If you have a small kitchen, clutter and disorganization can feel never-ending—especially if both counter space and storage space are limited. The truth is, you’ll never feel like the kitchen is truly functional until you take the time to assess how you’re storing everything, from appliances and cookware to fragile glassware and dinnerware. Doing so can help you maximize every single inch of space available to you and see to it that you aren’t wasting valuable space by storing everyday items incorrectly.
To battle cramped spaces in your kitchen, you’ll have to tap into innovative storage solutions that have been tried and tested by organizational experts. The following ideas cover the common features of any kitchen, including pantry spaces, cabinets, shelving, utility closets, and wall space. Plus, there are a few design elements you’ll want to consider, like a fresh coat of paint, that can also make your space feel larger.
A few key investments can also go a long way in freeing up space, like freestanding shelves, which are great for storing the everyday kitchen items you reach for often, and pierced corbels to hang the utensils you may not have room for inside your drawers. If you’re looking for a well-designed option, take a look at these storage solutions from the Martha Stewart Living collection available at the Home Depot. You may want to consider rethinking your cramped set-up altogether and installing custom cabinetry that includes pull-out drawers and additional shelving. We’re walking you through the best uses for customized additions, and how you can maximize existing space with as little effort as possible.
Optimize Your Pantry
Make the most out of your space by organizing your pantry staples and other dry goods. Keep a rotation of your cereals, dry goods, and spices, so that you’re not adding clutter to your shelves with expired items.
Leave No Space Unused
Don’t forget to make use of even the smallest spaces to get the most out of your kitchen. A tilt-down drawer at your sink, for example, is a handy way to store sponges and knickknacks that would otherwise take up valuable counter space.
Open Up with Light-Colored Kitchens
Use cool colours, like whites and greys, to open up your space. “Misty greys have a magical quality of making space seem larger than it is,” says New-York based designer David Stark. You can select a white for the trims and window sashes that are close in value to the grey, so the colours vibrate.
Tackle Your Closet
Keep your utility closets tidy to avoid letting your brooms, mops, and dustpans from taking over. Wall hangers go a long way to help keep these items in place.
Use Vertical Space
With smaller kitchens, cabinet and drawer space can be limited, so get smart with your vertical space. Pierced corbels are great for hanging larger kitchen utensils that would otherwise crowd your drawer space. Additionally, glass-front mounted cabinet doors are a beautiful way to display your serving ware and to leverage wall space.
Maximize Your Cabinets
Modifying your cabinet to serve as a customizable pantry space is a convenient all-in-one solution. Pull-out drawers and racks allow you to pack all of your pantry items into one convenient location in a fraction of the space of a normal-sized pantry.
Think Outside the Kitchen
If you have limited kitchen space, make use of your other rooms to help alleviate some of the clutter. Move barware and entertaining pieces to the living room with custom cabinetry.
If there’s not enough space in your tiny kitchen to create the storage you crave, consider using a nook or closet in a nearby room. A recessed niche can be used to stash kitchen tools you occasionally use or nonperishable pantry items. A curtain, as shown on the left, can keep what you store out of sight.
STREAMLINE YOUR KITCHEN WITH A SIMPLE SHELVING UNIT
Empty wall space that’s perfect for a set of shelves? If you don’t feel like spending time putting up individual shelves or want to give your kitchen an industrial look, swap wood for a neat, wirework unit.
ADD EXTRA STORAGE WITH A FREESTANDING KITCHEN ISLAND
We would all love a huge kitchen with a kitchen island in the middle but if your kitchen diner living space is too small to accommodate an island, or you are renting, and there simply isn’t one, consider investing in a small, freestanding option that you can position strategically to suit your layout.
In a small kitchen, most elements should be designed for multiple tasks; this is especially true of the kitchen island. The island not only provides bonus counter space, but it can also serve as a dining table and provide compact storage. Every culinary headquarters needs an area for dining, and a large kitchen island requires little more than a row of bar stools to become a casual dining spot. If outfitted with open shelving or cabinets and drawers, then an island can conveniently house kitchen supplies within arm’s reach for the cook. To add maximum efficiency, customize your island with extras, like electric outlets for kitchen appliances or a pull-out cutting board just below the countertop to expand your workspace.
Get creative and transform an unlikely piece of furniture into a centre island to suit your space. For example, enlist an old dresser, a sofa table or even a card file cabinet to anchor your kitchen. Or go bold and wrap your kitchen island in a bright accent colour for a boost of character in your small space.
DON’T RULE OUT A LARDER
A full-height larder is probably the single most efficient item of storage in any kitchen, and can comfortably fit everything from kitchen utensils to a vacuum cleaner. If your kitchen is small but has even a corner to spare, a larder may well fit in there, freeing up vital space elsewhere.
SLIDE A SLIM STORAGE TROLLEY INTO NARROW GAPS
Even in small kitchens, there often are gaps between the fridge and the cooker, say, or a bit of space behind the door. Use that space for an extra-slim storage trolley – you’ll be surprised how much you can fit on to a couple of even very narrow shelves. This storage option is especially useful for having your daily cooking ingredients to hand.
