The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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Small NYC Kitchen/Big Style


Here's a picture of my small New York City apartment kitchen, well, one side of it. The other side has the refrigerator and the range. Not being ready to redo the kitchen at this point, I wanted to make it appear larger (of course!) The floor was a busy terracotta lineoleum, so that was the first to go. In its place is another vinyl floor, as we did not want to do something major right now, but wanted something special. Here's what we used: Chilewich Plynyl in the wheat color, not as "green" a product as I had hoped, but they say they are close. It adds function and a big dose of light and calm.

Oddly, rather than using a light paint, which was what was in the kitchen, an ivory (ick), I thought I'd experiment with medium to dark shades of paint. The paint chosen is very close to the (granite grained) formica countertop, so there is a flow there. The upper ceiling section was painted this dark color too, with just the lower ceiling section being a near white. This way, there is a flow in the upper section.

We are keeping the cabinets right now. They are light, which is helpful to the space with a minimal design. Add lots of lights, colorful accents, and it looks larger than it is.

Lesson: Don't always think that you need only light paint to expand a space. If you have other elements of light, in this case, a light floor, lots of lights, and light cabinetry, then a darker background can tie it all in and look just as expansive, and more interesting.  Lights below the wall cabinets would be a great addition.

 Do you have a small kitchen? I'd love to hear about it.



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Reader Comments (23)

Just found your website thru your post on AT. Love your kitchen. What kind of lights on the ceiling are those? Each light seems mold-able. Cool.

February 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

Well, I gotta tell you, we got it from none other than Home Depot on the east side, at 3rd and 59th street. Prior to that, there was a big flourescent box fixture. I wanted some light to go in the upper section of the kitchen as well, to illuminate some of the objects and to expand the space a little, plus, it's sort of its own design element too.

Thanks for the compliment!

February 15, 2007 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I like your ideas and I am so glad a found this site. However I couldn't view the picture of your kitchen.:( I'm looking for ideas for my small kitchen. My kitchen is old and the paint on the cabinets is caky. The room is shaped like a medium to small rectangle. My main concern is that I dont have enought counter space and when I buy my appliances (stove and fridge) I will not be able to fit a kitchen cart in there. Any ideas? My microwave currently takes up one of the two bit of counterspace that I have.

August 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCyn

I would love to see any ideas you have for a long and narrow kitchen. My kitchen is 7x20! The traffic flows right through the kitchen to the back door. I can remove a partial wall to the dining room at one end that is 10 feet. My laundry room is at the other end by the back door.Help!

August 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJan

Hi Cyn...sorry for the long delay, vacation and frenzy getting ready in between! My general advice would be to just take care in the planning process. If you are doing a complete remodel, go to a professional and get numerous ways to view your space. You'd be surprised at all the design solutions and creative ways to expand your space that are available. Really, a professional is the way to go.

Hi Jan, wow, 7x20, that IS long and narrow, and it being a traffic area sa well. My own kitchen is long and narrow, but it's 11 feet wide, not 7, a big difference. It's impossible to say what to do without knowing your plan. Just take your time in the planning phase. If I come across long/narrow kitchens, I'll post them.

September 5, 2007 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Hi Susan,
Beautiful, relaxed kitchen! I am in the beginning stages of designing my own (!) NYC kitchen (with the help of a contractor). What material is your countertop? I'm looking for something other than granite (possibly quartz) and I like the smoothness of your counters. I also like the idea of paint color very close to the counter color. That solves ONE of my problems! Unfortunately, my budget does not allow for a professional designer. I'm thinking of doing one red bank of upper countertops with the rest of my galley kitchen a flat, modern cherry with stainless pulls. LOVE a stainless tile wall accent mixed in with a neutral tile backsplash! The red might be too much though. Am I rambling?

January 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Stephanie, thanks for your comment. As we speak, that wall behind the sink has been cut down to 6" above the sink, which opens up the apartment a LOT. Those upper cabinets are GONE! The kitchen will be remodeled in the coming months. The countertop is laminate. Ramble on, that's what we do...!:) Good luck with your remodel adventure.

January 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Susan, I would love to know if you ever found anything for long and narrow kitchens? My kitchen is 8ft wide and 20ft long and a traffic area. Thanks! amy

April 13, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteramy

Amy, I'm not sure what you mean about finding "anything" for long and narrow kithens? Please explain, thanks!

April 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Sorry. I am remodeling my kitchen. It is 8x20. Right now the plan is to have a bank of cabinets with countertops along the exterior wall and a row of 12 inch deep butler's pantry style cabinets on the interior wall. Do you think this will work or will it feel cramped. In essence, the kitchen also acts as a hallway from the living room to the dining room. Thanks. Amy

April 13, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteramy

Amy, still not seeing a floorplan makes me hesitate, I don't like to give opinions on what I am not fully, fully, aware of, but, if we do the math:

-2 1/2-sink
-2 1/2-range
=4' left for counter space spread, in theory, in three sections. See if you can get some counter space on the opposite wall. You could also put a cooktop on its side in countertop that is 18" deep on the opposite wall and put a separate oven under the deeper countertop. Lots of viable/alternative design options...this is just an idea.

But, in answer to your question, you should pay real attention to lighting. No, I do not think it will be cramped. Just pay attention to lighting, and your finishes...dark will close it in, obviously, light will expand.

April 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Thank God I found this site! I am remodeling a 8x16' walk-thru kitchen (like a camper) from backdoor to dining room. Cabinet footprint to remain same but now is my chance to pick colors and I am concerned that my love of dark woods will not compliment this small area. Plus am not sure how to mix wall paint color (not white, thank you) with counter colors and floor to maximize the feel of space. Any suggestions would be appreciated, I am open to suggestion. Thanks, Mother

April 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterM. Madrid

Hi Amy,

Seeing your kitchen gives me hope that someday ours can look that good! We are planning a remodel of a 1952 10x10 kitchen with 3(!) doorways. The single existing bank of cabinets is flanked on both sides by doors - and is only 21" deep. We've found a dishwasher that will fit, though it's very small (18" wide), but have had no luck with cabinets. Any ideas on how to adapt to this tiny kitchen?

