Mark Millar shares his tips for minimalist kitchens
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There is no reason why a small kitchen can’t exude some serious style and feel more spacious than it actually is. A kitchen of any size can feel roomy if you know some simple design tricks to make the most of the space. Many kitchens in urban areas are famously small, yet they are arguably some of the most attractive kitchens around, reflecting both stylish city living and some ingenious space saving solutions. Ruth Lavender, design expert at Benchmarx Kitchens and Joinery has spoken exclusively to Express.co.uk on how to make small kitchens look bigger than they are and what households should avoid when decorating small kitchens.
She said: “Some may think that having a small space is a challenge, but it doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon your idea of a dream kitchen completely. With careful consideration and clever planning, you can maximise the space available and create an impactful design that perfectly meets your needs.”
According to the designer, opting for lighter, neutral tones is “one of the oldest tricks in the book” when it comes to making a space “appear larger”. She explained: “This is because these hues reflect light better than darker shades, instantly makes a space feel brighter.
“Choosing light colours for your kitchen doesn’t have to be boring. You can add interest by opting for white or light grey cabinets and pairing with earthy tones, such as warm wood accessories and stone-finish surfaces. Highly adaptable, neutral colours can complement almost any accent colour and metal, so you can tailor a look to your individual style.
“It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t rule out dark cabinetry completely, as it can work well in a small kitchen as long as it’s balanced by light worksurfaces, splashbacks and surrounding walls. You could even opt for two different cabinet colours – a dark finish for floor-standing cabinets can work well with a lighter option on wall-hung units, without feeling overbearing.”
Ruth said: “Getting your lighting scheme right is essential. Without a mixture of both natural and artificial light your kitchen may feel dark and dingy, leading the space to appear even smaller.”
To fix this, the expert suggested adding skylights and bifold doors as they are perfect for flooding a room with natural light. Ruth added: “Having windows to the outside world will make your kitchen feel like it extends further than it does and will stop it from feeling enclosed.”
If skylights or bifold doors are not an option, consider how to maximise other lighting sources. Spotlights work well in a kitchen as they help to drench the whole room with illumination, without feeling intrusive. When planning spotlight placement, ensure they’re not blocked by cabinets or doors that are often left open, as this will make them less effective.
Homeowners can also choose to maximise under-cabinet lighting, as well as LED strips under worksurfaces and shelving, to eliminate any dark spots, add extra depth and provide a warm feeling in the room.
Ruth added: “Pendant lighting is a great touch to add more focused illumination, whilst at the same time introducing an added design feature. Whether opting for contemporary clear glass and chrome, antique brass, or even industrial matt black and copper designs, pendants are the perfect way to bring your chosen interior scheme to life.”
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Clever storage and integrated appliances
The kinds of storage and appliances kept in kitchens also have an effect on how big a kitchen is perceived. The kitchen designer said: “Clutter can undoubtedly make a kitchen feel pokey, so keeping worktops clear is crucial. Internal storage across your design is key to maximising space and keeping your surfaces tidy.
“Integrated carousels are excellent for convenience as they allow you to locate different utensils quickly without you having to scramble around at the back of the cupboard. Pan drawers are another great option as they provide the depth needed to store larger items whilst keeping them accessible. You can make the most of every inch of your cupboard space with concealed drawers, pull out wire shelves and storage baskets too.”
“Open shelving can create a stunning visual, whilst opening up the space and injecting personality. The flexibility in design options is endless, and they can be incorporated to make as much or as little impact as you like. In smaller spaces, this feature can create an open, airy feeling that showcases a minimalist and rustic style. Clean lines and simple crockery can also communicate modern sophistication, creating a relaxed, scandi scheme.”
This type of shelving also enables easy access to everyday essentials such as dishes, glasses and cookware. They can also be used to store cookbooks, display houseplants and showcase decorative vases; making them versatile and easy to re-style when you fancy a change.
For those who don’t have space for an island, but still want to achieve a flexible space, Ruth suggested incorporating a seating nook. She explained: “Building a small bench into surrounding units can really maximise floors pace and positioning a small table in front can create a truly versatile feature. You don’t have to forgo storage either, as you can incorporate clever solutions beneath the seating area and in the surrounding zone.
“Not only does it provide space to effectively work throughout the day, but for informal dining too. This feature can be great for younger family members also, acting as an area for them to complete homework whilst dinner is being prepared, or even carry out crafts.”
What to avoid
According to the designer, a poor kitchen layout is one of the “most common problems” in small kitchens. She warned: “If not carefully thought-out, the layout can make the space feel enclosed.”
Ruth advised: “When redesigning your kitchen, consider how you move around your space, as this will help determine the best location for appliances and cupboards. A misplaced dishwasher, for example, can disrupt the flow of the kitchen, especially if it makes it impossible to pass when being loaded.
“Appliances, such as microwaves and ovens, that are not integrated into your cabinets can take up unnecessary space and make a kitchen feel cramped. I’d always recommend considering the placement of your appliances when designing your kitchen, even down to your kettle and toaster.
“To truly maximise space, consider a boiling water tap to eliminate the need for a kettle completely. Integrated appliances are another must-have, as they can be cleverly designed to make the most of every available inch of space.
“Dark cabinets, as previously mentioned, can reduce the size perception of a kitchen. As darker colours don’t reflect light as well, you may find the kitchen feels like it’s closing in on you.
“If you’re lusting after dark cabinets, you could instead add glass-front doors to trick the eye into thinking the kitchen is more spacious. In addition, keeping dark cabinets below worksurface level can help.”
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