In a small kitchen you HAVE to have ______________ .

dmwbccJuly 17, 2010

Fill in the blank!

We have a small kitchen, and we don't mind it, but in the process of our re-design we hope to add any sort of "small kitchen need" and figured you all could help us make sure we didn't miss something!

Also, for a smaller kitchen, what is the most efficient layout- U-shape, L-shape, L-with island, ect.


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Even in a very small kitchen, I would have a full-sized (or conventionally sized) 30" range.

I have moved into two places with small kitchens that had 24" ranges and full-sized DWs. In each redesign I went to an 18" DW to gain the six inches for the full sized range.
I would also say a counter depth or shallower refrigerator rather than a very deep one.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 7:18PM
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I read somewhere that a galley layout is the most efficient for a small space, provided the door locations will allow it.

I agree with palimpsest that the counter depth fridge is a neat feature for a small kitchen. Just let it go a little taller.

With my planned range being on opposite sides of the galley style kitchen from the sink/dishwasher side, it does not matter what the width of the DW is. I plan for a 24" wide range because that extra six inches width is usually just blank stove top anyway, and the only real working portion of the 30" range that would be different is the width of the oven. Now, if you bake a lot, that would be a plus. Otherwise, it would consume more power being bigger than the smaller 24" stove's oven.

I also have a frenchdoor GE fridge, and now wish I had the cabinet depth fridge as discussed above. But it is not all that difficult to fit into the kitchen expansion by locating it on the former back porch.

In a small absolutely HAVE to have somewhere a tall cabinet to use as a PANTRY. Otherwise you'll go crazy looking for spots to store your food and pans. I love nice cookware, and cannot scrimp on keeping them around me. When they go in drawers or cabinets in general, that means the food items must find other accommodations. IKEA sells a tall pantry unit up to 88 inches high, and other cabinet makers go even taller. Where there is no place for a walkin pantry, such a cabinet earns its keep.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 7:42PM
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rules when for more than one person is using the space

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 8:19PM
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Great! Thanks.. I am starting a "Things to consider" list!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 8:19PM
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  1. Sink
  2. Cooking surface
  3. vent-hood'>Vent hood
  4. Oven(s)
  5. Refridgeator
  6. Worktop
  7. Storage

Same as any other kitchen. You can make some things bigger and some things smaller, and you can co-opt other parts of the house for essentially kitchen storage. You can get mini appliances and limit your cookware. You still need all of the above.

I do not like limiting the appliances. People always talk about counter space, but if you have a nearby laundry room wehre you can use the tops of the machines as staging places, or a dining room buffet or credenza, and if you have a table handy to the kitchen on which you can spread out a little when you need to, you can make a small amount of counter space do a huge amount of service. The important thing is to have the countertops in the right places so that you have prep area and landing area. For this reason, I'd prefer to have real appliances and give up a little counter.

I agree with Palimpsest. If you really will never sell and never cook anything bigger, you can go with Moccasinlanding's mini-range. You can actually get a cooktop and wall ovens into a tiny kitchen, though a range will save counter space. For that, you give up storage space. It's a trade-off. If you cook for a lot of people, also consider a 36" range. It's amazing how many dishes you can get into a really big single oven. Having the microwave off the counter helps add counterspace. MW range hoods aren't all that good at being hoods (there are some great small, slim real hoods), and they can be dangerous to use because of leaning over a hot stove to reach in. Having a shelf for the MW, or a built-in off the counter is helpful, however.

The 18" dishwasher, or single drawer dishwasher, is the one "mini" I'd be willing to go for unless you have more dinner dishes than will fit. Running the machine twice a day might give you just that added bit of storage that makes or breaks your design.

A lot of people here find a single bowl sink more useful than a double bowl, especially when one has a dishwasher. A separate dishpan(s) can be added to do handwash/rinse, soaking, and/or the other things one fills a sink bowl for like cleaning spinach or pushing the defrosting of a turkey. Plus, such a dishpan is useful for a lot of other duties and is good to have handy. Therefore, a single bowl, 24" sink is not "mini" even though it's smaller than the old standard 30" sink.

There are some good quality refrigerators that are taller and narrower than standard. Since over the fridge space is often the most inconvenient space in the kitchen. One of those could help you save counter space. Just be careful not to get locked in to a weird size. For instance, if you decide on a 24" fridge, you might make the hole for it big enough to hold a 30" one and fill the extra space with a brooms pullout, so that if it has to be changed to something wider 10 years down the road you don't have to redo the whole kitchen, just find a new place for brooms.

