The current craze for over-sized kitchens has grown to mammoth proportions. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed a large kitchen vicariously having no concept of what I would do with it should I ever have one.
 
But, is it really necessary to have a kitchen that is as large, or often larger than the average American home? Today, many kitchens have lush spaces to lounge, sit, eat and be merry, are generally close to or open into a den or family room, and are useful for entertaining. I personally have nothing against these grand spaces, but small, well-appointed, functional kitchens that are in scale to the overall living space — that sparkle with efficiency and style — warm my heart and design sense. 
 
I have a smaller kitchen, but it is perfect in scale to my home and for my lifestyle. I focused on my priorities. I spent time finding the best configuration for function, I splurged on top-of-the-line appliances rather than removing walls and building on a new wing. I learned the best way to utilize my 10×12 eat-in kitchen from both a functional and practical standpoint without sacrificing style. As I discovered, the key to designing a small kitchen is to identify how you use the space and then maximize it for efficiency, convenience and style. You can make a room appear much larger by simply keeping it light, airy and free of clutter. Something that I do best!
 
Here are some suggestions to optimize a small kitchen:
 
Define the space. Don’t try to make a small kitchen serve too many functions. Eliminate or remove the junk drawer, and refrain from using the kitchen as an office for bills, junk mail, homework assignments or odds and ends. If your object is to make it a cooking center, concentrate on that function. If possible, allow seating, even if it’s just a stool pulled up to a counter for guests. Few of us like to cook alone.
 
Clear counter surfaces. Don’t park the microwave, coffeemaker and toaster on the counter if space limited and you rarely use it. If you don’t use it everyday, put it away. An alternative to the counter is a moveable cart, an open shelf or the pantry. Clutter buildup is continuous, so edit as often as you can. Do all the utensils need to be out in full view? I think not. Less is more.
 
Furniture works especially well for combining both style and function in any kitchen. I have a wonderful old barn armoire that holds everything from plates to glasses. When contemplating storage, think outside the box for the best creative solutions. No rules here.
 
Use color to define your space. Keep in mind that your favorite color may not work as a great wall color. I see this mistake over and over again. Consult only the friends that will give you an honest opinion. Trust me, you can handle the truth!
 
Small appliances are now available for even the most difficult design challenges. Just because you want a large refrigerator does not mean you have the room for it. Consider all the options and what works best for function and lifestyle. There are endless choices for color, size and style.
 
If your small space has to accommodate lots of people on a daily basis, avoid the obvious. Don’t presume that small rooms have to be furnished with dainty furniture. One or two large pieces can provide plenty of storage or seating. The trick here is to use every inch of space and make any “dead” corners work overtime.
 
Mar’s top 10 kitchen must haves:
 
  1. Two or three sharp and substantial knives. Don’t cheap out here. One excellent knife is always better than a set of inferior knives.
  2. Two cutting boards; one wood, one glass. Glass for chicken, fish, and meats, wood or bamboo for everything else.
  3. A 3-inch deep cast iron skillet. Perfect for just about any meal.
  4. An endless amount of wooden spoons of various sizes.
  5. Extra virgin olive oil. It’s so versatile and is good for cooking and salads.
  6. A small stool. Perfect for a guest or even the cook to sit on. Finding a stool is easy, but finding the one that fits and has multiple uses may take some time. Try an old one. This will give your kitchen a charming classic look.
  7. Good lighting is imperative. If you’re going to cook, you need to see what you’re doing.
  8. Cookbooks. I like mine handy and easily accessible.
  9. A small television up and away from the counter. I love to watch cooking shows while cooking for myself. It keeps me company.
  10. A moveable work station or island. Perfect for small kitchens.
 
A small kitchen may present some design challenges, but they can also be a model of efficiency and functional design when done correctly.
 
And there you have it.