USE THE TOP OF THE MICROWAVE AS STORAGE
Microwave on the worktop? Why not consider its storage potential, too? Put a small shelving unit or tray on top of the microwave and be impressed by just how much will fit there.
The Microwave Top Shelving Unit from A Place for Everything fits the toaster and coffee machine, and the bottom shelf is perfect for tea towels and fridge bags.
STORE YOUR CHINA ON A PLATE RACK
Plate drying racks that sit on the drainer take up way too much space in a small kitchen. A wall-mounted plate rack, however, not only frees up precious space but is a display opportunity not to be missed.
The Middle Stainless Steel Rack from Stovold & Pogue is sturdy and won’t rust, and has a utilitarian look that will add a contemporary twist to your kitchen decor. Available at Not On The High Street.
ACCESSORISE WITH COLOURFUL STORAGE JARS
If you can see your storage – which is guaranteed to be the case in a small kitchen – then you want it to be as good-looking as possible. Have fun with kitchen jars that are colourful and come in a variety of materials and sizes.
Free up cupboard space at the same time as making a stylish countertop display by popping dried food into glass storage jars. Arrange in height and size order. Create fun labels that say which pasta is your kids favourite or your family nickname for each shape.
PROUDLY DISPLAY YOUR COPPER
Pots and pans are usually stored well out of sight, but if yours are gorgeous copper kitchen accessories, why not create a display feature with them? The result is not only eye-catching but also very practical, making reaching for the right pan effortless.
We love the way the copperware is stored right above the sink in this Raven Wall Shelf by Williston Forge from Wayfair.
STACK BOXES FOR A FUNCTIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY LOOK
Some kitchens are so pared down that that there may not even be an under-the-sink cabinet. If this is the case in your kitchen, create a contemporary look with simple and crisp storage boxes in different sizes. Lidded options are best, but some items will also do well in an open box.
TIDY UP YOUR WASHING-UP WITH A DESIGNATED CADDY
Sponges, scourers, and brushes can create a surprising (and annoying) amount of mess in a small kitchen, leaving unsightly pools of soapy water around the sink area. Keep your surfaces tidy and dry with a handsome and easy-to-clean metal caddy.
The Washing Up Tidy from All Things Brighton Beautiful has three handy compartments – and is good-looking, too.
CHOOSE A STORAGE CABINET WITH A WINE RACK
Love your wine, but have no cellar and a small kitchen? A wine rack is a must, but why not make your work that little bit harder and provide storage for more things than just wine? Choose a storage unit that has a wine rack – or, even better, a wine rack and a wine glass rack.
The Signature Wine Rack/Glass Storage Cabinet from The Wooden Furniture Store is an excellent all-rounder with plenty of storage space for wine and an extra storage box on top.
STORE YOUR VEGETABLES IN A RUSTIC DRAWER UNIT
One of the challenges that can come with a small kitchen is limited fridge space. Some fridges are way too small to fit in all the groceries, and this is especially true of vegetables, which often come in bulk. The good news is that many vegetables do just as well – and sometimes even better – when stored out of the fridge.
All you will need is a couple of sturdy wooden crates – or, if you like a smarter look, opt for this attractive, rustic Spruce Vegetable Store from Garden Trading.
INVEST IN A MULTI-PURPOSE WALL STORAGE CABINET
Small kitchens, especially those in rented spaces, often come without any wall cabinet storage. On a budget or don’t feel like bothering with installing kitchen cabinets, but still want a wall storage unit? Invest in a wall cabinet that is well designed and not too kitchen specific. This way, you’ll be able to repurpose it for another room when moving.
We really like the unique Ferm Living Haze Wall Cabinet, made from powder-coated metal and wired glass. It is practical and will look equally good in the hallway or living room.
If your tableware collection is a combination of hand-me-downs, charity shop finds and new buys, it might look a little messy out on display. Instead, store it in a tall cupboard with solid-fronted doors. Dedicate a shelf to each type of item to ensure order.
Choose a multi-functional freestanding unit
Here’s a neat kitchen storage idea – turn a kitchen trolley into a moveable workbench or cooking aid. Whether it’s used to house glasses, bottles and decanters for cocktails or herb planters, oils, spices and a pestle and mortar, this is a great way to store special kit that you use a lot in your kitchen space.
Use a room divider as storage
The right storage system can double up as a room divider in an open-plan space. Solid, freestanding shelves, that reach almost to the ceiling and are open on both sides can be used to house pots and pans and your more attractive serving ware plus dining table essentials.
Door Attachment for Food Storage Necessities
Free up cupboard space by moving hard-to-stack food storage supplies to a more easily accessible location. Mount a magazine rack on the back of a cupboard door. Measure the boxes to determine the necessary depth for the magazine rack, then measure the cupboard door to determine the maximum width. A space-saving idea that provides easier access to food storage supplies.
