What Is a Kitchenette? Here Are the Major Kitchenette vs. Kitchen Differences

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As the heart of a home, kitchens see no shortage of activity — from entertaining to meal prep to impromptu homework stations. They have evolved from purely functional rooms to more of a central hub, so it's easy to assume that bigger equals better. However, you might be surprised to learn that mini kitchens, or kitchenettes, can be just as efficient and beautiful.

A kitchenette is essentially a scaled-down cook space, equipped with some (but not all) of the basics that you'd find in a standard kitchen. One of the biggest differences between kitchenettes and their full-size counterparts is the appliances — compact kitchens are too small for full-size appliances and require smaller versions. Standard culinary setups almost always include an oven, a stove, a dishwasher, a refrigerator with freezer, a sink or two, and many other small electric gadgets like a coffee maker. Kitchenettes, on the other hand, have space for just the essentials (think: mini fridge, a hot plate or a compact stove, and a small sink), and a few multitasking basics such as an Instant Pot and toaster oven.

So, just how small are kitchenettes? While there isn't a definitive size that qualifies as a kitchenette, in general, they're less than 45 square feet and are located in corners of a larger living space, not as a standalone room. Due to their lack of storage and counter space, kitchenettes require ruthless and continuous editing.

Kitchenette and Kitchen Pros and Cons

Kitchenette Pros:

  • Kitchenettes are flexible, making them ideal for converted garages and attics, in-law units, and homes that are short on floor space like studio apartments and cabins.
  • If you long to remodel or upgrade a kitchenette, it's a far less costly endeavor since smaller appliances are more affordable.
  • You'll also spend less time cleaning and maintaining a kitchenette.

Kitchenette Cons:

  • If you're a gourmet chef, a kitchenette with its limited appliances and lack of prep space makes involved cooking a challenge.
  • Due to the lack of space, you'll need to be selective about what gadgets, appliances, and tools you include.
  • Small kitchens aren't able to function as a family or entertaining gathering spot.

Kitchen Pros:

  • Full kitchens are able to support all of the culinary bells and whistles.
  • For the bona fide host, it's hard to beat a spacious kitchen.
  • The ample counter space and storage options make meal prep and organization a breeze.

Kitchen Cons:

  • Full-size kitchens require ongoing upkeep, including annual appliance and countertop maintenance and paint touch-ups.
  • If you don't do a lot of cooking and entertaining, standard kitchens can be a waste of space.
  • Daily cleaning can feel like a full-time job.

Kitchenette Ideas

1. Blanket your space in white.

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A coat of white paint and crisp white appliances look clean and give the illusion of more space, which is always a boon, but particularly so when dealing with a confined kitchen. Thoughtful details in this kitchenette, including a marble backsplash, decorative hardware, and wood accents, elevate the overall look.

2. Make the most of the space you have.

Awkward corners and nooks become welcome opportunities for out-of-the-box spatial planning in pint-sized kitchens. In this refined kitchenette at the Bodega House, a pitched ceiling functions as a focal point that adds depth and interest and is the perfect intersection for hanging a wooden picture ledge. Pastel zellige tile, a one-of-a-kind terra cotta pendant light, and gold hardware are unique details that personalize the space.

3. Include open storage.

Under counter storage is at a premium in kitchenettes and traditional cabinets can overwhelm small spaces, making them feel heavy and enclosed. Take note from Sarah Sherman Samuel and install open shelving — it's easy to customize and can be fashioned from a range of materials. We're partial to the light wood she chose for her former Palm Springs abode, resulting in an earthy yet modern sensibility. Exposed bulb sconces punctuate an all-white wall and are a fresh take on quintessential industrial style.

4. Employ a singular material.

Create continuity and a cohesive look by repeating a singular material throughout a kitchenette. Reclaimed wood on the walls, floors, and ceiling, along with plywood cabinets, anchor this rustic kitchenette, imparting warmth and texture without visual distraction. Stainless steel appliances and a white countertop invite a modern vibe.

5. Include all the basics.

Sink? Check. Small fridge? Check. Stovetop? Check. A workhorse kitchenette like this one is further proof that all of the necessities can be included in a small space. Keep the look simple with stainless steel appliances, wood cabinets, and a granite countertop. White dishes and a handful of oft-utilized utensils are at the ready.

6. Add pops of color.

Functionality reigns supreme in a small cook space, but you can inject personality and style by selecting colorful appliances, like the hot pink retro-inspired SMEG refrigerator and toaster seen in this galley-style kitchenette. Brass shelf brackets and an ingenious wall-mounted pot rack save space and introduce a glamorous touch.

7. Tap into your inner minimalist.

Keep a kitchenette streamlined and clutter-free by selecting everyday pieces that are aesthetically pleasing and the perfect scale. This Scandi-inspired space is approachable yet sophisticated thanks to practical open shelving, a pared-down assortment of dinnerware, and a soothing color palette. A sculptural metal tea kettle is an eye-catching addition that helps ground the airy space.


Jaclyn Schatzow is a freelance writer living in Santa Monica, CA

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