I am no stranger to small space living. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that I’ve lived in smaller spaces than many of you. There were the various shoebox apartments in NYC, my studio apartment in Tokyo, oh, and that one time I lived aboard a cruise ship in an itty-bitty crew cabin…with a roommate. That one takes the cake on all of your small spaces (unless maybe one of you has lived on a submarine, lol). To give you an idea of size, our trash can was kept on the counter for that 9 month contract, because the only floor space was the pathway in and out of the room. Tiny, I told you. I wasn’t kidding. Small space solutions are no new thing to me.
Even though I’m touting my skills at making small spaces workable, Chris is the one who struck gold on most of our current kitchen ideas. To be fair, he was also living in our apartment alone for two months before we got married, so I’m just gonna go with, “he had a head start.” But truly, we make a great team, if I do say so myself.
What to Prioritize
So what are the biggest space hogs in the kitchen? Generally appliances, both in and out of the cabinets, take up the most space. Some things, like KitchenAid mixers, can be shown off as decor, but other things, like the blender, microwave, and food processor…no one really wants to see those, but we have to find a place for them. But what if there is no counter space to sacrifice?
And what about inside of the cabinets? We all know the hot mess that is the Tupperware cabinet, pots and pans, or piled muffin tins. Tupperware is just destined to be out of control, and the other two, well, they are odd shaped and it is hard to optimize the space they are in. Pots and pans take up SO MUCH cabinet space though. And what if you only have three cabinets in the kitchen, like us??? We had to come up with some small space solutions.
If You Can’t Build Out, Build Up
Ok, let’s start with the big appliances. Our kitchen is complete with no counter space, open shelving too shallow to hold an appliance, and no cabinets to hide things. That leaves the top of the china cabinets? Uh-uh. No. It is functional, but it completely kills the quaint charm vibe we have going on with our unique kitchen. (Can you picture these conversations happening between me and Chris?) We knew that we needed to utilize the top of the refrigerator for the microwave, but that still left the toaster oven.
Don’t ask me how, but Chris had the brilliant idea of stacking the two. I told him he was crazy and it was completely non-functional to put the toaster that high. I couldn’t reach it and would never be able to use it. But ya know what? His ideas are usually pretty darn good, even though I always fight them at first. We got a folding step stool to keep next to the fridge and he found the perfect free-standing shelf for the microwave and toaster oven. I’d encourage you to think outside the box! Things that seem crazy can sometimes be the best solution.
Added bonus for all of us renters out there: No heavy duty wall mounts required for this one!
Put Extra Wall Space to Work
Pots and pans are next only to Tupperware in the “hot mess storage” ranking. Not only do they take up an obnoxious amount of space, but isn’t it true that somehow the pan we need is always the one at the bottom of the stack?! This issue, coupled with the fact that we only had one cabinet deep enough and wide enough to fit them, resulted in the idea to hang them above the kitchen sink.
This hanging pots and pan shelf unexpectedly added even more charm to the kitchen and made access so much more convenient. I love this decor choice so much, both visually and functionally, that I would 100% consider doing this in a future home, even if we had the cabinet space to hide them away! This is a testimony that these small space solutions can totally go beyond functionality.
Optimize, Optimize, Optimize
If you can think of something that would be functional for your space, you can likely tweak that idea until you find a way to also make it visually appealing. You can read about how we found a space for our spices and also turned them into decor in this post. We also added a small magnetic shelf and hooks to the side of our fridge for things we always need to quickly grab when cooking. I am a firm believer in finding small space solutions that work and make you love where you live even more.
Let me know in the comments below if you are stuck with a small space in your home, and let’s see if we can find a solution together!