How to Choose the Best Kitchenette [Buyer’s Guide]

In so many things, our culture is moving toward the trend of wanting more functionality to be packed into a smaller space. We especially see it in smartphones, but also in the long list of products you can buy that combine multiple functionalities into one item – microwaves that can work like ovens, TVs that access the internet, and corkscrews that also open beer or soda bottles. The more we can fit into one item the better.

Combo kitchen units, sometimes called kitchenettes, apply that idea to the kitchen appliances we use every day. In one unit, you can check off all the main boxes for what you need to fit into your kitchen: storage space, a fridge, a sink, and something to cook your food with.


Why Buy a Kitchenette?

The appeal of combo kitchen units may be immediately obvious to some, but for others the idea of working with less kitchen space when it comes to things like the size of your refrigerator or oven seems baffling. And in fact, there are customers for whom combo kitchen units don’t make much sense. If you have a big family or entertain a lot and need the ample counter and refrigerator space that requires, trying to make due with a combo kitchen unit alone will likely leave you feeling stifled, limited, and wanting to trade in somewhere down the line, so it’s important to really consider if it is the right choice for you and your family.

Nonetheless, there are many situations in which a combo kitchen unit makes perfect sense or is even the best choice available. Here are some scenarios that may lead you to wanting (or needing) a combo kitchen unit:

  • If your apartment or home is too small for you to fit a lot of different appliances in the kitchen, but you still want access to the main ones you need for cooking.
  • If you have a guesthouse or space you rent out through something like AirBnB that doesn’t have its own kitchen, but you want to equip it with basic kitchen functions for renters or visitors.
  • If you want to set up an extra kitchen space in your yard for outside entertaining.
  • If you’ve found yourself in a space where the kitchen isn’t fully equipped with all the appliances you need, but you’re not prepared to spend the money to buy them all separately.

In summary, combo kitchen units can provide basic cooking features in a pinch when cost or space makes other options unfeasible, or can serve as a helpful addition to the kitchen you already have in an outside or guest house space.

Whether your needs are supplementary or you’re looking for a kitchenette to serve all your appliance needs in your kitchen, you need to know what you’re looking for to find the right combo kitchen unit for you. The market for combo kitchen units isn’t huge, but you do have options. Here are some of the main things you need to know to make a smart purchasing choice.


Different Options Available in Combo Kitchen Units

Not all kitchenettes are created equal. You’ll find that different units come equipped with different appliances and features. These are the main options you’ll come across in your search.

Sink

Pretty much all combo kitchen units include a sink, which makes sense – it’s a pretty important kitchen item! Most of the time, the sinks in a combo kitchen unit are stainless steel and designed to provide their basic function without taking up too much space. If you have some larger dishes, you may have a hard time washing them in the sink sizes typical of most models. If you know you appreciate using a sink that’s adequately deep or a little larger than is typical for combo kitchen units, then keep that in mind in your search.

Burners

A small stovetop with two burners is also a pretty standard feature in most kitchenettes, but you do have some options here. You can choose between gas and electric burners, and coil or smoothtop options. When choosing between gas and electric, you should be aware of what kind of hookup is already available in your space. If you buy a combo kitchen unit that uses gas and your kitchen isn’t set up for that, then you’ll likely end up paying a lot more to use your unit than the cost of the item itself.

Refrigerator

A mini fridge is another pretty standard feature of the kitchenettes on the market. Keep in mind though that the refrigerator included in most combo kitchen units is small. It should be good for drinks and some food items, but you might have a hard time fitting anything large into it or storing leftovers. One thing to consider when it comes to the mini fridge is whether or not it’s removable. A removable fridge can be more easily replaced if it breaks so you don’t have to buy a whole new kitchen unit. It also makes your options with the unit more flexible. If you ever decide you’d rather that space be turned into extra cabinet space or filled in with a microwave, it’s not too hard to make that happen.

Cabinets

As with most parts of a combo kitchen unit, the cabinet space is limited, but most kitchenettes include at least a little space for dishes, condiments or other kitchen items and, as you’d expect, larger models usually provide more than the most compact models.

Oven

Ovens are a bit more of a specialty item in combo kitchen units than sinks, mini fridges and cabinet space. Many models don’t include an oven, but you can definitely find some that do if it’s important to you to have one. You can choose between gas and electric here as well, but as with the burners, you should factor which hookups you have available in your kitchen before making that decision.

Models that include an oven will typically either be larger than other options (sometimes taller so they don’t take up as much floor space), or forego counter space in order to stay compact.

Microwave

Microwaves are another specialty item that aren’t always standard, but can offer a value add in some models. As with ovens, you’ll likely either be adding to the size of the unit in order to include a microwave, or sacrificing some cabinet space.

