Small Living

Clever Kitchens

The heart of any house is the kitchen. In a small footprint dwelling, designers must find the perfect balance between a functional, useful kitchen, without intruding on the rest of the living space.

While some designers prefer their kitchen designs to blend in (and even disappear), Others push them forward as feature. Whether it’s a smack of colour, a clever hidden storage solution, dual use of a single space, or a left field concept that’s paid off, all the kitchens we love share a boldness in their vision.

While we wouldn’t recommend trying to prepare a 12 course degustation for a large dinner party in any of these, we do think the following kitchens are among the cleverest we’ve seen.

Boneca, Sydney

It wouldn’t be clever kitchen week without including one of our all time fan favourites, the ‘now you see it now you don’t’ Boneca kitchen.

Boneca, which means ‘dolls house’ in Portuguese, is the brainchild of architect Brad Swartz. And just like a dollhouse, for the child in us there is plenty of fun to be had with the large feature sliding divider.

Once we moved past our initial delight and stopped gleefully sliding the divider back and forth, we realised just how seriously clever this design and vision is. 

Brad has reconfigured the floor plan significantly to reduce a kitchen footprint that initially took up a quarter of the floor plan to a third of the size while completely opening up the space to allow light and air to circulate.

A reduction of this size should come at the cost of appliances, yet a fridge, an oven, an appliance cupboard, a dish washer and even a full height pantry are cleverly concealed in the space! 

The concrete bench top and splash back provide a gentle contrast to the stark white cabinets and a hardy, forgiving surface for even the messiest chefs. 

It seems a shame to hide away such a cleverly designed kitchen, yet that was Brad’s intention with the creation of the sliding screen so as to ‘determine the function of the apartment at any one time’. Even as the bedroom is hidden away during the day, the light from the edge-to-edge windows still floods through the slats and fills the kitchen and dining area with light. 

‘determine the function of the apartment at any one time’

Our audience fell in love with this apartment, and there’s so much to this clever design than just the kitchen. If you haven’t watched the episode we recommend a watch on the link below. 

Images by Katherine Lu

Ep09 — 5S

Any 24 metre square space that has two kitchen wings deserves a spot in our clever kitchens profile.

There’s so much to love about 5S, a Japanese minimalist methodology that stands for;  

Set in order

We love the thought that has gone into the design of this kitchen. The planning from architect Nicholas Gurney is evident in the fine details and planning as every inch of available space is used to its full potential. 

One of our favourite features of this apartment is the beautifully lit wet kitchen. With the nook providing only enough space for a sink, a hot water unit, and some storage, the drying area sits concealed above the area in a hidden cabinet with mesh underneath to allow for drying dishes to drip into the sink below. 

Photo: Terence Chin.

In the dry kitchen wing the stainless splash back and heavy floating wooden bench provide a utilitarian work space with plenty of room for meal prep. A slim, full height fridge continues the stainless steel theme and sits snugly next to the bench. 

Underneath the wooden bench is where this clever kitchen really comes into its own. As if by magic, the dining room table, perfectly measured, slides effortlessly out and over the oven and underneath storage and glides across the living room floor on wheels.

We were impressed with the imagination evident in the design of this kitchen. Where often the first move is to be reductive, it takes a level of creativity to visualise not one, but two kitchen spaces when planning for a space this size. Providing each kitchen with a different identity and purpose, coupled with millimetre perfect execution is a key reason we fell in love with this space.

Watch Episode 09 — 5S

Ep10 — Type 10 Apartment

“Designing a small space is a very tailored way of designing, so everything needs to be carefully considered, you’ve got to know your lifestyle and what’s important to you”

Architect ‘Jack Chen’s’ words ring through in every decision he made when designing the Type Street Apartment for himself, evident in every decision, but no where more than the kitchen. 

Understanding how you will use a space, live in it, and be comfortable are critical factors in making the right trade offs. Every design decision in a tiny home has an impact. A good architect takes the time to understand the inhabitants aspirations, but also the ’users reality’ in finding the right balance. 

We love Type Street because it demonstrates this philosophy. The inhabitant likes entertaining and having the space to do it, but is realistic in knowing it’s not something that will happen every day and the sliding, pivoting dining function is designed to sit 6 people in comfort, yet disappears from view for the majority of the time. 

Light floods into the kitchen from the bathroom, separated by a piece of glass that becomes opaque at the touch of a button.

Photo: Tess Kelly.

The kitchen is not just striking, but highly functional. The three metre long bench space is unheard of in a 35 square metre apartment and with concealed appliances and storage, the striking black splash back with soft yellow ambient down lights becomes a piece of art against the silhouettes of the hanging black implements. 

Photo: Tess Kelly.

Watch Episode 10 — Type Street Apartment

Ep32 — Loft Buikslotherham

It’s not often that we see a kitchen island in an apartment that’s less than 50 square metres, and this is one of the reasons we love this Amsterdam apartment.

With a ceiling height of 3.2 metres, the Architects at Heren 5 and Paul Timmer had the luxury of utilising all three dimensions. In an apartment that would normally need several squares for a bedroom, the open plan bedroom sits above the structure that house the laundry, bathroom, storage and part of the kitchen.

Photo: Leonard Faustle.

This clever kitchen houses a stove top (including extractor fan and lighting), oven, a fridge and of course the island, demonstrating how smart design, planning, and utilisation of space in the rest of the apartment can lead to luxuries that are often excluded in small format homes.

We choose the plywood for its colour and texture, it’s light, durable and gives a good warm feeling

The plywood finish creates an airy, light feel to the apartment, while the custom joinery and diamond edge finishes create a deliberate ‘furniture’ like feel to the structure. Bespoke handles hint at the multitude of storage concealed behind the ply, housing the pantry and a multitude of cupboards and drawers.

Watch Episode 32 — Small Apartment Loft Buikslotherham

Ep03 — Cairo Studio

The casual observer might be forgiven for thinking the architect had deliberately omitted a kitchen upon their first visit to this micro apartment in Fitzroy’s famous Cairo Flats.

We were blown away the first time we saw the minimal white walls of this micro apartment start to slide open to reveal the bright yellow painted barn style interior and kitchen.

Photo: Tom Ross.

This stunning design by Architect Nicholas Agius is the epitome of a place for everything and everything in its place.

A place for everything, and everything in its place

Agius deliberately chose materials designed to age gracefully through use and time. The structure that runs through the kitchen, the wood and painted metals will patina and give the structure a weathered look, providing additional context to the farm like shapes.

Photo: Tom Ross.

Never Too Small’s highlight is the multi-functional door that divides the living and bedroom areas. On the bedroom side is a bookshelf, while on the kitchen side, the same sliding door reveals the pantry. Evolving items with single purpose into ones that have two, or even three roles is what we love most about the designs we feature. This kitchen is the embodiment of functional clever kitchen design.

Watch Episode 03 — Micro apartment design Cairo Studio