Q&A with Libby Langdon
Liebherr CS 1360
NYS: As most New Yorkers are fully aware, kitchens are usually small in size. What are some tips on maximizing space in a smaller galley kitchen?
LL: In a small kitchen, think vertically! Having your cabinets go all the way to the ceiling visually draws the eye up, making the ceiling seem higher and your kitchen feel larger, as well as providing much-needed storage space. If you have existing cabinets and a ceiling gap between, you can buy standard 12" high, unfinished cabinets at a home improvement store and stain or paint them to match your existing cabinets to gain storage and style inexpensively.
NYS: What kitchen appliances should homeowners be most concerned with when purchasing?
LL: One of the most important appliances in any kitchen is the refrigerator. It’s the only appliance in your home that you never turn off—and just think of how many times you open your fridge in one day! That’s the appliance I encourage new homeowners to spend a little more on and save with clever design tricks in other areas. You may think you’re saving money keeping an older model, but it will date your design and mean higher electricity bills. For a small kitchen, I love the Liebherr CS 1360. It’s only 24" wide, but really tall so there’s tons of storage inside and it’s super energy efficient. Plus, it’s pretty!
NYS: When decorating, is it better to add color or stay natural in a small kitchen?
LL: In small kitchens, since it’s mostly cabinets and minimal wall space, I say use a delicious color that will add depth and dimension (there are tons of terrific, tried and true paint colors in my book, Libby Langdon’s Small Space Solutions). The only guideline I suggest is choosing a shade that will create contrast with your cabinets. For example, if you have white cabinets, go with a deeper wall color; if you have dark cabinets, go with a light to medium color. Paint can definitely perk up a small kitchen!
NYS: Storage is always an issue when it comes to small kitchens. How are some ways to add storage when there is a lack of cabinet space?
LL: Pots and pans are the space hogs of kitchens, so I always recommend a pot rack; it frees up so much space! If you have low ceilings and can’t hang an overhead rack, simply mount a piece of board on a wall (home improvement stores often have inexpensive, pre-cut pieces), screw in some cup hooks and hang pots and pans from that. Another neat, space-saving trick is to mount a simple, wire baking rack (yep, the one you cool cookies on) and use S hooks to hang utensils.
NYS: For kitchens that lack windows, how can lighting be used to increase the look of the kitchen’s size?
LL: Lighting is so important in a kitchen—not just for working, but also to visually make the space seem larger. If there’s a dark area in your kitchen, it’s as if that square footage isn’t there. Think in terms of layers of light to create dimension—track lighting on the ceiling, under cabinet lighting, or even lighting inside a cabinet if you have glass doors. A small table lamp on a bar, island or counter adds cozy ambiance and is a perfect alternative or renters who don’t want to invest in special lighting or electrician fees; there are countless cool, little lamps out there to fit all budgets! Reflective surfaces are also super where windows lack because they bounce light and create the illusion of more space. In one kitchen, I added mirrored medicine cabinets to a bare wall, which were the perfect depth for glassware and spice jars. Also consider stainless steel appliances and mirrored or glass mosaic backsplashes.
NYS: The kitchen floor is often the first thing we look at when entering a kitchen. What floor materials are best for opening up a small kitchen?
LL: The best small kitchen floor materials are light colored 24" x 24"-square tiles laid on the diagonal. When they are on the diagonal, they make the space look much more expansive and the good news is, you can splurge on flooring in a small kitchen because you won’t need to buy as much!
NYS: What are some ways to incorporate multi-purpose seating into a small kitchen?
LL: I love using banquettes or a small settee in a kitchen because they can be pushed up against the wall and allow you to utilize a corner area that would otherwise be wasted. Small benches are also a great way to break up the look of your seating, rather than just having all chairs. There are some great benches with storage inside so they do double-duty in your space! Plus, you can pull them out to the living area for additional seating or low table space when you’re entertaining.