Living in a city and loving to cook can be a challenge, especially since most kitchens are tiny and have limited storage space. How are you supposed to use your oven when it’s doubling as a shoe rack?! But seriously, city folks (or anyone who’s living with a tight kitchen) must get creative with their space, and these small kitchen ideas will help ease the pain of spending top dollar for a kitchen that is smaller than a suburban bathroom.
1. Don't hang artwork; you need the wall space.
Small kitchens means limited cabinet space, but they all have walls. Instead of covering them with art, use that prime kitchen real estate for something more functional. Install a magnetic knife holder on the wall to free up valuable cabinet space, suggests Lindsey Pine, M.S., R.D.N. “They’re relatively inexpensive, save a ton of space, and are a great way to display your chef blades.”
Another fun trick, courtesy of culinary nutritionist Julie Harrington, R.D., is to hang a mason jar display on the wall to stash cooking utensils. “To create one yourself, stain a piece of wood, drill a few hose clamps into the wood, and attach the mason jars,” she says. Or if you're like us and left your tool belt and enthusiasm for crafting in the suburbs, pick up one on Amazon.
2. Do an inventory count of pantry staples so you don't overbuy.
The thought of buying in bulk is laughable for those with minimal kitchen space. Even purchasing an item you already have can cause major space anxiety (buying a third rice wine vinegar is the worst). To avoid overbuying, keep track of the items in your kitchen. “Transfer everything into clear plastic containers so you can clearly see what you have and make the most of the limited space,” says Chelsey Amer, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N. Anytime you run out of something, make a note on your phone. Next time you’re at the store, you will know exactly what you need.
3. Clear the clutter on the counter.
Ask any city dweller who likes to cook if they would rather have counter space or a doorman, and the answer will almost always be counter space. Cluttering that precious counter space with bulky appliances is a tiny kitchen no-no. Rather than buying humongous blenders and fancy coffee makers, choose smaller and storable options, like an immersion blender or a French press. Both still do the trick and are light enough to be stored on a homemade shelf, or shoved into a drawer.
4. The stove isn’t just for cooking.
In a small kitchen, everything should serve a dual purpose, and the oven is no exception. Pine suggests storing cast-iron pans in the oven. “Take them out when you need to use the oven, but since they can take the heat, you don’t need to wait for the oven to completely cool down before returning them to their resting spot.” Also, that weird little drawer under the oven is a great place to store pots, pans, and baking sheets.
5. Get to those the hard-to-reach cabinets with some help.
Contrary to popular belief, a step stool is not just for kids. You know those cabinets over the fridge or the small space between the cabinets and the ceiling? Those are both valuable real estate in the kitchen, but completely out of sight and reach for most people. A step stool helps you utilize that space, and some can easily be folded up and stored under your bed. (The one in the picture can't be folded, but it sure is cute.)
6. Byeee, unnecessary gadgets.
My mom was a great home cook, and she didn’t have an Instant Pot, spiralizer, ice cream maker, or an indoor grill—gasp! Somehow, she delivered a home-cooked meal every night with three things—a good knife, a cutting board, and a great skillet. To clear up space, survey your kitchen gadgets and ask yourself if you’ve used them in the past six months. If the answer is no, then it may be time to find them a better home. The one exception to this rule is the Crock-Pot—never throw away a slow cooker! You can make so many easy Crock-Pot recipes with minimal effort (plus you can probably store some stuff in the basin too).
7. Shelves serve a functional (and fun) purpose for your walls.
Let’s do the math. A whole set of dishware plus pots and pans plus wine bottles and wine glasses divided by two cabinets equals a whole bunch of kitchen stuff that ends up in your closet. If you don’t have the cabinet space to store all of your beloved kitchenware, make it. The walls are great places for shelves, where you can store your dishes and bowls, and all of your wine necessities. It might even incentivize you to have prettier dishware (Anthropologie, anyone?) since it’s out on display.
8. Two-tier the silverware storage.
When you only have one drawer to spare for all of your silverware, your forks and spoons end up in the same slot. Not only does it look like your college kitchen, but you also constantly grab the spoon when you need the fork, and you're so frustrated that you're considering buying sporks. Don't do that. Try a double-tiered silverware organizer so you can have two drawers in one. Now you have room for forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks, veggie peeler, and sporks if you want 'em.
9. Store your plastic bags because they take up more space than you think.
Sometimes the simplest things can make a complete mess, like extra plastic bags. Rather than shoving a mound of plastic bags into the back of a cabinet, Harrington suggests transforming an empty tissue box into a plastic bag holder. “It’s a handy and compact solution." And if you’re not into the whole DIY scene, you can buy a plastic bag holder that easily hide inside of a cabinet.