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How to Make the Most of a Small Kitchen: Simple, Affordable Kitchen Solutions for Every Budget

Updated on March 14, 2017
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Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.

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Small kitchens have the potential to be cozy and inviting. However, when they are disorganized or poorly laid out, they quickly become dark and cluttered and at worst, claustrophobic. From finding quick, short term solutions for a first apartment to creating lasting kitchen systems for a "forever" home, there are a wide range of affordable compact kitchen solutions to fit virtually every budget.

The light colored tile and cabinets contrast with the dark countertops and floor and help the U-shaped space feel more open.
The light colored tile and cabinets contrast with the dark countertops and floor and help the U-shaped space feel more open. | Source

Choose light, airy colors

When you're working with any sort of smaller home space, ample light is critical. White, light neutrals (i.e. pale gray, beige), and pale pastel shades reflect natural light, keeping the kitchen clean and fresh. Light colors also create constancy in kitchens with open floor plans. If you're planning a remodel, consider airy tones for the paint as well as the backsplash, countertops, kitchen island, and flooring. Just a few popular choices include white subway tile, quartz, and light granite. If you're dying to add some color in your small kitchen, a painted accent wall, colorful wall decor, and bright light fixtures are all great options.

Leaving the set of doors as is with no curtains or other coverings brings a lot of light into this narrow kitchen.
Leaving the set of doors as is with no curtains or other coverings brings a lot of light into this narrow kitchen. | Source

Maximize natural light

Bringing lots of natural light into a kitchen is one of the most effective ways to make a smaller space feel more open. If you have windows or doors in your kitchen, don't cover them with heavy blinds or drapes. If you want a little privacy, consider sheer coverings that still let in light. Are you renovating the space? Opening up an interior wall is another great way to bring more light into the kitchen. For example, if you have a small doorway between the kitchen and dining room, knock down most of the wall to create an archway.

This small kitchen makes nice use of a mix of open shelves, hooks, and hanging baskets to organize kitchen items without feeling cluttered.
This small kitchen makes nice use of a mix of open shelves, hooks, and hanging baskets to organize kitchen items without feeling cluttered. | Source

Opt for open shelving

When you're trying to cut down on clutter in an already small space, open shelving may seem like it would just add to the problem. If you shove items into open shelves haphazardly, the space will look more disorganized than ever. However, when you display shelves that fit with the existing kitchen theme and you fill them with cheerful, colorful items, they'll keep the space more open than cabinets.

With a few carefully selected items on the counter, this galley kitchen feels very clean and open.
With a few carefully selected items on the counter, this galley kitchen feels very clean and open. | Source

Keep the countertops free of appliances

Most people put appliances out on their kitchen counters without giving it a second thought. While there's nothing wrong with keeping out a few appliances that you use all the time, appliances can make a kitchen look cluttered, especially a smaller kitchen. If you want to have a few appliances out, prioritize the appliances that you use the most often, find storage for appliances that you use less often, and get rid of appliances that you never use. When you're tight on kitchen storage, look for storage options in other areas of the house for larger appliances, such as a slow cooker or roaster oven.

A tiered cabinet organizer makes it simple for these homeowners to find the cans that they need quickly and easily.
A tiered cabinet organizer makes it simple for these homeowners to find the cans that they need quickly and easily. | Source

Use lazy Susans, tiered cabinet organizers, and pantry shelf organizers

Adding a tiered cabinet organizer, pantry shelf organizer, or lazy Susan to a cabinet or pantry shelf significant increases your usable storage space. You'll be able to store a lot more items and then access everything with ease. For example, in the photo of the pantry, without the tiered organizer, you would never be able to see the cans on the back of the pantry shelf, which means you'll spend lots of time hunting for the right one. You can also use under shelf baskets to expand your kitchen storage space while still making it easy to get what you need quickly.

For just a few dollars, a tiered cabinet organizer makes it much easier to access everything.

This simple wooden cabinet door storage rack frees up valuable under the sink storage while offering easy access to frequently used cleaning supplies.
This simple wooden cabinet door storage rack frees up valuable under the sink storage while offering easy access to frequently used cleaning supplies. | Source

Add storage to the back of doors

From hanging a wire rack on a cabinet door for Ziploc bag storage to creating a complex organizational system on the back of a pantry door, there are a seemingly endless number of ways to add storage to a small kitchen using the backs of the doors. Think about which doors will be able to provide the storage that you need where you need it the most. For example, if you tend to grab Ziploc bags while you're making bagged school lunches for your kids, create back of the door storage on the cabinet that contains snack foods, thermoses, and other essential lunch items.

50 Creative Kitchen Storage Ideas | Simple Home Art Decor Ideas

A kitchen cart provides the prep and storage space that you need and can be moved out of the way for entertaining.
A kitchen cart provides the prep and storage space that you need and can be moved out of the way for entertaining. | Source

I love how this compact kitchen cart has a mix of open and closed storage with a cabinet and a drawer as well as a towel rack.

Opt for a rolling cart instead of an island

Kitchen islands are great but only when they make sense in a kitchen layout. For many smaller kitchens, an island simply isn't feasible. Whether you're planning a remodel or you're simply looking for ways to expand your counter and storage space, a rolling cart is an excellent, affordable option. Kitchen carts come in all sizes with varying types of storage. When the cart is on wheels, you have the flexibility to move it to different areas of the kitchen or to move it out of the kitchen altogether as needed.

These vases look right at home on the counter in a farmhouse or country kitchen.
These vases look right at home on the counter in a farmhouse or country kitchen. | Source

Select countertop storage that doubles as decor

No one wants to stare at their kitchen utensils all the time, especially when they're in a messy heap on the counter. Keeping kitchen clutter to a minimum helps you maintain an organized kitchen in which meal preparation is stress free. Start by finding concealed storage for as many kitchen items as possible. Then think about attractive storage options for the remaining pieces. For example, if you like having some of your large utensils right next to the stove, select a stylish vase or retro colored mason jar that fits the feel of the kitchen.

You can house the majority of your everyday dishes in a single large, well designed kitchen drawer.
You can house the majority of your everyday dishes in a single large, well designed kitchen drawer. | Source

Kitchen Remodel: Part 5 - Drawers | Frank Howarth

Use drawers instead of cabinets

If you're planning a substantial kitchen renovation, consider using drawers as opposed to cabinets for most of your storage. Drawers keep kitchen items hidden from view and are simpler to clean and keep organized than deep cabinets. Remember the kitchen cart idea? If you're thinking about including a compact kitchen cart or island in your renovation, think about a unit that boasts multiple deep drawers. A modest sized kitchen cart or island can house a surprising amount of utensils as well as bakeware, cookware, and food storage items. Think about other ways to add drawers to your kitchen as well, such as installing drawers in the pantry and cabinets.

Do you have other small kitchen storage or organization solutions? Leave them in the comments!

© 2016 Rose Clearfield

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    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 17 months ago from New Delhi, India

      All useful suggestions to make the most of a small kitchen. Using light colours does help and also keeping storage shelves at the back of the door is a good idea.

      I had small kitchen earlier so I can relate to most of your suggestions and tips.

      Great hub and well presented. Pinning it on my home board. Thank you!

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 17 months ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Great hub with very useful solutions! Love the photos too. Now I want to makeover my kitchen!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 17 months ago from USA

      I have that tiered cabinet organizer and it does save space. You can also see what's in the back row!

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 16 months ago from New Zealand

      Lots of great ideas to make your kitchen work better. Using the back of cupboard doors is a worthwhile idea. I must put that in to practice. Thanks for all of these suggestions.

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