Counter Space

Many combo kitchen units don’t offer any counter space because the surfaces are taken up by the sink and burners, but you can find some that have a little extra space you can use for food prep or storing additional kitchen items that don’t fit in the cabinet space.

Backsplash

This is a small feature, but important to many customers who don’t want to worry about their food damaging the walls behind where you keep your kitchenette or falling between the wall and the unit. It’s not available in all models, but you can certainly find kitchenettes that come equipped with a backsplash if it’s a priority to you in your search.


Factors to Consider When Buying a Combo Kitchen Unit

The right combo kitchen unit should satisfy the needs you have while fitting into the space available. To find the best kitchenette for your needs, here are some of the main factors to keep in mind in your search.

Functionality

What do you need your combo kitchen unit to be able to do? You know your needs – how much stuff you want to be able to fit into the cabinets, how much space you need in the sink to fit the dishes you own, and what types of cooking you like to do. You may not be able to get everything you want in a combo kitchen unit if the space you have to work with is especially limited, but you can figure out your priorities before you start your search so you’re more likely to end up with a model that checks all the main boxes you’re looking for in terms of functionality.   Shop for Kitchenettes Here

Size

Having a small kitchen space isn’t the only reason someone might buy a combo kitchen unit, but it’s one of the main reasons that sends people looking for one. That being the case, size is an especially important consideration. If you have a tiny space to work with, you have to find a model that will fit in it. This may mean settling for something with less functionality than you’d like and will likely mean making some hard choices about what options you need to have in your kitchenette, and which you’d like, but can live without. Make sure you’ve taken the time to measure the space available so you seek out models that will work for you, and then carefully consider the most efficient and valuable use of that space based on your priorities.

Durability

A kitchenette is a fairly sizable investment (although it will set you back less than buying the same appliances separately). You don’t want to end up with a model that doesn’t last you a good while. This is somewhat complicated when it comes to combo kitchen units because there are so many parts involved. Ideally, everything included in the unit will have a long life, but at least you can usually fix just whatever items breaks, rather than having to replace the whole thing if there are problems. Try to go with a brand that makes a sturdy product, based on what reviewers say, and offers solid customer service for repairs if parts do break.

Cost

Few people can search for appliances without cost being top of mind. The good news is that combo kitchen units cost quite a bit less than buying a fridge, range, sink, and having cabinets installed all separately. It will still cost you some money though. You can find some smaller units that cost less than $1,000 (closer to $700-900), but most kitchenettes will go over $1,000 or even $2,000. The more options you want included, the higher the price will go, and wanting extra perks like one with a nice look, a freezer as well as a fridge, or smoothtop burners instead of coil will cost you a bit extra as well.

Aesthetics

Combo kitchen units are not especially known for aesthetics. Most of them are designed with packing as much functionality into a compact space as possible as the top priority, but some models do offer a little more color or a nicer visual design than others. If making sure that your kitchenette looks nice and fits well visually with your home is a top priority for you, then you should be able to find some units that suit your needs.


Popular Kitchenette Brands

There are only a few main brands you’ll encounter in the combo kitchen unit space. To give you an idea of what you can expect from each, we’ve looked at the online reviews for the kitchenettes they sell and provided a summary of what we found.

Acme

Acme sells a range of kitchenettes that get positive reviews from customers for looking good, being a good value and fitting into small spaces well. Many of their models have a removable fridge, which several customers mentioned appreciating as it adds flexibility to how they use the model. A couple of reviewers also commented on how responsive and helpful the company is if there are issues. The main complaints we saw were for little things like the stainless steel sink and countertops being difficult to clean. The one bigger issue mentioned in a review was the electrical voltage being too high for one customer to use the unit with the outlet they already had. As long as the voltage of the outlets in your kitchen matches what you need, Acme should be a solid choice to go with.

Avanti

Avanti is another big player in the kitchenette space with largely solid reviews for providing combo kitchen units that look good and pack a lot of efficient use into a small space. Several reviewers mentioned how easy installation is, but others commented that it can very expensive if you don’t already have the right electric and plumbing hookups for the unit. A couple of otherwise happy customers also commented that they wish the sink was bigger or deeper, but most reviewers mainly expressed enthusiasm at finding a product that met all their needs while fitting into a small space.

Summit

Summit, our third and final player in the combo kitchen unit space, has mixed reviews. Many customers are happy with the quality of the product for the value, but some felt that parts of their models aren’t made to last. Several reviewers found their kitchenettes to be a perfect fit for the space they had available and were happy that they supplied everything needed. The reviews do seem to vary model by model, so consider checking out the reviews of the particular combo unit you seek to buy before purchasing if you’re worried.


Conclusion

The market for combo kitchen units isn’t huge. You won’t have as many options as you would when searching for a full-sized range or refrigerator, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get to be picky. You have a number of choices in terms of functionality, style, and size and should be able to find something that works well for you, even if you’re working with a limited space.