September 24, 2014

Your Tiny Kitchen Solutions with Sub-Zero & Wolf

by Karen Swanson of New England Design Works

You love to cook but your kitchen is tiny, so how do you make this work? Think of it like a puzzle – when the pieces that make up the whole are properly selected and placed in just the right spot, it works beautifully!

Every kitchen, whether large or small, has the same fundamental needs: storage for a variety of items, adequate countertop space for prepping, a sink and preferably one sizable enough to soak your largest pan while lying flat on the bottom, refrigeration, cooking appliances, and with proper planning even in the smallest space, a dishwasher.

Are you designing or remodeling a compact kitchen in a city condo? Would you like to update that tiny kitchen in your beach cottage or mountain cabin? If it seems daunting, take it one step at a time, assess your priorities, and know that there are ways to make this happen.

Range vs. Cooktop and Built-In Oven

A range typically requires 30” of space and provides an oven and four burners. But in reality, do we use four burners often enough to warrant eating up 30” of countertop space when space is at a premium? Selecting the Wolf 15” Gas or Induction Cooktop Module provides two burners and is most likely enough for many households (and gives you options for where you have only electricity or gas/propane). The extra counter space gained in a small kitchen can make all the difference between struggling with your space and really enjoying it.

So where does the oven go? When you choose a cooktop and oven instead of a range, you have options. A built-in oven can work itself into a floor plan in a variety of locations, typically in a tall cabinet or base cabinet. An oven in a tall cabinet is a wonderful thing from an ergonomic standpoint – no bending over while lifting a hot and heavy cooking vessel! The tall oven cabinet, which stretches from floor to celling, typically needs 30” of width, but can also satisfy an endless amount of storage needs. Think large drawers under the oven for pots and pans, pullouts under the oven for trash and recycling, or you can create specific storage for cooking oils, spices and food.

If a tall cabinet is not an option, you may choose to put the oven in a base cabinet. A typical oven requires 30” of space, but there are new alternatives available such as the Wolf Convection Steam Oven that only require 24” of width, and not as much height, allowing for storage below the oven: a bonus! Note: opting to forego a traditional oven in favor of a convection steam oven requires consideration – however discussing the pros and cons with your kitchen designer and a Clarke showroom consultant will bring to light if this option will work for your lifestyle. This oven option is truly amazing and many people are now opting to use it as a singular oven, replace a microwave with this model or add one in addition to a traditional oven in a larger kitchen.


What about refrigeration? The American refrigerator typically requires 36” of space. In a small kitchen, a refrigerator of this width is likely to cause a variety of major compromises. Depending on the unique needs of a particular space, you may look at Sub-Zero’s growing list of integrated refrigerator and freezer column sizes. They now offer widths of 24″, 27″ and 30″ all refrigerator or all freezer columns and are looking to introduce an 18″ wide all-freezer model in 2015. These unique sizes can be combined with freezer drawers that fit into a base cabinet or you can opt for their 30″ tall column that offers 10.6 cubic feet of refrigerator storage above 5.0 cubic freezer in two drawers. Built-in refrigeration is not inexpensive, however, in a small space selecting optimal refrigeration allows many other design considerations to exist. If at all possible, particularly in a small space, allocating budget dollars toward ideal refrigeration is money well spent.

In one small kitchen I designed, where the refrigeration requirements were minimal, I actually used the 30″ Sub-Zero Combination Refrigerator/Freezer Drawers under the oven. In the 30″ model, the 3.0-cubic-foot refrigerator includes a storage drawer with removable dividers, while the 2.0-cubic-foot freezer is equipped with an automatic icemaker and a “max ice” feature capable of increasing purified ice production by up to 30 percent for a 24-hour period. So while 30” of space is significant in a small kitchen, a lot can be done to make it worth the investment with creative planning (and we haven’t even touched on what can be done with the cabinetry space above the oven!)

If additional base cabinetry is needed, gain an extra 6” by opting for an 18” dishwasher rather than the typical 24” model. There are many available in a variety of price points.

With creative planning and proper appliance selection your tiny kitchen can be a wonderful space to cook and serve up features that make your cooking more successful and your life much easier! Saving a few inches here and a few inches there might be the difference between a tiny sink and one large enough to soak a roasting pan, flat on the bottom – in my opinion, a worthy goal!

About Karen Swanson

Karen is owner of New England Design Works. She is an award-winning kitchen and bath designer (finalist in Sub-Zero and Wolf’s International Kitchen Design Contest, as well as an NKBA Design Contest winner) working in homes and condominiums in the greater Boston area. She loves designing spaces of all sizes, but in particular loves the challenge of a tiny kitchen! She can be reached by email at: or by phone: 978-500-1096