The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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Small Kitchen Storage Tips

I'm thinking today about small kitchens as we're in the city for the weekend, in our little piece of New York City! I'm also thinking about small kitchens since my daughter is moving to another apartment and is absolutely wild about her new kitchen, also in New York. I can't wait to share that kitchen with you, but that will not be for another month, when they move, assuming the deal goes through, you never know, fingers crossed.

So, as I sit in the living area and look toward the kitchen, it appears to me that it's actually a very good sized kitchen for most any cook. When I'm here, I feel, what more does one need?

When I think of what I REALLY use in my good-sized kitchen on Long Island with the important disclaimer that I am probably an average cook, average being defined as a GOOD cook (of course!) and one who enjoys cooking, but perhaps not one who cooks with abandon on a frequent basis, needing a batterie de cuisine at my disposal at any given moment, it is helpful to get perspective on what one THINKS one needs, which may be different than every-day habits. That was a run-on sentence if I've ever seen one....yeeesh!

Point being...some back to basics thoughts for small kitchen storage planning:

1. Be honest with yourself...what do you really need, what will you really use in regard to cooking equipment?

2. If you want the bread maker and the rice cooker, can they be stored elsewhere in the apartment/home if there is no room in the immediate kitchen area? I don't want you to do without it, but consider alternative storage places...like under the bed or in a closet if you need to.

3. Counter space rules in a small kitchen. It sounds obvious but bears repeating: Put as much away or on shelves as possible to keep your countertops clear. I think all of us are surprised at how quickly we get used to items accumulating on our countertops.

4. If possible, put the paper towel holder on the sink cabinet door as well as a basket for the liquid soap and sponge. A pull out towel rack can be fitted in a very small space in the sink cabinet as well.

5. Periodically, every few months, take stock of your pantry items and organize them. You will be more likely to use those items which previously could not be seen and not buy duplicates. Organize them as to size or type, whatever works.

6. Do the same for the refrigerator. You are less likely to buy those extra condiments if the refrigerator is well organized. Organize by size or type. 

7. Think about removing pantry food items and storing them the new old-fashioned way to save on storage space - in Tupperware type containers. Also check out Rubbermaid, and the Container Store. 

8. Everything should have a home. Again, it seems obvious, but the home for all items and categories of items should be clear and obvious so accessibility is quick and efficient.

9. Have a nearby closet? Use the inside door as a spice rack, hanging spot for pots on a wire grid, flat pans, or other tools for easy access.

10. Organize pots on this handy item, the Pantree. Use roll out shelves were possible in base cabinets. A Pantree on a roll out shelf sounds great to me!

This is not meant to encourage you to pack in all the storage you can in your kitchen. Just as in any size kitchen, I want you to carefully consider, probably more so than one would in a large kitchen, the equal importance of aesthetics. If a bit of storage needs to be sacrificed for a decorative item like a painting or shelf with a few items for display, make that sacrifice, please! I want you to be surrounded with a meaningful and aesthetically pleasing kitchen interior. I cannot overstate my opinion on this. A small kitchen should not be solely utilitarian....just because it is space challeneged. You deserve both, aesthetics in regard to personal decoration AND function!

Tell me about your small kitchen and what organizational tips work for you...


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Reader Comments (13)

I do the same thing--I keep my pots & pans & appliances in the cabinets, and some extras are kept on the top shelf of the coat closet in the hall nearby. Instead of keeping cooking utensils on the counter, I have them hung up on the side of my fridge, which is right next to the prep area and stove.

Unfortunately after all that, I still have very little counter space--because other than the prep area, one spot is taken up with drying dishes (my plan was to put them away before cooking, but usually dishloads rotate too fast for thatto work) and theotherspot is taken over by a jasmine plant that adds so much to the kitchen, it's worth it.

October 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSasha

I had a very small galley kitchen in NYC, and it was amazingly efficient. I used to cook Thanksgiving dinner for about 20 people in that kitchen. The only thing I really missed was having a second oven, and maybe an extra burner or two. This Thanksgiving, in my big suburban kitchen, I will have THREE ovens, five burners, and two sinks, and I can't wait.

One side of the galley had my sink against the wall, some counterspace, then my range, and then a bit more counterspace. I had a small size dishwasher between the sink and the range.

I had an OTR hood microwave, which I liked just fine. I was lucky enough to actually have a window between the sink and the range, so if it got too icky or smokey for the micro-hood to handle, I could just open the window.

We could have had our sink directly in front of the window, and a full size dishwasher, but would have had to have a very shallow sink. I am so glad I made the choice I did. The small dishwasher was just fine for us, and I really like a deep sink, especially when cooking a large meal.