A truism that floats around here is that people rarely use more than 3 burners at one time. As long as you have enough oomph for what you cook, you don't need a bigger cooking surface. If you are feeding a ravenous family pancakes, meat, eggs, potatoes, and oatmeal, all at once, you might need more burners.

The most convenient and specialized storage you can contrive the easier it'll be to live in a tiny kitchen. The problem is that the pre-fab ones take up too much room because they have to fit into varying sized spaces. The best way to get the most and best storage out of a kitchen, especially a tiny one, is to have it crafted in place.

This is my favorite itty bitty deluxe kitchen. Note that there are two links to different articles. Talking about custom!

Here is a tiny kitchen with big appliances It's very simple, and basic, and plenty to get the job done, except an adequate vent hood for that big range.

Apartment Therapy/The Kitchn has a lot of great tiny kitchens for inspiration.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 8:57PM
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I don't know about hard and fast rules, but here's what I would have to have....

Good lighting -- essential. Also, a 30-inch-wide stove, and a good vent hood. Wine glasses and a bottle opener. Good olive oil and fresh garlic. A decent set of knives and two cutting boards.

In a really tiny kitchen, I would consider a microwave and a dishwasher optional. Good fresh food can always be made on a stove or in an oven, and if the cook is good, the eaters will do the dishes.

Assuming that there is a separate eating area, I would prioritize storage of pots and pans over storage of dishes. Dishes can go on open shelves on the wall above a table.

Even the fridge can be tiny, provided it's possible to go shopping for fresh meat/fish, bread, dairy, fruit and veggies every other day. Storage of staples (rice, pasta, cans, etc.) doesn't have to take up much room.

These are all the things that I'd need in a vacation rental for a week or two. I've lived without them in my first apartment rentals out of college, and I was much unhappier about the absence of a good vent hood or good lighting than the absence of a dishwasher.

For many people, a coffee maker would be as essential as the wine, but I drink tea -- can always boil a little water and steep in a mug!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 10:02PM
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If you were to post a floorplan and a little about your likes and needs, I think some here might noodle on it with you.

I think the main riddle with a very small kitchen is, how do you prep. The basic appliances don't take up that much room, and the truly essential things can be stored in surprisingly little space - if it is well-organized space and you don't think that a dozen small appliances and multiple sets of dishware are ''essential''. But if you're laying out four sheets of hors d'oeuvres, you need room for four sheets, period. You can't miniaturize food.

But there are ways to prep a lot of food in a small space. One very organized prep zone, with a big board, next to a sink. Then think vertically - rather than prep bowls, sheet trays, and pots-in-progress spread over every inch of counter and overflowing to the dining table, have them on open shelves above and below the counter. Bakers do this, with their stacked cooling racks. Line cooks do this, with reach-in undercounter coolers and elevated work shelves.

I think a very small kitchen can be a beautiful thing and crank out lots of great food. It simply has to know exactly what it is trying to do, and do that well while forgoing the rest. In a 30' x 25' kitchen, there is room for multi-butts, kibbitizing guests, feeding children, simultaneous washing and cooking and prepping, beverage service, etc, all of it and all at the same time. In a 10' x10' kitchen, you can get a few of those and not all at once.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 10:06PM
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I think we also need to know what "small" means to you, since that is very relative. In the general surburban, nonurban, context the 10 x 10 kitchen that johnlui mentions is "small". In my neighborhood, depending upon the street (and thus house size), 10x10 is " medium large" to "enormous".

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 11:04PM
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you have to..... make every single square inch count.

My GC was use to doing much larger kitchens than mine, and I think contractors that are use to that take a little more liberty on design, etc. Not true here - I really had to emphasize that when I say I want something somewhere, I MEAN it. There is no room to manipulate or change it in my eyes. I've accounted for every square inch of the space.

This is particularly true about placement of things like an island if you're trying to fit one in, granite overhang, etc.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 1:05AM
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Oops, I meant to give a good example. In my tiny kitchen, I never had a pantry, and cabinet space was very dear. I really wanted an island in the remodel.

