News & Politics

Pull Up a Chair

No room for a kitchen table? An island that does double duty—and other space-saving ideas for kitchens—can have you sitting pretty.

Photograph courtesy of Division 1 Architects.

This three-story rowhouse in DC’s Shaw neighborhood sits on a small urban lot. Architect Ali R. Honarkar of Division1 Architects wanted to squeeze as much living space as possible into the 16-foot-wide, 2,200-square-foot home.

After carving out space for three bedrooms, three baths, and a two-story living room, there wasn’t enough room for both a kitchen and a separate dining area, so Honarkar combined the two. An oak island in the center of the kitchen doubles as a dining table. Eight feet long and four feet wide, the island can fit three stools on each side. At about three feet tall, it’s also a good height for preparing food. “We wanted it to look like a piece of furniture,” says Honarkar.

To make the space feel less like a kitchen when the owners eat there, Honarkar hid many of the appliances—the refrigerator is tucked behind the island, the dishwasher pulls out of a drawer, and an exhaust hood slides in and out of the wall above the stove. Windows over the backsplash allow natural light into the narrow space, and a glass-enclosed stairway adds to the open feel.

Lights below and above the island call attention to its strong yet simple shape. Says Honarkar: “At night, it looks like it’s floating.”

Doing It Yourself: Tricking the Eye

While Ali Honarkar chose a dark wood finish on the cabinets below the countertops, he used a metallic silver finish for the upper cabinets. The lighter, more reflective coating draws the eye up to lighten the space and make it feel larger. “It’s okay to mix cabinets,” he says.

Using glass walls in narrow houses maximizes and reflects natural light. Skylights on the third floor of this house pour sunlight onto the open stairwell, all the way down to the kitchen.

The clean lines of modern furniture work particularly well in small spaces. Many contemporary pieces—such as the island here—are made to serve more than one purpose. Modern furniture also tends to be smaller and more narrow, ideal for city living. “Some traditional furniture is bulkier,” says Honarkar. “You can tell it was meant for bigger houses.”


Kitchen cabinets: Idea Collection, Studio Snaidero, 3409 M St., NW; 202-484-8066.

Countertops: Concrete Jungle, 4510-J Metropolitan Ct., Frederick; 301-874-1001.

Custom island and carpentry: Division1 Architects, 2120 Tenth St., NW; 202-333-4604.

Light fixtures: Contrast Lighting, Flos USA, and Eurolite through Potomac Lighting, 301-855-1730 (Maryland office) or 800-710-9451 (Virginia).

Dishwasher and range: Gaggenau.

Plumbing fixtures: Hansgrohe.

Refrigerator: Sub-Zero.

Floors: Brazilian walnut.

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