When we first bought our 100+ year old house, the awkward, small galley kitchen at the back of the first floor didn’t bother me. After all, I figured it would be no time at all before I’d be knocking down walls, scoring professional-grade appliances for a steal on Craigslist and DIY-ing my way to a high-end kitchen on a modest budget.
Unfortunately, the reality of owning an old home caught up with us pretty quickly. The money I’d assumed we’d spend on prettying up the place was funneled into various un-sexy projects like replacing a washed-out retaining wall, putting on a new garage door, and fixing the furnace, leaving our reno budget not just “modest,” but “miniscule.” We ripped down some upper cabinets, put up open shelving, painted the walls and swapped out the cabinet hardware…and then stopped.
That was eighteen months ago. Now we’re planning a kitchen makeover, but on a much (much) less grand scale than I’d once envisioned. But I’ve come to love a lot of things about our imperfect little kitchen and no longer feel as wistful when I see those $100,000 magazine remodels. In the spirit of appreciating what I have and what I’m able to do (instead of dreaming about what I’m not), I thought I’d share the five things I have learned to love about a small kitchen:
1) It’s forced me to simplify.
When we moved into this house, we brought boxes full of kitchen supplies that had been in storage for years. But as I unpacked the boxes, I realized that a) I’d forgotten ever having owned most of the stuff in them, b) I had never missed any of it and c) there was really no room for 85% of the various plastic containers, odd utensils and space-hogging gadgets. The small kitchen also forced me to take stock of my cookware-hoarding tendency: with a four-burner stove, would I EVER need six saucepans at once?
We weeded it down to the bare necessities plus a handful of fun luxuries, and I can honestly say I’ve never once lamented “Why, oh why did I give up that third set of nesting bowls?” Instead I enjoy being able to see exactly what I’ve got at a glance. And I like that having a small kitchen makes me stop and think before I bring any new kitchen “stuff” home.
2) It seems more authentic to the period of the house.
I think open-concept kitchens are awesome, but there’s something kind of cozy to me about the idea of an old-fashioned working kitchen. We’ll probably compromise by widening the opening between the dining room and kitchen (pictured below) so that there’s a more open feel, while keeping both rooms distinct. It’ll be cheaper and help us retain the vintage flavor. Also, that bizarre linen closet can turn into a built-in pantry.
3) Working with our kitchen in its current footprint will save us big bucks.
Knocking down the wall between our kitchen and dining room sounds pretty easy, but then we’d have a fairly huge space to work with. And when you have big space, you incur big costs. Flooring, cabinetry, counters…having less space to fill with it all means we can choose slightly nicer materials without having to pay the costs of a truly “high-end” kitchen. For example, I’m leaning toward eco-friendly, retro-looking and DIY-friendly Marmoleum Click flooring (pictured below), which at $6/square foot is very doable in a small kitchen like ours.
4) A small kitchen is more manageable for a timid DIY-er like me.
From ripping up flooring to installing new counters, the fact that we’ll be working in a modest space makes me feel much more confident about doing some of the work ourselves – not only will it cost less, but I think I’ll take more pride in the finished product.
5) Everything is right at my fingertips.
Whether I’m washing veggies at the sink or stirring a pot on the stove, I’m never more than a few steps from any other area in the kitchen. And when I pop my toddler up on the counter to watch me, she’s always within arms’ reach.
And that’s maybe the best reason of all.
Are you learning to love a small kitchen? Tell me what you appreciate about yours!