At VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN, our mantra is “Form Follows Function”, meaning we recommend Kitchen Designers focus on the functional layout of the space as a first step in the design process.

Getting the function of the room right is so important. If wonderful finishes are chosen for a space but it does not function, it will never be your client’s dream kitchen.

In this series of VESTA blogs, we will look at a variety of kitchen spaces pointing out the functional solutions implemented.

This first Design Solution Spotlight looks at a typical small kitchen layout.

This 10’ by 12’ kitchen is a layout that can be found in many older homes.

Floorplan of a small kitchen before the new design

It includes a basic sink, range, and refrigerator along with a dishwasher and countertop microwave in an L-shaped layout.

In the past, including a kitchen table in the corner was a popular feature of this type of layout.

When you practice as a kitchen designer you will come across this layout, or one like it, quite often.

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Perspective of  small kitchen before new design

Definitely the space needs an aesthetic update but let’s look at some of the issues with the functionality of the room.

  1. The kitchen table is cramped for 4 people
  2. The right-hand hinge of the refrigerator is awkward
  3. The large countertop microwave takes up valuable counterspace
  4. The largest base storage cabinet only has a single fixed shelf
  5. The corner base cabinet hits the range when it is opened
  6. The narrow cabinet on the end is not very functional with it’s single shelf
  7. The 12” of space above the upper cabinets is a missed storage opportunity
  8. The upper above the refrigerator sits too far back
  9. The corner upper area is “blind” hiding access to the storage
  10. Overall, the balance in the room is off due to the cabinet sizes

Let’s look at how we could improve the function of this space within a modest budget and stay within the existing walls.

Functional kitchen design for a small kitchen remodel

This new layout was developed keeping costs in- line.

Using the Kitchen Design theory of Food Flow Zones, the space was better laid out.

Multiple cabinet interior accessories were included to get maximum storage functionality in the room.

The major mechanical systems including plumbing for the sink, 220 electrical for the range, and venting for the hood were kept in their similar locations as a big cost savings.

The refrigerator and microwave were relocated with only minor electrical work being needed.

Looking at each area in elevation you can see how the room was upgraded.

Elevation of Food Storage Zone & Quick Snack Area

The Food Storage Zone

The Food Storage Zone includes storge for refrigerated and dry goods food storage.

In this design a 36” wide bottom mount refrigerator was specified with an 18” wide pantry placed beside it.

The pantry includes 5 rollout shelves to provide accessible storage for the family’s dry goods food.

The countertop depth refrigerator provides adequate fridge and freezer storage for the kitchen.

To take advantage of the deep storage above the refrigerator a set of vertical dividers were specified. Though not part of food storage this accessory is perfect for storing cookie sheets, cutting boards, muffin pans and any other narrow kitchen items.

The Quick Snack Area

The quick snack area is often a subsection of the Food Storage Zone.

By locating the microwave beside the refrigerator it makes the perfect area for a quick snack area.

Items can go directly from the fridge into the microwave for quick re-heating.

Also notice the microwave has been located 12” above the counter rather than a “standard” 18”. This location makes it safer to use for all family members.

The 5 drawers under the microwave provide storage for additional snack items and microwavable dishes.

Elevation of  serving zone, cooking zone and prep zone for a small kitchen renovation

Another cost savings in this design was to include standard upper cabinets installed at the ceiling with a floating shelf below.

This set-up also adds an on-trend look to the kitchen and increased storage capacity.

The Prep Zone

The area to the right of the range and around the corner to the sink, is the Prep Zone for this kitchen.

It provides the minimum 36” of continuous counter space that most cooks need for prep work.

The base storage in the blind corner is fitted with a “magic corner” accessory to house mixing bowls, the salad spinner and small appliances.

The drawer above is fitted with a knife block to keep chopping knives close at hand.

The upper floating shelf in this area is the perfect place to store frequently used items during food prep, such as small bowls.

The Cooking Zone

Surrounding the range is the Cooking Zone.

Above the range is a sleek chimney style hood acting as the focal point for the room.

Below the hood is a specialized rack for hanging frequently used cooking utensils.

The range is flanked by two narrow condiment pullouts putting oils, vinegars, and over-sized spices where the cook can easily access them.

To the left of the range is a large set of pots and pans drawers along with a large upper drawer.

The upper drawer would be divided into thirds for spices, large utensils, and an open space to accommodate the serving zone.

The Serving Zone

The Serving Zone in this kitchen is to the left of the range.

The counter space is ample for laying out food for serving to the dining room.

The large upper drawer in this area would have long dividers for serving utensils along with an open area for placemats and napkins.

To accommodate this zone the upper cabinetry would be used for serving dishes.

Elevation of prep zone and clean-up zone for  small kitchen redesign

The Clean-Up Zone

The final zone to explore in this kitchen is the Clean-up Zone.

Centered around the apron front sink the clean up zone includes a dishwasher to the right and a pullout trash/recycle bin to the left.

Under the sink is a pullout tea towel holder and a pullout chrome basket for cleaning supplies.

As part of this Clean-up Zone is storage for everyday dishes and flatware.

Since the dishwasher is in this zone, the dishes are stored at what we call “last use”. This will make it quite easy for unloading the dishwasher.

The narrow cabinet beside the dishwasher was converted to a bank of 4 drawers.

The top two drawers are divided for cutlery, the third for food wraps and the bottom for frequently used plastic storage containers.

The floating shelves above provide easy accesses to the everyday dishes.

Birdseye Perspective of  small kitchen design

The revamped layout of this small space takes advantage of every square inch.

By incorporating functional cabinet accessories throughout, the storage capacity has more than doubled.

The new design also kept costs in check while still providing for an updated stylish space.

The next step would be to add the finishes to this functional space.

Watch for our next installment of Design Solutions Showcase to see how this “before” space can be redesigned with all of the walls removed and the kitchen opened to the rest of the living area.

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Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.

Jan Rutgers is a Professional Kitchen Designer with more than 25 years experience. During her career she has designed over 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! She is the founder of VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

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