It has been said that limitation is the mother of architecture. Working with a small allotted space for a kitchen has always been the most creatively challenging project for kitchen designers. "The very best kitchen designs are those in which all tasks can be carried out with a minimum of labor and fatigue," writes Robin Murrell in his new book, "Small Kitchens, Making Every Inch Count" (Simon & Schuster: $19.95).
Loaded with illustrations, this book is for people living in an apartment or condominium with tiny kitchens or in a smaller new house set in a crowded development. It covers a wad of inspiring and valuable tips for creating or reorganizing a limited space without sacrificing style.
Living in the English countryside, Murrell has been a kitchen designer and writer about kitchens and their design for many years. He and his wife restore and re-create traditional British kitchens. In his book, the author not only creates visual appeal with color schemes and appropriate materials for flooring and surfaces, but he also provides chapters on choice of space-and-energy-saving equipment, making the most of storage capacities as well as efficient layouts where no steps are wasted.
Rejecting the Triangle Approach
The "work triangle" approach that defined the modern kitchen in the mid-20th Century is now out of date. Whereas it worked for one cook in the area, it doesn't in a family kitchen where two or three people at a time may be preparing food.
Proper shelf location of gadgets, utensils and equipment is important. "The smaller the kitchen, the easier it is to lose things in it," the author writes. "If it is difficult to get at things, it will be twice as difficult to put them away." Items in daily or frequent use should be readily on hand on mid-level shelves, which would minimize bending or stretching.
A new generation of specialized cooktops, sinks, appliances, cabinets, surfaces, faucets and fittings are mentioned and illustrated in the book to give the reader concrete examples of what is available for creating a new kitchen or redesigning an old one.
Although there is an increasing number of compact equipment and tools, not all things need to be minimized in size in a small kitchen. A big sink is always practical, Murrell insists. The modern approach is to look into sink systems that include a fitted chopping board and that have wider instead of deeper bowls for washing up trays and oven shelves. You may want a draining basket or modern spray faucet. Two other "biggies" in a workable small kitchen are a big multi-zone refrigerator and a large multipurpose pantry.
Murrell also discusses kitchens that have little or no natural daylight. One radical solution is a surprising twist from the traditional play of subtle pastel colors. He uses bold contrasting primary colors, which have a dramatic effect when combined with filtered lighting treatments over countertops.
Various case histories with small kitchens are discussed in the book. One problem is the presence of ugly pipework in some old kitchens. In one case, white paint was used throughout the room, and the work and storage areas were rearranged to neutralize the obtrusiveness of the pipes.
The chapter on "Changing the Way Space is Used" is quite interesting. The author discusses problems that arise when moving a kitchen into a living area, expanding by knocking out a partition, or as a last resort, extending the house to create more room for a kitchen. Here it was mentioned that the ideal size for the kitchen is about 12 square feet, not allowing for an eating area.
Color, which creates mood or accent in its own right, is another subject considered throughout the book. "Unless a color or material is very powerful, the more you repeat it in a room, the less you notice it." In a room filled with white and stainless steel, a touch of red can become the subject of focus. Because neither black nor white are colors, they can also emphasize any color or material (for instance, bright red or cobalt blue, or a nice wood finish) used with them. Subject to fashion, color will "date" faster the stronger the role it plays in the room.
Aside from learning about the most modern kitchen equipment, you'll pick up a few trends in this informative book. For example, steel is enjoying a design revival in Europe. Also, pull-out storage cabinets, pull-out tables, worktop wall cabinets with vertical roller shutters and "friendlier" wicker pull-out food baskets are gaining appeal. There's a trend away from plastic laminated or colored finishes; coming in are grooved marbles, matte lacquer, stone or special granite.