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Shelves help to unify this kitchen and open plan living area, making a small utility area feel more spacious


A kitchen does not need to have a large floor area to be practical and functional. Instead, including clever storage options and interesting materials will have a huge impact on the efficiency and convenience of the space.

This was very much the case in this small kitchen, designed by Jay Serrao of Serrao Design/Architecture. The owners of the house felt it was time to upgrade, but there was no room for expansion, therefore the new kitchen had to go back into exactly the same space.

"The size wasn't of concern to the owners. They were more interested in creating a modern space with some playfulness in its composition," says Serrao.

"We achieved this with the use of color and interesting materials, and by varying the combination of cabinetry and shelving around the space. Closed cabinets are more practical, but shelves are visually more interesting and make the space feel larger," he says.

The kitchen is completely open to the adjacent living area, so shelving provides a visual link.


"Because the kitchen is so small in size, rather than have designated areas for various functions, we have tried to blend the space, so the whole living area becomes one. This makes the kitchen feel bigger and more engaging," says Serrao.

To maximize storage, drawers with hidden handles are concealed in the toe-kicks, and a flip-up work bench between the island and main counter creates more usable space when needed. Alternatively it can be folded down out of the way to make movement through the kitchen easier. Shelves on the end of the island provide display spaces for the owners' collection of objets d'art.

Serrao says creating an environmentally sensitive kitchen was just as important as function for the owners.

"Renovating appeals because you work with something that already exists. Then, to build the kitchen, we chose sustainable materials such as milled bamboo plywood. This was laminated in layers for the cap on the stair rail, the flip-up counter and the shelf on the top of the island."

Cabinetry is finished in a veneer of white fir, also a sustainable forestry resource, and left natural or dyed. To introduce the note of playfulness requested by the owners, cabinets are in a mix of clear, red, orange and yellow finishes; countertops and backsplash are in yellow recomposed stone; and lights over the island are also yellow.

First published date: 04 November 2005

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Credit List

Architect, interior and kitchen design Jay Serrao, Melissa Serrao, Serrao Design/Architecture, AIA (San Francisco, CA)
Cabinetmaker Cracker Jack Arts
Cabinetry Vertical grain white fir veneer laid up on Medite II
Countertops and backsplash Yellow Eurostone
Flooring Bamboo from Smith & Fong
Door hardware Schlage in brushed stainless steel
Lighting Tech Lighting
Sink Blanco stainless steel
Faucets KWC
Oven, dishwasher Miele
Cooktop, ventilation Gaggenau
Refrigerator Equator-ConServ
Waste unit In-Sink-Erator