How to Make a Small Kitchen Work
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Our kitchen is small. Its not New York City apartment small, or tiny house small, but for a family that raises most of its own food and needs space to process and cook all the time, it is kinda small. The photo above shows what it looked like just before we moved in, before ANY of our stuff was in it to clutter up counters and cabinets.
You see we used to have a pretty big kitchen with two sinks and a HUGE kitchen island. We loved it. But when we found our forever homestead, we had to leave that kitchen behind (thankfully a friend bought it so we still have visitation rights) and trade it in for land, woods, and a mountain view.
We wouldn’t trade our new homestead for the world, but we would trade the kitchen if our old housemate would consider a swap (yeah, I didn’t think so).
The kitchen in our homestead is about 12-feet square, with a breakfast bar that opens into the dining area. It has old-school 1975 cabinets that we refinished before we even moved in (hint – white paint on the cabinets made it feel bigger), modern appliances, and one nice window looking out into the backyard.
When we need to cook a big meal, process vegetables, or can tomato sauce, space in our kitchen is at a premium.
Here are our Top 3 Tips for Making a Small Kitchen Work:
Step One: Clear the Clutter
Counter space is premium real-estate in a small kitchen, especially when you need to do a lot of projects. Don’t take up all of your counter space with microwaves, toaster ovens, stand mixers, knife blocks, and spice racks. Consider alternative solutions that get those items off your counter and into space that wouldn’t otherwise be used.
For example, consider:
- Over-the-oven microwaves that take the place of a vent fan (we’re hoping to get one of these soon);
- Magnetic Knife Racks that get your knives off the counter and onto the flat surface of a wall;
- Low-profile spice racks that can hang on a wall, or spice holders that go on the inside of a cabinet or in a drawer.
Go even further by asking yourself, “does this really need to be in the kitchen?” We store things like our instant pot, coffee maker, and even our plastic bags and storage containers in a hall closet that isn’t too far from the kitchen.
This tip also goes for the “stuff” that gets thrown on your counter on a daily basis. This year we came up with a new de-cluttering strategy where each family member was assigned a surface to keep clean, including one person whose job is the kitchen counter. Don’t let the mail or schoolwork pile up, or you’ll find yourself preparing sandwiches on top of your electric bill!
Step Two: Get a Kitchen Island
You might think that adding another piece of furniture to your small kitchen would just make things worse, but think about it. Do you really use that open space in the middle of the room? It’s not like you’re dancing in there (though more power to you if you do) or spreading things out on the floor.
We literally prepare almost all of our meals on our small kitchen island. It also provides one more shelf and drawer where we store things like mixing bowls and measuring utensils that otherwise wouldn’t have a home.
A few days after putting the island into our kitchen, any concern about taking up too much space was completely forgotten. We couldn’t live without it these days.
Step Three: Capitalize Cabinet Space
The key to not going crazy in your kitchen is being able to find what you need when you need it, and organized cabinets are the first line of defense in that struggle. Try to organize your cabinets based on locating what you need most often in the most easily accessible places. And again, don’t hesitate to move things you don’t need often to another place entirely.
We have a closet in our front hall that we turned into a food pantry for all of the bulk items we don’t need immediately. We also built a pot rack out of reclaimed wood in our porch that helps us to store cast iron pans in a way that adds to the decor of the room.
Also consider a few key cabinet storage gadgets.
We’re not into buying every kitchen gadget they make but when we installed our roll-out kitchen cabinet organizer shelf it was seriously a game-changer. We store all of our baking supplies (flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder – you name it) on this little puppy and we just pull it out and grab what we need. No digging through and trying to reach the thing way in the back, having to pull out everything else in the process.
Because we buy our baking ingredients in bulk, we use air tight canisters that fit perfectly in the bottom shelf of this cabinet organizer to store our flour and sugar.
Other great storage options include: under-shelf mug holders that double the space in your cabinet where you store cups and glasses; simple plate organizer shelves that allow you to stack one type of plate on top of another but still access both piles; or two-tier utensil drawer organizers. Many of these things are also great DIY projects; we made a plate rack by simply inserting dowels into base board!
The fact is, I hope to have a bigger kitchen someday. But instead of dwelling on the small size of my current space, I like to think of it as a challenge and an opportunity. After all, it is kind of nice to have clutter free counters and having a small space makes that even more of a necessity.
A few frugal and creative solutions can save you the thousands of dollars you might spend on renovations!