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See how this 100-square-foot kitchen went from dreary to dazzling

Our 100-Square-Foot Kitchen series profiles kitchens that measure about 100 square feet, one of the most common kitchen sizes in the U.S., according to Houzz data.

Architect Lauren Rubin says the original cramped kitchen in this pre-World War II apartment in New York was so sad-looking that anything she did to it would have made it better. Still, that didn’t keep her from making sure the new design received lots of love and attention. She took square footage from a nearby dining nook to slightly expand the room, freeing up space to create an L-shaped layout and recess a new refrigerator. Next, she employed design tricks she’s learned working in small New York City spaces to visually expand the room and give it a feeling of lightness.

Kitchen of the Week: Bright and Airy Fixes a Cramped New York Space

Photos by Alyssa Kirsten.

Before: The existing galley layout lacked counter space, storage, adequate lighting and style. Rubin removed the arch and half wall to encroach several feet into the dining area, seen in the foreground. This still left the homeowners plenty of room for a dining table.

After: Adding length to the space allowed Rubin to remove cabinets to create an L-shaped layout with more counter space and a wider middle walkway. Extending the kitchen into the dining area allowed Rubin to add the recessed fridge on the right and a cabinet with a countertop and microwave drawer to the left of the range.

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Standard upper cabinets typically hang 18 inches above a counter. Rubin chose to hang these 22 inches up to create more openness. “I find for small kitchens hanging cabinets 18 inches above a countertop makes things feel small and congested,” she says. “You lose some storage, but it’s important to make those small spaces feel as light and airy as possible.”

Rubin and the homeowners splurged on the custom cabinets, which Rubin designed and had a woodworker build, as she does for most kitchens. “Pre-manufactured cabinets, you’re stuck with their dimensions,” she says. “Here, every inch is taken into account. There are no filler panels.”

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Customizable inserts maximize storage in every drawer and cabinet. Pullouts beneath the sink hold garbage and recycling bins. The microwave drawer helps keep the counter clear. “Most clients would rather lose a drawer than have a microwave on the counter or hanging below a cabinet,” she says.

A new pantry around the corner from the refrigerator stores food and small appliances, such as a toaster oven and juicer.

Custom open shelves provide space to charge phones, store spices and cups and display art and plants. Rubin had the woodworker who built the cabinets create the sets of white and gray floating shelves. “That way they match perfectly,” she says. “Everything happens in the same shop with the same can of paint.”

Taking the tile to the ceiling gives a sense of brightness and height, despite the fact that the ceiling was dropped slightly to accommodate new recessed LED lights. “Good, even light in a kitchen is worth dropping the ceiling versus keeping it high and having just a light fixture,” Rubin says.

To enhance the light further, she chose the whitest countertop she could find. She went with engineered quartz for its even color and durability. “For anyone who’s a cook or wine drinker I won’t put marble down,” she says. Some homeowners find marble counters difficult to keep free of stains and other damage.

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Next to the sink, the paneling that covers the dishwasher prevents too much stainless steel from breaking up the flow of the lower cabinets.

Stained oak floors replaced the checkered vinyl, and they match the floors in the adjacent dining and living spaces, creating cohesiveness.

Looking toward the kitchen from the living room, you can see the double-door pantry around the corner from the refrigerator and get a sense of the more open interaction with the dining and living spaces. “It’s a compact kitchen, but you never feel that way,” Rubin says.

From this angle you can see that Rubin was able to leave plenty of room in the dining area while adding to the kitchen.

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