Common Mistakes Folks Make With Their Small Kitchen



Hey Guys, I’m glad that you liked the post about small rooms and as promised, this post is about small kitchens.


That is things to do in your small kitchen and things to definitely not do!


Quite frankly, I’m not overly fond of football stadium-sized kitchens. You can give me a really small kitchen over that any day!


And when I started thinking about it, I realized that the largest kitchen I’ve ever had (not including an eating area), if there was one, was maybe 100 sq feet – tops.

The smallest was the one I had in my 500 sq. foot apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan. It was built into a corner and was at most 20 sq feet. I can’t say it was easy or often, but it was possible to whip up quite a gourmet meal.  It helped that there were only two walls. This non-kitchen (not to be confused with an unkitchen) is not untypical in smaller Manhattan apartments.

Someone wrote me the other day (and I apologize for not remembering who) that I better not be posting any 250 sq feet kitchens. Certainly not! That is not a small kitchen at all! In fact, I think it’s about the limit of what I would ever want to have.

I’m not saying that there aren’t some gorgeous big kitchens. It’s just not my preference.


One objection that I frequently get regarding small kitchens, especially when we start talking about possibly not having upper cabinets is:


“There isn’t enough storage.”

Here’s my answer.

Get rid of some of your stuff.

Or, put it somewhere, off-site if it’s only being used once or twice a year.


And, perhaps then, utilize the available storage better.


If one is thinking about the way storage was 20 years ago, then that is what the problem might be.

For a ton of great storage ideas for your small kitchen, please click here.

I’m going to begin with one of my favorite little kitchens ever. It makes such incredibly clever use of available space. Nothing is wasted.

small kitchen with horse James Huniford

Original photo by William Waldron for Elle Decor


Hey M-aaaaaa, What’s for dinner? ;]

Okay, just kidding, but what? That must be a joke that the horse (albeit, he is awfully cute) is poking his head in. The kitchen is nice, however for this rustic country home by James Huniford.


Here is the fabulous small kitchen!


fabulous small kitchen from house beautiful designed by Stephanie Stokes - photo - Eric Piasecki

via House Beautiful-photo Eric Piasecki -designer Stephanie Stokes

So many wonderful things, but first is the mirrored backsplash. It makes the area feel so much larger.

The sleek electric stove helps too.

Glass fronted cabinets.

The appliances blend into the off-white cabinets.

Love this shot again taken by Eric Piasecki. Wonder what he had to do to get it. Whatever it takes. Right? But this kitchen is no larger than the average walk-in closet.

Pull-out pantry cabinets, make the best use out of the limited space.

Architect Don Cantillo for perfumer Shalini

This is a lovely little jewel box of a kitchen. Love the range and the apple-green cabinets. You can read more about it here. Just one thing. In a small space like this if I hood was needed, I would’ve done something clad in wood. I love the wooden hoods from Devol.

But what I really would’ve done is a down-draft range and then that wall could’ve been clad in mirror or a pretty subway tile. There could even be some miniature art pieces. It would be fitting with the French style.

But here… beyond perfect. Here there is a mirror behind the glass shelf. Not only does the glass shelf add lightness, but again the mirror magnifies and brightens the tiny space.

This shelf slides up and down. How clever is that!

More images and info about this kitchen here.

photo: Lisa Romerein

Whaddaya think?  I’ll tell you what I think.

(we KNOW, Laurel!)


It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I’d walk in and go, “oh, how cool!” But then if it were mine would tire of it easily, I think.

And I definitely wouldn’t want to be the next one to walk through the door and trash the lovely art work leaning into the path!

I love art leaning against the wall, but that spot is a little tight.


Photo: William Waldron

Another very tiny kitchen with a chair that looks great for the photo but no way would it be there in real life. Do they think that we don’t notice these things? Yes, they do. And for the most part, they’re right. In this case, I think it’s because our eye can’t stop looking at the gorgeous collection of porcelains.


Via House Beautiful-photo Christopher Sturman

A small classic white kitchen by Celerie Kemble. Most small kitchens can’t accommodate an island. The minimum space on either side of an island is three feet. And I feel that the minimum depth for an island is about two feet. Otherwise, I think it begins to look a little odd. That’s for the top. The base, of course, is a little less.

I also love the painted black and white checkerboard floor. In fact, it’s my favorite part of this kitchen. I especially love the larger size of the squares. As in other small rooms, the scale of elements like this doesn’t have to be dinky and in fact, I think, looks extra special in a larger scale.


Via First Dibs- photo by Simon Watson for House Beautiful

This is one of the most fabulous apartments I’ve ever seen by designer Bill Brockschmidt. The kitchen is behind these doors that are disguised with wallpaper! Just close the entire thing up and when not in use.

There are a lot more photos in this article.

photo: Simon Watson

Just had to include this shot of the living room. Wonderful design. This is the kind of color that if I showed it to a client, I would hear… “Ew mustard,”  like I had suggested that they wash their hair with it or something.

But Bill knows exactly how to work with this color. He used a healthy amount of black and white accents. Some blue to cool things down as well as other bright colors. Perfect composition.


via One Kings Lane

Another wonderful vignette in the small kitchen of fab blogger and designer, Heather Clawson of Habitually chic.