Basket Full of Herbs and Cooking Utensils
Grab a basket and a few items to use as holders, such as measuring cups, crocks, jars, and mugs. Then, gather items you use the most often for cooking from drawers, cupboards, and counters. This idea provides easier access to your most used items, uncluttered counter space, and new space in your drawers and cupboards.
A Hanging Space for Squirt Bottle Cleaners
Cleaning supplies can get jumbled under the kitchen sink. However, if you put a rod across the cupboard underneath the sink, you can hang spray bottles over the rod by the nozzle between the trigger and the bottle, making them easier to sort and reducing the number of items on the bottom of the cupboard to get cluttered.
Convenient Trash and Garbage Rolls
For quick and easy access to garbage bags, buy garbage bags in rolls. Then, mount some inexpensive curtain rod holders and rods on the side of the kitchen sink base cupboard, and slide the garbage bags onto the rods. The garbage bags are easier to access and no longer taking up space on the bottom of your cupboard.
Lid Storage on Your Cabinet Doors
To organize pan lids, use sturdy adhesive hooks on the back of the cupboard door to hold them. Make sure the handles of the lids won’t hold the door open by resting against pans. Place hooks on an angle at the four o’clock and eight o’clock position for each lid. Now you have easier access to your lids and pans.
Utensil Drawers in Unused Cabinet Space
Narrow, unused cupboard space in your kitchen can become usable with pull-out cabinets like this one. They can hold all manner of items for quick and easy access, and the shelves can be adjustable. You can do it yourself, or if you are not handy, hire a contractor to install the pull-out cabinets.
Shelves for Cooking Essentials and Snacks
Adding shelves to hold matching jars on an empty wall space creates attractive, extra storage space in your kitchen. It removes clutter on your counter and gives you more cupboard space by eliminating flour, sugar, cereal, pasta, chips, and snack packages from your cupboards and counters. It also provides easier access to these items.
A Wall-Mounted Mug and Glass Holder
Mugs and glasses are one of the items in kitchen cupboards that do not stack well. So, they end up spread out. Hanging a rack in an empty wall space frees up more cupboard space, gets the mugs and glasses out of the cupboard, and puts them within easy reach.
Cabinet Door Chalkboard with Measuring Utensils
Chalkboard paint makes this idea easy to accomplish. Remove the door, paint the back with chalkboard paint, frame it with moulding, and add the hooks. Then, rehang the cupboard door. Now, you have easy access to your measuring cups and spoons, and the bulky measuring cups are not taking up drawer space.
Fruit Baskets Hanging from the Wall
Try this idea for another use of empty wall space that clears up counter space and makes room in overcrowded refrigerators. Just attach some boards to the wall; add some sturdy, decorative baskets; and you have a place to store fruit to provide healthy snacks for your family within easy reach.
Out of Sight Cutting Board Storage
Cutting board storage was created with a plastic-coated wire frame holder for food storage supplies. Zip ties added across the bottom keep cutting boards from sliding through openings, The holder was hung so that it was low enough to accommodate the largest cutting board, and would not hold the door open by resting on anything in the cupboard.
A Storage Container Lid Organizer
For easy storage of plastic bowl lids, attach a wall-mounted file folder holder to the back of the cupboard door. The lids will be contained and will not be falling out of the cupboard onto the floor. The lids can also be sized so that you can find the small lids easily without having to dig for them.
Simple, Space-Saving Under Cabinet Drawer Add-Ons
These under-the-base-cabinets, do-it-yourself drawers add new storage space to space in your kitchen. However, you can also add drawers under upper cabinets. You can do it yourself, or use kits to add the drawers under your upper cabinets. These drawers are not super deep, but you can still get a lot of items in a 3″ drawer.
Making use of unused portions of your small kitchen can pump up your storage space. Instead of an out-of-the-way shelf above cabinetry, renovate cabinets to reach the ceiling and pack in extra shelves for storage. Another idea is to transform a bare wall into a home communication centre through the addition of a corkboard and chalkboard. For the gourmet, nail hooks onto the wall to line up a collection of aprons. For the oenophile, put the underside of the cabinetry to use by adding stemware holders to hang wine glasses for a pretty and functional display. Finally, installing a spice or pot rack above the kitchen stove makes the most of the space and keeps tools at hand.
If your small kitchen includes cozy, stand-alone cabinetry elements, like kitchen islands and a decorative baker’s rack, then look to them for added storage zones. Equipped with cubbies to store cookbooks, wine or entertaining must-haves, these prime storage locations can keep kitchen tools within arm’s reach. Further boost storage capacity in your small kitchen by bringing in organizational accessories with loads of style, like baskets, wine cubbies, hooks and glass canisters. Neatly tuck linens or mail inside a system of hanging or stacked baskets, and nail hooks to an empty wall for hanging aprons or a pegboard for pots and pans.
When in doubt, simply streamline your design. One way to do it—and help reduce visual clutter in the process—is to settle on a single pastel or pale neutral colour scheme to marry the components in the kitchen while making the room feel larger than it is.