Small MCM Kitchens With Big Style

Small MCM Kitchens With Big Style

How to design a small MCM space that delivers memorable moments.

We demand a lot of our (often small) MCM kitchens. They should be sleek yet serviceable, ample yet organized and, of course, reflect your personal style. So how do you balance it all? Interior designer Christine Turknett says it’s all about unifying your elements and, like any other room, choosing your focal point.

“When designing an MCM kitchen, I focus on mixing clean lines with warm tones and color palette,” she says. “The combination between the colors and the motifs in the space tie it together and gives the kitchen a distinct identity that reflects your style.”

Building on a motif is a great way to concept a unified design—even for design novices. “For example, the backsplash may contain colors and shapes that I try to mimic in the tone and shape of the hardware and appliances,” Christine explains. “If there is a white penny-tile backsplash, then I try to mix in a contrasting metallic color, such as round brass knobs and appliance pulls.”

Designing for Small Kitchens

It’s an extra challenge to fit all your requirements when working with a small kitchen footprint. The key here, Christine says, is to keep an eye on editing. “Select one bold design element and balance it out with neutral details to create a focal point—either lighting, backsplash or cabinet color, but not all three,” she says. “Lean toward lighter cabinets, flooring, and countertops” as darker tones can make the space feel small and enclosed. And don’t underestimate the details. Christine likes to select knobs or smaller pulls with unique features that imbue the space with depth and personality.

This kitchen incorporates a wood ceiling alongside two-tone kitchen cabinets to balance warmth to monochromatic finishes,” Christine says. “The clear geometric backsplash adds visual interest in a classic white color to keep things balanced.

The bar area of this kitchen was an opportunity to do something bolder and more fun,” Christine says. “The clients selected the gray and white hex tile, which we complemented with blue cabinetry and fun knobs.

Maximal Function in a Simple Space

Christine says a small, streamlined kitchen can take on heavy-duty tasks just as well as larger spaces. In addition to selecting smaller appliances, you can hide appliances like microwaves in lower cabinets to create cleaner sight lines. “Opt for open shelving if that’s functional for your lifestyle and consider drawers over cabinets,” she suggests.

Another option is to lean on movable workhorses. “Adding a small portable kitchen island can be one way to get the task space you need without permanently forfeiting the space,” Christine says. “But be sure to measure beforehand for clearance around the island, which should be between 36 to 42 inches for it to be truly functional.”

We placed fun accessories in this kitchen, such as this vintage-inspired toaster to capture a midcentury modern charm.,” Christine says. “The light fixture adds a vintage touch to the clean white modern kitchen

Your countertops are a key way to make a style statement. “The bold teal backsplash in this kitchen is mirrored in the drapes in the living room, creating continuity throughout the open floor layout,” Christine says. “The simple wood cabinets with the marble countertops exude a luxurious and warm look

Clear Your Countertops

Christine’s favorite ways to simplify your small MCM kitchen style without sacrificing functionality.

  • Use a wall magnet for basic items, like knives.
  • Store your spices in a drawer.
  • Use a pegboard or simple metal bar on less prominent walls for infrequently used pots/pans.
  • Pour frequently used cooking oils into attractive small labeled dispensers next to the stove.
  • Save counter space for fun appliances, such as colorful toasters or coffee makers

When form follows function creatively, any sized kitchen can make a lasting impression. “We incorporated the rounded island as a functional solution to what would otherwise have been a large square island. The clients wanted to entertain and cook for guests, so the circular shape is a more inviting and distinctive feature in the space,” says interior designer Christine Turknett of this Austin, Texas  kitchen.

The Keys to a Small but Stylish MCM Kitchen

Christine’s recipe for a stylish meal prep space.

Clean lines

Think flat-panel or slim Shaker cabinets. Keep your drawer and cabinet hardware simple and minimal—or lose them completely with a notched cabinet design or one with a lip. Think about your countertops for clean lines too, through eased or flat countertop edges. And avoid busy countertop materials such as granite. Last but not least, incorporate plumbing fixtures such as sinks and faucets with sharp angles.

Warm tones 

Walnut, teak, mahogany. These wood tones are ubiquitous in MCM design. Replicate the vibe with similar warm tones through wood or hardware.

Vintage-inspired backsplashes

Look for shapes, colors, and patterns like round Penny tiles or geometric tiles in classic shapes like square, rectangle, or semi-
circle. Less conventional subway-tile patterns such as basketweave, and horizontal or vertical stack will work as well. You can also create great mod style with 3D rectangular or square tiles.

Lighting is key

Mid-Century Modern sconces and pendants deliver instant mod style. Shop MCM lighting options here.

When in doubt, less is more.



Originally published in Atomic Ranch
Text by Jickie Torres
Photos by Chase Daniel and Breathe Design


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