Logan Killen Interiors

Is that the tiniest range you’ve ever seen? It’s a very interesting kitchen. I wouldn’t have thought to do the smoked glass fronts, but I think they do work here. I think this might be an Ikea kitchen. Love the retro pendant and always love table lamps in the kitchen.

That reminds me. My new cordless lamp from Modern Lantern is waiting downstairs for me. That was incredibly fast! Only six days!

Why is it down there and now up here? Well, the fed-ex guy didn’t even ring my bell. grrrrrr… and he really should’ve brought it up. grrr… and I had to go get some groceries and finish my post. I’ll get it later.


via HGTV Magazine- photo: David A Land and styled by Heather Chontos

This is definitely an Ikea kitchen and another example of a painted floor. A young couple used deck paint (Antique Silver by Glidden). That sounds very durable!

The pine shelves are from Home Depot.

And my favorite part of this kitchen is the antique Oriental rug. This is a very pretty home. There’s much more in the link.


photo: Thomas Kuoh for House Beautiful

A handsome Shaker kitchen by Grant K Gibson is reminiscent of the recent English kitchens I’ve been posting. Love the encaustic tile floor. You can seem more of them by clicking the link.


via Elle Decor

This kitchen is not my taste but it seems I’m always asked “why don’t you post any wood kitchens?”

This is why. It feels too heavy and I’m not a fan of this kind of wood, in any case. I am grateful for the rug. What’s good is the layout. And this is what I mean by floor to ceiling cabinets providing tons of storage.  What’s very interesting is that the rest of the apartment is very pretty and feminine and looks like it does not belong with this kitchen at all. Just my opinion.

Apparently, there were sponsors involved and that is why I guess that maybe the kitchen is like this?

Unfortunately, it looks like they’re going to be preparing dinner in the dark. haha! Really now! Although the lighting that appears in the rest of the apartment is from one of my favorite vendors– Circa Lighting.


This was touted in House Beautiful as a wonderful “sliver of a kitchen.” And yes, it IS wonderful. I think it’s a brilliant idea to put the shelves in front of the windows. And I love the copper piping.


Just one problem. No, wait. More than one.


I guess these people only eat take-out? Or else, they just have a big cauldron hanging over the fireplace out of view simmering with stew?

There isn’t even a nuker to heat things up. I suppose that might be a mini-fridge on the right; just big enough to hold some brew. Quite frankly, it looks more like an elegant indoor potting room. Right? The other possibility is that this isn’t a kitchen at all but just staged by the manufacturer or something because the photo is attributed to Kohler. Makes sense.

Sheila Bridges

And to finish off, one of the prettiest and not-white kitchens by the fabulous Sheila Bridges. Fabulous always needs to go in front of Sheila because she is definitely in my top 5 of all-time fave designers.


I have one little nit-picking thing. It’s about the cabinets.


I really do prefer that they go up to the ceiling. Yes, it’s a very high ceiling. It looks like ten feet. But perhaps a coffer could’ve been built going around the perimeter and including the window! That way the shade could sit below the crown instead of the crown overlapping.

Otherwise, it’s perfect. Again, love the painted floor. It’s a great solution when the floors could stand to be refinished but one doesn’t want to go to all the expense and mess of heavy-duty sanding and staining.


To recap Small Kitchens love


  • Mirrors- especially on the backsplash
  • Shelves to keep things light (or consider taking the doors off of upper cabinets for a shelf-like look)
  • Floor to ceiling cabinets if possible
  • Smaller appliances usually and a counter-depth fridge
  • Consider a downdraft range.
  • Charming accessories and art help give a small space personality and style.
  • Collections of porcelains or ceramics and/or baskets for storage.
  • Using all of the available space
  • Monochromatic color schemes are great.
  • Try not to overlap cabinets over windows. Sometimes it’s difficult in an apartment.
  • Paint floors can be very charming in a small old apartment.
  • Old rugs look terrific too.
  • Pay attention to lighting, but one or two fabulous ceiling fixtures can make the space.


One thing I’ve seen but am not a fan of is hanging up the pots.


It’s not my favorite in most kitchens and in a small kitchen almost always looks too cluttered, IMO.

If one is down-sizing, then that means getting rid of stuff or storing it elsewhere.

I love small kitchens. My current one is about 85 sq feet and it’s plenty big for me.






