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Not your average kitchen

January 02, 2023

During my time here in Berlin I've managed to see quite a few apartments. While they differ in size, shape and location, there are noticeable similarities, such as the shape of the kitchen and bathroom. In many Berlin apartments, the kitchens and bathrooms are parallel to each other and their shape is long and narrow. Another thing about Berlin kitchens, that I personally find quite strange, is that in many cases the apartment is rented entirely empty, and each new tenant has to plan, buy and install a brand new kitchen. That leaves many renters puzzled and uncertain about designing their kitchen in a cost-effective, comfortable and stylish way.

Naturally, every small detail could affect the kitchen design - a different sized door, a differently placed window, the initial dimensions of the room, electrical and plumbing constraints, etc. But I prepared a few possible layouts for a typical Berlin kitchen using the Ikea kitchen modules, which remain the most convenient and affordable solution to most of us. These examples could be used as inspiration and a stepping stone for your own design. All cabinets and appliances were drawn according to the models available in Ikea, so you can get a clear picture of the proportions and how much counter and storage space you could create in your own kitchen.

one space, three kitchens, all together

Note that these drawings are just examples. You can mix and match the elements as you see fit, change their positions, use cabinets or fixtures that I haven’t used here, and create the layout that best suits YOUR space, needs and desires. The same space can be designed in numerous different ways, so these are mere suggestions to help guide you through the design of your own kitchen. If you don’t feel comfortable planning your own kitchen, you could use the design services in the Ikea kitchen department, or contact me to learn more about the services that I can offer.

Before I elaborate on my design suggestions, I wanted to share some dos and don’ts, tips and guidelines for kitchen planning and design, in hopes of helping you boost your confidence and prepare you for the task. When it comes to design in general, and kitchen design in particular, there is a lot of ground to cover. In fact, each topic that I write about here can potentially be the subject of a stand-alone post. But as they are all so intertwined, I found it important to create one basic kitchen guide that you could always come back to. One last thing to note before we dive in, is that I don’t discuss color and material choices here at all, since this is too much information for one post. This time I chose to focus on the layout and utilizing the Ikea modules. Ready? Let’s go!

Kitchen photo, counter and storage space
Photo: Tal Nisim

before you start

#1 Think about your cooking routine - how often do you cook and for how many people? This is your opportunity to get it as right as possible and create the perfect cooking environment for yourselves and your family. Ask yourself - how many people use the kitchen simultaneously? Do your kids join you sometimes? Do you cook regularly or do you usually reheat and order takeout? Take a close look at a typical week in your life and take note of your personal cooking routine.

#2 Take a look at your current kitchen and figure out how much storage space you need. Are there items that you haven't bought because you don't have space? Are there items that you don't use because they are stored away inconveniently? Which appliances do you use?

#3 Draw your kitchen as accurately as possible, including the door, windows, electrical and plumbing fixtures, heating system, etc, and take measurements of everything. Now you have all the information you need to start planning, using the Ikea kitchen planner.

#4 Allocate a specific use for each cabinet. That will help you figure out which module is best for each storage space that you have and to make sure that you have a place for everything you need. You could also later print out the drawings and write down what should go where, so that the organization process is easier.

Cabinet detail close up
Photo: Tal Nisim

Moduled kitchen systems and how to use them

Kitchen cabinets will be available in a few constant measurements usually 40/60/80 cm wide. The height defers, depending ion the type of cabinet - 88 cm tall for base cabinets, 200/220/240 cm for high cabinets, and 40/60/80/100 cm for wall-mounted cabinets. You could use all the different modules available, but we would normally prefer to be as consistent as possible and go with a constant size for most cabinets.

Low vs. Tall cabinets

Balance and proportion - while it's obvious that high cabinets maximize the available height of the space and provide lots of storage, they also come at the expense of countertop space. In addition, you should consider the fact that a small space with a massive amount of furniture could feel small, unpleasant and claustrophobic. Make sure you balance your high cabinets with elements that are more open and airy, like a worktop with open shelves above it, or a worktop niche framed by tall and wall cabinets.

