in Virginia Tech’s Center for Real Life Kitchen Design research. The number of items kept on the counter decreased in larger kitchens, because more cabinet and drawer storage were available. Although the idea of a clean counter appeals to many, in reality households keep a lot of frequently used things out on the counter where they are easy to see and reach. Often items like heavy appliances or canisters stay on the counter. The back 8 inches of a 24-inch-deep counter provides space that can be used for permanent and temporary storage.

Sink area storage

Because so much activity occurs at the sink, it is important that ample amounts of storage be located there.

The Kitchen Planning Guidelines recommend certain amounts of storage be located within 72 inches of the center of the sink front. At least 400 inches of shelf/drawer frontage is needed for a small kitchen; at least 480 inches for a medium kitchen; and at least 560 inches for a large kitchen. This storage can be wall, base, drawer, or tall/pantry storage and can be located beside or across from the sink, although placing it beside the sink will be most convenient.

Cabinet size and storage

Cabinets have various shelf and drawer configurations that affect the amount of shelf/drawer frontage the cabinet offers. For example, a wall cabinet with three shelves offers more storage area than a two-shelf cabinet. A base cabinet with two 24-inch-deep shelves holds more than one with one 24-inch-deep shelf and one 12-inch-deep shelf.

Use the following formula to calculate the amount of shelf/drawer storage provided per cabinet:

Cabinet size ×  Number of shelf/drawers ×  Cabinet depth in feet = Total shelf/drawer frontage

Cabinet size: Standard cabinet width dimensions are usually given in 3-inch increments, e.g., 12, 15, 18 inches.

Number of shelf/drawers: Each cabinet will have a number of shelves and/or drawers specified. Check the cabinet catalog.

Cabinet depth in feet: Different cabinets have different shelf depths and designs that affect how much space is actually available for storage. Use the following measurement in feet to calculate the actual amount of storage space provided in each cabinet. Wall cabinets of 12 inches have a depth of 1 (12 inch = 1 foot). In most base cabinets, the depth would be 2 (24 inch = 2 feet). Drawer frontage is calculated using the depth measurement as well.

Various cabinet depths provide different capacities for storage and a multiplier based on 1 = 12 inches is used to calculate the depth. For example, a 12-inch deep wall cabinet is 1, a 15-inch deep wall cabinet is 1.25, an 18-inch deep pantry cabinet is 1.5, a 21-inch deep wall cabinet is 1.75, a 24-inch deep base cabinet is 2, a 12-inch deep drawer is 1, and a 24-inch deep drawer is 2.

Enhancing efficiency of cabinets

Storage accessories or organizers enhance the efficiency of cabinetry by increasing access to items. Pull-out shelves and turntables allow the user to fully use a deep cabinet. Pull-out cutting boards add an extra work area and place it at a lower height that is convenient for chopping. Open shelves and backsplash storage make items easy to see and reach. Drawer dividers help keep utensils sorted in an arrangement that keeps them easy to locate. NKBA recommends that storage accessories be used to enhance storage based on the user’s requirements. PR

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This article is excerpted from the NKBA Professional Resource Library volume: Bath Planning, Second Edition by Kathleen Parrott, PhD, CKE, Julia Beamish, PhD, CKD, JoAnn Emmel, PhD, and Mary Jo Peterson, CKD, CBD, CAPS, CAASH. Copyright: 2013 National Kitchen & Bath Association; published by John Wiley & Sons Inc. This material is reproduced with the permission of John Wiley & Sons Inc.

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