Design our kitchen!
January 11, 2019 11:50 AM   Subscribe

It's time to build out our kitchen. We've gotten started and we have a few ideas for what we want next. We've done a lot of housesitting and seen a lot of kitchens. We have ideas for what we want. What we don't have is half a sense of aesthetic kitchen layout. That's where you come in! Tie it together for us!

This is a studio-sized house (with upstairs loft). Like if a studio apartment and a tiny house were to get together and have a baby with a useable-to-us kitchen. Downstairs layout: floor plan 1, floor plan 2.

What we have already: (current kitchen photo), old photo that shows room layout
- Sink
- Mini dishwasher
- Water heater in corner
- Under-counter shelving
- Counter supports
- Some countertop
- Tea shelving
- Appliances etc (instant pot, popcorn popper, toaster oven, crockpot, tiny rice cooker, the largest tamale pot that would fit in our sink, electric tea kettle, yes we know some of these may seem redundant to you)

What we want first:
- Above-counter appliance shelf
- A way to store clean dishes (we were thinking racks on the wall above the dishwasher. Note: Our dishes are never going to match, they are free-pile favorites, so they don't nest very well. We frequently use bowls, occasionally plates.)
- Empty (or mostly-empty) counter space
- Empty windowsill
- The rest of the counter
- Cookbook storage
- Where (in the vertical dimension) do we put the toaster oven? This will be our oven. It would fit perfectly on a shelf to the left of the stove hood. I think that would look weird, but higher up is kind of ridiculous in its own way.
- Electric plug-in double burner countertop stove (NOT induction, they screech). This will live on the counter. We will just get this at the thrift store or off Buy Nothing or something when it turns up.

What we want eventually:
- Island (labelled "possibly more counter" in diagram)
- Maybe a mini-fridge or a mini-freezer. In an ideal world, we would have a deli prep fridge island, but we got one off Craigslist and it was really loud in our small space. So we sold it to a food cart. Any mini-fridge and/or mini-freezer will be built into the island.
- Definitely a hunk-of-furniture sized dehydrator. Filling the space over the hot water heater. We are really into drying for food storage.
- There is no such thing as too much dry food storage space.
- Larger jar herbs and spices storage

What we don't really need: (not up for debate)
- Cabinets
- Full-sized oven
- Full-sized fridge (not up for debate. I know how you feel about fridges, metafilter)
- Freezer

Aim for a $0 budget. Local resources include a building supply thrift store, a tool library, and an active "buy nothing" community.

QUESTIONS: So precisely where do we put all the various above-counter shelves so that it looks good? (Toaster oven, above-counter appliance shelving, dishes, cookbooks, spice jars, food overflow....) What do we do with the wall to the left of the main kitchen wall?
posted by aniola to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You can't see it well in the photo, but the mini dishwasher is under the counter to the right of the sink.
posted by aniola at 11:51 AM on January 11

Vindaloo’s wife here. For the left hand wall, how about a few metro style wire shelving units? Not expensive and can be found used, hold a ton of weight, used in restaurant kitchens for a reason, and I think they might fit your aesthetic. Shelves can be adjusted for height, so you could put the toaster oven and mini-fridge on them and have plenty of room for pantry items, extra dishes, cookbook display, a low-light plant, and so on. Very easily styled to be attractive, especially if you decant food into glass jars and containers and have pretty items to display.

Commercial refrigeration units are super loud, as you discovered, because of the compressor plus zero attention to trying to dampen decibels. If you buy a mini-fridge, better to stick to a consumer model.

Instead of an island, perhaps a small wooden kitchen table could work? Still great as a prep surface, and it’s nice to have a space to sit down and eat, do work on or entertain. And it helps create a bridge between your open kitchen to living room layout.

For the dehydrator, just build a platform stand over the water heater with pine from the hardware store. I’d stick to putting heavy appliances on the metro shelves, so you can get away with standard wall brackets for the shelf that runs above your countertop and that holds all your daily use dishes, food storage and small appliances.

If there’s no upper cabinets, add some art or mirrors for fun.

Have fun with the kitchen reno!
posted by Vindaloo at 1:04 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

I think that shelves on the left and right of your kitchen window would look good - basically in the spots that cabinets would be if you had cabinets.

I would put three shelves, so that they line up horizontally with the bottom, middle divider, and top of the window.
posted by medusa at 1:09 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

The toaster oven height should be customised: whoever is shorter, figure out where you can look slightly down and into the oven - there's your max height. I lived 16 years with a built-in microwave just slightly above my eye level and it resulted in a couple of nasty burns and a lot of dropped food. It is hard to grab securely onto something you can't quite see when that something is hot.

