/ Home & Energy

Would you splash out on kitchen space-saving design?

The Petra kitchen from TM Italia

With the size of our kitchens predicted to get smaller, is a foldaway kitchen worktop the future? It looks impressive, but surely there are easier – and cheaper – ways to make the most of your kitchen space…

Most of us would probably appreciate a little extra worktop space to play with in our kitchens. So I was intrigued to take a closer look at one such space-enhancing solution on display at Grand Designs Live last week, which takes the idea of integrating your kitchen appliances to the extreme.

It was a remote-controlled ‘folding’ kitchen top design that packs your sink, oven, hob, TV and breakfast bar away and out of sight when you’re not using them.

Priced in the eye-watering region of £135,000 on a made-to-measure basis, it’s probably not likely to venture out of the showroom and into many real-life homes any time soon.

But future gazers might argue that as smaller-sized living spaces become the norm, this is exactly the sort of approach designers will need to take to make our living, cooking and eating areas more multi-functional.

Kitchen space-savers

Putting the crystal ball aside, here at Which? we’re increasingly seeing pint-sized appliances offering more immediate solutions for the space-challenged kitchen of today.

Here are a few examples, courtesy of our kitchen product experts…

The dishwasher and fridge-in-a-drawer

CoolDrawer fridgeSpotted at this year’s Ideal Home show, Fisher & Paykel’s fridge-in-a-drawer and dishwasher-in-a-drawer are stylishly contained in sleek black drawers.

With the CoolDrawer, you can set the compartments to different temperatures including cooling and freezing – apparently removing the need for bulky refrigeration appliances.

The Dishdrawer range is designed to appeal to washing-up averse singles or couples. Alternatively there are a fair few counter-top dishwashers on the market. These sit on the work top and are able to hold six place settings, and are worth considering if it’s under-worktop space you’re lacking.

Slimline washing machines

Washing machine capacity continues to go up courtesy of larger drums – but there aren’t many top performing slimline washing machines about for kitchens with limited floor space.

If you’ve got a narrow kitchen corner to fill, though, a top-loading washing machine might be the answer. We’ll be testing some slimline top-loaders from Whirlpool, Hotpoint and Hoover shortly – results are due in July.

In future, you might even find washing machines designed to blend in with bathroom rather than kitchen cupboards…

The mini range cooker

Leisure Mini Range cookerYou don’t need a roomy country kitchen for a range cooker these days. Enter the mini range cooker – such as this model from Leisure – with the same dimensions as a standard freestanding cooker but the cooking extras you’d expect from a range model.

If you’re really short of space though, a combination microwave – which marries oven, microwave and grill features – could be an alternative. You can even rustle up a Sunday roast in one.

Small appliances get even smaller

With lots of ‘essential’ gadgets vying for space on your worktop, it’s a good job some small appliances are getting smaller, too, or doubling up to offer more than one function.

The latest Magimix Nespresso coffee machine – the aptly-named Pixie – is just 11cm wide, while the Tefal Vitacuisine food steamer packs down compactly for easy storage.

Or how about the Morphy Richards Intellichef multi-cooker to slow cook, steam, bake, boil, shallow fry, rice-cook, warm and reheat food in one appliance?

Is your kitchen a bit of a tight squeeze? Would you be prepared to spend more on any of these products to save space? What are your space-saving kitchen tips and tricks?


We have a small kitchen and have a half sized dishwasher, which we never use.

Looking at the appliances in the article, it seems as though you still need the space to put the foldaway appliances anyway. At the end of the day, you need a fridge, freezer and washing machine and if you spend thousands hiding it away, you lose cupboard space instead.

So I think these ideas are a little far fetched, especially the first one, the size of that island unit is bigger than the size of most kitchens.

The only way to increase space in the kitchen is to start stacking things on top of each other up towards the roof. Then there are clearly height issues.

I just think that most space saving ideas are not that at all because you still need the space to put things. Whether it comes out of the top of your worktop or not, you don’t get owt for nowt and what you gain in one area, you will lose in another

pickle says:
12 May 2011

Years ago you could buy a mini kitchen – about a metre long, with sink, hob and oven. It was OK for a single person flat but you still needed washing machine, dishwasher and all the accessories people want these days.
Housing expectations have increased and people want more machines in kitchens as well as worktops – so I wouldn’t put my money in a firm producing mini kitchens!

My friend has a dishwasher in a drawer, but it’s actually two drawers that can be used independently – very neat design so you can do a smaller load or bigger depending on the circumstances. I love the look of the fridge drawer above – very cool (sorry!).

But agree with others that the kitchen is totally over the top – that’s not about saving space it’s about wanting a minimalist look. Anyone who can afford £135 grand on a kitchen doesn’t need to worry about space!

My kitchen is only 7 m by 5 m – but it is crammed with cupboards and gadgets – I have 2 fridges and 3 freezers to start with.

I also think this is a minimalist look too far. I want a kitchen not a cupboard,

I love this kind of clever design – I think it’s brilliant. I’ve seen a number of programs that show people with very tiny rooms that manage to fit in loads of furniture. Furniture that lets you change the function of that room is the most impressive to me (such as turning a living room into a kitchen or visa versa).

Here’s a video of some clever design that I’d love to have in my home (if I could afford it):

I definitely agree with the idea of getting a combination microwave to use in a small kitchen. We knew when we moved into our house that the kitchen would need replacing, but we weren’t quite prepared for the shock of opening the oven to find that it didn’t work. We only had one bit of kitchen worktop and didn’t want it to get too cluttered.
So, for £250 we bought a combination microwave that we could use for grilling/toasting, microwaving and baking food and used it for 2 years until we had our kitchen replaced. To be honest it took a bit of getting used to and we probably used the convection cooking (baking/roasting) function more than the microwave or grill. But we cooked whole roast dinners in it, quiche, toast – everything you’d cook in an oven, microwave, grill or toaster basically. When we got our new kitchen we actually bought a double oven, but if I want to do something simple like heat up some bread rolls I usually find it quicker to use the convection function in the microwave than wait for my oven compartments to heat up.
I got so used to cooking this way that I really think if you know what you are doing a hob and a combi microwave are all you need to produce a feast! (a small feast maybe, but a feast none the less).

Interesting – I also have a Combi – Microwave. I use it far more than the gas oven now. It is far faster in my experience. I do agree it takes some time to get used to it – but when you do it is excellent.

Phil says:
12 May 2011

This is not a new idea but one which resurfaces every few years in a slightly different guise. It never seems to catch on and now kitchens are more or less fashion items that get replaced every 3-5 years I can imagine only the very wealthy or most desperate “must haves” buying one this time round.