Price - tall cabinets are usually more expensive than lower base cabinets combined with wall-mounted cabinets. However, the tall cabinets provide aesthetical and functional solutions, such as built-in appliances and storage.

Kitchen photo
Photo: Tal Nisim

Shelves vs. drawers

Comfort - drawers are usually more comfortable for daily use because you can easily see and reach everything inside.

Price - drawers are more expensive, and because you will need quite a few cabinets, the difference could potentially be significant.

Extra storage

There are many different storage systems and solutions that could supplement the cabinets, such as open shelves, kitchen carts and wall organizers. Those can be very useful for items that are used constantly and daily, therefore need to be easily accessible and reachable.

Kitchen appliances

The basic appliances that you should consider in your design are a refrigerator, a stove, an oven and a dishwasher. I also added a washing machine in all three designs, since it is very common in Berlin apartments that the washing machine is located in the kitchen. Other appliances you could consider adding to your plans are a coffee maker, microwave, food processor, mixer and other small and medium-sized appliances that take up counter and/or cabinet space.

Know that you can choose between stand-alone, built-in and integrated appliances, depending mainly on your budget. In my examples, I used a little bit of all types to give you a sense of what you have to work with. On social media (mainly Instagram and Pinterest) you can see many many more examples for inspiration.

Kitchen shelfie
Photo: Shiran Carmel, a collaboration with XS Architecture Studio

Kitchen appliances

The basic appliances that you should consider in your design are a refrigerator, a stove, an oven and a dishwasher. I also added a washing machine in all three designs, since it is very common in Berlin apartments that the washing machine is located in the kitchen. Other appliances you could consider adding to your plans are a coffee maker, a microwave, a food processor, a mixer and other small and medium-sized appliances that take up counter and/or cabinet space.

Know that you can choose between stand-alone, built-in and integrated appliances, depending mainly on your budget. In my examples, I used a little bit of all types to give you a sense of what you have to work with. On social media (mainly Instagram and Pinterest) you can see many many more examples for inspiration.

Kitchen by Liat Post
Photo: Tal Nisim, Interior design: Liat Post

Ikea systems 101

METOD - the most commonly used kitchen system, and the one that I based all three designs on. It offers the widest variety of sizes, fronts and design details, and allows quite a bit of flexibility.

ENHET - designed to allow dis-and-reassembly if you move. On the one hand, renting terms here in berlin usually allow you to stay for many years in the same apartment without moving, so you may never use that function. On the other hand, the market these days is changing a lot and still many apartments are offered without a kitchen, so you can never know.

KNOXHULT - basic cabinet fronts and very affordable. This option could work if you don't want to customize your cabinet fronts and can do just fine with white and minimal fronts.

SUNNERSTA - metal frames with no fronts. This system could work out well for a tiny kitchenette. But you should be aware that it could look messy if you don't keep your kitchenware always well organized.

And now, without further ado, here are my three sample kitchens:

Kitchen drawing

#1 Low on budget, large on space

This kitchen includes only base cabinets, therefore it is not as expensive as the other two. It keeps the small space light while offering a convenient countertop. I added open shelves for dishes and utensils that are used often, and a small round dining table suitable for 2-3 people. You could hang on the walls more cooking utensils, small pots, pans and a spice rack, and add a kitchen cart, which could be used for bottles, potatoes, onions, and other kitchen essentials.

Kitchen drawing

#2 Framed effect

This option is really about optimizing the space and maximizing storage. I incorporated two high cabinets - one that can be used as a pantry and another one with a built-in oven and a designated microwave shelf. In between, is a worktop with a sink in the middle, framed by three wall-mounted cabinets. More counter space is available on the opposite side, where I placed the stove and a stand-alone fridge. I kept this wall free of hanging and tall cabinets, to balance the mass on the other side.

Kitchen drawing

#3 Hang tight

This option could be defined as a mid-way between the two other options, offering wall-to-wall cabinets on both sides, and an integrated refrigerator. Again, on one side I planned only base cabinets with artwork on the wall to balance the proportions, and on the other side I added hanging wall cabinets. to make the design more interesting as well as comfortable and light, I combined both open and closed modules.

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