I sometimes marvel at the size of the kitchens I see in blogs and magazines. Huge expansive spaces with built-in banquet seating, an island overlooking a dining area, spaces for a chair and a laptop, miles of worktop and huge American style fridge freezers – Oh, how a girl can dream!
The reality, especially for those of us living in the UK with our smaller homes or those living in urban areas, is that those sorts of kitchens are a bit of a pipe dream unless we’re able to shell out tens of thousands of pounds to re-jig the layout, go through the upheaval of an extension or move to a much bigger property. There are ways to make the most of a small kitchen, however, and I thought today I can share some of the things I’ve learned in making the most of our own small kitchen remodel.
As a point of reference, our kitchen is 3.90M x 2.78M (or 12’9″ x 9’1″). It’s not a teeny tiny space but when we initially moved in, it was cramped with low ceilings and very little in the way of storage. I knew, however, that within my small kitchen, there was potential. And now, despite its diminutive size, we now have what I would consider a comfortable amount of storage and it’s a light and bright space. Here’s how I made the most of it and some ideas of what you might want to consider in your own kitchen to maximise the space you have.
Open Up the Ceiling
One of the first steps in our kitchen remodel was removing the false ceiling which made the kitchen look even smaller. It was a weirdly cramped space and we realised we could give the illusion of a larger kitchen by opening the ceiling back up.
In our recent house-hunting/dreaming for our next move, I have seen so many kitchens with a false dropped ceiling. I have no idea if this was a trend at some point but it baffles my mind. So if you find that in your own home the previous occupants put up a false ceiling at some point during the years, get in there and get rid of it.
Even though we only gained about a foot in ceiling height, the kitchen became so much airier and brighter after that. We learned how to plaster in the process but it wasn’t actually that horrible of a job and was well worth the effort.
Install open shelving
This was probably the most important factor in terms of creating more usable storage. As you can see in the image below, when we’d moved in, there were just two tiny shelves on this huge expanse of wall. It was a terrible use of space.
Now I love open storage in kitchens but I realise that it’s one that tends to divide opinion. The truth is that shelving is cheaper than cabinets and it can be easily customised to fit the space you have. Ours were from Jali but you can just as easily use wood planks and shelf brackets as seen further down.
I do, however, think it takes a certain type of person to pull off open shelving well – you have to be adamant about keeping it clean and you have to be adamant about putting things back in their place. And really, you need to have some attractive items to display.
If you only have plastic sippy cups and big boxes of cereal on display, it won’t add anything to your kitchen aside from clutter so keep that stuff behind closed doors. You do need to be considerate of what you choose to display as it should be both practical as well as aesthetically attractive to look at.
Install cupboards with glass doors
If you are not a fan of open kitchen shelving, consider instead a few cupboards with glass front doors in your small kitchen. It will give you a nice airy feeling of space whilst protecting your glasses and dishes from dust or grease. It’s a great addition to closed cabinets because your eye will go through the front glass to the back of the cupboard, creating the illusion of a larger space.
This kitchen by H2 Design & Build was one of my biggest inspirations in terms of my own kitchen remodel. If I had more upper cabinets or we’d decided against installing the open shelving, I would have gone for something like this instead. Again, you’ll probably want to be sure whatever is behind glass is attractive and adds to the look of your kitchen rather than detracts. Think glassware, serve ware or decanted dry goods in attractive storage containers for making the most of this kind of display.
Install vertical storage
If there is one thing I am constantly asked about, it’s the vertical storage rails that I installed under the open shelving. We only have two smaller drawers in our kitchen – one holds cutlery and utensils and the other is basically our ‘junk drawer’.
So I had to get creative in terms of storage. Utilising the dead space under your cabinets is an easy way to get things out of drawers and on display. The ones in my current kitchen are from Rowen & Wren but previously, I used a simple Grundtal rail from Ikea spray-painted gold for a very similar effect on a budget.
It’s also where we store our most-used mugs. I admit that over the last year or two, I’ve given away and donated lots of mismatched or ‘novelty’ style mugs as well as dishes, plates and glasses that were no longer my style. Now, I only have ones that I love on display and in my cupboards. Obviously, storage is a finite thing especially in a small kitchen, so why waste it on items you don’t love or need? Regular purges are an essential part of the process!
Include Lazy Susans for Corner Cabinets
Here’s something we haven’t quite got around to in our own kitchen but it’s something I’d love to do eventually.
Installing these rotating circular shelves in a small kitchen makes great use of the dead space of a very deep corner cabinet and nothing will get lost at the back. Ikea sells them for around £60 and they can be retrofitted into your existing cupboards. They are definitely on my wish-list and I’m not actually sure why it’s taken me so long to get them!
Make use of Dead Space in High Places
We utilised some of the dead space above the refrigerator and the only upper cabinet with some large attractive baskets which hold some of my linens and a few other things that I don’t require on an every-day basis. They draw the eye upward and look nice too whilst providing a little extra storage in an otherwise small kitchen.
Play with Light and Dark
And finally, pale colours will almost always make a space look bigger. So using a bright white on the top half of the kitchen really emphasises the higher ceilings we now have. I fell in love with the tuxedo style so I chose black for the lower cabinets and floor but keeping the area above the lower cabinets nice and bright visually expanded the space more than if we had chosen to use the darker colour throughout.
So those are a few of the things that I’ve either already done in my kitchen or things that we could have done that would maximise the space even in a small kitchen. What do you do to maximise your own small kitchen? Have you come up with any clever solutions to make the most of the space you have? Let me know in the comments!