5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Mark - July 2, 2017 - 8:55 PM

    I love all these great ideas. I just hund an old church arched window in front of my sink in the kitchen. Love the shelf idea in the first pic too. Great inspiration.ReplyCancel

  • Susan Lopez - May 7, 2017 - 7:50 AM

    I must have missed this post but glad I found it! I’m thinking of a kitchen renovation and agree with most of your suggestions-especially the no pot rack. I gave away my 30 pc. copper pot collection when I moved to France as there was limited space to store it and I never liked hanging them for the reasons you mentioned. I purchased the type of pans that have a removeable handle and can be stacked (Cristel). Now I can fit 17 pcs where i used to put 6 with long handles. Something to consider if you are downsizing.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2017 - 11:28 AM

      Hi Susan,

      Well, you learn something new all the time! I did not know about the pans with removable handles. Great idea!ReplyCancel

  • Anne - March 24, 2017 - 11:22 AM

    I love my small kitchen, too, but it’s very 1980’s. How do you feel about painting kitchen cabinets yellow? I have a West facing room but almost no natural light due to an enclosed porch off the kitchen. I pretty much settled on BM Hawthorne Yellow for the cabinets after looking at the sample boards over all times of day and night. But trying to find a wall color is frustrating! Can any of you small kitchen people have any suggestions for me? I have “super white” granite countertops, which has a lot of gray and white in it. Thanks.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 24, 2017 - 11:31 AM

      Hi Anne,

      Well, without seeing the rest of your home, it’s difficult to say. But half of my apartment is painted Hawthorne yellow! It came that way.

      I’m not sure that I would pair it with gray and white granite counter-tops, however. It’s not dreadful and gray and yellow is a valid color-scheme. But does it go with the rest of your home?

      I would paint the cabinets a warm white and the walls, either a white or a coordinating gray with the granite. Don’t worry about the lack of natural light. Most small kitchens need lights on, most of the time anyway.ReplyCancel

      • Anne - March 27, 2017 - 7:58 AM

        Laurel, I was anxious over the yellow even though it’s my “dream color” for a kitchen. I had shades of yellow all over the place and was driving myself batty trying to find the right shades. When I took your suggestion and replaced the yellow sample boards with gray and white, I felt at peace. I don’t know how else to describe it. I think gray and white will now be my new favorite kitchen colors. And you’re right, yellow would not go with the rest of my house. Thank you very much!ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - March 27, 2017 - 6:44 PM

          Hi Anne,

          One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when something isn’t quite coming together, to think of alternate possibilities. So glad it worked out for you!ReplyCancel

  • Lori Matthews - March 4, 2017 - 1:01 AM

    Where is that ceiling fixture from that is in the kitchen designed by Sheila Bridges? I love it!ReplyCancel

  • Tracy - February 28, 2017 - 9:08 PM

    Susan Feniger from Food Network cooking show Too Hot Tamales that was on years ago once said in an interview that if she makes more than two steps in a kitchen to get something while cooking then its too large of a kitchen. this always stuck with me and now that I am condo living in a 1000sq ft condo in a much smaller kitchen than my previous home I have to agree with her. I love my small white kitchen! Love this post too!ReplyCancel

  • Mary. - February 23, 2017 - 9:58 AM

    Love this article!ReplyCancel

  • Christa - February 20, 2017 - 11:56 AM

    I’m about to embark on a kitchen remodel of a 1950’s ranch. The current kitchen is small and has 4 (!) entrances to it. Originally I was going to open the wall between kitchen and dining room to have a penisula but now wondering if I should just leave this closed. What are your thoughts on open vs closed kitchen.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 20, 2017 - 3:18 PM

      Hi Christa,

      One thing about this business is that there are so many variations that it’s very difficult to make blanket statements. It’s definitely something to discuss with your designer, however. If you don’t have one, I would definitely find one that you like and trust. ReplyCancel

  • Kate - February 20, 2017 - 8:48 AM

    Hi Laurel, I’m a little late to the comment party (using President’s Day to catch up!) How can one tell that kitchen cabinets are from IKEA just by looking at the fronts?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 20, 2017 - 3:12 PM

      Hi Kate,

      You can’t always tell because there are fronts that one can get for Ikea cabinets that are not made by Ikea. I’m sorry, the source escapes me at the moment. But it’s a great idea!ReplyCancel

  • Laurie - February 18, 2017 - 8:13 AM

    I so enjoy your posts and learn so much reading them. Thank you! That Stephanie Stokes kitchen is wonderful. I love seeing white appliances rather than the usual stainless steel. But It’s nice to see kitchens that aren’t a sea of white with those trendy dark floors. I think Miles Redd went a bit too far with that kermit green space. The second kitchen is so good with the glass shelves and light green cabinets. I could live happily in that apartment with the mustard colored room. So cool! I only wish I could compose a room like that. I like a little clutter but I think I’d clear off the end tables.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 18, 2017 - 11:27 AM

      Hi Laurie,

      Thanks so much for your sweet comment!

      It’s funny that you mentioned the dark floors as being trendy. They are, but they are also very classic when I think about it. All of the traditional interior design legends past and present, that I can think of, frequently stained their wood floors very deep. (and some like Albert Hadley went the opposite way sometimes)

      My old boss from the early to mid 90s was the most traditional “all in good taste” decorator that God ever created. And she had her floors stained a combination of Jacobean and Special Walnut. They were a beautiful, warm, dark, rich brown with a beautiful glossy sheen. I think she said her floor guy used the stuff they put on basketball courts.

