Breathing new life into that old kitchen

Despite the fashion for large kitchen-diners, living in a flat or apartment often means making do with a small kitchen. Luckily there are some inspirational ways of creating the idea of more space, some clever ways of maximising the area you already have and some great ideas for adding interest and personality to your scheme.

The quickest way to add the illusion of space is to allow as much light as possible into the room. Avoid dressing the window to give natural light easy access. If you are overlooked and need the feeling of privacy, use window film on the lower glazed panels, or roller blinds which are less intrusive than roman blinds. Also, remove clutter – you would be amazed at how much natural light is lost from a stack of cookery books or jars on the window sill. With a galley style kitchen, create a view with the window at the far end. This will open up the room and make it appear brighter and larger. If you happen to reside on the top floor, you may have the option to add a sky light. The light from above will immediately give the impression of height and added space but always check your lease and consult a professional adviser specialising in leasehold property before calling a builder. Even if you live in the top flat, the roof above you and even the celing void may not belong to you but be part of the fabric of the building under the lease.

When choosing your kitchen, install high gloss units in a muted colour. There are some brilliant options on the high street - try Ikea or B&Q. Pale, highly reflective surfaces will add light and a feeling of space. Paler, more muted colours always make a room look bigger. Have your units installed to use as much of the vertical space as possible. Not only does this allow you to use all the available space, but as the eye is automatically drawn higher, you have the illusion of a larger room.  At the base of your units, have the legs exposed so you can see underneath. This will trick the eye into thinking the room is longer and wider than it is.

If you do have some central space, consider an island unit. These are ingenious and multifunctional and can be used for storage, cooking space and as a dining area. You can even have your sink or appliances incorporated into the island to free-up space around the walls.

If you couple high gloss units with a reflective floor covering, this will add to the impression of extra space. However, if you go for glossy ceramic floor tiles think about who will be using the space. For families with small children, or older people, go for tiles with a textured finish to avoid potential accidents. Wooden floors can also be reflective with added varnish or wax oils. Osmo have an amazing range of wax oils which are not only lovely to look at, but also protect the floor from moisture and staining.  However, many leases prohibit wooden floors because of the noise factor, so again, check your lease before fitting new flooring.  (See the article on page 21 of issue 11 of Flat Living for more on this subject)

Worktops should also have a gloss finish. Granite, marble or stainless steel options are all reflective, hard wearing and very low maintenance. Synthetic options such as Formica and Corian® also come in  some wonderful finishes and in all colours. They are highly versatile, low maintenance and hard wearing.

Try to have integrated appliances within your scheme. Not only does this create a flowing, less cluttered look, but also frees up valuable work top space.  There are some incredible space-saving appliances around these days, with the latest craze being the dishwasher drawer. These can be pricey but they look great and free up extra space for other storage. Look at the Fisher & Paykel range for inspiration at www.fisherpaykel.com.

As well as intelligent space-saving appliances, there are many other clever ways of using all the space within a small kitchen to make the most of what you have. Use awkward spaces for open shelving, wine racks or somewhere to put the bin. Within your units, use clever storage solutions which create extra shelving or stacking options. Install a carousel system inside your units to increase storage and maximise awkward corners. Utilise hanging space from the ceiling or walls to avoid clutter and to optimise work surface space. Ikea have a brilliant and substantial range of low cost options to add stylish storage and space-saving solutions to your scheme. It goes without saying, that you have to be strict with your clutter and your kitchen equipment as every inch of storage space is valuable.

Just because you live in a small space, this does not mean you have to compromise on personality and interest. Although muted colours create the feeling of space, a pop of bold colour will bring warmth and make a strong statement about who you are. However, if you are the landlord, be aware that brightly coloured units will date quickly and couldmake your rental property less desirable in the future.

If bold colour is not your thing, have different finishes on same-design units. This will add texture to your scheme and be less likely to date. Another option is to have a combination of finishes; such as granite worktops, wood floor and lacquered units. You then have a range of textures to bring personality to your room while not compromising on the light reflective surfaces.

Clever lighting will bring warmth and ambience to your scheme. Have directional track lighting to light work surfaces and other heavy traffic areas such as the sink and the hob. Then with down lighters under your units, you will soften the sharp edges and create an inviting, relaxing glow for when the space is used for dining and entertaining.

Just because you occupy small spaces, this does not mean you have to compromise on style and comfort. With a well considered design, clever use of space and some ingenious storage solutions, you can make a small kitchen inviting, functional and stylish.