Written by Cheryl Weber
Styled by Sharon Ryan for Haley Resources
Photographed by Hulya Kolabas
It’s the down side of city living. Along with the perks of easy access to restaurants, shopping and entertainment, urban dwellers are often faced with tiny apartments and even tinier kitchens. But small can be smart, and this apartment, in Brooklyn, New York, is a rewarding case in point. The owner, Rima Shore, thinks of her 800-square-foot home as a boat. While not right on the water, it has lovely views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. As part of a gut renovation, she asked kitchen designer Elsa Kessler, who has since moved to San Francisco, to give her a warm, space-efficient kitchen worthy of a yacht.
Rima had two priorities for the new kitchen. One was that nothing could obstruct the view across the living room, where sunlight streams through a 16-foot bank of west-facing windows. The other was that it shouldn’t dominate the space. “I didn’t want the whole living area to look like a kitchen with a couch in it,” she says. Materials are used to great effect. While Rima initially thought white cabinets would make the apartment feel larger, Kessler convinced her that burnished maple would blend better with the floors and furniture. Stainless steel appliances, a white composite-stone countertop, and a cream-and-amber glass mosaic tile backsplash reflect light while slipping easily into the larger scheme.
Spatially, the kitchen is also separate yet part of the whole. A sculptural stainless steel partition appears to slice through the countertop, though it’s actually two pieces. “It separates the cooktop visually so it’s not the first thing you see when you walk in,” Kessler says. She smoothed out an awkward step up from the kitchen to the dining room/office nook by inserting shallow bookshelves in the side of a base cabinet facing the desk, and positioning a raised glass shelf at desk height. “When I’m sitting at my desk I can turn and use that shelf,” says Rima, a writer who often works at home. “I also use it for serving when I have guests, or if I’m cooking, they can sit there and be nearby.”
The kitchen is bright and stylish, yet defers to its surroundings. And although the components were carefully planned, the cumulative effect was a surprise. “One thing I didn’t expect was the reflection of the changing sun,” Rima says. “There’s something about the natural light and wood cabinets and stone countertop all together that makes the room feel so warm. It looks beautiful at all different times of day.”
Thinking Small: A mainstay of an effective strategy for designing a small kitchen is to use the most compact appliances available—yet still select them in a way that is suitable for the size of the household as well as the space.
Room to Flow: Before making a final decision, examine accessibility and clearances in the layout. Evaluate the intrusiveness of a drawer-style appliance versus that of one with a swinging door. Choices between these configurations are no longer limited to refrigerators and dishwashers; wall ovens and microwaves now come in side-hinged and pull-out models, respectively.