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Designing new kitchen with 12x12 space. Need suggestions.

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What do you have to have in your kitchen? What are your best neat things you did? What mistakes should I look to avoid? We want wood countertops in all areas except the sink area. What are the must haves?

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  1. You might want to consider mixing other counter matials with the wood; as wood is very maintenance intensive. Wood looks nice just after installation, but a year down the road, it looks stained and unsavory. I agree wood is nice, but you could also have one section of counter in corian, engineered stone, or stainless steel.

    I assume you must have a galley type layout or u-shape galley. I would suggest you use the "triangle" design method for positioning your three key pieces of equipment, namely the fridge, sink and cooking unit. This will allow you to take one step in any direction to access your sink, cooking and fridge. And make sure you have a counter landing area next to these three zones.

    The main must haves are sink, disposer, dish machine, cook-top and oven.

    Also, with a small kitchen, be sure to use the vertical space well. For instance have your microwave mounted above the counter top or above you cook-top. Use a hanging pot rack.

    Good Luck

    1. I also have a very small kitchen, in fact I believe that the builder circa 1958 forgot about putting in a kitchen until the very end. My suggestions would exclude a garbage disposal ( I haven't had one in over 30 years)plus they are really not necessary nor good for the plumbing. I have also been without a dishwasher for the same amount of time. Now that would be nice to have. I would place the micrwave oven over the cooktop/stove or under the cabinets. Drawers for all of the bottom cabinets would be great to have also depending on what kind of space you have, for more counter space you could have pull out boards or if able to at the end of a counter, arrange for a board to flip up to provide more counter. Kind of like they have in some bars.

      1. I'll share three lists: 1. Things I'm Glad I Did, 2. Things I Wish I'd Done and 3. General Suggestions.

        1. Two sinks, one large enough to hold sheet pans flat and my really huge stockpot. On both sinks, easy-to-clean faucets with arched necks and pull-out hoses.
        General lighting, task lighting and mood lighting.
        Music and a great view from the sink.
        Lowered the cooktop 3" from the standard 36" height because I'm not a 6' tall man. I can see into tall pots on back burners and have an easy time hefting heavy LC and copper cookware.
        The largest refrigerator I could find, a large separate freeze and small under-the-counter fridge for drinks
        Left enough room at the dishwasher that I can walk around it with the door open.
        Used full back splashes, undercabinet lighting and the shelf above the cooktop is a godsend. Great hood fan w/ heat lamps and adjustable lighting.
        Lovelovelove the potfill and made certain its placement would serve as many burners as possible. (Ignore the hot/cold option - if you need hot water, you're already at the stove - heat it.)
        Griddle gets daily use as does the (large) warming drawer.
        Double ovens situated at my height.
        Storage for what I really use daily - trays, sheet pans, etc. Special Occasion items are stored elsewhere.
        Large Vertical Pantry is a must - nothing ever gets lost. The cabinetmaker made a small vertical pantry, under the cooktop, for spice storage.
        Planned a 10' long peninsula and had drawers made to store dishes. Did not want upper cabinets there.
        Design the room in colors that you love. Do not be swayed by what is trendy - this is YOUR room.
        Used some oddball leftover space for a 4" deep pantry wall - great for seeing exactly what is there.

        2. Knife slots in the counter. Ditto for an "egg slot" in the granite by the cooktop. Both were ordered and I wimped out when they were not done and agreed to the installation "as is".
        Planned more flat linen storage.
        Would not do a kitchen desk area again - I have a cookbook library adjacent to the kitchen and the desk area is redundant.
        Wish that I'd raised the hood height a couple of inches for tall cooks who use this kitchen (remember the lowered cooktop). The loss of "sucking power" would be offset by fewer complaints from tall friends who whack their heads.