      The rest of her decor was chintz, chintz and more chintz– a little too flowery for me, but yes, all in very good taste. :]ReplyCancel

  • Shelby - February 17, 2017 - 7:02 PM

    Love small kitchens and love your round-up! They are all absolute gems and it’s much too difficult to choose a favorite. However I design in Texas now, and unfortunately small kitchens are not at all a consideration around here! Ours are so large they lose all function.
    But thank you always for the great content and sharing these dreamy kitchens!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 18, 2017 - 12:13 AM

      Hi Shelby,

      Well, it’s a really big state. I guess it’s a matter of proportion. lol

      I had an aunt in Houston. We never visited them, but I heard that she had exquisite taste. The blood relative was my uncle. But that was 30 years ago or more.ReplyCancel

  • Mid America Mom - February 17, 2017 - 10:43 AM

    Thanks for posting! So tired of seeing these large kitchens in newer suburban homes all over pinterest. In my 5 homes – 3 have been 100 sq feet or less. In this place (about 100 years old) we did the white reno.. subway – shaker cabs – chrome/stainless. The floor and counters are not exactly what we wanted but in budget (Wanted a fab patterned linoleum and if I could stainless or enamel fitted counter like on a hoosier cab) . We choose this look not because trendy nor timeless but to be true to the home. Now if I had the means I would go with a green kitchen – love that softer green with the cool shelving and light counter. Comment on the wood kitchen .. the camera operator/ editor could have corrected the inclination for the light in the window dominating. Oh! What are your thoughts on cerused wood cabs?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 17, 2017 - 11:34 AM

      Hi MAM,

      Your kitchen sounds lovely.

      As for cerused wood; If it’s a rustic, contemporary home and in Cali or the rocky mountains or something like that, I could see it, perhaps. Otherwise, I would steer clear of it.ReplyCancel

  • Jacque - February 16, 2017 - 10:52 PM

    I feel sheepish asking, but I just need someone to help me understand rugs in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the look of the ones in these examples and all over the internet!

    Maybe it’s just me being a sloppy cook but all I can think about is raw chicken dripping, my kids being “helpful” with mixing ingredients and my own stovetop spatters. How can kitchen rugs not be an absolute biohazard?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 17, 2017 - 2:20 AM

      Hi Jacque,

      That’s a very good question. I would not have had one when my kids were little either.ReplyCancel

  • Marilee - February 16, 2017 - 7:30 PM

    Ok, this has been driving me crazy for so long. I have to say something. What is everyone thinking? Mirrors? Glass shelves? Artwork? Porcelain figurines? Oriental carpets? How does anyone cook in a kitchen like this? How do you clean a backsplash mirror after you have cooked hamburgers? Who wants to spend time washing tomato sauce off porcelain figurines after spaghetti sauce has simmered?How are you going to get the smell of olive juice out of your rug if a spill happens? These kitchens are beautiful until you actually use them. After that, they are a cluttered, food-encrusted mess. Just one accident with an electric hand mixer when you are making brownies, and your kitchen will never look the same. Doesn’t anybody else worry about this? Am I the only one who sees that the Emperor is naked?ReplyCancel

    • EB - February 18, 2017 - 11:29 AM

      Hi Marilee,

      I understand what you are saying. I can speak to a few of your points, not because I have done them, but because I have avoided them. I like to see dirt and stains so I can clean them; that is one reason why I love white kitchens and bathrooms and living rooms and anything else. I want to see if anything is dirty so I can clean it (and I do all of my own cleaning). Because of this, I keep my counters pretty clear. I don’t want a lot of things in my way when I am wiping down my counters and backsplash. I WILL get tomato sauce and brownie batter splatters everywhere. If I had to hand clean porcelain figurines after every cooking session, I just wouldn’t cook! That is also why I don’t have open cabinets. I would be dusting them every single day, and I just don’t want to spend my time doing that. My choice.

      As far as the mirrored backsplash, I would actually find that easier to keep clean than my white subway tile, because there is no grout! It’s the grout that gets me with the stains. So, I see the mirror as being more user friendly.

      As far as the art goes, it does make me cringe. Having been in the art world for years, I just personally would not subject paintings or works on paper to that kind of temperature and humidity fluctuations. It’s just against my training. The only thing I would do is to have a cheap copy of a work on paper or a photograph of my own (which I could easily re-print if ruined) behind glass or plexi so I could wipe it down daily. I would never put original art (except my own photos) in my kitchen. I would also never do an ornate frame close to the sink or stove or prep area because it would take me a long time to clean after a brownie batter splatter incident (because leaving it dirty is not an option for me). The same goes for a gilded frame that has to be cleaned with proper preservation techniques.

      Beauty is very important to me, as is a clean home, as is NOT spending all day every day cleaning that home. I work hard to balance those three things and find the mix that works for me. I do know for a fact that some that some things you see in magazines don’t work in real life–they are just there for the photo. Some things do work, though, and I always appreciate it when people explain how something very beautiful and seemingly unrealistic really can be user friendly.


