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Spend less time cleaning with these speedy tips from home cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper.

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Maximize a Small Kitchen

When your kitchen feels cramped, but there's no room to expand, careful planning and attention to traffic patterns can give your space full-size efficiency.

Designing a compact kitchen can be a challenge, but maximizing space will help your kitchen live up to its potential. The key is to simplify. Start with these general guidelines:

Shiny surfaces help make a small room feel more spacious.
  • Rely on smooth lines and simple patterns to create an illusion of more space. Align appliances flush with cabinets for a continuous, unbroken plane. Reduce the number of visual elements by specifying simple cabinet styles. On upper cabinets, glass doors -- or no doors at all -- reduce the boxed-in feeling of solid wood at eye level.
  • Employ a neutral or pastel color scheme, and limit the number of colors and patterns with which you decorate. Keeping the hues of cabinets, walls, and flooring similar helps create a feeling of expansiveness. Reserve bolder colors for simple accents, such as cabinet hardware. Shiny surfaces and diagonal patterns on floors and countertops also create an illusion of space.
  • Eliminate clutter. Keep refrigerator surfaces bare. In the compact kitchen, panels ordered to match the cabinet doors trim the refrigerator front, making it almost disappear. Display items atop cupboards rather than on countertops. Place small appliances, recipe boxes, and spices behind cabinet doors or within an appliance garage.
  • Expand the room's volume with light and windows. Nothing makes a kitchen more appealing and easy to work in than plenty of light. In this example, the large window lights most of the work core, thanks to its minimal treatment, a lacy valance.
  • Consider European appliances. Typically 24 x 24 inches, European models are smaller than U.S. versions, which average 24 x 30 inches. Although they cost more, the smaller units leave extra countertop space. A side-by-side refrigerator also requires less space to open the doors.
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