Making the Most of a Small Kitchen

We can't all have gorgeous big kitchens! Photo: SWIMPHOTO/Flickr.comI have, like many people, a tiny kitchen. I would say microscopic, except that I've seen the kitchens in some of my friends' New York apartments, and by comparison, mine is palatial. This is definitely not the first small kitchen I've lived with, which is funny considering how much I love food and cooking -- and since I'm a renter, I'm pretty much stuck with what I've got. So how do you make the most of a small kitchen if you can't (or don't want to) remodel?

Downsize your fridge

This might seem painful, but I promise, it's not. You don't need to live with a dorm fridge, but a medium-size between full-scale models and minis can be a great compromise that allows you to keep fresh food without taking up so much space. The smaller the fridge, the more room you'll have, and that's good news for you.

Downsize your appliances

Do you really need a dishwasher? That's a lot of space in a small kitchen, and if it's just you and a partner, you might be better off washing your dishes by hand and freeing up some serious cabinet space. Alternatively, consider a dishwasher drawer, a scaled-down dishwasher with less capacity and a much smaller footprint.

How about all those other appliances? Sit down and think about how often you use them, and whether their functions could be combined or replaced. Remember: the less stuff you have, the more room you have to work. Thus, you might get rid of your ricecooker and stick with stovetop rice, for example. Mount the appliances you really need on slideout trays and tuck them into counter-level cabinets so you can pull them out when you need them, and hide them when you don't.

Combination ovens

Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, you can have your microwave and oven in the same unit. Pretty cool, right? They're pricey, but they work effectively for microwaving food when you need to quickly heat it, and when you're ready to make a roast, flip the oven to convection mode (incidentally, a fantastic way to achieve even heating and browning on roast foods) and get ready to roll!

Slim your stove

Don't be put off. You don't have to choose between an ineffective and frustrating "apartment stove" or two-burner monstrosity, because you can have a high quality stove with some serious cooking capacity and a small footprint. Better yet, if you're using a combination oven, consider just getting a range top, and using the space beneath for storage. Talk to your Houston plumber about gas plumbing options for a high-end gas range.

Create an aisle

If your kitchen doesn't already have one, create an aisle with counters on both sides to create lots of accessible work space. One of the advantages to a small kitchen is that every surface is easy to reach, and the key kitchen triangle will be easy to lay out. For those with slightly larger small kitchens, consider taking advantage of an island to create an easy anchor point in the space.

Open up

Removing doors might seem strange, but it's actually a great way to save space. Doors have a big footprint, and can really into into the space in a small kitchen. If you really need a door, consider a pocket door that will slide away to open.

Welcome to the world of slide outs

Cutting boards used to be installed as slide outs under the counter, and they still can be, if you want to. You can also install drawers, baskets, and other storage that slide out to make materials easy to access without taking up too much space. Storage is key in a small kitchen, as is organization, and you'll want to take your time when it comes to mapping out storage options.

In addition to hiding things when you don't need them and opening up space, slide outs also offer an opportunity for better organization. No more losing things at the back of cabinets or drawers, because you can pull them all the way out to see what's inside; consider installing movable compartments to create even better storage that will flex with your needs.

Look beyond the kitchen

Do you have storage elsewhere in your house? It might be a good place for seasonal kitchen supplies or things you don't use often, like big casserole pans. By getting big, clumsy items out of the kitchen, you'll open up more room for the daily things, like your dishware and ingredients.

A cabinet in the dining area of your home can become a great storage location for dishware, silverware, napkins, serving spoons and platters, and related supplies. Likewise, a banquette seat could be turned into a lift-up storage compartment for even more hidden storage.

For those ready to take on a more serious remodel, get inspried by this amazing redo of a small kitchen that kept the footprint of the original room, but totally transformed it.

Katie Marks writes for

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