Unless you built your dream home from the ground up, there’s a pretty good chance that you have longed for a larger kitchen at some point or another. The kitchen tends to be the gathering place of the home, but it can start feeling crowded with even one extra person in it.
As much as you might want just one more cabinet or drawer or another foot of countertop space, this usually isn’t possible without a significant renovation that costs you a lot of time and money. Luckily, some easy, practical tips can help you make the most of your kitchen without laying down a lot of cash.
But first, let’s talk about the pros and cons of having a small kitchen in the first place. (This is one of those “count your blessings” moments that helps encourage perspective). Speaking from experience (my first apartment was 300 square feet and included about four square feet of countertop space total), one major benefit of a small kitchen is that it is incredibly easy to clean. The French have a phrase that sums up the silver lining to a small kitchen: “mise en place” (pronounced mee zahn plass). It means everything has its place, and there’s a place for everything. Small kitchens give you an opportunity to consider what you use and don’t use and get rid of the excess. They also provide you with an intimate environment that you can share with loved ones while you cook and dine together.
On the flip side of that, small kitchens are notorious for having little storage, which often results in a cramped, cluttered workspace. Counter space is at a premium, which can make cooking and entertaining tricky, to say the least. Add in a couple of helpers, and you could have a hard time getting anything done.
To those negatives, I say as the French, “pooh pooh!” A small kitchen is not the end of the world, and there are plenty of free or inexpensive ways to make the most out of your kitchen space. They require a little bit of planning and upkeep, but they will help you keep your kitchen functional and comfortable for years to come.
Free: One of the best ways to make your kitchen seem a little bigger is to utilize your natural light. If you don’t have any cash to spend, but you have a mirror hanging in another area of your home that you’ve thought about moving, hang it in the kitchen. By opening those kitchen blinds (or replacing them with curtains that you can completely move out of the way) and adding a mirror, it will feel like you are adding square footage to your kitchen space.
$$: If you have a little bit of money to spare, consider getting some attractive pendant lamps or canned lighting to illuminate the space. These can highlight your favorite parts of your kitchen or some attractive accessories.
$: There are some very inexpensive organization hacks to help you keep your kitchen clutter-free. If you have extra space above the cabinets, instead of displaying decorative items, add some nice baskets to hold seldom-used kitchen items. This will free up cabinet and drawer space while keeping the top of your cabinets looking organized. If you have a lot of extra space above your cabinets, you can even install an open shelf for additional storage.
To make the most of the space inside of your cabinets while sticking to a budget, look in the storage solution section of your grocery or hardware store. Cheap wire magazine holders can be mounted to the inside doors of your cabinets to hold cutting boards, cling wrap, and foil. If you install a spring-loaded curtain rod underneath your sink cabinet, you have an extra place to hang your cleaning solutions so that the shelving can be used for other things. Some stores even have small shelves that hang down from upper shelves so that you can use up every last inch of space inside of your cabinets.
$$: If you have a little bit of cash that you can use to make some improvements, consider switching a few of your cabinet doors with glass front cabinets. The clear or frosted glass has a way of creating the illusion of space while lightening up the entire room. They also give you a way to display some of your pretty things while keeping them out of the way.
Cut Back the Clutter
Free: One very simple (and free!) way to make your kitchen seem bigger is to move your trashcan into the space beneath one of your cabinets. That extra four cubic feet of space might not seem like much, but it has a magical way of opening up your kitchen space, and it shields your trash and its attendant odors from the eyes (and nose).
Also, this tip may seem obvious, but it can be challenging to do: get rid of duplicates and clutter. You will very seldom need four spatulas at the same time, so get rid of at least two of them. Go through your plates, appliances, coffee mugs, and pots and be swift with the blade in cutting the extra out of your kitchen.
$-$$: As you go through your kitchen, take inventory of your small appliances. If you have several single-function appliances, try to look for an alternative that performs multiple tasks. Also, if you can get away with it, switch out some of your bulkier small appliances for more compact ones. This will help you save space on both the counter and inside the cupboard.
This option isn’t possible for some budgets, but if you have a little bit to spare, think about acquiring furniture that folds or includes storage. Some low-profile tables mount directly to the wall and can be opened and shut easily to help you maximize your living space. Other tables include drawers up the center that let you store kitchen tools, towels, and flatware.
Think Outside the Space
$: One great way to free up space in your kitchen is to install magnetic strips onto your kitchen walls. These strips let you toss out the knife block that is taking up space on your countertop or get rid of the knife drawer. Additionally, if you hot glue some magnets onto the bottom of your spice containers, you can hang those up on your magnetic strips or refrigerator. This keeps them visible, within arm’s reach, out of your cabinets, and off of your countertop.
$$: If you’re looking for more of a change, consider using open shelving instead of, or in addition to, your existing cabinets. Organized well, open shelving can create the illusion of space within a small kitchen and add much-needed storage. You could also think about swapping out your traditional backsplash with a full-height pegboard to hold your frequently used utensils. These pegboards are paintable, functional, customizable and can withstand the test in the kitchen.
Perhaps a major kitchen remodel is in your future, but if you don’t have the money now, you don’t just have to sit back and bemoan your limited kitchen. A few of these adjustments can help make it the kind of space you enjoy looking at and spending time in.