    • nancy keyes - February 17, 2017 - 2:03 PM

      Hi Marilee,

      I will chime in on the mirrored backsplash. We had them for nearly 30 years even behind the stove. Yes, they get splattered but you spritz and wipe them after cooking. I think that makes them more sanitary than anything that doesn’t show the splatters right away.ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - February 17, 2017 - 5:26 PM

        Hi Nancy,

        Thanks for chiming in and you touched on a point that I feel is worth hi-lighting and that is when someone says a material will show the dirt, I don’t understand the problem. If it doesn’t show the dirt, it doesn’t mean it’s not there! Something that shows the dirt, shows what needs to be cleaned. No?ReplyCancel

        • nancy keyes - February 17, 2017 - 6:05 PM

          Yes, That has always been my theory!ReplyCancel

    • Dolores - February 17, 2017 - 7:38 AM

      Marilee- I’m here as living proof that a rug in the kitchen works just fine. I’ve had my antique Persian runner down for over ten years now, and it just seems to cope with anything I throw at it, including cooking three meals a day, plus baking all the breads we eat. Not even flour spills are a problem. All I do is to vacuum, or I take the runner outside to shake it, and during the summer, I lay it out in the sun as that will kill most germs. Since it’s wool,it’s easily cleaned, and you could always use club soda if you needed to rinse out a major spill.ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - February 17, 2017 - 11:30 AM

        Hi Dolores,

        Thanks so much for chiming in. I’ve never had a rug in the kitchen and would not put one most likely right by the range. But, everything you say about wool rugs is 100% true. They are not nearly as fragile as most people believe.

        Wool is inherently self-cleaning. That is… if one doesn’t send it to a commercial drycleaner! And what you said about laying the rug out in the sun is exactly what was done 100 or more years ago.

        I have a story about the time I was in design school and I was doing one of my arts and crafts “summer camp projects,” lol pasting clippings with rubber cement. Well, klutzy me, spilled the rubber cement. Yeah. All over the wool oriental rug.

        I TRIED in vain to get it all out. It was dry and crusty in that area.

        Well, fast forward about 4 years… We had moved from the city and one day, it occurred to me that while vacuuming, I had not noticed the crusty area of rubber cement. I went over every sq. inch of that 8 x 10 rug for several minutes.

        It was GONE!!! ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 17, 2017 - 2:13 AM

      Hi Marilee,

      That is 12 questions. lol Nobody is making anyone do anything they aren’t comfortable with. Always.ReplyCancel

  • Jenn P - February 16, 2017 - 4:09 PM

    This post comes at a great time! We are working with a kitchen design service in town to renovate our kitchen. We have decided to take out a wall (non-load bearing, whew) and open up the kitchen to the dining room adding a peninsula and I’m so excited for that. Our space is charming as-is, but since the kitchen is such a gathering place in our house, the expansion is needed. Anyway, your post as well as your site has given me some great tips and inspiration as of late so thank you for that!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 17, 2017 - 2:11 AM

      Hi Jenn,

      As F L Wright said, “form follows function.” Sounds terrific!ReplyCancel

  • Tanya - February 16, 2017 - 3:40 PM

    Hi Laurel,

    I am new to your blog, just discovered it last weekend. And I cannot get enough!! I was such a bad mama and wife last weekend, kept sneaking back to read old posts!! It was totally worth it!:)

    As someone with a tiny kitchen, as well as a tiny budget, I love this post. My only weapon is to make it charming :)My tricks for living with it: stainless steel hanging racks for pots and utensils (Ikea is perfect for this) and we built a “pantry” on the other side of the basement door, which you reach through the kitchen. I actually have big shelves at the bottom of the basement steps where I have an annex for things I don’t use that often, such as cake pans, platters, holiday bakeware (bowls, cookie cutters), etc.

    By the way, one of my favorite kitchens on Pinterest is the kitchen of the cookbook writer, Rachel Koo. Her book is titled aptly, Little Paris Kitchen. All charm, no space! I think she even cooks on a hot plate. The picture of her kitchen reminds me that decorating and styling should be fun and personal!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 17, 2017 - 2:09 AM

      Hi Tanya,

      Thank you for such a sweet, sweet comment! I will have to look up Rachel Koo.ReplyCancel

  • Mia Hannom - February 16, 2017 - 3:11 PM

    Such yummy little spaces you’ve selected here, as always.
    I’m immediately in a mood to pull out the brushes and paint the wood in my (rented) kitchen. Or even better, I’m looking around to see if there’s walk-in closet somewhere that I can change into a kitchen.
    Thanks for the inspiration!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 16, 2017 - 3:32 PM

      Hi Mia,

      So glad you enjoyed the post and found inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • Parnassus - February 16, 2017 - 1:49 PM

    Hello Laurel, In my Taiwan apartment I have a rather small kitchen with few cabinets and no drawers, and I find the secret is to bring the rest of the apartment in on the act. I created a pantry alcove out of a corner of the large dining room, and have a rolling cart with glasses and cups in the living room. In the other rooms I have linens, seldom used pots, and in the “Dry Room” (with a dehumidifier always going), I store some unopened food, especially things like crackers or oatmeal.

    I avoid dark wood, and the zebra stripes look a little Rorschach-ish to me, but generally I love the examples you gathered here,

    • Laurel Bern - February 16, 2017 - 2:08 PM

      Hi Jim,

      Yes, that’s what I say too. Think outside the parameters of rooms like kitchens, offices and even bathrooms. I have a tiny bathroom, but keep a few things in the kitchen where I have more space.

