A man in a black shirt assembles a sink.

Designing a small space kitchen to make your own

Whether it’s shared or personal, for cooking a feast or heating up leftovers, most people find the kitchen essential to their homes – even with limited space. Oskar Ponnert and Andreas Fredriksson at IKEA worked on just that with ÄSPINGE, designing a modern kitchenette with life in a small space home in mind. 

Having spent most of his life in Sweden, a sparsely populated country, Oskar Ponnert is initially quick to think he doesn’t have much personal experience with living in a small space. But then, after a moment, his mind wanders back to his student years in the small, Swedish university town of Lund. A smile spreads across his face. 

“I was renting part of a big apartment, with a separate entrance. It was just a small hallway and a single room. The closest you could call a kitchen was a portable mini stove, but there was no refrigerator”, he recounts, letting out a slight chuckle as he adds: “I moved there in the middle of winter, so I could have this bag hanging out of the window, and that was my refrigerator.”

Though certainly not ideal, Oskar’s kitchen setup at the time was not subject to much change for several reasons, each strong enough on its own. The space was limited, he was a student on a budget, and it wasn’t his to go through the hassle to change. These are all factors relevant to many living in small spaces, and that made up some of the insights Oskar kept in mind as Product Design Developer for the IKEA ÄSPINGE kitchenette.

Many people who live in small spaces in big cities aren’t comfortable or even familiar with the idea of planning a kitchen, or with making decisions regarding countertops, fronts, and what tap to get.

A man in a black shirt with white dots standing in a kitchen that's being assembled.
Oskar Ponnert, Product Design Developer at IKEA.
Two men assembling an IKEA kitchen.
Oskar Ponnert and designer Andreas Fredriksson have a look at the instructions before assembling the ÄSPINGE kitchenette.
Two men assembling an IKEA kitchen.
A man lying on his knees assembling an IKEA kitchen.

A small space kitchen design inspired by familiar vertical structures

Sketches of a kitchen.
Early sketches for ÄSPINGE, involving more hidden features.
Having experienced both a growing family and a downsized home over the years , Andreas knows plenty about maximising space. He’s concluded that a good mix of open and closed storage solutions goes hand in hand with creating open, versatile surfaces. And the final ÄSPINGE runs in that vein. 

“Eventually, we decided not to hide the functionality and instead make it part of a more open design and decoration of the kitchen”, says Andreas. 

His biggest takeaway from the project? 

“Everything doesn’t have to be stored away just because you live in a small space. Some things, like spices, fruits, and some utensils, can be really nice to have on display as well, as long as you have the right place for it.”

A man in a black shirt standing in a room with his arms crossed.
IKEA designer Andreas Fredriksson.

Everything doesn’t have to be stored away just because you live in a small space.

A grater and a slotted spoon hanging in a kitchen.
A kitchen drawer with towels and chopsticks.
To soften and balance the cool of the scaffolding inspired design and material, Andreas and Oskar decided to bring warmth to ÄSPINGE with a wood expression for the drawers and front. Much like a bookcase, the open structure is then meant to invite people to really make it their own both in function and form.
A sketch of a kitchen made for small space living.
An earlier concept design for ÄSPINGE with full-length coverage on one side was eventually adjusted to open up and simplify the kitchenette.
A small kitchen with black kitchen fronts.

The ÄSPINGE kitchenette will be available in IKEA stores starting January 2023.