        3. Leave room at the sides of the cooktop for food, utensils, etc.
        Have a heatproof counter available near the oven(s) to put hot, heavy items directly from the oven.
        "Go See" as many kitchens as you possibly can and learn to edit out the color, design etc if it doesn't suit you and take in the good ideas.
        Be receptive to new ideas but do not automatically assume that "newer is better". In addition to the popular work-triangle school of kitchen design, there is also the hot-cold, wet-dry theory.
        Within reason, you cannot have too many electrical outlets.
        Plan at least one counter area with an overhand to attach a pasta machine or meat grinder or the like. It's also a nice place to have a pull-up stool for chatting visitors that keeps uncooks from being underfoot.
        I had butcher block countertops in a previous kitchen and loved them. For cleaning, I used a chlorine bleach-water mixture applied with a sponge and scraped them with a dough scraper. The gunk was unbelievable! They looked terrific after the four years I lived in that house but proved not to be practical for this house in the desert.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sherri

          Excellent post, Sherri.

          My advice: Two sinks, if you have the space. Both undermounted. That is the number one thing I advise, and by far the biggest improvement over my old kitchen. UNDERMOUNT ROCKS!

          My small island is strictly for prep. The island is butcher block, and the small sink is undermounted in the butcher block. I have had it 9 years now, and the water has been no problem at all. Remnants from chopping food get scraped directly into the sink and disposed of. No rim to clean around. It is true that wood stains easily, however. I'm glad my whole kitchen does not have wood counters.

          Both sinks should have disposals. I am STUNNED by the number of people who don't like their disposals. I would retire from cooking without one. I have clogged it maybe twice in 9 years, and I tend to be accident prone. My plumber said a disposal was good for the septic tank.

          The rest of the surfaces are granite. It's great to take a hot pot off the stove or out of the oven and plop it down.

          Light the place like an operating room. I have two big flourescent "clouds" on either side of the hanging pot rack so it doesn't cast a shadow, 5 recessed spots, and undercounter lights.

          Self cleaning electric wall-mounted double ovens have been great for me.

          Things I did wrong: no space for cookbooks. cabinets do not go all the way to the ceiling. electric cooktop. cheap (loud) dishwasher.

        2. You do not need a disposal.

          I don't like the microwave over the stove idea. My SIL has one and I'm constantly worried when I take out things like soup or stew. Anything that can tip a bit and spill/burn. I do like it tucked under the counter top.
          I would have at least one granite (some sort of stone) counter top for hot and for making pie dough and the like.
          If you like wood, maybe you could have a built in butcher block.
          Garbage and possibly recycle outta the way.
          As much counter and cabinet space as possible. One cabinet that I would like to see deeper than the rest is the one over the fridge. I had those cupboards because you end up putting things on top of the fridge rendering those cupboards useless. You may as well store your sleeping bags and summer/winter clothes in it as much as you open them.

          Just some ramblings


          2 Replies
          1. re: Davwud

            We dohave a large piece of historical marble that we will workinto the design. Where would you put it?

            1. re: nosey

              I'm not sure but Ambler said in her 12x12 the got an island. If possible, that's where you put it.


          2. I recently renovated my very small kitchen. Here are my suggestions for space utilization:
            - I canot tell from your post what the shap of your kitchen is but our kitchen was 12*12 square and we got a center island. At first I did not think it would be possible because of the small size of the kitchen, but it was the best decision I ever made. We have the sink and dishwasher in the center island aong with some extra cabinet and counter space. I love it!
            - Get the extra tall cabinets, and make sure the cabinets go al the way up to the ceiling. We used to have soffits above our cabinets and it wassuch awaste of space. Just adding the height to the cabinets really increased our storage space.
            - Add a cabinet above your refridgerator. That is usually a "wasted" space and can be a great way to add extra storage.

            Good luck!

            1 Reply
            1. re: AmblerGirl

              If your cabinets don't go all the way to the ceiling, you have a great place for grease and dust to settle. It can get really messy.


            2. I agree on the vertical pantry idea - my favorite pantry looks like a freestanding closet, with room for tall things at the bottom (soda cases, water cartons, dog food etc.) - easier to get into than a series of cupboard doors.

              I think making use of all the vertical space well is key. I would go so far as to make sure a sturdy open area or such was installed at shin height as something to step onto in order to reach high shelves. Also, I'm a huge fan of those cabinets you pull out to access things, and in the corners those are round lazy susans. Also there are simple roll-out shelves that can be installed behind regular cabinet doors.

