Many apartments and flats tend to lack proper eating areas. Apartments for singles – aka studio apartments – are well known for just having a small table in the kitchen or a corner of the living room for eating at.

Even a larger apartment may have just a tiny kitchen that does not look promising, even for a hasty breakfast. But no matter how small the kitchen, there are a number of clever solutions that provide enough space for a single person or a couple to eat in style.

“The best space-saving ideas are furnishings that you can make disappear,” says Kirk Mangels from the trade associaton of the German kitchen industry, AMK. Foldaway tables are common in many small or narrow kitchens.

Ursula Geismann from Germany’s furniture industry trade association, VDM, says recent innovative solutions include picture frames that fold down to form a tabletop, or mini tabletops that can be clipped onto a shelf.

But Juliane Modrzyk, who represents a branch of the Association of German Interior Architects, advises against using foldaway tables.

“They just end up making work and causing clutter.

“If a TV or even just salt and pepper shakers stay standing on them, they might never get put away,” she says.

“And that’s when they fail to save any space at all.”

Mangels admits he is also not so enthusiastic about foldaway solutions.

“A fold-out table in a very small space is less about enjoying food and more about just food intake.”

That might explain why fold-away and pull-out tables are being sold less than in the past.

“We are noticing that people in small homes are investing more in comfort,” says Mangels.

A bar-top in a kitchen provides eating space. This one swivels to the wall to save space.

A bar-top in a kitchen provides eating space. This one swivels to the wall to save space.

A better solution might be to extend the kitchen worktop, cantilever-style, if space allows, to create a place to eat.

Interior architect Moldrzyk also thinks that’s a practical solution: “Add two stools and you immediately have a small eating space.

“The advantage to this solution is that you get extra workspace on the counter into the bargain.”

In open-plan apartments where the kitchen is just a niche, higher bar-type counters are a great way to divide it off from the lounge area and also provide a surface to eat off.

“I know some people hate them because they make the kitchen niche more cramped. However, counters remain popular,” says Geismann.

For a couple, it can be pleasant to perch on stools and enjoy one another’s company over food. A bigger bar-top may offer enough space for three people to sit at. Often they are high enough to slide away the stools underneath.

Altering the seating is another way to save space in the kitchen.

“Sophisticated thinking starts by working out a seating arrangement,” says Moldrzyk. Armrests on chairs can be more trouble that they are worth when it comes to saving space, as they catch on your garments as you squeeze past.

“Most people prefer stacking metal chairs, because they are more stable to sit on,” says Geismann.

And stacking them creates room. Fold-up chairs save even more space, especially if you have a hook on the wall to hang them on.

This sit-on bench from a fitted kitchens manufacturer provides storage space in the base.

This sit-on bench from a fitted kitchen’s manufacturer provides storage space in the base.

Moldrzyk’s personal favourite solution is a sitting-bench. Attached to the wall, it provides space for sitting on as well as a place to store items beneath.

“If you are handy with your hands you can make one yourself or just ask a carpenter to do it for you,” she adds.

When choosing the size of a table, less is not always more.

“If the table is too small, you might not get more than one or two plates and two glasses on it,” says Geismann.

A rule of thumb is to provide at least 40cm to 60cm of width for each person at the table.

Interior architect Moldrzyk recommends buying square tables and not round ones.

“A round table may look nice in the shop, but even having just two people at a small round table means you are short of space for the dishes.”

Square ones have more surface.

Extra ambience in a small kitchen can be created with the help of lighting.

“A single light can highlight the eating place,” says Moldrzyk.

She advises against using lamps that hang from the ceiling if the kitchen table gets moved around a lot.

A more practical solution is a light attached to an adjustable arm.

Geismann recommends using indirect lighting, especially the new lights with LEDs. – dpa