April 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn

M Madrid, glad to have you here! For dark woods, go with what you love, but, perhaps have lighter colors on countertops, flooring, and/or walls, plus have GOOD lighting. In this way you CAN expand the space but still have your dark woods. Not a problem. As for wall colors, just put the time in and get multiple samples and put them on the wall or on sample cards, etc. Take your time here.

Carolyn, yikes 3 doorways! Without seeing the plan, it's impossible for me to give ideas, nothing for me to see. See if there is anywhere you can put in very shallow pantries on any other walls, 12" deep or less. That will give you lots of storage space, even behind, or on the sides of a table. Just take your time, the answers will come!

April 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Hello, Susan,

On a modest budget and with the help of an interior architect, I'm renovating a small (7 sq.meters), narrow kitchen that ends in a north-facing window that catches sun reflections from across the street. It's on the fifth floor of a French apartment, and it gives onto the foyer, although there'll be a sliding frosted glass door. Ikea is our best option, in terms of price/quality, and I think we"ll go with "Tidaholm," which is oak. Influenced by this site, I was leaning toward a pale floor, (foyer floor is old wood parquet), but the architect is steering me toward a very nice gray/brown sandstone. It's true that would contrast well with the lighter oak. Questions: Should the backsplash be just as dark as the floor and just as matte? What color would be good on the window wall? I'm looking for some way of taking advantage of the lovely light coming in through the window. Plus, although I started out wanting pure practicality (this kitchen will will be used and abused), now I'm getting into good looks. Final question: if I wanted just a little accent, say, a narrow band of tile as part of the backsplash, what might you recommend?

Thanks for any opinions you have time to provide.

July 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

Janet, without knowing more, I really cannot advise you. I'd have to see images and colors and textures, so I cannot offer advice on putting together a variety of materials, unfortunately. The answers are important, they last for decades, so I do not take that lightly and therefore, I can't provide quality advice, that's really the point.

July 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Hi - I was looking at your blog - I took love the lighting fixture you have - I'm thinking of putting one in my living room. That said, do you know if Home Depot on Eat 59th provides any design or installation services? I'm looking to put in new appliances, a granite or granite like counter and fix some cabinet surfaces that are in bad shape. I have a limited budget ( maybe $8000) so I don't think I can hire a designer and do all of this. My kitchen is about 20X7

thanks so much

October 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGinger

Hello Susan,
Thanks for this site. I have a 6.5 x 10 ft kitchen which opens to an open 4 x 5 sitting alcove. I don't want to use the alcove space because it would break up the flow to the rest of the house, so please just think of a 6.5 x 10 ft. kitchen with a window centered on the 6.5 wall. I want to keep my sink centered under the window (see diagram below)and just have an L kitchen arrangement, but it would be so much more space efficient and cheaper plumbing to put my sink in the corner. I don't like the look of corner sinks and feel they are suffocating, even though I would have the window to my right. Have you seen corner sinks work in such a tight corner with cabinets all around? Thanks!

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November 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commentervioletta valery

Did you use the wheat woodgrain plynyl?

November 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermxzm9

i absolutely adore your kitchen! i recently (yesterday) bought a loft with a veeeeery small kitchen that needs remodeling. being an architecture student myself i can say i have some knowledge on the what a kitchen should look like.
i did some research and i decided that i can't really afford paying someone to redo my kitchen tiles, plus i think wooden laminate flooring would look nice. the problem is, what finishing should i use for the walls? i like how the walls look in your kitchen and i was wondering what material you used.
also i wanted your opinion on how a laminated floor would look in a small kitchen, considering the fact that i want to change the hallway ceramic tiles with laminated floors too.
thank you,

July 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

Diana, thank you! The walls are just paint. I picked a shade that would relate to the countertops and sort of flow. It was a great color, I liked it.

As far as the floor goes, I'd probably want to see what else is going on in the surrounding space, but the general answer is that wood laminate flooring is fine. I assume you will remove the tiles. Again, if wood is connected to the laminate flooring, that could be an issue for me to be careful of.

July 5, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I have a semi long, narrow kitchen, with the main wall connecting with the living room wall as one wall, which I did separate with a strip of moulding. But, I am stumped on what color to paint the kitchen that it connecting with the other room because of the open concept. My counter top is an off white with a very light beigh,tan pattern in it, *an older style conter top). The flooring is fairly newly done tiel. With med beigh tan color in it. the cupboard door handles are a dark brass, does anyone have any ideas on how I can paint my kitchen with the connecting wall to my living room, it's an apartment I'm in, I just want to spruce it up, make it cozy & warm, & inviting. I'm not into dark colors, something that would make a small room look a little bigger, please help.

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLoretta

Hi Susan, We recently purchased the 1 bedroom apartment next to our 1 bedroom apartment in NYC. We now have 2 bedrooms and 2 baths, and planning to add a bedroom and a bath w/shower. We had to removed one of the kitchens, and are planning on expanding the remaining kitchen (which I renovated 5 years ago when before my husband and two children arrived). I'm being told my kitchen can't be more then 80 square feet since it's interior. A bigger Kitchen would require exterior ventilation, therefore needs to have a window? My building is a co-op so any plans we do then need to be approved by the buildings architect who has already charged us an arm and a leg reviewing the plans for taking down the wall between apts and removing the other kitchen. Thanks. Kathy

January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

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