      Lol on the zebra stripes! Ashley is a very talented designer, however.ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Waltman - February 16, 2017 - 12:49 PM

    Laurel, another fabulous post! I too love a cozy little kitchen, but Lord that one from HOUSE beautiful sure was glamorous! Not sure why my phone just capitalize the word house! One of my designer tricks for sure is mirrored backsplash! The kitchen and my little 550 square-foot condo from the 1920s was a galley kitchen that I painted red. A pot rack was helpful. You looked at the ugly side of the refrigerator when you walked in, so I disguised it with a huge Moulin Rouge poster in front of which I put a little French chair. It had a wonderful Kilim runner, and I loved that kitchen the most of any I have ever had. I love what small spaces challenge us to come up with, don’t you?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 16, 2017 - 1:02 PM

      Hi Stephanie,

      That sounds fabulous!

      I’ve done a few kitchens with red walls. It’s a great color for a kitchen botox, I call them. The clients are always amazed at how good it looks when it’s done. Nothing worse than mediocre orange-y oak with white walls!ReplyCancel

      • Stephanie Waltman - February 16, 2017 - 11:28 PM

        Oh no oh no oh no!!! I just read your post more closely, and I hope you didn’t think I was being snarky when I said I had a pot rack in my tiny kitchen in the little condo! I had not noticed that it was on your list of “probably not’s” when I only had time to skim the article the first time!!
        You cannot know what an education your blog is to me, and I’d never snarketh at Thou! Just thought I’d clear that up.ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - February 17, 2017 - 2:23 AM

          Not at all Stephanie! And pot racks can be charming, but what I don’t understand is why someone with a small family has like 16 different pots. I’ve never used more than 3 or 4 at a time. But then, I don’t have a big clothes closet either. If I could, I’d be barefoot all the time, because ALL shoes hurt my feet after an hour.

          In other words, whatever works is good. It’s the sheeple I worry about. :]ReplyCancel

  • nancy keyes - February 16, 2017 - 11:16 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    Another GEM this morning! I love small kitchens, not that I am not extremely happy with my larger one now. But for 30 years ours was 10′ X 10′ We were very happy with it and never tempted to expand it ( I think I sent you pictures) We renovated it in the mid/late 80s. Mirrored backsplash, painted floor, white lacquered cabinets to the 9.5′ ceiling, small European appliances, and every drawer measured to the exact height of whatever would be stored in them. In 2005 we redid the cabinet doors with hand painted Shaker style doors and fully intended to remove the mirrored backsplash…but it worked and we kept it. XOReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 16, 2017 - 11:34 AM

      Hi Nancy,

      Your kitchen is gorgeous and is noway over-scale. I’m talking about the ones that are double the size of yours! They don’t have islands. They have continents to swim around.

      I think you did send me pics of the old one. As I recall it was in a magazine and was the epitome of timeless!

      Oh, some A-hole wrote a comment where he quoted back to me my comment about white kitchens being timeless. And then he said he was going to bookmark the post so that he could come back and have a good laugh in a couple of years. Nasty dude.

      Two years is nothing! And he’s wrong and not just because I say so. There are millions of people who agree that white kitchens are timeless!

      But I love your deep gray and probably because there is so much white and the touches of black. So elegant! I don’t know if you saw, but someone wanted to know where you got your chandelier and I told her that you and your husband made it! xoxoxoReplyCancel

  • Jo Galbraith - February 16, 2017 - 10:02 AM

    Love this post as usual! I too love a smallish kitchen. I look at those huge kitchens and wonder how anyone can cook in them! I agree with you about simply getting rid of stuff to fit into your small kitchen. When we listed our last house for sale, as a stager I know that if every cupboard is stuffed full of stuff it looks like there are not enough cupboards. And, trust me people always open up cupboards when they are house hunting. So I packed away boxes and boxes of kitchen junk. After we moved and unpacked I couldn’t even remember what I had packed away. In fact, I did not miss anything at all! We all have way too much stuff. A small kitchen keeps you from buying all that unnecessary stuff! Also, I did not like that dark wood kitchen, so unappealing, but while I am a white or painted kitchen lover, I do appreciate that there are lots and lots of people out there who love wood kitchens. I appreciate the amount of work you do for these helpful posts!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 16, 2017 - 10:49 AM

      Thanks so much Jo and I couldn’t agree with you more on all counts! Part of the problem with the dark wood kitchen is that there was just too much of the dark wood. And unlike a dark room, no way to break it up. So, to me, it feel suffocating, not enveloping.