I got the bright idea to go into the wall for pantry space. In the pic below, there are no doors on yet, but that pantry wall is actually in between the studs, and only takes up 3 inches of footprint into the actual space of the kitchen. That allowed me to have an island. It's wide, but very shallow, but will perfectly hold 2 soup cans deep. I will have tons of pantry space now, with only 3 inches of room taken up.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 1:09AM
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Circus Peanut

Cindyandmocha is right on: learn to dig into the walls for more space. Those extra 3" can be amazingly productive for you. Observe how Cindy still has ample room for her herd of camels, or whatever those are.

In my completely subjective opinion, you can get more solid useful space out of making surfaces work double-time than you can from buying fancy cabinetry gadgets that promise to organize space. Don't use those awful lazy susans that fling everything out the back in centrifugual sadism; put a cabinet door on the opposite side of the wall. Don't put a decorative 5" filler between lower cabs - put a dishtowel hanger there instead. Don't leave blank cabinet backs - add a shallow bookshelf behind them.

Pullout trash is a wonderful thing for a small working space. So is a big wall pantry.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 1:31AM
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LOL at the "camels" circuspeanut! Are those well-fed labs, Cindyandmocha?

I also note that Cindyandmocha has taken her cabinets all the way to the ceiling, which seems quite wise. Plus, she has gone to the expense of putting in an island cooktop and vent, thus using space above the island for the hood (rather than along the wall where she would have lost upper cabinet space to the hood). She also gains the space under the cooktop and in the rest of the island for storage.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 9:06AM
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I think you need one decent sized stretch of counter -- at least 3 feet. I lived in a great apartment with a tiny kitchen that had good sized appliances (but no DW), great storage, a nice window, but only two one-foot stretches of accessible counter. Drove me absolutely bonkers. I figured a way to shoehorn a table (no chairs) in under the window and life was much better. I ended up loving that crazy little kitchen. Lived there ten years.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 9:16AM
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(great topic)

clean lines.

Clean lines mean no clutter for my counters How do I do

With storage for everything from food, to appliances, to
cooking equipment. The more you can store the bigger it
will feel. And if you can make large appliances look built
in, there will be a form feel and less movement for the

Clean lines, simple colors and plain patterns. A restful
place for my eyes.

And for me I need light. Natural and Artificial make my
space feel bigger even when it is not. I would rather have
undercab lighting than more space. I know crazy but this
is me. My kitchen is not micromini but it is small. About
12 by 15.

Each one is different. If I could not have undercab lights
I would get rid of my uppers. Again some would yell "But
you need that storage." I would rather have a space I
enjoy being in rather than clutter and messes. The kitchen
would feel more spacious to me.

I am one of those crazy ladies that got rid of my double
ovens to have more counter space. I have had many on GW
and friends tell me I was insane. But I love my spacious
counters now. And only the simple items you use every day.
When it doubt throw it out. Don't keep it if you don't
use it. Okay the fondue pot only used during ski season.
Store it someplace else.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 9:46AM
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Oh, you guys are consistently wonderful. :)

I'm still laughing about the herd of camels.

palimpsest- exactly, it is super relative, but I think some of these ideas for the "micro mini" kitchens would help any kitchen! You are right though, I can't say I have a mini or tiny kitchen by any means... it's a 12x10 area with 3 doorways, so weird walking area, the USABLE space is about 10 x 9 and soffits that can't be removed (sewer in one and roofline in the other), so things are lower, and in that 10 x 9 space, there is a chunk of 3 ft that can't have a countertop because it's a doorway, yada yada yada.

cindyandmocha- I LOVE what you've done on that wall. I have the exact wall in which you'd walk along side of to get from dining room (through kitchen) to the den. I have never seen anything like this. Would you be willing to tell me a little more about how you've done this or had it done?

These ideas are great, all of them!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 10:16AM
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Coming from someone who had a kitchen that was really a hallway with four doorways, I feel your pain. It seems like continous wall and counter space are your biggest challenges. You might consider an induction cooktop - it will you allow some ability to use it as countertop since it can't turn on unless you have magnetic material on it.

You mention you have an adjacent den. Any thoughts on swapping the kitchen/den configuration? We bit the bullet and did this. We had to replace a lot of windows to get counter underneath but it solved many problems for us, plus the kitchen is no longer a walkthru space but a destination in it's own. If you can post a layout there are many on this site that can give your some great ideas.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 11:21AM
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I have what I would consider a small kitchen...

