My husband and I moved into our current apartment around two years ago. We were house-hunting for ages until we stumbled upon this place. It was love at first sight! We signed a tenancy agreement and moved in. Little did I know, the square footage of our kitchen would soon pose problems.
Once we got settled in, I started cooking and that’s when I realised, “There isn’t much space to move around and do stuff in here.” That drove me crazy! To cook a meal, I’d need to use multiple appliances and prep the ingredients. I found myself constantly shifting things around to make room for other things. Move the induction cooker to plug in the blender, move the kettle to plug in the rice cooker, move the chopping board to use the grater. Erghhh! Ultimately, I’d move myself out of the kitchen for a break.
Fast forward two years, the kitchen is now my favourite space in our home. With a lot of trial and error along the way, we’ve figured out a few tips and tricks to make small kitchen spaces not only manageable, but enjoyable to cook in. Before we get started, allow me to give you a guided tour of my kitchen.
Alright, as you enter the kitchen, this is what you see.
Our kitchen is a rather narrow, rectangular space. So, once you enter and turn to your left, you’d see:
This countertop serves as a cooking and prepping station. Along the other side of the wall, you’ll come across:
So, here are a few things we’ve done to optimise this space for our daily use:
1. Be strategic with surface area
One of the first few things that got me really riled up in our kitchen is the lack of surface area. There are so many appliances that we need to use (induction cooker, electric kettle, rice cooker, blender) and on top of that, we need space for food prep. Initially, I kept moving appliances around and balancing one item on top of another. Ultimately, we realised that this wasn’t a very practical approach.
Our solution was to get a long table that we could place along the wall. Measurements were crucial here as a wide table would result in the narrowing of our kitchen. Plus, I’m clumsy as hell, so I’d probably knock into that table more than the regular adult.
Finally, we found a table that works for our space. Our frequently used appliances are now comfortably sitting on that table. Workspace for food prep is still limited, but we’ve come to realise that it’s manageable granted we follow one golden rule: only the most essential items, used in practically every cook can be kept on the counter. Everything else goes into the kitchen cabinet.
2. Invest in vertical storage units
We usually have a lot of things to store in the kitchen from food items to pots and pans. One of the greatest struggles that we’ve faced in a small kitchen is finding the room to store everything we need. Where space is limited, we’ve learned that vertical storage units can be a game-changer!
Our spice rack was a gift from my mum when we first moved into our apartment. It’s a three-tier rack with wheels, so it’s easy to store loads of spices and to move around for cleaning purposes.
Two- or three-tier dish racks are also amazing! We recently purchased a two-tier, black metal dish rack and it’s been one of the most useful investments in our kitchen! The rack fits so snugly in a tight space and it organises all our dishes, mugs and cutlery very neatly. Plus, it comes with a drip tray that is very easy to empty.
Wall racks can also be a good way to optimise small spaces. However, we have tiles on the wall and it’s a rented space, so we avoided any wall fixtures.
3. Opt for décor that’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing
I would love to decorate our kitchen with cookbook stands displaying my favourite cookbooks and recipes, but unfortunately, we don’t have the space. So, we needed to be very practical when it came to decorating our kitchen. Pretty sugar and salt containers or glass jars containing spices and lentils can be arranged on the countertop to add a beautiful pop of colour.
I have a small potted plant near the windowsill; you could get a small basil or mint plant, keep it near your window and use the herbs whenever needed. If you have tiles on the wall like us, you can use decorative stickers. We found ours online and it’s very easy to put on and remove.
If you have little space for décor, don’t worry! Your fridge can act as a canvas; decorate it with fridge magnets, pictures, recipes, and other memorabilia. In addition to serving as décor, these pieces can also act as conversation starters. If you have young children at home, you can even use magnetic alphabets to decorate the fridge. Let your kids play around with it and spell out different words.
4. Clean as you go
This has been an important mantra for us as well. We have a relatively small sink, so piling up too many dishes isn’t really an option. When we cook, we’ve made it a habit to clean as we go. As the dish simmers, we wash whatever utensils we don’t need any more and keep them aside. Once something is used, it’s put back to avoid a cluttered workspace.
5. Kitchen cabinets are valuable real-estate
Going back to our golden rule: whatever is non-essential or isn’t used in every cook goes into the kitchen cabinet. We’re fortunate that our kitchen is furnished with quite a number of drawers and cabinets. So, we’ve tried to make good use of all this storage space.
I’m pretty short compared to my husband, so we keep all the important stuff (i.e. coffee) where I can reach them. Top shelves that are out of my reach are dedicated to bowls and pots that we don’t frequently use. I keep a small stool under our long table just in case I need to grab something from the top shelf.
A fun way to organise your pantry would be to arrange food items according to country or cuisine. Your Italian section can have packets of pasta and cans of tomato sauce, your Korean section can have canned kimchi and gochugaru, and your Thai section can have green curry paste and fish sauce. Have fun with it and organise your kitchen in a way that brings you joy!
The kitchen truly is the heart of a home. This space, whether big or small, plays a role in nourishing our bodies, creating beautiful memories, and deserves to be celebrated. With a little time and creativity, you can create a kitchen that works for you. One that draws you in to experiment with food and savour the simple things in life. So, if you have a small kitchen like me, I hope these tips are useful for you. Always remember, it’s not the size of the kitchen, but the heart in that kitchen that matters.