Bigger isn’t always better.
A confluence of well-noted factors—Baby Boomers looking to downsize, Millennials unable to afford larger units, a heightened emphasis on green living, and rapid city population growth—have resulted in an abundance of people opting for smaller homes. That shrinking square footage has forced designers to reconsider living space, and there’s no better example than the kitchen.
While 25-cubic-foot French door refrigerators and six-burner gas ranges may have their place in a spacious single-family home, most apartments and entry-level houses simply don’t have room for these mammoth fixtures. Further, large-capacity appliances may be excessive or even undesirable for homes with only one or two occupants or city-dwellers who would rather avail themselves of a multitude of dining options than cook every day.
And space isn’t the only thing smaller appliances will save—their reduced size promises energy and water savings as well. As demand grows, manufacturers are offering space-saving versions of their major appliances.
Perhaps the most dramatic example is GE Appliances’ new micro-kitchen concept, introduced in June, which packs maximum functionality into a very petite package. Through its FirstBuild factory, GE launched a micro-kitchen concept challenge that tasked participants with fitting an entire kitchen into a 7-foot-by-25-inch space. The challenge garnered 87 entrants that were narrowed down to a final five. The modular designs include cabinetry, prep space, and all major appliances, from ovens to dishwashers. GE plans to begin manufacturing the micro-kitchens by year’s end.
Another extra-compact option is the combination kitchen, units that wrap multiple appliances into an all-in-one bundle. Summit Appliances’ combination kitchens come in four sizes, with 30-, 39-, 48-, and 60-inch widths available, and contain a sink, two-burner cooktop, a refrigerator/freezer, and storage cabinets. An optional small-appliance station that sits on top of the unit can hold devices like coffeemakers or microwaves. At an average of 40 inches high and 24 inches deep, the combination kitchen can fit in even the most limited spaces.
Installing smaller versions of individual appliances is likely the more accessible course for those looking to maximize space but not stray far from a standard kitchen configuration. Full-sized dishwashers, which can be a waste of space for residents who don’t use enough dishes to run them regularly, are a prime place for space savings. Dishwasher drawers, such as those offered by Fisher & Paykel, come in at only about 24 inches wide and 16 inches high and blend in with kitchen cabinetry. They can fit up to seven place settings, as well as accommodating a limited number of larger dishes.
When it comes to cooking configurations for small kitchens, there are a variety of choices. Amana offers 20-inch freestanding ranges in both gas and electric, slender enough to fit in cramped quarters but still providing four sealed burners and a two-rack oven with a broiler drawer. Another possibility for clearing some cabinet and floor space is the use of a small wall oven, such as Whirlpool’s 24-inch single version, paired with a cooktop. The option to select between two- and four-burner configurations and electric, gas, and induction heating mechanisms offers more flexibility.
Refrigerators are a kitchen cornerstone, but small households may resent losing valuable storage space to full-size refrigerators if they don’t have the groceries to fill them. Slim models, such as the 24-inch-wide refrigerator and freezer line from Liebherr, squeeze into tight spaces and save almost a foot of space. The two available heights provide either 11.4 or 13 cubic feet of space, plenty of room for many small families. If space is at even more of a premium, consider Avanti’s ultra-compact “apartment-size” refrigerator and freezer. It’s only about 22 inches wide and 56 inches tall, but offers full functionality and a manageable 7.4 cubic feet of space.