Having a small kitchen can be a big hassle, especially if you don’t have a major remodel on the horizon. But even in the smallest kitchens, there’s probably a lot more unused space than you realize: areas that are left empty that you probably don’t even notice. The trick is finding those spots and choosing the right equipment to help put them to work. The right tools can help you get a lot more mileage out of a small kitchen, no matter how cramped, without crowding your existing storage and surface spaces.
Under Your Cabinets
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If there’s one big, glaring, empty space in almost every kitchen, it’s the area between the bottom of your upper cabinets and the top of your counters. This gap is rarely used to the fullest – in fact, it’s usually overlooked entirely. After all, the focus is on the storage above and below, and the surface space on the counter itself. But this area is also one that’s very easy to put to work: all you have to do is mount a simple storage rack to the underside of the cabinets. Small wine racks and stemware racks are popular options because they’re easy to install and add attractive, accessible storage to a space that’s otherwise left empty.
Of course, you want to make sure that any storage rack you mount beneath your cabinet won’t get in the way of any work you’re doing on the counters. Hanging a bunch of stemware so that it’ll be right in your face while you’re chopping veggies is obviously a bad idea. So this type of storage is best moved off to one side next to a wall, corner, or appliance, or flush up against the back wall where it won’t be in the way. As an added bonus, under cabinet lighting makes this type of storage look absolutely fantastic, especially if you’re storing a large collection of stemware.
The Inside Of Cabinet Doors
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Maybe the most overlooked spot in any kitchen, though, is the inside of your cabinet doors. After all, it’s not an empty space, nor is it really a surface – it’s a space you’d hardly give a second glance. But often adding a simple storage rack to the flat inside surface of a cabinet door can significantly increase the storage capacity of the cabinet itself. Unless your cabinets are REALLY packed, the stuff inside them probably doesn’t go all the way to the edge of the shelves, and because of the way most cabinet doors are designed, there’s usually a little gap between the inside of the door and the edge of the shelves. That little itsy bit of extra space is just enough room to install a small storage unit: something big enough to store spices, or even bottles or cans, without forcing you to empty out the cabinet.
This works on just about any cabinet, too, including ones underneath the sink: from small cupboards to large pantries, almost every cabinet has that little bit of dead space, and it’s the perfect place to store oft-accessed items, from spices to hand towels. This type of storage is doubly good for high up cabinets, or anywhere you’re storing lots of small items, since items shelved on the cabinet door are much, much more accessible than anything that might get pushed to the back of the cabinet. The one thing you need to be cautious of, though, is making sure that the storage shelves – and anything on them – don’t bump into the cabinet shelves. While there is a gap, it isn’t always very big, so you need to make sure the shelves are far enough apart (and the items on them short enough), that the cabinet will still open and close all the way.
Your ENTIRE Cabinet
The most insidious wasted space in the kitchen is probably one you’re the most (tragically) aware of: that part of your cabinet where nothing goes, because everything is the wrong size or shape. The top part of a cabinet where you store lots of flat things, the back part of a high cabinet you need to access frequently, that one weird spot you have to bend down to get to in that lower cabinet. But adding a really basic, just-put-it-in-there, no-installation storage rack can actually make a huge difference in these problematic cabinets. Take the bare-bones vertical rack above: it not only allows you to make better use of the height of the cabinet, it also makes the stuff in the cabinet more easily accessible, since everything is side by side and sorted rather than piled in a stack.
Storage units with moving parts also make it much easier to access everything in your cabinets without having to install any complicated gadgets (or replace your cabinets entirely). My personal favorites are ones that rotate, like the lazy susan above, because they allow you to fill the entire cabinet, then rotate the tray to shuffle through your items until you find the one you want. These are just as effective as more complicated storage contraptions that have to be built into your cabinet, but can be set up in a matter of minutes without causing damage to the underlying woodwork.
Ultimately, the trick is to make your kitchen work smarter, not harder – adding a few simple racks, shelves, or organizers can help keep your kitchen better organized and important items more easily accessible, without taking up any extra space. But what do you think of these simple storage techniques? Let me know in the comments below!