National Post

A spot for the spices

Condo kitchen designers face a towering challenge trying to utilize every possible inch of space — whether it’s finding a spot for a shallow shelf or for a full wall of appliances

- By Martha Uniacke Breen

Condo units are getting smaller and smaller. So, needless to say, condo kitchens are getting smaller, too. But are there ways to make a postage-stamp kitchen an efficient and comfortabl­e space? And how can you decide if that kitchen will fit your needs, if all you have to go on is a floor plan, a glossy brochure and maybe a model suite?

As the demand for tiny condos has grown, designers have become more ingenious in using limited space well, and often attractive­ly. It’s not just the square footage that counts, it’s how those square feet are deployed, explains Linda Mitchell Young, a freelance design consultant who works with several major Ontario condo developers. “A few years ago, we would design a lot of U-shaped or galley kitchens, large enough to put furnishing­s or an island in, but there’s rarely room for that nowadays,” she says. “So now the living/dining/kitchen configurat­ion is often integrated in one open space, and the front of the kitchen is almost like furniture.”

Hani Lammam, executive vicepresid­ent of the West Coast developer Cressey Developmen­t Group, agrees a well-thought out open design can work with the flow of the condo as a whole, adding kitchen real estate without stealing it from elsewhere. One solution his company devised is a signature layout known as the Cressey kitchen.

“We’ve worked out certain principles that are common to all our kitchen designs. First, you don’t want any blank walls; that’s just a waste of space. Second, any dead end is inefficien­t, so you need to think about flow. The Cressey kitchen is basically a U shape, but at the fourth wall it’s what we call a chef’s wall, with all the appliances located there. So now you have more counter space, because it’s not taken up by appliances, and you have an open path between the appliance wall and the working part of the kitchen, so you have free traffic flow to other parts of the condo.”

Elaine Cecconi of Toronto design firm Cecconi-Simone points out that one important way to make a kitchen appeal to a wide cross-section of buyers is to offer a good foundation, and then allow the homeowner to do the fine-tuning. One of her firm’s latest projects is Chaz, in the Yonge and Bloor area, with units as small as 433 square feet. “Most designers will keep the same general configurat­ion throughout a building, even with different sizes of units,” Ms. Cecconi says. “It gives the building part of its signature style, but it also helps with economies of scale, to keep costs in line. Then the homeowners can add in personalit­y and colour through open shelves and so on. We give you the bones, such as lots of cabinets and drawers of different sizes, then you can customize it according to your own lifestyle.”

As kitchens have shrunk, so have appliances, returning precious inches to the room without sacrificin­g performanc­e. “The first models a few years ago weren’t very functional, but they have come along beautifull­y, with very well-designed interiors that hold a lot, depths that are flush with the counter, and so on,” Ms. Young says. There’s a wide range of 24-inch-wide stoves and fridges on the market now, along with dishwasher­s as narrow as 18-inches — though Ms. Mitchell Young says there’s been some resistance to a dishwasher that small, so she tends to stick with the 24-inch models in her specs.

If you’re updating an existing enclosed condo kitchen, perhaps the single most popular update is to remove the wall dividing it from the rest of the space, to let in light and integrate it with the adjacent living space. (Ms. Mitchell Young advises, of course, that you check with your condo board before considerin­g any alteration of this type, and be sure it’s not a structural or mechanical wall.) “Look for space where you can add a pantry, “she says, “or perhaps a standalone unit like an armoire for holding extra dishes or serving ware; it could be useful as well as attractive just outside the kitchen, such as in the dining area.”

Many older condo units suffer from inadequate lighting, and this can be as important as good storage in maximizing the comfort and efficiency of a small kitchen. “The kitchens in Chaz are a great example of how lighting can be used to good effect; we put in lights on top of cabinets as well as task lighting, which is both attractive and very practical for working,” Ms. Cecconi points out.

Storage and organizing stores are catering more and more closely to the needs of space-pressed condo dwellers, and there are many options beyond the expected wire shelves and plastic bins. Pull-out units, dividers, racks that add three or more shelves to a cupboard that may originally only have had one (or no) interior shelves, and all manner of hanging or tiered storage is available, right up to stylish storage units and rolling furniture. “We actually include pullouts and organizers as part of our standard offering,” Mr. Lammam says, since they are so useful at organizing and maximizing interior space. He adds, “Because we can buy them in very large quantities, it offers a better value to the homeowner than if you just went out and bought them for yourself.”

All these options are great if the kitchen is already there, but what if it hasn’t been built yet, and you have no more to go on than an artist’s rendering, and perhaps a model suite that may be bigger than in your prospectiv­e piéd-à-terre? How to read a floor plan and other supplement­al materials to help visualize it in three dimensions? How to predict how it will work for your individual needs?

Ms. Mitchell Young suggests starting by obtaining exact measuremen­ts from the vendor, and taping them out on your own floor at home. Mark off 24” (or 30”) for each appliance, the position and width of the sink, and vertical configurat­ions like floor-to-ceiling cabinets. Mark where the doorway or other openings are. Then, look for traffic patterns, how much clearance the appliance doors have, and what it will feel like to live and work in this space.

The most skilled designer in the world, Ms. Cecconi says, can maximize limited space, build in good lighting and an efficient arrangemen­t of cabinetry and appliances, but ultimately, it’s up to you to know what your needs and wants are, just like choosing the condo that surrounds your new mini-kitchen. After all, she points out, “One person might cook in there every day — while another just uses it for opening wine.”

 ?? Cressey ?? A Cressey “Classic” kitchen, with a U-shape and traffic path.
Cressey A Cressey “Classic” kitchen, with a U-shape and traffic path.
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ?? Handouts ?? Clockwise from top: A Cressey U-shape kitchen; surprise Chaz Condos shelves; unobtrusiv­e wall of cabinets at Five Condos; a Cressey Urban Flat kitchen; found inches at 448 University.
Handouts Clockwise from top: A Cressey U-shape kitchen; surprise Chaz Condos shelves; unobtrusiv­e wall of cabinets at Five Condos; a Cressey Urban Flat kitchen; found inches at 448 University.
 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada