This Custom Kitchen Squeezes Functionality Into Every Square Inch of a Small Space

When a couple of homeowners called Kelly Martin to revitalize their 1924 Spanish-style home in Los Angeles, she had a lot of work for them: “The house had outdated contractor-grade cabinets that were a horrible orange wood and very poor quality,” the designer remembers. “They desperately needed an upgrade.”

Anyone lucky enough (unfortunately) to have lived in a home with a classic ’90s or early ’00s Reno will know exactly what she means. But Martin and her clients didn’t just want to change the look — they wanted to create a more functional cooking area in what was essentially a simple, small pantry.

“We knew we wanted to revise the layout a bit, but had to be smart because it was tight,” says Martin. Due to the specific size constraints, she opted for custom cabinets. “In the end, it was worth the extra expense because we were able to source the beautiful character oak and maximize storage wherever possible,” says the designer.

Courtesy of Kelly Martin

On the plus side, the small kitchen’s adjoining dining area was “a blank slate,” Martin recalls. So she expanded the storage space there with a bench, creating a functional space that also invites cozy conversations – whether over morning coffee or a late dinner. See how she pulled it all together below.

Prepare a …..

Kitchen by Kelly Martin

Meghan Beierle-O’Brien

“Clients knew they wanted to go darker in the general feel of the room, which is usually what I naturally gravitate towards,” says Martin. “I didn’t want it to be too atmospheric in there because the space was so small, so I found the beautiful green Zellige tiles for the backsplash. I liked that there were differences in the glaze that brightened the space and created an interesting backdrop.”


Kitchen by Kelly Martin

Meghan Beierle-O’Brien

“When I’m working in a smaller space, I find that less is more,” shares Martin. “So the black floor matches the black countertops, black sink and dark bronze hardware so there isn’t too much mixed color in the overall palette. That really makes the green pop as the rest is pretty solid color.”

dining area

Dining area by Kelly Martin

Tore I was surprised to agree to the dictation of them, for the Asceciante, standing in the way of the splendor of all pleasures, I feel sorry for him as you wish, and that I shall be kissed.

Meghan Beierle-O’Brien

“The banquet is a good ‘zone’ because it serves as a place for entertainment, but it also feels casual enough that you could sit and work there and feel like you were in a café,” says Martin of the seating area, the she had tailor made for the family. “The space was pretty much a blank slate before, so giving it a purpose was a great opportunity. The secret storage in the bench seats makes up for the fact that the kitchen is tiny!

Check out the before and after:

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questions and answers

house beautiful: Did you encounter any memorable problems, challenges or surprises during the project? how did you shoot

Kelly Martin: We were missing exactly one floor tile when we laid the black terracotta tiles. The installer made sure the “hole” for the missing part to fit went under the fridge. We were dealing with crazy lead times as it was during the pandemic and all the supply chain bottlenecks. Instead of buying them an extra box of tiles, the contractor ended up pouring concrete in the small section where the last piece of tile should have gone. So there’s a secret “band-aid” under the back of the fridge (shhh!).

HB: Where did most of the budget go?

KM: We had to upgrade the switchboard to install the new equipment. So that cost a lot of money. That being said, it was probably the custom closet that was definitely worth the cost!

HB: How did you save money/do it yourself/get smart? Please describe as many of them as possible!

KM: The customer made the dining table in the banquet area. We were looking at a few new tables we wanted to make but they decided to save up a bit so they would do it themselves. He’s previously made her very large picnic table for the back patio, so he was familiar with the process.

See more of our favorite kitchens:

Preview for Incredible Kitchens

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Hadley Keller is the digital director of House Beautiful. She oversees all digital content for the brand and works on the print magazine. She has been involved in design, interior design and culture in New York for 10 years. She was Associate Market Editor, Design Reporter and News Editor for Architectural Digest and AD PRO before joining House Beautiful. Hadley is a staunch maximalist and vocal opponent of the open floor plan.

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