10 ways to get the most out of your small kitchen
By Luke Rix-Standing
Christmas dinner with all the trimmings requires a well-organised kitchen – however many or few people you’re hosting.
But if you have a small kitchen (and so many of us do), trying to juggle all those pots, pans and dishes can quickly lead to over-cramped chaos.
Luckily, there are ways of maximising your space and making this vital area of your home work much better. Here’s how to live large in a limited kitchen, and put a stop to claustrophobic Christmas cooking…
1. Work your walls
Your overarching goal is to squeeze usage out of every square inch of space – and that includes the walls. The hanging rack is the unsung hero of the small kitchen, accommodating everything from tea towels to spatulas. Magnetic knife boards can perform a similar service, while hooks and rails add utility to cupboards and doors.
And while we are on walls, consider hanging a mirror in your kitchen. It’s an age-old trick for making a small area appear bigger.
2. Clever lighting
It’s no coincidence that dark is often paired with dingy, and how large a room looks is as much about perceptions as dimensions. A small kitchen matters much less if it feels bright and breezy, and maximising natural and artificial light is almost always improving. Contrast is king when lighting a small space, so use lamps, inset fixtures and other targeted light sources to highlight important parts of the room (the stove, the table, the worktop).
3. Conduct a purge
Every kitchen has fat to trim, and clearing out the clutter is perhaps the most direct way of making a small space serviceable. Look for expired foods, long-neglected spices, cookbooks you’ve memorised or outgrown, past-their-prime dish towels and surplus storage boxes. Be particularly ruthless with larger appliances. We know that popcorn maker was a Christmas present, but you haven’t actually used it since Boxing Day 2014.
4. Build upwards
People tend to judge rooms on their floor space, but high-ish ceilings open up a brave new world of space-saving hacks. The upper eaves of most kitchens remain wastefully empty, so stack your storage with extra layers of shelving and floor-to-ceiling cupboards and cabinets. Store less frequently used items in higher spaces.
5. Drawers over cupboards
Kitchens should be functional first and foremost, and it doesn’t matter how streamlined your storage if you can’t find what you need when you need it. Crammed cupboards quickly become difficult to navigate, but drawers instantly showcase their contents while slotting seamlessly into the scenery.
Who knows what expired horrors lie at the back of your deepest cabinet, behind the 20-odd types of herbal tea. In a drawer, there’s nowhere to hide.
6. Control your corners
Every kitchen has corners (we’re pretending lighthouses don’t exist), and the awkward angles can easily make them dead space. Square amenities like microwaves and toasters slot nicely into the corners of worktops, while triangular shelving can be perfect for bottles and jars.
7. Embrace downsizing
Microwaves vary from portable pocket ovens to armour-plated monsters that take two to lift, while fridges can range from half your size to double it. Washing machines and dryers are particularly bulky, and may be best kept elsewhere. They end up in kitchens as a matter of course, but could do just as well in a cupboard (if you choose your appliance carefully).
8. Colour palette
No matter how small your kitchen, it doesn’t need to look small. Lighter colours feel airier – whitewashed kitchens are especially a la mode, alongside old favourites beige and cream – in contrast to heavier, more claustrophobic darker shades. Whatever palette you pick, consistent colouring helps a room feel fluid and coordinated, so consider sticking to a two-colour limit.
9. Keep the surfaces clear
The right to be untidy is a sacred part of adulthood, but it’s also gospel truth that an orderly kitchen is a functional kitchen. Christmas dinner-esque endeavours require plenty of room to manoeuvre, and you’ll need to marshal every square inch of surface. Make sure toasters, kettles and coffee machines have a home that won’t block all your workspace, and consider stashing underused tech in other rooms.
10. Portable storage
Consider a moveable trolley on casters. This can provide several layers of added storage, double as an extra prep space while keeping surfaces clear, and can be wheeled into a different room when it is culinary crunch time. You can even repurpose it as a conversation-starting drinks trolley when guests are finally allowed over again, just like in the movies.