Small is suddenly big business. A boom in apartment construction (more units were started in 2014 than in any other year since 1989) has made the U.S. market ripe for downsized appliances that will fit sleekly into a compact kitchen.

“Small-space living shouldn’t mean settling for dorm-room appliances,” says Lou Lenzi, industrial design director at GE Appliances. The company is developing a microkitchen that packs all of the components of a full kitchen—sink, refrigeratordishwashercooktop, and oven—into a 6-foot-long modular unit designed for a small home or apartment. “It will be available in a range of finishes to match your aesthetic,” Lenzi says.

The compact kitchen movement is global: Other mainstream brands, many of them foreign, are also pushing the microliving trend with compact appliances in sleek designs. The German manufacturer Bosch, for example, has added the option of custom paneling to its slim 24-inch-wide refrigerator and 18-inch dishwasher. When paired with Bosch’s 24-inch-wide cooktop and wall oven, the result is a fully coordinated appliance suite that takes up less than 6 linear feet (see kitchen above).

“Compact appliances have been the standard in Europe for years,” says Dan Kenny, director of brand marketing for Bosch. “We see the trend catching fire with young professionals and empty nesters moving into urban areas.”

The Italian manufacturer Smeg, a staple in trendy kitchens, offers streamlined appliances in similar configurations, each with the brand’s signature retro styling. Fisher & Paykel, from New Zealand, also has a line of compact appliances with clean, contemporary styling.

The growing variety of attractive compact appliances is making it easier to design a compact kitchen with style. But because premium brands are rolling them out, be prepared to pay prices on par with top-end, full-sized models. There can also be a trade-off in terms of performance. For example, the maximum burner output on Bosch’s 24-inch gas range is 12,000 BTU, compared with the 20,000 BTU you’ll see in a top-of-the-line 36-inch unit.

Sometimes the sacrifice in functionality isn’t worth it. If you love to cook, for instance, you’ll probably find a way to fit the extra 6 inches of a standard 30-inch range with its high-powered burners and larger oven. And if you throw a lot of dinner parties, an 18-inch dishwasher, which holds about one-third less than standard units, could mean running a lot of additional loads.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the August 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.