What Are the Best Ways to Open Up Your Small Kitchen?

If your kitchen feels so small, cramped, or closed off from the rest of your home that you find yourself reluctant to spend much time cooking and eat most of your meals in front of the television, you may be investigating your remodeling options. Opening up a small kitchen can be a challenge and may sometimes require you to revamp your entire kitchen "footprint" by moving water and gas lines. However, this change can improve the feel and function of your entire home, increasing both your resale value and your enjoyment of your home. Read on to learn more about the best ways to improve your small kitchen.

Tear down your walls

Many small kitchens are extra cramped due to narrow doorways that cut off the kitchen from the other areas of the home, making you feel isolated and even claustrophobic. Removing non-load-bearing walls entirely or reducing them to half walls can help improve flow and increase the amount of natural light in your kitchen, even if the actual amount of space within your kitchen remains the same. If you opt for half walls in place of full ones, you'll also be able to use your new shorter walls for additional storage or counter space—you could even place bar stools on the other side of the wall to create a dining surface.

To determine whether a specific wall in your home is load bearing, you'll usually need to enter your basement or attic. A load-bearing wall will have joists heading up (or down) to connect it to the central I-beams holding the house in place. Houses with two or more stories will usually have "matching" load-bearing walls—that is, the load-bearing walls on the second floor will be directly above those on the first floor. However, this self-identification is useful for planning purposes only. Before you begin demolishing walls, you'll want to consult an architect or contractor to ensure you're not about to send your home collapsing down around you.

Look into efficient floor plans

In many cases, an efficient small kitchen can be more useful and aesthetically pleasing than an inefficient larger one. Placing sinks and appliances in locations that make the most sense for your typical usage will go a long way toward making your kitchen a more enjoyable place to spend time, and it may even save you money in the long run if your current kitchen is set up inefficiently. 

Generally, it's best to keep your appliances in an assembly-line fashion—being sure to keep some distance between hot appliances like the stove and dishwasher and cold appliances like the refrigerator to prevent your electric bill from skyrocketing as these appliances work in constant competition. Many home cooking enthusiasts have found that putting counters between the refrigerator, sink, and oven is the most efficient, allowing transfer of ingredients from the refrigerator and freezer to the sink or counter for preparation, then moving them to the stove or oven to cook.

However, you'll want to evaluate your typical (or preferred) usage before deciding on the most efficient floor plan for your lifestyle. For example, frequent bakers may desire a long stretch of uninterrupted counter space, placing the sink and refrigerator directly next to each other and the oven on the opposite side of the room. Those who cook primarily from the pantry may want to place a walk-in pantry directly next to the stove. When making these changes, you don't need to feel restricted by the current location of your water and gas lines—when your kitchen is already being renovated, moving these lines in a relatively small area shouldn't add much additional expense. 

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