fbpx How To Make An Awkward Space Work For You

How To Make An Awkward Space Work For You

Photography by Stacey Brandford

Posted on Nov 1, 2013

White clean gallery kitchen
Dark wood hallway shelf on a blue wall
As with many renovations, the path to kitchen bliss is paved with major structural change and knocking down walls. But in this case, there was nowhere to go and no walls to remove since the kitchen is boxed in by the back garden, the main bathroom and the stairs to the basement. Even so, small galley kitchens can be reoriented with dramatic results. Flipping the cooking and ventilation onto the longest wall offered up the best opportunity for prep space on either side of the cook top and the maximum amount of upper wall cabinet storage. Once some useless bulkheads were removed, we gained more than 12 inches of extra storage all around the perimeter of the kitchen.

Resist the Urge to be Standard

Kitchen base cabinets are generally 24 inches deep and upper wall cabinets are 12 inches deep. The assumption is that if you don’t have these allowances, you can’t do anything with the space, so it goes unused. Instead of just doing without, I think it’s better to problem solve your way to a better solution. It’s a bit more challenging to cut drawer units down to a shallower dimension, but simple cabinets with doors can be easily modified, so we installed a new run of cabinets with sleek dimensions that measured just 10 inches on the base units and nine inches on the uppers. Since this area is adjacent to the outdoor dining area, it works well as a bar, with bottles, pitchers and mix stored below and plenty of room for barware and glasses above. With upper and lower units combined, this kitchen got an additional seven linear feet of cabinetry that never existed before, as well as a whole new prep area that takes bartending out of the way in an already cramped space.

White Counter with orange juice
White Stove and cook top

Go White

An all-white kitchen is just practical. You can never go wrong with white from a resale perspective, and a monochromatic scheme of white on white makes a space look bigger, so it’s a win-win situation in my opinion. The goal was to give this kitchen a whole new look without spending a mint on custom cabinetry, so I relied on in-stock cabinetry to realize my vision and took a mix and match approach to all things white and bright. The upper cabinets are white glass within a sleek metal frame, while the lower cabinets are a high-gloss foil finish, the counters are white quartz and the backsplash tiles are octagonal white milk glass. A white cooktop, farmhouse-style sink, oven and refrigerator were just the glossy white icing on my monochromatic mélange.

White kitchen with stools

Exceed Your Expectations

Clients’ goals for what can be accomplished in a renovation are often dictated by the status quo. If it doesn’t exist in the current configuration, there is an assumption that it’s just not possible; otherwise someone would have already done it.

But I don’t accept kitchen-planning defeat easily. I think you can shoehorn everything you want into a space, if you are willing to reduce clearances to the minimum acceptable allowances. The net result for this kitchen was the addition of a new 42-inch peninsula with room for two stools (and additional cabinetry for storage) by leaving a passage of 38 inches around the end of the peninsula (which is just two inches more than the minimum 36 inches recommended).

In my books, the extra counter space and room to pull up a stool was worth reducing the unused space.

Close up of a sink with a painting hanging behind it

Make a Bold Statement

Some kitchens have a sink with a lovely view to outside. Some aren’t so lucky and offer the choice of a blank wall, or another blank wall. But there are options. Instead of leaving this room totally bare, I had a fabulous photo of graffiti from the Paris Metro printed on Plexiglas and then mounted it so it floats off the wall and offers a bright and colourful backdrop to dish washing.

Full kitchen with marbled slate tile and white cabinets

Add Some Wow

Once you’ve mastered a basic plan that accomplishes all your goals, it’s time to dial it up and have some fun. Unless you are a compulsive cleaner and the world’s best housekeeper, the parade of white should end before the floor choice is made. Since we wanted to create something spare but not clinical, we chose a dramatically patterned, glossy-black marble floor that unifies the entry and kitchen with a surface that’s both snazzy and smart. To balance his love of spare with her love of zest and zing, the finishing touch was a wall of citrus bright drapes and a few boldly hued finishing touches.

Originally published in:
Globe and mail logo

Source Guide:

kitchen cabinetry, sink, faucet, fridge, dishwasher, range hood, oven, stovetop & cabinetry hardware, IKEA | all tile, Saltillo Imports | art in hallway, console, vases on console, art glass balls, book ends, salt and pepper shakers , serving platters, bottled lemonade, canisters, green vase, cutlery on breakfast bar, pillows, large printed ottoman on porch, lanterns on porch & beige vase on outdoor coffee table, Homesense | cookbooks above microwave & magnetic timer on fridge, Indigo | plexi glass art, Tony Koukos | drapery fabric (Fergana Ethnic/Kilim: Yellow, 32911) & drapery hardware, Designer Fabrics | countertop (Caeserstone: Blizzard), Elite Stone Design Corp. | breakfast bar stools, Structube | kitchen light fixture, Universal Lighting | hall light fixture, Vintage Fine Objects | mirror in hall, Elegant Garage Sale | tray on console table, aluminum boxes, glass pitcher with silver mixing spoon & metal pitcher, CB2 | white milk bottle vase, yellow serving plate, egg cups, yellow napkins & wood napkin rings, Crate and Barrel | vintage beer glasses on breakfast bar, Ethel | vintage bocci balls on deck, Bronze | dinnerware on breakfast bar, Tap Phong | flowers, Jong Young Flowers | baseboards & trim, Brenlo 


contractor, MBKL LTD. Custom Contracting | kitchen installation, IKEA Installation Services | installation of backsplash, JAV Contracting Inc. | electrician, Spindel Electric Inc.

Paint Colours

kitchen ceiling and walls - Barcelona Rain (59BB 81/022), Dulux | entrance hall - Capitol Blue (30BB 18/190), Dulux | trim throughout - Drifting Snow (10BB 83/014), Dulux