Kitchen Spotlight: Sudie’s Pocket-Sized Renovation

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Do you have a tiny kitchen? Do you despair of ever making it work for you? Well, let’s take a look at a really tiny kitchen that got a major facelift. We love how Sudie took her existing kitchen — no bigger than a pocket! — and made such an improvement without actually expanding the space, and on a budget too! Read on to hear Sudie’s story and see more before and after photos of her renovated studio kitchen.

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Here’s Sudie, who lives in New York City:

Gut Reno on a Budget!
I recently bought my studio and gut renovated the entire kitchen. The L-shaped space is very small — I had about 5.5ft by 2.75 ft to work with without expanding, so a total of about 18 square feet. But I wanted to fit in everything, including a small dishwasher and a range hood. I am Indian and cook a lot of South East Asian food — lots of spices, and also a lot of seafood, hence a range hood was a must have for me. Plus I live in a studio, so it was important that I had a good exhaust to let out the smell/fragrance of all the spices.

I wanted to do all this and pay only about $10,000 for the entire kitchen including labor and complete gut renovation.

Appliances For a Small Kitchen
The counter depth available to me was only about 24 inches. Since it was not an open kitchen all appliances had to be about 24 inches depth only, so they would not stick out. I had three designers do measurements and give me an initial design and estimate — all three concurred that including a dishwasher was impossible and in addition I would have to expand my kitchen out to even accomodate the remaining appliances.

I refused to take their word for it, and set down to do my own research of appliances and hardware. I found a very specific refrigerator and stove. I had to compromise and get a 20″ wide stove along with a 20″ wide hood, an 18″ dishwasher, which fit all my requirements – depth, height and PRICE. While there are plenty of gorgeous Italian small appliance lines such as Smeg and Berttoni out there, they didn’t really work for my budget. So I had very limited choices with having to a pick a 20″ wide stove that came with a 20″ exhaust, an 18″ dishwasher, and a full refrigerator that had to be about 27″ wide and 25″ in depth so it would fit into the counter.

After a lot of research online, I was left with LG, Avanti and Summit that had these small appliances within my budget. I went with the LG fridge with bottom freezer that had separate drawers, the Summit 20″ cooking range and hood, and the GE dishwasher. That left me with only 1 choice for the sink – about a 15″ wide Kohler sink.

Cabinets and Tiling
Since my countertop was under 15 square feet, I wanted to have the backsplash and countertop the same color even if different materials and textures were used. Using different shades would make such a tiny kitchen look small and too busy.

I also decided to go with IKEA Black Brown Akurum cabinets and IKEA hardware in order to stay within my limits. I had two choices for cabinets – espresso or white. I finally went with espresso, since these IKEA cabinets had a better finish than the white ones, even though a tad bit more expensive. Since designing with IKEA cabinets is little more complicated I hired Traemand’s kitchen design services for about $175 — they send a designer over to measure and prepare a full plan with drawings for the kitchen along with suggested IKEA cabinets. My total cost of the cabinets and hardware were under $700.

For the floor I selected white manmade slate stones from Bella Tiles in the LES for about $2.99/sq foot.

Since I am not a fan of beige neutrals, and to keep with the contemporary look, I chose a white patterned Silestone countertop to get a clean and modern/classic look. I selected Blanco Maple — almost white with sparkles — Silestone countertop, and white translucent glass tiles for the backsplash. Ideally I would have preferred the same white Silestone for my backsplash but that would increased my expenses by about another $2K. I bought the white translucent glass tiles online at half the price compared to the other stores, with free shipping. I also picked an undermount sink and hardware with brushed satin finish.

There were challenges with labor and installation. The previous owners had tiled the kitchen floor with ugly tiles on top of the original hardwood floors. Once the tiles were removed, we found rotted wet wood underneath that required extra work to remove. In addition, there were uneven walls where the cabinets had to be installed, and I had my contractor smooth the walls out prior to installation. The plumbing pipe had to be moved and a new outlet installed for the dishwasher.

In spite of all this cost cutting, I still ended up spending about $1100 more, but it was worth it. The Silestone I had to get from Home Depot — it is available at a cheaper rate at some other stores, however I did not meet the minimum square footage required to get those rates.

Since the space was really small and I wanted it to be a full kitchen, it was challenging trying to find the right items and fitting them in. I discovered that when it came to apartment size appliances, there were very few modestly priced choices out there. Most of the Italian appliances, although small, were way over my budget.

How It Works Now
The exhaust I installed has a very high and powerful motor – and with all the pungent spices I use, my studio has never been smelly. I hosted Thansgiving for 10 people at my place and cooked everything in this kitchen

A piece of friendly advice: don’t let designers pin you down to certain appliances. I had to make my desginer change the overall design, since he did not know that a 20″ stove and hood were available. His first design did not accomodate a dishwasher.

Thanks so much for sharing your space, Sudie!

Related: Kitchen Spotlight: Giulia’s Light and Airy

(Images: Sudie)

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