Spruce-Ups for Small Kitchens: Create convenience and the illusion of space

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Small kitchens can be a challenge, both to work in day-to-day and to work with when it comes to design decisions. With a little thought and planning, however, you can make the most of your galley-sized space. Start by assessing the "bones" of what you have, figuring out what can be moved and what's worth updating ... then consider the following big-impact ideas.

Walls and ceilings: Choose colors and patterns that

Small kitchens can be a challenge, both to work in day-to-day and to work with when it comes to design decisions. With a little thought and planning, however, you can make the most of your galley-sized space. Start by assessing the "bones" of what you have, figuring out what can be moved and what's worth updating ... then consider the following big-impact ideas.

  • Walls and ceilings: Choose colors and patterns that will make the space seem larger through their tone and scale. Add a skylight to open the ceiling to more light and visually expand the space, and remove any soffits above the cabinets to create a wider ceiling line.
  • Floors: Again, keep color and scale in mind (save that 18-inch-square tile for a bigger, wider space, please). Patterns such as those in narrow-strip wood and laminate flooring can help to create the illusion of depth and length, and lighter finishes will automatically enlarge the room.
  • Cabinets: Keep the light finish scheme going here, and incorporate glass-front doors and open shelves for added depth. To make better use of the storage space you've got, try adding cabinets with such special features as spice trays and pop-up appliance storage, or shop your local home organization store for free-standing inserts that accomplish the same thing.
  • Windows: Follow the popular trend of having "naked windows" in the kitchen by using only minimal window coverings -- this'll let in more light and help create a transition to the outdoors (another way to build the illusion of more space). Consider installing a greenhouse window over the sink for even more natural light and beauty, and trim all windows in bright white.
  • Counters: Again, color and pattern choices are critical. The good news about a small space, though, is that using a higher-end countertop material will be more affordable since you'll have much less to purchase than you would for a standard kitchen.
  • Sink: If you've got small surface dimensions to work with, select a sink with an extra-deep bowl.
  • Appliances: Many manufacturers now offer smaller-scale versions of their popular products, from cooktops to refrigerators. Also consider handy stacking units and dual-duty models.
  • Lighting: Set the stage for efficiency and culinary adventure with a lighting scheme suited to your space. Under-cabinet locations are great for task lighting, track lighting units can control shadows and set the mood, and overhead fixtures shed light for utility.
  • Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show's podcast or sign-up for Tom's free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program's Web site.

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