              If you can avoid a lot of dust-collecting nooks and crannies, all the better. I have an older kitchen so notes from that experience include that good (not necessarily bright all over) lighting is a must, and that nooks and crannies in a stovetop design are a huge pain to clean. I would look for a countertop that's completely nonburnable, nonstainable, nothing with grout - think of easy cleaning.

              1. We have sub zero refrigerator draws that are terrific. You can get them with two refrigertor draws or one and one freezer draw. Also I understand that Fisher and Piekel (sp?) has a dishwasher draw. I cannot believe people say dishwasher is not necc. At least get a dishwasher draw. WE have corian in our kitchen at home and technistone (manafactured quartz counter) in our summer house. I love both. Wood will look terrible after you use it. Good luck!

                1. Good ideas: An underhung sink. Plenty of under-cabinet lights and outlets.

                  Agree with Davwud: We had so many problems with the disposal getting clogged that we finally disconnected it. Also, the microwave above the stove is not a good idea unless you're fairly tall. My mother has one, and I can never really see what's in it. . .

                  1. My kitchen is about that size - 11x14 - and has the too-frequent problem of being a passageway, with three doors around the periphery that cannot be re-routed. I now have the sink and dishwasher at the north end (11'), where the windows are, and a door to the left of that, the one through which the groceries arrive. Around on the west side (14') is a counter with the gas cooktop, undercounter drawers and overhead cabinets, and then a double electric wall oven. Turn to the south and there's the door into the dining room, and the fridge to the left of that. Turn to the east and there's the door into the utility/laundry room (and then to the back door), then another long counter with drawers below and cabinets overhead. I have an old enamel-topped kitchen table sitting in the middle of all this.

                    I intend to resolve it like this: the sink will stay where it is. The cooktop will move into the counter to the right, and the wall ovens will migrate into the space where the fridge is, so that they will face open counter space across an opening instead of facing away from it. This will concentrate all the cooking and cleaning on the east side of the kitchen, away from the main traffic route. On the west side the fridge will have traded space with the ovens, and the rest will be combined pantry and tableware storage, plus "casual cooking" items such as the toaster oven, microwave and coffeemaker. I think the mixer, blender and processor will go there, too. And in place of the table in the middle will be a proper island, with pot and pan storage below and hanging overhead, maybe a small prep sink with built-in cutting board, and a built-in knife slot.

                    BTW, I both agree and disagree about wood. I built an ash countertop for my last kitchen, with just an oiled surface, and had no problem keeping it in good shape - but I also used hot pads for pans just off the stove, and cutting boards ALWAYS, none of which I consider to be any kind of hardship. However, IF i can afford it when the time comes I'm going for bamboo for work surfaces.

                    1. One kitchen I saw, and this would be excellent if you go for a double oven, is to put the oven in one corner on a diagonal and the fridge in the other. It looks really nice and takes care of that odd cupboard you get.

                      What shape is your kitchen and were are the access points??


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Davwud

                        Another way to take care of that odd corner cupboard is to install a two-level wire rack lazy-susan type of thing. We did that and it holds a lot of stuff which is all quickly accessible.

                      2. If you're really cramped for space, I would lose not only the disposal but the dishwasher and the microwave. I gave up my microwave a decade ago and can't even remember what it was for. The dishwasher saves some space if you can then go without a permanent dish drainer, but you lose so much cabinet space it's not worth it.

                        Hang stuff from the ceiling. Get a magnetic bar for your knives. Build in more than one REALLY STURDY pull-out chopping board -- if it's not rock-solid you'll pry up your countertop when you try to use it. But even if you never chop on it you'll appreciate the space at times.

                        Think about a small fridge with the vertical pantry and storage above as well. If you're really limited you'll need to put appliances (stand mixer, blender, etc.) away instead of leaving them out all the time. Oh, and put in three times as many electrical outlets as you think you'll need!

                        1. I've had a kitchen designer suggest I move the sink to the corner to free up more counterspace. We didn't do it but know people who have who've loved it, with small kitchens. If you don't have room for a double oven, GE profile has a regular size oven that has two ovens, one bigger, one smaller, like Maytag has had (and wasn't as nice). I bought mine before they came out with it but I wish I had it. And, I wish I had gotten the convection oven instead of the regular one.

