Mother Earth Living

Small Kitchen Design Tips from Lori Dennis

Designer Lori Dennis spills her tricks for healthy, stylish, compact kitchens.
By Jessica Kellner
September/October 2011
Add to My MSN

Lori Dennis is the author of Green Interior Design, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers’ Sustainable Design Council and a Sustainable Furnishings Council GREENleader.
Photo By Ken Hayden

Content Tools

Related Content

Expert Advice: Create the Ultimate Outdoor Living Space

Outdoor kitchens, dining areas and living rooms are a great way to expand your home's living space. ...

In The News: The Run for Naturopathic Medicine Awareness

One doctor decides to make a cross-country journey to promote natural healing and health.

Kitchens Get Bigger, Garages Get Smaller: 10 Most-Wanted Features for New Homes

An annual survey of home buyers found that Americans want smaller homes with a focus on casual livin...

Video: Fold-Out Furniture for Tiny Spaces

Christy Oates's brilliant fold-out furniture takes up virtually no floor space when it's not in use....

A green design advocate for more than two decades, Lori Dennis is the author of Green Interior Design, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers’ Sustainable Design Council and a Sustainable Furnishings Council GREENleader. She shares her work through her role on HGTV’s "The Real Designing Women" and via lectures nationwide. Dennis redesigned this 1970s kitchen for a young man whose history of health issues demanded a nontoxic living space.

This homeowner needed a nontoxic home because of health issues. What materials did you choose? 

The best surfaces to use in a nontoxic home are durable, easy-to-clean ones. We used recycled-content Silestone countertops that did not need to be sealed with harmful chemicals. They’re pretty indestructible. The bamboo cabinets have a smooth surface, too—no raised molding, which accumulates dust.

This kitchen is compact. What are a few design tricks you recommend for saving space in the kitchen? 

When you don’t have a lot of space, I recommend clearing out nonessential items and storing things you use often in attractive containers on the counters. That way it’s easy to reach them, and they add character that personalizes a small space. In this kitchen, we also put in a tall pantry (not pictured) to hold additional items.

What are three of your favorite design tips our readers could use in their own kitchens? 

1. Go vertical and hang cool-looking stepstools (that can double as seating) on walls so you can reach the top shelves. Europeans have been doing this for a century.

2. Remove doors from cabinets and stack pretty collections of items such as tea assortments, dish collections, or cereals and pastas in clear jars. It makes it easier to find things, adds visual square footage to your space and forces you to stay organized.

3. Choose easy-to-clean surfaces and never use toxic cleaning products. In my kitchen, I use vinegar, lemon juice and water. I pull out the baking soda for tough jobs.

If you had to choose just one thing to change the look of an outdated kitchen, what would it be? 

Paint the cabinets, remove the doors and put a contrast color or wallpaper on the back wall; it’s the easiest, least expensive and most dramatic thing you can do to change a kitchen’s look.

What are your overall thoughts on kitchen décor? 

Kitchens should be functional laboratories for food preparation, easy to use and clean, and inviting places for a bunch of people to just hang. If you have the budget to include fun, multipurpose or organizational gadgets like prep sinks, pullout drawers and specialized utensil slots, go for it!

Post a comment below.


Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.