Make a Small Kitchen Look Larger

Where do you spend most of your time when you're home? If your family is like ours, it's probably in the kitchen. But no matter how large a kitchen is, it never feels big enough. Several years ago we remodeled our kitchen; I completely redesigned the floor plan.

The renovations included knocking down a wall (we had the best time doing the demolition), installing a garden window over the sink (we lowered the bottom of the window to be even with the countertop), adding an island with an overhang (with room for three chairs or stools) and putting in a food prep peninsula at table height (it has an overhang with room for three or four stools). Here are several ideas to make any kitchen feel and look larger. Remember, you don't have to go for all of them. Any one of these suggestions can make a difference.

Create more storage. For better storage and to save space, install a base cabinet that has the cabinet door attached to rollout shelves instead of swinging open on hinges. Store your most used appliances in this convenient cabinet. When the shelves are pulled out, you can easily reach items stored in the back of the cabinet.

Re-do cabinets. Add glass fronts on wall cabinets or replace solid cabinet doors with glass fronts along one wall. It gives a more open feeling to the room.

Add light. Consider under-the-counter lighting; the kitchen will appear larger. Also, use light colors when decorating and lighten cabinets and countertops.

Create height with taller wall cabinets. Remove soffits and install cabinets to the ceiling. Or you can "stairstep" the cabinets. Start with a taller cabinet and then line the others progressively shorter. In the open space above the shorter cabinets you can display collectibles, baskets, teapots and so on. Store seldom-used items such as holiday dishes or serving pieces on top shelves of the taller cabinets.

Bring the outdoors in. Where possible, enlarge windows or replace one with a garden window, installed at countertop height. Add a skylight or sky pipe.

Streamline your kitchen. Just as you go through your clothes closets once or twice a year and give away or sell items you no longer need, you should do the same for your kitchen. Simply reorganizing the kitchen and getting rid of things you don't use will make your kitchen feel larger. A cluttered kitchen feels smaller.

Build a useful island. If you have an eat-in kitchen with no room for an island, consider replacing the kitchen table with an island. Then the island will serve as the eating area, and there will be added storage for seldom-used items. To accomplish this, start with base cabinets, either table height or traditional counter height. Top them with a countertop material extended 12 to 16 inches beyond the sides of the cabinets to accommodate chairs or stools.

Install storage trays. You can do this on the back of false drawer fronts at the sink and cook top with specially made trays (they are very narrow) available at hardware stores and home centers. It helps eliminate clutter around the stove and sink and is very easy to do.

Free up counter space. Install an under-the-counter microwave, can opener, spice rack or toaster.

Open up walls. If your kitchen has an adjoining dining room, consider opening the wall between them. This could be a do-it-yourself project if the wall is not load-bearing.

Create open shelving. Designing a kitchen with open shelves, especially if you have colorful plates and glasses, teapots or other collectibles -- always makes a small kitchen look larger. You can simply take the doors off your cabinets and paint the inside a bright color, or take down existing cabinets and add colorful shelves to make the room feel more open.

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