How to design a compact kitchen

Kitchen in Porto
CC BY 2.0 Kitchen in Porto/ Lloyd Alter

You really don't need all those big appliances.

It's often surprising to see the big kitchens that designers put into some tiny houses. Living space or a place to sit down and eat is sacrificed to have a range and a fridge where one could whip up a Thanksgiving dinner for 12, but have nowhere to serve it.

Tiny house interiorTiny house interior/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0
I was particularly amused by the kitchen in a tiny home that I saw at Greenbuild in Atlanta, displayed by Tiny House Atlanta, which I believe was an Escape Traveler. Here you can see a full-sized five-burner gas range with a microwave over, which has a recirculating exhaust fan. End to end, it looks to be about 11 feet of kitchen. The stove and the fridge both stick out into the living space, which matters in a tiny house.

Kitchen in PortoKitchen in Porto/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Meanwhile, I am in Porto after doing a lecture at the School of Architecture, and am staying at an AirBnB designed by architect Claudia, who has put a really compact kitchen in a corridor between the bedroom and living area. It has a two-burner induction range with a vented exhaust fan, an 18" wide dishwasher, and a very nice hidden 2-foot-wide fridge. There is a good sized oven, a convection/microwave combo and lots of storage.

kitchen with everything openLloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Using Euro-style appliances with cabinet faces on the fridge and dishwasher gives it a clean look; nothing sticks out into the space. There is room for a 4-burner stove top, but Claudia decided that counter-space was probably a higher priority, and who really needs four permanent burners, especially in the age of portable induction units?

There were a couple of other noticeable differences. The fridge was completely silent; I never heard the compressor. This is important in a small space. The sink is molded into the counter, making it easy to clean. The flush built-in appliances made the roof feel bigger and neater.

closeup of stoveBig stove in small space/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

The designers of the Escape Traveler know their market, and commenters noted, "At last! I love to bake and need a full size range!" But most of Europe does their baking in 24-inch-wide ovens. Another problem in North America is that smaller Euro-style appliances often cost a lot more than full-sized because the demand is so low. It's hard to convince people to pay more to get less. That's a real shame, because I believe architects could design better kitchens for both bigger and tinier homes if Euro-sized appliances were more available and affordable.

And of course, nobody should be cooking with gas in such a small space, and with a recirculating range hood instead of one exhausting to the outside. The air quality in that tiny home is going to be just awful.

How to design a compact kitchen
You really don't need all those big appliances.

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