I love that I have ample counter space, a counter depth fridge and a pantry. Those are my favorite things about my kitchen. I have enough room to work and store things.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 12:00PM
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My biggest advice would be to go with custom cabinetry. Even semi-custom will lose you that much needed space. In our 11x11 kitchen (and in our neighbourhood this is considered mid sized to large), we lost space in 3 different areas due to having to go with the standard sizes of the semi-custom cab company. It still drives me nuts to know that in my main bank of drawers the drawers could be 4 inches deeper.

Another bit of advice would be to pull out the lower cabs to give you more counterspace if you can. You probably won't notice 2 inches on the floor plan, but having 2 inches more depth of counter is invaluable. Then you can also increase the depth of your uppers to fit larger dishes.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 12:59PM
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Circus Peanut

Here is someone's groovy DIY instructions for building a shallow wall pantry with door.

More shallow wall pantries:

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 2:59PM
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Cindyandmocha.. that picture is your tiny kitchen? seriously?? .. that's bigger then my living room.

what you need in a small kitchen is vertical storage space.. go all the way to the ceiling with cabinetry.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 3:08PM
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Cindyandmocha, I love what you did for that shallow storage. My parents discovered a deep wall with no pipes running down it in a hallway and added built-in bookshelves in a similar fashion. Great additions.

Circuspeanut, good pictures and I LOVE the one with what appears to be a sliding barn door!

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is frameless cabinets. They helped me get a lot more use out of my space than the custom cabinets that were here before.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 3:10PM
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I thought I was the only one who thought Cindyandmocha's kitchen, while beautiful, is also SPACIOUS. Not considered small in my neck of the woods (Central NJ). My kitchen is 10 x 10 with 3 doorways and 1 window...all of which are unmovable. I'd love to have a kitchen that "small". And yes, SVMF, that's about the size of my living room, probably bigger.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 3:13PM
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I think you have to be clear about your priorities -- is it working space? or maximizing storage? or having a place to sit? In my kitchen, there is no place to sit. Some of my infrequently used stuff gets stored in the basement pantry. I use the space over the center worktable for a pot rack, not a light. But there is a good layout and plenty of work space. I sometimes wish there were a place to sit, but prefer having the space to move and work.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 9:50PM
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lol... trust me it was tiny. I will post a thread just about that pantry and what I had before very soon. I had about 1.5 ft of counterspace total in the L between sink and cooktop. That pantry wall is what is making it appear so very big. That island is actually on the narrow side as far as island's go -- the cabinets are only 24" deep. The very end one is 30" - and I had to really fight the cabinet guy to get that right. EVERY square inch counts.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 2:31AM
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In a small kitchen in [a small condo in a highrise], you have to have ...

-Great storage as there is no basement for extra do-hickeys. In our case, this means frameless cabs that reach to the ceiling, a double-depth fridge cabinet, and drawer bases.
- Discipline to edit out the beautiful do-hickeys that are/will only collect dust and eat up storage space.
- Ability to find/annex space that wants to become part of your kitchen. We made the hallway broom closet next to our fridge into a pantry so all food is conveniently stored in one zone.
- [If you do a lot of prep and entertaining] ... appliances and counterspace that will make this easy. We designed our kitchen to maximize the counter runs on both sides, we added a 18" dishwasher, and we retained a full-size range and fridge.
- A counter-depth fridge if you can afford it. We bought our fridge before discovering GardenWeb and learning about kitchen design. The fridge juts out and it now bugs my eye but DH has fallen in love with it so it stays.

BTW, in addition to all the incredible ideas we got from GardenWeb, we also found it helpful to look through our local online real estate lisings - especially when it came time to make the final trade-off decisions between kitchen design guidelines and our kitchen's limitations. It allowed us to take virtual "tours" of dozens of kitchens in luxuy condos in our neighborhood. They were roughly the same size as ours and dealt with the same issues (for example, in a highrise building, gas/electric/water lines are generally shared floor to floor and can't be moved so you have to design around their fixed locations). It was a helpful reality check and we got some great layout ideas.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 7:13AM
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Coming into this late, with irrelevant information. Can't find a definitive source, but apparently at least alternative collective terms for groups of camels include " a flock of camels" or " a caravan of camels." Just in case you want to be a little more poetic than "herd of camels."

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 10:06AM
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1. Wine
2. Brandy
3. Rum
4. Vodka
5. Tequila
6. Ice
7. Cocktail Shaker
8. Two glasses
9. Fixin's bar - olives, pearl onions, sugar, salt, juices, etc.