                          1. I did not put in two full sized ovens and I am so sorry. I have been payng for it for a long time. There are only 2 of us but we find ourselves competing for oven space. It is realy a pain at times, especially when we are having guests and big meals. It takes some very special planning to make it all come out right. I could live without a garbage disposal, I use mine very little because of plumbing issues but I could not do without a dishwasher, ever. If i could have two it would be heaven. There were 24 people here for dinner last night and if I had 2 dish washers we would have been in bed a lot earlier.

                            1. My kitchen is about the same size as yours. I'd love larger, but I've layed it out to work perfectly for me. I do have a very large walk in pantry (love it and have had a walk-in in my last 2 homes). I couldn't live without my dishwasher no matter how much space it takes up! Do have a disposal, which I like as well, but can see how that is not essential. My range has 2 ovens, one gas, one electric and I find that very handy. I loved the comment about seeing as many kitchen designs as possibe. Also, use the colors and textures you love, don't worry about whats in style. This is your room. My refrig isn't in my work area, but I have a loading cab. where it is and it works great for me. Think outside the box and do what works for you. You've gotten some really great suggestions on this thread so far, I hope they help you.

                              1. Make a list of the things you do most in the kitchen; that will help you determine what sort of set-up you'll need.

                                What I did right: two sinks in separate parts of the kitchen. Two separate ranges, one electric and one gas. No hanging cabinets; I'm short and I got tired of grabbing a stepstool or climbing onto the counter every time I wanted something on an upper cabinet shelf. Roll-out trays in the cabinets are wonderful. Lots of lights and lots of windows.

                                Having recently learned how to use a plumber's snake after a little fiasco with my garbage disposal I don't use mine all that often these days, but sometimes when there's something really toxic in the fridge it's mighty handy to have one, rather than throw stuff in the trash.

                                What I would do differently is store non-vital, rarely used stuff in the cabinet below the area where we do 85% of our food prep. We currently have all our saucepans in that cabinet and constantly have to step back, open the doors, roll out the drawers in order to get a pot or a lid.

                                I would caution you not to do a right-angle corner sink. My mother had one for years and it drove me crazy. The sinks were rather small and moving large things from one side to the other to wash and rinse often meant lifting the dripping roaster (or whatever I was trying to clean) completely away from the sink on one side to set it into the other sink. And the area behind the sink is quite a crap-collector.

                                You should have room for a narrow kitchen island and if you have one built, do it off-center so that you won't have to circle it to reach something else for every task. And have it made as narrow as you can, yet still of workable size. Too often islands are so wide and the space between them and the other counters is corresponding narrow and it makes it difficult for two people to maneuver. On a similar thread a few months back, someone mentioned having pot hooks under her island so that saute pans were always easily accessed. I thought that was simple and brilliant.

                                1. Just a couple comments - my parents designed their new kitchen and a couple things they forgot to add in the plans were - adequate space for rubbish. They now have a trash can out and tucked in the corner. They would have preferred to have an under counter cabinet dedicated as trash container.
                                  Also, my mom would love to have an upright water cooler, but does not have the space for one and has had to make due with facet filters, etc.

                                  1. Our kitchen is small (about 8 X 10) and has lots of problems, but there are two things that are nice:

                                    - A large, pull-out cutting/working board under one of the counters. This thing is a life-saver, and is almost always pulled out for the extra counter space. And note the great tip above to store rarely-used stuff below the pull-out (our silverware drawer is underneath our board - sigh!).

                                    - Floor-to-ceiling pantry shelves halfway down the basement stairs. We had enough space for wall-mounted shelves, but I've seen other people rip out the wallboard and put "imbedded" shelves between the studs. Even a small amount of pantry space is a huge win.

                                    My recycling bins are outside, just beyond the kitchen door. Moving this stuff out of my tiny kitchen was a great idea. But I keep the empty tuna and other food cans indoors, or I would have raccoons on my porch.

                                    Now, if I only had room for a dishwasher! The posters who talk about two sinks, double stoves, and islands really make me drool. But I love my tiny house - really, I do!


                                    1. One thing to think about: if you don't have room for two separate sinks, install the biggest single sink you can. A utility sink would probably be too deep to use comfortably on a regular basis, but it would certainly make things easier than fiddling around with shallow side-by-side sinks.