Adding Just 10 More Inches of Counter Space Made My Tiny Kitchen Way More Functional — Here’s How I Did It

published Nov 22, 2021
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Living in an 850-square foot two-bedroom condo with my husband, I’m well acquainted with incredibly efficient uses of space. I have a small kitchen that opens up to a living and dining area and it packs a punch into a tiny room, yet one design decision on the part of the developer never made sense. A peninsula separated the kitchen from the living area, yet the counter stopped abruptly with just a one-inch overhang.

Without room to pull up a stool, the counter created an awkward swath of dead space. Our sofa ended up pushed up against it, and, because our dining table was placed all the way at the other side of the open floor plan, we almost always resorted to eating on the sofa. The overall flow felt more like a temporary fix than a place that we plan on calling home for five to ten years. 

Credit: Heather Bien

We knew a breakfast bar at the peninsula was the answer. It would create a line of demarcation between the kitchen and the living area, while giving us a convenient spot — besides the sofa — to eat quick meals. Ten inches of countertop was all we needed to totally overhaul the functionality of our space.

However, the looming price tag kept us from fixing it for too long, and, instead, we grumbled over it. Extra countertop is not something easily tacked on — we would have to replace all the countertops just to get that space.

Over two years after first moving in, we finally went for it. I polled my Instagram friends (because, of course) to find recommendations for local stone fabricators, and got quotes from two companies. Both came in around the same price — something I’ve learned should be reassuring — of $3400. Not a small amount of money, but way less than we’d been expecting after dreading it for two years.

This was good enough to pull the trigger. Two weeks later, the fabricators from the stone company were in my home ripping out the current counter and replacing the new one, all before lunchtime. I ate my sandwich sitting at the breakfast bar just hours after they’d shown up that morning. 

Credit: Heather Bien

Adding in a breakfast bar completely changed not only the function of my kitchen, but the functionality of my entire condo. My husband and I haven’t eaten a single meal on the sofa since installing the breakfast bar. It’s too easy to simply grab a seat at the counter. I can take Zoom meetings while sitting there at the bar, comfortably drinking my coffee rather than reaching for it on the coffee table every thirty seconds. 

Plus, in addition to its pure function, it creates a separation between the kitchen and the living room. Now, stools are the barrier, as opposed to a blank, useless wall. It’s a more complete sense of space, and one that makes our condo feel more like a home with clearly distinct utilitarian spaces rather than a large, blended use room. And unlike a dining table, the space it takes up is minimal.

While I never wanted to spend several thousand dollars on 10 inches of countertop, this breakfast bar is hands down the best update in terms of liveability and function of my small condo that I could have made. And, to answer the question that always comes up when taking on renovations: Will it increase my home’s value? That remains to be seen, but it certainly feels more intentionally designed now, and, should I decide to sell at some point in the future, that will show to potential buyers.

An Added Bonus: Swapping Marble for Quartz 

It pains me to write this as someone who was firmly committed to my marble countertops, but it feels necessary to the full story. The etching and imperfections of marble were a welcomed patina, and I loved the ease of using the cool-to-the-touch countertop itself to roll out pastry crusts and dough.

But, an added bonus to this countertop project was swapping the marble for quartz. Given the small square footage, we were able to splurge on a gorgeous quartz, fittingly called Carerra, that has the subtle veining of marble, but with even more white to lighten up the lack of rowhouse natural light. 

Even more importantly than how it looks, I no longer have to worry anytime a splash of citrus or a drip of milk finds its way to the countertop. I can let it linger for a moment. I can finish frothing my coffee or stirring and serving a cocktail. I know it will easily wipe up without leaving behind an etched memory I can never forget. 

But fortunately, I didn’t have to lose my beloved marble entirely. I had the fabricator turn our marble slab into dresser and nightstand tops rather than hauling the stone out to the landfill. While a water ring or two may certainly appear over the years, a bedroom is far lower stakes than a kitchen, and the resulting marble top is a timeless touch.