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A Tiny Kitchen Made for Cooking: Everything You Need in 26 Square Feet

Tiny White Kitchen by Denise Lee

If you dream of a sprawling kitchen but are stuck with small dimensions, take notes from a recent kitchen remodel by Brooklyn architect Denise Lee. Here, she demonstrates that a smart design and willingness to pare down is the recipe for a fully functional kitchen made for cooking.

In a Manhattan studio apartment, Lee had 26 square feet to work with and a client “who leads a meticulously minimal lifestyle.” A young professional with a serious case of wanderlust, he had moved more than 30 times in his life, including stints living in Japan (where he gleaned his healthy organizational habits) and on a sailboat (where’s there’s no room for anything extraneous) before finally settling down in a NYC apartment. There, he found the kitchen to be so dysfunctional—it had both zero storage space and unnecessary appliances—that “he had to store his utensils and pantry foods in his closet with his clothes,” said Lee. The kitchen was also dark and unappealing; her client dreamed of a new space that would be “aesthetically calming: something that felt bright and clean, and was also actually easy to clean.”

Let’s take a look at Lee’s solution.

Photography by and courtesy of Denise Lee.

Tiny White Kitchen by Denise Lee
Above: The final results, complete with custom white cabinets and near-invisible appliances.

The cabinetry is fully custom, in order to maximize every usable inch. “And because it is so small,” said Lee, “the cost wasn’t exorbitant, but the payoff was huge.”

Above the stainless steel sink is a custom, oiled teak dish rack: “The dishes dry and live in the same spot, so the counter is never cluttered with a drying rack,” said Lee. The backsplash tile is from Heath Ceramics.
Above: Above the stainless steel sink is a custom, oiled teak dish rack: “The dishes dry and live in the same spot, so the counter is never cluttered with a drying rack,” said Lee. The backsplash tile is from Heath Ceramics.

The countertops are white, half-inch-thick Corian. (“We decided to go thin to add an element of lightness in contrast to the thicker wood above.”)

A shallow, flip-out sponge tray lives in front of the sink. “We literally used every square inch of space available,” said Lee.
Above: A shallow, flip-out sponge tray lives in front of the sink. “We literally used every square inch of space available,” said Lee.

Said the architect of her client, “He’s vigilant about editing his possessions and thinking critically about how he lives, which made it fun to work out the details of his kitchen.”

The cabinet toe kicks are drawers for storing shallow items like pans, cutting boards, and baking racks.
Above: The cabinet toe kicks are drawers for storing shallow items like pans, cutting boards, and baking racks.
The cabinet fronts are flat MDF panels with a sprayed, white lacquer finish. The toe kick drawers have stainless steel edge pulls (“because they are basically invisible”), and the cabinets have recessed bevels that serve as pulls.
Above: The cabinet fronts are flat MDF panels with a sprayed, white lacquer finish. The toe kick drawers have stainless steel edge pulls (“because they are basically invisible”), and the cabinets have recessed bevels that serve as pulls.
In the center of the kitchen is a 27-inch refrigerator drawer unit from Sub-Zero, with matching cabinet fronts.
Above: In the center of the kitchen is a 27-inch refrigerator drawer unit from Sub-Zero, with matching cabinet fronts.
Lee chose a Miele two-burner cooktop to maximize counter space.
Above: Lee chose a Miele two-burner cooktop to maximize counter space.
A small Miele speed oven—a combination microwave and convection oven—leaves room for drawers both above and below.
Above: A small Miele speed oven—a combination microwave and convection oven—leaves room for drawers both above and below.

For more kitchens with clever storage solutions, see:

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