Efficient utilization of all space in a container is of utmost importance. When designing a kitchenette, there are several things to consider before building. In this article, you will learn what you need to consider in terms of appliances, storage, plumbing…really, everything including the kitchen sink.

Space Utilization

A kitchenette with a small footprint requires vertical thinking. That is, how to utilize every square meter of vertical space between the floor and roof of the container. Storage space will be at a premium, as will space for appliances. Anything you can stack should be stacked.


If you’re using a single container as a granny flat or other type of dwelling, you may want to avoid using regular home-sized appliances. Instead, it may be better to choose appliances that are smaller and can be stacked. These will take up much less room, allowing for more storage.

To help you out here’s a list of qualities to look for in appliances :

  • Refrigerators-A refrigerator-freezer combination will be best. Choose a size based on your actual needs.
  • Stove-Choose a stove based on actual need. There are 2-burner and 4-burner types available. The 2-burner types have full-size burners, while the 4-burner types have much smaller burners. If you plan to use pans that are larger than 19cm in diameter, then you should go with a 2-burner stove. The 4-burner elements are too small to adequately heat larger pans.
  • Sink-Choose a small sink that is just large enough to wash dishes in. This will allow you to have the additional counter space a larger sink would occupy.
  • Storage-There are different storage options available; namely, cupboards, cabinets, and custom-built. These will be covered in more detail below.
  • Kitchenette Units-There are a variety of kitchenette units available that provide a sink, refrigerator, stove, and storage. This is a great way to get the most out of the small space you have available, with caveats. The built-in refrigerator is really small.
  • Laundry Space-Small apartments often have an area adjacent to the kitchenette for a small, stacked washer and dryer setup. If you need these in your kitchenette, plan them in. This will simplify plumbing and wiring by putting all your major appliances in one area.
  • Storage-Planning storage is a bit more involved. Optimizing available space is critically important, while considering actual storage needs. Organizing the storage space for convenience and ease of use is also important–you don’t want Granny reaching for the stars every time she needs to grab a plate out of a cupboard.

When you’re determining your storage needs, remember to consider:

  • Dishware (i.e. Dinner Plates, Saucers, Glasses, Mugs, Silverware)
  • Pots and Pans
  • Kitchen Towels & Oven Mitts
  • Cleaning Chemicals
  • Cleaning Storage A place tall enough to store a broom, mop, compact vacuum cleaner, and other housekeeping items, along with a shelf to store floor cleaner, laundry detergent, and other similar items.
  • Pantry/Food

Organizing the Storage Space-A great general rule of thumb is to keep everything that will be used often within easy reach for the person (or people) who will be using it the most. If Granny is 1.5 meters tall, you may want to factor that in if she is going to be the one using the kitchenette the most. This will make a convenient, safe kitchen area that she will enjoy using. Otherwise, use your own kitchen as a guide when designing storage for your kitchenette.

Storage Space Types-There are three basic types of storage for your kitchenette: cabinet, cupboard, racks, or shelving. You may opt to use one or all three; it really depends upon what your needs will be.

  • Cabinet Storage-This type of storage can be bought and simply set in place. You can choose cabinet storage in a variety of materials including plastic, wood, and steel. This type of storage is ideal for dishware and food storage.
  • Cupboard-This type of storage will give your kitchenette a more home-like appearance.
  • Rack Storage-This type of storage is available in wood, plastic, and metal.Some assembly may be required. Perfect for items that don’t need to be stored in a dust-free space.
  • Shelving-Wall-mounted, open storage. Ideal for use with storage of items that don’t need to be stored in an enclosed, dust-free area.

Storage Design-It is best to sit down and draw out how you plan to arrange the appliances and sink are before you start designing the storage for your kitchenette. This will help prevent unpleasant surprises later on. Once you have the appliance placement worked out, you can begin drawing in your storage, starting with the sink area.

The first, and biggest decision to make, will be the primary type of storage you will use. Shelving and cabinets are the easiest to install, requiring the least planning and actual work. Cupboards, on the other hand, require more planning and effort to install.

Cupboards-This type of storage requires finding the style of cupboard you want and measuring each cupboard unit’s width and height. A quick sketch of the kitchen to scale will ensure that everything fits together when you actually build it. Make sure you have enough cupboard units for all your dishware. Factor in how much counter space you will need so you can add a base cupboard before building.

Kitchen Sink-Kitchen sinks are almost always built into a base cupboard. You may be able to find a kitchen sink base cupboard to fit your small sink. If you have no such luck, you can have the counter top cut to fit your sink.

Countertops-You will have to order and install the countertop yourself, or hire it done. Since you’re using standard cupboards, finding a countertop you like will be easy.

After planning is complete, you will have to figure out how you’re going to install your storage space–do it yourself, or hire it done.

Do It Yourself-If you have solid carpentry skills, then you will probably want to tackle this yourself. The most difficult part here may be getting everything perfectly aligned and square. However, if you have limited carpentry skills and lack the tools to install the storage yourself, you may want to hire it done. It will save you time, frustration, and money. An experienced carpenter or cabinetry specialist can have your storage installed in a day, and it will look great.

Hiring a Contractor-If you need to hire a contractor, be sure to hire a contractor with expertise in cabinetry installation. He will know how to install the cupboards and the countertop, and will be able to quickly build out your storage.

Plumbing and Wiring-Before building the storage, all plumbing and wiring must be in place. This includes wiring for the wall sockets your appliances will plug into, and plumbing for the sink, and washing machine (if you’re installing one in the kitchenette). As always, be sure all plumbing and wiring is to code. If you lack the necessary skills, you may want to hire out your plumbing and electrical work.

Finish Work-After the storage is in place, plumbing and wiring must be completed. The sink needs to be hooked up and the garbage disposal wired in (or plugged in). After that, it’s time to move the appliances into place and plug them in. Turn everything on to see if it works. If your appliances are working like they should, your work is complete.

Project Wrap-up

There are a lot of things to consider when designing and building a kitchenette in your container: appliances, storage, and countertop space. When the appliance planning is finished, you have to design the storage to fit around the appliances, utilizing as much vertical space as possible. Next, you have to plan the plumbing and wiring, making sure it’s done before the storage is built. Once the storage is installed, you need to finish the plumbing and wiring. Finally, you can plug in and test the appliances to make sure they are working properly. If everything works, you’re done. Congratulations on your new kitchenette!