By: Corey Klassen, CKD, CBD
Date: March 2015
What if you live in a small space and you love the location, the neighbours and the hood, but the spaces just do not function well together?
I've always loved working in small spaces, I happen to live in one myself, and recently a cool kitchen in a condominium project I completed with Fifth Element Construction & Renovation Ltd. was submitted to the 2015 NKBA Design Competition - and it won First Place in the Small Kitchen Catagory! Many of the design elements, space planning techniques, and furnishings were what made this space unique and a complete transformation. Designing small spaces are not easy and everything from the space plan to the wall colour is carefully considered. Here's how it all worked out:
The Space Plan
Most condominiums have concrete floors, but in this post-war timber-frames building we lucky. We were able to relocate the sink to the opposite wall under a new 48" opening because it is less than 8-feet from the vent. This created a feature wall that we used as the backdrop to the living room. Even though the distance in the galley is only 37" from counter to counter, the new opening makes it feel bigger. Balancing out the refrigerator with the wall oven provide counter area for preparation.
The Interior Architecture
The entire space had to be re-engineered in order to create the open plan. Aside from removing 3 under-used closets in the hallway, we also inlaid new parquette flooring in the kitchen to match the existing. We had to relocate 2 exhaust vents from kitchens below, combined with new electrical, lighting, and structure, I hid it all in what appears to be a post, but is actually a mechanical chase.
Everything interior architectural element in this kitchen is planned off the 24" (610 mm) dimension or an equal division of it. All cabinetry is 24" wide, the new opening at the sink is 48" wide, and even the new post is 24" square. Symmetry becomes every more important when working in an asymmetrical layout. In this space, the fridge is balanced by the wall ovens creating that pleasing "H" shape and horizontal line which balances out the otherwise lopsides layout.
The European-Sized Fixtures
Selecting small appliances and fixtures permits more function. If your biggest complaint is that you do not have the space for a dishwasher, consider a single tall-tub dish-drawer with storage below. If your second biggest complaint is that you will not fit a 15 pound holiday bird, consider the number of times you actually need to cook one. North American fixtures are big, may not fit in the elevator, may not turn the tight corners, and are just plain oversized for one and two bedroom homes.
The Finishes and Materials
There are a total 4 wood finishes, one paint colour, one tile, one surface, 8 fabric colours, and 3 metals in this space (go ahead and count them) but the unifying factor in all of it was a sense of natural harmony. Bold decisions do not have to be crazy, they can be edited and curated. Not only should the homeowner self-edit their inspiration but the designer then reduces it all like a sweet caramel to pair and curate the design elements.
The custom built bench seat that is addorned with the cushions and pillows creates a flexible space. With the 7-leaf expandable table, the 5-seat nesting cube, and the new bench there is a huge dinner party in the making for up to 14 people. That's large home entertaining in a small space.
I'm proud to show off this small kitchen design and its' West-Coast style. The Client still discovers new ways to use her home a full year later, and that's a big reward for me, but I'm also honoured to show off the design techniques, skills and solutions that contributed to this first-place win.
Corey Klassen is a Certified Kitchen Designer and Certified Bathroom Designer. He is an award winning kitchen and bath designer, educator, speaker, NKBA Chapter Officer, and BLANCO Kitchen Design Council Member. (coreyklassen.ca)
Photography by Jason Karman.