On the other other side, I put in a shelf that was meant to hold a microwave, and we put our toaster oven and cookbooks on it, freeing up the counter below. So on that side, I had my refrigerator on one end, and the rest was counterspace. I actually had a decent amount of counterspace, considering how small the kitchen was, because my toaster oven and microwave were off the counter. I also had this amazing cookbook holder. It was clear plastic and attached by a very powerful magnet to the refrigerator, and held the cookbook open and kept it clean. So when I was cooking using a cookbook, I didn't even have to use counterspace for my cookbook. It has since broken, and I don't know where I got it, and I really wish I could get another one. It was great. I also had a paper towel holder that attached by magnet to the refrigerator, which worked really well, and again, freed up counter space.

I also used the wall to free up space. I had really pretty measuring spoons that hung on hooks mounted to the wall, I had decorative shelves that I kept things like pitchers etc. on when I wasn't using them.

I had 9.5 foot ceilings, which helped a lot. I got the tallest non-custom cabinets I could, so I got extra storage space that way. I also had space between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling, and I used that to store little-used large items, like my turkey roaster and other big things. I had crown molding on top of the cabinets, and that mostly hid some of the less attractive items. They were not easy to get to, but I didn't use them much anyway.

I did not really have a dining room, but I had some space adjacent to the kitchen where I kept a china cabinet and an oak bar server, and I stored some of my dishes etc that I didn't use much in there. That helped a lot.

I am not a really big cook, but I still have all the basic kitchen appliances for those occasions when I do cook, and I managed to find a place for everything without my kitchen getting really cluttered looking. And for cooking, it really is an efficient set-up. You barely have to take a step between oven, stove, counter and sink. Not easy to have more than one or two cooks in the kitchen, but it worked great for us. I loved that kitchen.

I am just (finally) finishing my renovation of my fairly large kitchen, and I have so much storage space and counterspace I honestly don't know what to do with it all.

October 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJeannie

Hello from Canada! Thank you for visiting Liberty Post. I've featured you today.

October 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLiberty Post Editor

I have a small (ca. 100 sq.ft) and open kitchen. It is a wide U with floor to ceiling cabinets along most of the fourth side. The U consists of base cabinets only as there are windows from countertop to ceiling on two sides and the third side is open to the dining area. One of the high cabinets has a rollfront on the upper half, housing (among other items) a countertop microwave, a toaster and an electric water kettle. No appliances on the countertops except for a blender (which is "needed" to keep the window above the cooktop open LOL).

We have as many drawers as possible, no extra "fine dining" stuff, only basic multi-use things. Rarely used small appliances (which I would not buy anymore) and stock pots are in the basement. I try to keep things simple and purchase only really good (and mostly rather expensive) and well designed items that will last.

When we start from scratch in our house in Florida, it will be one of my greatest pleasures to have even LESS stuff. I think stuff is suffocating.

October 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

I live on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, in an old building, I'm definitely challenged by my small kitchen, replete with standard landlord all-white appliances and metal cabinets.

I use colored crafts bins to store things on top of the fridge, and a wire rack on the kitchen table that's too large for the space.

I'm probably spoiled because I raised in the Southwest, in a large family, with room enough for several aunts to cook at the same time in Granny's kitchen.

New York isn't about space for those who can't afford it, but we plow through, making the best of Crate & Barrel or Ikea for space solutions.

October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKendall

This is fantastic advice on storage. Thanks.

October 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkathleen

Some great info there. I have a tiny kitchen and tend to be naturally well organised so that means I can find everything. I do like your ideas though!

October 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

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December 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLypeapetlytal

Hi All Their use of use means you will be able to draw water easily and have less of dripping around your kitchen. The Wall Storage Unit is the easiest way to keep organized at home.thanks dear visit over services..

January 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichigan Construction

whoa, that stacking thing is awesome for all those pots and pans. where do you buy one at? my wife definitely needs one of those, especially with our limited space.

January 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBlanco Sinks

Lovely post with really good tips. We have a tiny kitchen and have moved the fridge out to give us more space. Also the cooking tools we use left often are stored elsewhere. You do need to think about the lighting and get as much natural light as you can.

June 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentershutters

I would like to propose not to hold off until you earn enough amount of money to buy all you need! You should just get the credit loans or just collateral loan and feel fine

March 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChangLILLY

I'm about to take on the re-organizing project in my kitchen; my husband is a fan of things like electric knife sharpeners, a blender we haven't used in ages, a coffee grinder when we have a coffee machine...it's just getting to be too much so I'm going to make some changes to work around his fascination with electronic things we don't need.

All of our appliances are stainless steel with black trim, the walls, floor, and cabinets are white. I'd love to get some color to the room at some point, maybe a plant or two.

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAis

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