Dan Kitchens - Articles

June 5, 2024

From Family Home to Cosy Apartment: Kitchen Renovation Tips for Downsizers

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Downsizing from a large family home with a spacious kitchen to a small apartment with an old un-renovated kitchen can be a significant adjustment. Whether you’ve downsized for less maintenance, to be closer to family, or for a lifestyle change, creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing kitchen is crucial. Here’s some detailed tips to help you navigate the process and obstacles of your apartment kitchen renovation.

U Shaped Kitchen Layout with Peninsula, othewise known as a G Shaped Kitchen Layout

A renovated apartment kitchen with ducted rangehood built into the cabinetry – Kirribilli Kitchen

Strata and Apartment Limitations

Before starting any apartment kitchen renovation, it’s essential to understand the limitations set by your strata. These rules can affect your plans significantly since they are designed to prevent any negative impact on the building and other residents. Each strata has its own set of by-laws, so you need to review these carefully to understand what is permissible. In most cases you will need to apply for permission through your strata to renovate. Acoustic assessments may be required, especially if you’re planning significant changes to your flooring.

If you plan to update your cooktop, ensure that your apartment’s power supply can handle an induction cooktop, as upgrading the power supply can be challenging or even impossible. Consulting with your kitchen company or an electrician can help you determine the feasibility of your plans. Ducted rangehoods are ideal for air quality, but they might not be possible due to strata restrictions and the kitchen’s location. You might have to opt for alternatives that comply with the building’s regulations.

Additionally, expect to encounter unusual protrusions in the kitchen walls and ceilings, often housing essential utilities such as plumbing and electrical systems, or structural elements like concrete support columns. Removing or altering these features may not be feasible, so you’re kitchen company or builder will need to investigate further before designing the kitchen.


A small apartment kitchen with the kitchen built to just under the ceiling.

Kitchen uses full height of the room, with cabinets shadowlined to the ceiling – CBD Apartment Kitchen

Design and Materials in Apartment Kitchens

In a smaller kitchen, every inch of space counts. To maximize efficiency, consider appliances that serve multiple functions and choose sizes that match your lifestyle. For instance, a large range cooker might be unnecessary if you usually cook for just two people. Opting for deep drawers instead of standard ones can also help utilize space better, as they allow you to use the full depth of the cabinet.

Building your kitchen cabinets as high as possible, with a shadowline gap to the ceiling, can also increase storage space. However, balancing this with accessibility is crucial, as higher cabinets can be harder to reach. Working closely with your kitchen designer can help strike the right balance between maximizing space and ensuring everything is within easy reach.

An apartment kitchen with bold natural stone island benchtop and splashback.

Due to site access, it’s not always achievable to have large stone benchtops and splashbacks, this needs to be assessed beforehand – Millers Pt Apartment Kitchen

When selecting materials and designing your kitchen, consider the practicality and accessibility of getting bulky items into your apartment. Stone benchtops, for instance, can be very cumbersome, requiring significant effort and space to get into the apartment. If you dream of a large stone island, be prepared for potential compromises, such as having multiple joins in the stonework. Your kitchen company can advise on this. Alternatively, materials like Corian can offer seamless finishes without these issues.

Refrigerator size can also be a problem due to limited access through doors and elevators. It’s essential to measure all entry points thoroughly during the design phase to ensure your selected appliances can be accommodated without issues.

For flooring, high-quality laminate options, such as the British Amtico brand, provide durability and aesthetic appeal, making them a suitable choice for apartment kitchens.

A very tidy cutlery drawer

When downsizing, declutter your kitchen to just the things you need.


Downsizing to a smaller space means you’ll need to be ruthless about decluttering. Over the years, you’ve likely accumulated a wide array of kitchen gadgets, Tupperware, novelty mugs, and an assortment of miss-matching teaspoons. Now is the time to sort through these items and discard anything you haven’t used in the past year. This process not only frees up space but also helps in making your new kitchen more functional and less cluttered.

A white, detailed kitchen with large handles, in an apartment overlooking Sydney Harbour.

Having easy to grasp handles for your kitchen doors and drawers are a necessity as we age – Cremorne Point Apartment Kitchen


Given that this might be the last kitchen you renovate, it’s important to choose durable materials that will stand the test of time. Opt for scratch, stain, and fade-resistant materials to ensure your kitchen remains functional and attractive for years to come. Specify quality hinges, drawer runners, handles and appliances that will last. Practicality and enjoyment should be at the forefront of your decision-making process.

A kitchen pantry with LED strip lighting

Good task lighting is not only warm and inviting, it’s a necessity for many – Mosman 3 Kitchen


Accessibility should be a key consideration in your kitchen design. Avoid corner cabinets, which are often difficult to access, even with solutions like LeMans, magic corner pullouts or carousel units. Instead, opt for drawers wherever possible, as they provide easier access to stored items.

Good task lighting and comfortable, easy-to-grip handles can also make a significant difference in the usability of your kitchen. If desiring a more streamlined look, consider motorised drawers.

A kitchen being renovated with plastic sheets on the timber floor to protect it

Protecting floors during a kitchen renovation is a must. Ensure your kitchen company is on to this.

During the Renovation

To facilitate a smooth renovation process, make practical arrangements such as organising parking for the tradespeople involved. Given the noise and dust associated with renovations, consider staying elsewhere if possible, but only if you trust your kitchen company to manage the project effectively. The disruption usually lasts for about two to three weeks, so some homeowners even take this opportunity to go on holiday.

Protecting your furniture and belongings with drop sheets and ensuring the installers cover your floors can help minimize damage and mess. Additionally, decluttering your old kitchen well before the renovation starts can streamline the process and reduce stress.

Additionally, setting up a temporary kitchen away from the kitchen will allow you to still prepare simple meals, boil the jug and wash the dishes.

Tips for a Speedy Renovation

To ensure your renovation proceeds as quickly and smoothly as possible, complete all necessary permissions with your strata beforehand. Keeping the same layout and footprint, as well as the same type of cooktop, can significantly speed up the process. Opting for tiles for the splashback and ensuring your chosen appliances are readily available from your retailer can also help.

Choosing a solid surface like Corian for the benchtop or a quality laminate can reduce installation time. Lastly, hiring a kitchen company that provides a dedicated project manager and uses its own staff for installation can ensure better coordination and faster completion of the renovation.

By carefully considering these factors, you can create a beautiful, functional, and efficient kitchen in your apartment, making the most of your downsized living space.

Start Your Kitchen Renovation Journey With Dan Kitchens

As you may have gathered, renovating an apartment kitchen is no easy task, but the outcome is very rewarding. We hope these tips for downsizing into an apartment kitchen are of use to you. For those of you who are at the stage of looking for a kitchen company and requiring assistance with the whole process, Dan Kitchens is here for you.  Dan Kitchens has been entrusted by discerning homeowners with designing, renovating and managing their kitchen renovations for over 40 years. We’re recognised for our commitment to outstanding design, craftmanship and service. Let our team guide you through this important process. With Dan Kitchens expertise, you can create a kitchen space that’s not only beautiful but also functional, for years to come.