      And yes, I would definitely look in the cupboards– not that mine are so pristine. They aren’t. lol, but it’s a little like a dentist can tell a lot about your health by how well you take care of your teeth!ReplyCancel

  • Dolores - February 16, 2017 - 7:20 AM

    I love that marvelous, sophisticated living room of Bill Brockschmidt, and right away noticed that he used a small black line of paint( or ribbon?) as a substitute for the non-existing ceiling and floor moldings. It looks wonderful! I just finished reading the biography of Nancy Lancaster, of Colefax & Fowler fame, where she mentioned doing exactly that because the room was lacking in architectural details. What a clever idea..
    Oh, the kitchens are marvelous. Mine is tiny as well, and the BEST $$$ money I ever spent was my great big splurge on a wood paneled SubZero fridge.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 16, 2017 - 9:29 AM

      Hi Dolores,

      Yes, I noticed that black line too. The entire apartment is incredibly chic. And it’s only 600 sq. feet, I think I read! Most of it is the living room. The bedroom must be very tiny too. The high ceilings really do help give that feeling of expansiveness. ReplyCancel

  • Ann - February 16, 2017 - 4:20 AM

    I haven´t even finished reading this post and I am overwhelmed with appreciation.
    Just had to say so.
    Yet another generous gem from the heart of Laurel.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 16, 2017 - 9:27 AM

      Hi Ann,

      Well, that just made my day! Thanks so much for your kind words!ReplyCancel

  • Joi - February 16, 2017 - 1:18 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    Maybe I’ve missed something somewhere. I’m curious to know how you feel about all the open upper shelves you see nowadays instead of cabinets. Do you think it’s just a fad from the “Fixer Upper” farmhouse craze, or do you actually think it’s here to stay? I, personally, love the look, but don’t want to wash a dish every time I want to use one, nor do I want to take everything down and dust every week. Plus, I like being able to cram an extra bowl or two behind a door and not worry about it being esthetically pleasing.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 16, 2017 - 1:26 AM

      Hi Joi,

      I love the shelves and actually, it’s the upper cabinets that are the fad, if anything. They only began in earnest after WWII.

      The idea that I’m always trying to convey is that first of all, there can certainly be some upper cabinets over the counters, but if the counters are plentiful and one does not need 20 feet of counter space, then just run the cabinet straight down, ceiling to floor. And then there’s actually more cabinet space, not less.

      There are several kitchen posts and many are linked to in the copy or at the bottom that convey different solutions for storage.

      BTW, I do know of the Fixer Upper but have never watched it.ReplyCancel

  • Libby - February 16, 2017 - 12:50 AM

    In the Grant Gibson kitchen, where are the outlets? It doesn’t seem they could be hidden by the upper cabinets. Where is the wall switch for the fixtures over the sink? If they are there and out of sight but easily accessible that would be great. I also looked at the link for the photo to see the opposite side. No outlets or switches either, although there are no wall light fixtures on that side. Of course there must be ceiling fixtures but those switches are near the unseen door. I suppose the switch for the sink fixtures could be on a distant wall but that should be an additional switch not the only one.
    The cabinets, cabinet color, hardware and sink are so lovely. The marble is beautiful with it, too.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 16, 2017 - 1:21 AM

      Hi Libby,

      Good question. There could be switches and outlets underneath the cabinets as one possibility. Or they photo shopped them out. They do that as evidenced in the dark wood kitchen with absolutely no lighting whatsoever!ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - February 15, 2017 - 11:10 PM

    Oh Laurel, Laurel! Each time I firmly make a decision to spare you my ramblings, you come out with yet another gorgeous post. What’s a girl to do? Well I suppose she can just pin quietly

    Love, love these..a chair is there is obviously for staging, as that horse was probably called “psst!” at the very right moment..well they’re cute:) I also buy one more blooming orchid for when the guests arrive, if mine are between their blooming periods:)
    Our kitchen is smaller than our master bath that’s for sure. But we have pretty big master bath
    I think Celery Kemble(whose books I admire) put an island in this example since there are no cabinets on the opposite wall. Otherwise, yes, I agree..don’t understand this infatuation with islands squished in by any cost. If it doesn’t fit-it doesn’t fit. One house we saw when house hunting had an island in the shape of..I struggle to describe..and I did have a solid B in Geometry, lol. Why?? You cannot walk around this thing without risking damaging your..something, so many twists and turns it required.
    Just to end with a whiny note-our under cabinet wiring stopped working, and the GC (whose warranty we have) won’t be able to send his electrician for another couple weeks-everyone’s crazily busy. And I LOVE our under cabinet lighting. In this house-in the old one I never even used it, even though the kitchen was, like, 4 times darker. It’s funny how quickly we get used to good things. That’s when a lamp would help, and i seriously love lamps, so I have at least one spare to put there. But the obstinate city made us drill our countertops to
    install outlets so it will be according to the code-since we have two walls of windows in the kitchen, and they reach the countertop. Obviously I’ve no desire to actually use them. No sir. I put a nice bowl on one, and surrounded the other with flowers. I love art in kitchens as much as everywhere-well when one has two walls of windows he can console himself that nature is his art, which I do. I do have ceramics though. It’s a pity all these functional things don’t look as nice as ceramics. Outlets, vents, these pot lights even though I insisted on having minimal amount of these..each time more and more signs of civilization were introduced to the house during remodel, it made me sad lol. Oh I fully realize one cannot have it both ways:)
    PS the more I read your blog the more I love green and blue. Mustard is great too. Actually, give me almost any color-and I love it. It’s just the proportion of this color in relation to others, where it becomes strong preference. Some, you like just as touches, some, you’re ready for them to envelop you.
    Thank you for another beautiful post.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 16, 2017 - 12:04 AM

      Hi Jenny,

      “Actually, give me almost any color-and I love it. It’s just the proportion of this color in relation to others..”


