How I Found the Right Big Appliances for My Tiny Kitchen

updated May 5, 2022
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(Image credit: Gabriella Gershenson)

It’s ironic that living in one of the biggest cities in the world means having teeny-tiny appliances. I suppose it makes its own kind of sense — I reside on the island of Manhattan, a 23-square-mile strip of land that I share with more than 1.6 million other people. Space is tight, which means, among other things, that I didn’t own a dishwasher until about a year ago, even though I’ve been a grown-up with a job and a career for some time now.

A Brand-New, Teeny-Tiny Kitchen

Last year I moved into my own apartment and had to buy my own appliances, which meant I had the opportunity to finally get that dishwasher, and actually have a new fridge, a new range, and a home that hinted at the middle class that I was a part of, instead of the dorm room lifestyle that I’d been living for much of my adult life (thanks, Manhattan).

I had spent most of my 30s washing dishes by hand in what I eventually discovered was probably a bar sink. In the weeks leading up to my move, knowing that there was a machine in my future put a pep in my step. It was like being in love, but much more reliable.

Having to choose appliances for a 5×9-foot galley kitchen, I quickly realized that what I would be gaining in newness, I was not gaining in girth. (There is still something to be said for having a fridge and an oven that has never been used by anyone but me!) The space dictated that all of the appliances must go on one side of the kitchen, so they had to be skinny.

I familiarized myself with the options. I learned that 30 inches is a standard width for a range, for instance, and anything smaller qualifies as “compact.” This is when stuff starts to get pretty expensive and the options thin out. Guess who didn’t have 30 inches to spare on her range? This girl! So off looking at the 24-inch options I went. I also needed a narrow, counter-depth fridge, and an 18-inch dishwasher.

A Teeny-Tiny Oven

It’s true what they say: Everything is relative. I cooked quite contentedly in a much smaller kitchen than the one I have now for eight years. It wasn’t until I started to scrutinize things like oven size that I realized I’d been been baking pretty delicious things in a 20-inch oven for so long. My new 24-inch range would be, shockingly, an upgrade. Even though I was shopping in the junior department of appliances, I was growing my oven by four whole inches!

Still, pickings were slim. I settled on a 24-inch Blomberg gas range. It’s a popular brand in Europe, where space is at a premium and small appliances are the norm. Because this is not the case with the American market, compact options jump from low-end, landlord-issue stuff to luxury brands like Bertazzoni, Smeg, or Blue Star, with very little in between. Blomberg offered a rare slide-in range that was moderately priced at less than $1,000, but with an elegant look. Most importantly, I can fit my cookie sheets in there (which, shockingly, I couldn’t do with a $2,000 option from another brand!).

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A Teeny-Tiny Fridge

When it came to choosing a refrigerator, I ran into a similar problem. I was especially grateful to LG for having a 24-inch-wide, 24-inch-deep refrigerator with great organization (four drawers in a bottom freezer) for a very fair price. The other refrigerators I liked were from brands like Liebherr and Fisher Paykel that clocked in at well over $1,500. LG was an outlier, with an upscale product for less than $1,000. What’s more, the size works for my lifestyle. I don’t load up at Costco once a month, so I don’t need a ton of storage space in the fridge. I’m surrounded by grocery stores. Making frequent and small trips to the supermarket, which is all my fridge can accommodate, isn’t a big deal.

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A Teeny-Tiny Dishwasher

The star of my small appliance menagerie is my Bosch 18-inch dishwasher. Apart from the fact that I have a dishwasher, period, it functions like a champ and is well-designed; it fits an impressive amount of dishes. As a single-person household, having anything bigger than a dishwasher this size would be pointless. Did I mention how amazing it is?

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  • What Are Some Good Small Dishwashers?
  • Smeg Horizontal Dishwasher for Small Kitchens
  • What’s More Important for a Young Family: A Big Stove or a Big Dishwasher?

The time to be little is now. Tiny houses are a thing. Millennials are going minimal. And isn’t a small kitchen just an extension of a Marie Kondo way of life? The “little things” in life are hygge, which is cool. I guess it’s true what they say: Good things do come in small packages.

Do you have a small fridge, oven, or dishwasher? Which ones do you have and what do you like about them?