  1. Margarita machine

A flock of camels? Jcoxmd, I don't know about those for your kitchen. Their colors would clash, I think.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 11:20AM
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In my single city days, one of the best cooks I've ever known lived in a studio apartment with a tiny kitchen. She whipped up amazing stuff in there. One of her tricks was to put cookie sheets on top of open drawers when she needed more counter space. So maybe a pullout bread board would do the trick when you temporarily need more counter space.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 11:35AM
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In a small kitchen you HAVE to have
- lots of long counter space.
- good lighting, and this only comes from having multiple sources.

Inside a 50 to 60 square foot space, a kitchen can be highly functional.

1. Two parallel counters
(not an L or U shape floorplan)
2. Drawers in frameless cabinets
3. Upswing foldup fronts on wall cabinets (framed or frameless),
or shelves,
or thin doors.
4. Lighting.
Many sources.
One of which is tube fluorescent (spreads light evenly, no glare from bright spots; and it's low heat so it's more comfortable)
5. Quiet Exhaust
when pulling 100 to 200 CFM (e.g. an inline fan)
so you can leave it on and enjoy the quiet too.

In a U or L floor plan you lose one corner of storage space, for all intents and purposes. It is hard to reach and hard to use. Simplifying the floor plan has several other advantages. One of them is the larger expanse of straight counter, easier to use. If there is now a blank wall, it can be used for shallow storage.

Frameless cabinets give more volume than framed. This is significant in a small kitchen. It is possible you will not need a tall pantry.

Ikea frameless cabinets with Ikea (Blum) drawers can be cut down to 20" (previously documented at so you gain a lot if you do this to both sides of the kitchen. A space only 7' by 7' can have a wide aisle. It can have about 30 sq.ft. of counter

The rationale behind #3. is to ensure there is no head+shoulders obstacle when you or a cooking partner open an upper cabinet.

It's similar to #2., well documented in many places. If anyone resists the idea of drawers (I have known many people who say they wouldn't like it), just let them see drawers in operation somewhere for more than ten minutes.

It is possible to have drawers under a cooktop. It is possible to have drawers under a sink: use a "tight elbow" to turn the sink drain to go horizontally (it is permitted for the first bend in a series to be a tight elbow; all toilet drains have this; all handicap ADA sinks have this.) It is possible to have fridge drawers. It is possible to have fridge drawers combined with a stand-up fridge/freezer 24"wide, that you put somewhere else; then it acts partially as your pantry too.

Combining the ideas explained above, a 7' by 7 space can have about 30 sq.ft. of counter in two runs, which each have a 4' length for prep, and which guests and visitors find to be huge.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 12:05PM
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david- great insight, thank you very much.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 12:36PM
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davidro1 +1! Good stuff!

What are your suggestion(s) re the dishwasher (non-human type)?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 1:32PM
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A 24" standard dishwasher can be fine.

With a smaller DW, you sometimes have to hold the largest pots until later, or wash them by hand. Not that big a deal. Not bad at all, given that you have to make compromises because the space is so small.

Believe it or not...
two 24" wide drawers are incredibly functional. You run either one, at different times.
one 24" wide drawer DW can do everything, for 98% of the time.
18" wide full-height DW can do everything, for 99% of the time.
There is one make that allows you to pull out the cutlery tray so you just slide it into a drawer after pulling out the spare tray, which goes into the DW. In a 36" drawer you can have two trays side by side, and one in the DW at all times. This makes three trays, and no other cutlery holder.

They are all quiet these days, except the lowest of the low.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 2:07PM
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you have to have..... a herd of camels to make your life fun :)

The new kitchen would not be nearly as fun if I didn't have those "camels" begging for food.

BTW, I wish they WERE camels cuz dang they sure go through some water in a day!!!! I'm really tired of refilling that water bowl.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 1:48AM
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If you have an IKEA near you, I would suggest running over there to look at their kitchen displays. They generally have a few pretty small kitchens (I remember a couple being very tiny) and they use every inch so well. You can really see a tiny space, not only looking nice, but being completely functional. Use the camera on your phone (if you have one) to take some shots of interesting ideas.

Unlike a photo, you can walk around the kitchen displays, open the drawers and drawers and get a feel for the space.

Just a thought.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 1:12PM
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