  • Tricia Firmaniuk - February 15, 2017 - 11:10 PM

    Great post Laurel, so inspiring, I’m ready to go primp my galley kitchen! I might try some shelves in front of the window and figure out where I can put a table lamp 😉ReplyCancel

  • Karen Smithson - February 15, 2017 - 10:33 PM

    Love small kitchens and so much less time consuming to clean. I actually did an acrylic mirrored back splash which was very reasonable and I did it my self. Love it.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 15, 2017 - 10:58 PM

      Hi Karen,

      That sounds terrific! And yes, smaller means less to clean and that’s definitely quite desirable!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa D. - February 15, 2017 - 10:16 PM

    Hi Laurel,

    That kitchen by Stephanie Stokes is truly a fabulous kitchen, whether you are talking small or large, and I agree with you – super large kitchens don’t do it for me either. It just means you have to take more steps to accomplish your tasks. As always, thanks for the wonderful post.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 15, 2017 - 10:57 PM

      Hi Lisa,

      I couldn’t agree more. I do prefer square-ish small kitchens to galley style. Mine is the later, but not a rectangle. It’s actually a trapezoid!ReplyCancel

  • Angela Toledo - February 15, 2017 - 10:04 PM

    ADORE Shalini’s kitchen with the glass shelves in front of the mirror!! Superb. Will have to file that one for a future dream kitchen remodel. Thank you for the great eye candy par excellence!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 15, 2017 - 10:51 PM

      Hi Angela,

      I love it too! And that glass shelf is my favorite part. It’s so pretty!ReplyCancel

  • Liese Sadler - February 15, 2017 - 9:43 PM

    It would be lovely to spend a day baking in many of these beautiful kitchens. I love small after spending 6 years sailing. Then all I had to do was turn round, everything to hand. Lately we tore out the original 1960 kitchen in our current rancher, made it smaller, put in only lower cabinets with drawers and 1 shelf across main wall to carry the handmade pottery plates, bowls, & mugs. I cook everyday without an extractor fan over the range, no problems.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 15, 2017 - 10:51 PM

      Hi Liese,

      It all sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Joanna - February 15, 2017 - 9:40 PM

    The kitchen, with the family crest on the floor, is the most darling of kitchens. I’ve never had to work in a space so small, but if I had to, this one looks very efficient and pretty.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 15, 2017 - 9:43 PM

      Hi Joanna,

      I agree and it really is what one is used to. For Manhattan this is not a small kitchen! In fact, I would say, larger than average.ReplyCancel

  • Lorene Bastulli - February 15, 2017 - 9:39 PM

    What is the average size of a walk in closet for husband and wife today. Of course scaling down the stuff. What is all we really need? I am in a 1940’s home in Shaker Heights Ohio. I need to do the Master Bath and need to utilize my closet space well. It is what I call a Donna Reed house. Closet with dressing table and one 6ft. closet and semanier that is poorly located.

    • Laurel Bern - February 15, 2017 - 9:42 PM

      Well Lorene, it depends on who you ask. Where I live, the average walk-in closet is larger than some apartments in Tokyo. If I were in your situation, I would consult a local closet person who could better advise you on what most people are wanting in your area. ReplyCancel

  • Lorene Bastulli - February 15, 2017 - 9:31 PM

    HI Laurel,
    I like this last kitchen but I think the sink should have been under the window and cooktop to the right with the dishwasher to the left. That would have left a full countertop open for serving or prep and the cook top on the right would have been easy peasy for availability to the sink during prep and cook. Of course this is my preference for a cook’s kitchen. cooktop and sink close or on same wall or on same side around the corner counter.ReplyCancel

    • Luiza - February 16, 2017 - 8:51 AM

      Ha! This is exactly what I thought when I saw that picture. I guess this is my tip for small kitchens — cook often! That will also save you on fridge and cabinet space. I see friends with stuff bursting out of their kitchen cupboards and a second fridge in the garage, and it’s mostly non-perishables or drinks. Buy fresh, cook often, stop snacking! (that’s my grandmother’s voice in my head…) and you’ll need smaller kitchens all around. Oh, and my second tip for small kitchens is use the corners. Lazy susan cabinets rule.ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - February 16, 2017 - 9:41 AM

        Thank you Luiza. I came very close to saying, “stop feeding your kids all of that crap!” So, I’m glad that you said something similar but in a more genteel way!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 15, 2017 - 9:40 PM

      Hi Lorene,

      That makes sense, but it might’ve been a matter of plumbing? It’s an old building in Manhattan and I’m sure there are restrictions, etc. But that is just conjecture. ReplyCancel

      • Naomi - February 16, 2017 - 12:15 AM

        I like this layout. A counter-clockwise circle of: remove food from refrigerator, wash, prep, cook. Obviously this kitchen is beautiful too but in function it reminds me of a galley kitchen I had in one of those postwar white brick buildings. It was a really narrow space with one line of fridge, counter, sink, counter, stove. One day I realized this was a dream kitchen in terms of utility even though it was tiny and less than attractive.ReplyCancel