I really loved having a drying rack on the wall over the sink, and used to keep my daily use dishes there at all times. Use, them wash them, back in the rack until I need them again.

For the side wall you could mount a big tool grid, or pegboard. Something where you can hang things on the wall.

For the island you could thrift two short bookcases of similar height. Put them back to back and attach a re-purposed tabletop. Storage, work surface, and eating area combined. If you want to be really fancy you can put it on a plywood base with wheels, I love having a wheeled island in my small workspace. Try looking for "DIY craft storage table" for ideas.
posted by buildmyworld at 5:23 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]

I designed my tiny house almost entirely on It is free and very easy to pick up. It's got a 2D view and a 3d view & you can pick furnishings and adjust their size and elevation. I too have to find tons of spots for very specific things to live & I could not have done it without that site.
posted by i_mean_come_on_now at 3:50 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]

You don't want cabinets but you do want places to store dishes and dry food. Do you imagine this storage as open shelving, drawers, or something else?
posted by soelo at 9:14 AM on January 12

Open shelving.
posted by aniola at 10:53 AM on January 12

We are happy building things ourselves and unlikely to use suggestions that involve hacking other furniture.

We do not have wall above the sink, so we can't put a dish rack there, we have a foot-deep window dividing the space visually.

I was looking at the kitchen today, and I was thinking that the appliance shelf could run along at the same height as the window sill, get shallower but continue underneath the stove hood (we could put cooking utensils and popular spices there), and then continue to the left of the stove hood where it would hold the toaster, which we are both tall enough to use. That would provide continuity, and I don't think it would block the stove hood fan?

So if we were to do what medusa suggests, how deep do we build the various shelving? What do we even put up high on that third shelf that lines up with the top of the window? Do we also put shelving above the toaster oven? It's a deep space, and hidden by the cabinet that hides the hood vent there. What would we put there? I guess we could put the tamale pot on one of them, that might fit perfectly, but then there's still this high unsuable shelf in a murky corner.

How to provide visual continuity on the side wall? I assume that if we build our island, it will look weird if we don't put anything on that wall. But I also can't envision anything on that side wall that wouldn't look weird or cluttery.
posted by aniola at 11:12 AM on January 12

This has plans for a solar dehydrator; I highly recommend it, but even if you want to stick with interior drying, it has good info about screen options.

Do you need the stove hood? It makes positioning everything in that corner pretty weird. Whether it's needed depends a lot on what kind of cooking you do.

Since you prefer open shelves, if I were you, I would cover that entire wall with them, made from the same kind of wood or painted to match, spaced however is best for your stuff. That will make the whole space look more cohesive. These can wrap around to the left wall.

I'm a big fan of compost bins installed directly in countertops, for ease of wiping scraps into them.
posted by metasarah at 12:17 PM on January 12

To improve the cohesiveness of the set up, I would balance the dehydrator on the right (which I assume will be a set of shelves?) with similarly coloured/weighted set of shelves on the left of the hood. Then a different type/colour of shelving for the shelves on either side of the window, lining the lowest shelf up with the bottom of the window as medusa suggests, but if you are short, I'd use the toaster oven height (or other highest jar or appliance) for the spacing of the rest, as the shelves are less useful the higher they get. I'd try to find countertops for the island, empty bit below the hood and above the water heater that are the same as each other, but noticeably different to what you already have.

I like your idea of putting the toaster oven on a shelf on the left of the hood, at the same height as the shelves on either side of the window. I'd do it in a different colour or material though, as mentioned above. Also, the narrow shelves under the rangehood, though whatever is there will get filthy, so don't store pretty things there, only practical. I'd put the rest of the appliances on shelves above and below the toaster oven. Yes, you might have to get a step stool to get down one or two of them, but I'd want to keep easily accessible shelves for tea, dish draining racks and pantry items that are used a lot.

I'd put books on a shelf above the island, close to the action, but accessible from outside the kitchen. You could put up a couple more shelves there too, maybe a small bookcase mounted on the wall. If you need more storage near the cooking area, a peg board on the end wall between the island and the rest of the kitchen would be a practical place to store cooking/baking equipment.

You could put a draining shelf with a tray under it that drains to the sink on one side of the sink on the first shelf up on one side of the window. I think there'd be enough overhang. Like this one or this one you could build yourself. You could build one into the shelf, but I think I'd build/buy one that can be moved when needed, to increase flexibility.
posted by kjs4 at 7:45 PM on January 13

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