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The kitchen in my first apartment was tiny. Not cute-first-home-small, or efficiently-designed-tiny-home small: Hovel small.
As far as counter space, I had one square-foot of it on a corner between the sink and a windowless oven that couldn’t even fit a standard-sized cookie sheet.
This is perhaps a fine setup for most college students who subsist mostly on pizza and ramen and other generally poor decisions, but I love to cook and bake, so the fact that I knocked my elbows against a wall each time I tried to chop wasn’t, in fact, cutting it.
To survive, I had to get really creative with my tiny canvas. If you, too, are struggling with an itty-bitty kitchen, this is how to maximize your space.
1. Use every single inch of vertical space
Rule of thumb: Invest in furniture that takes up minimal square footage, but offers a ton of surface space. For starters, swap a conventional dining table for a bar-height option with multiple shelves to hold everything from a microwave to food. This budget-friendly pick has hooks bolted to the sides for additional storage.
2. Hang floating shelves to free up cluttered cabinets
If you're low on storage space, try installing floating shelves. They're trendy, and they're a great way to store food, display kitschy glassware, and free up cabinet space. Try displaying functional pieces with pretty vases and meaningful knickknacks for a more decorative feel. Best of all: These shelves come with a handy hanging rack for dish towels or anything with a hook.
3. Look up—Your ceiling also offers storage options
A well-placed hook is your best friend in a tiny kitchen. Secure a sturdy hook into your ceiling and hang a tiered basket to house any decorative (and relatively lightweight) items: I kept tea, napkins, and a small plant in mine. Alternatively, you can hang a pot rack to make up for what you lack in cabinets with space above your head.
4. Transform your sink into extra counter space with a cutting board
You never realize that your sink is a giant hole of wasted counter space until you have a micro kitchen. I bought a large cutting board that spanned the width of my sink so that I could effectively extend my countertop, use the area as a trivet for hot dishes, or use the cutting board to chop veggies.
Measure the width of your sink and make sure the cutting board extends a few extra inches on each side for maximum stability.
5. Put up a magnetic strip to hold metal utensils
A knife rack bolts to your wall and has a strong magnetic strip that safely grips onto any metal tool, from knives to scissors to serving utensils. Secure a knife rack to any free wall to clear up a ton of drawer space and keep your utensils in sight and close to hand.
6. Attach hooks to the undersides of your cabinetry
The underside of your cabinets can hold plenty! You can screw hooks into the bottoms of cabinets to artfully hang teacups, measuring spoons, even bananas. Just be careful to cover the exposed screw on the inside of the cabinet to avoid scraping up your dishware (and hands).
7. Use a mirror to feign more space
Yes, you’re low on space—that doesn’t mean you have to be low on style. Prop a large, embellished mirror on a wall to give the appearance of a larger room. The bigger the mirror, the better—floor-to-ceiling is preferable to make the room seem as large as possible. It makes a huge difference. (Pun intended.)
8. Invest in double-duty appliances
Take your small space as incentive to pare down. Get rid of duplicate tools and single-use appliances. For example, you can forgo your single-purpose toaster for an awesome toaster oven that can accomplish so much more than just crisping bread.
With the cult-favorite Instant Pot, give up one cubic foot of space for a 7-in-1 pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, sauté/browning, yogurt maker, steamer and warmer.
9. Attach storage right to your fridge
Remember that huge block of an appliance at the hub of your kitchen? It has plenty surfaces you can use for storage. This shelf is equipped with with super-strong magnets so that you can keep your spices on the fridge instead of clogging up another cabinet.
10. Make no apologies
Things will look a little haphazard at times: Perhaps, like me, your coffee pot lives atop a stack of drawers you had to buy because your kitchen has no built-ins. Maybe you’re using wooden bar stools to hold bowls full of ingredients as you cook, or maybe your oven houses your baking trays when it’s not in use. Don’t be embarrassed — Own your creativity until you can stretch out in your next kitchen.