No Space Too Small is a brand new column by Laura Fenton that celebrates the idea that you can live well in a small home. Each month, Laura will share her practical findings from years of observing how people live in tight spaces, and her own everyday experiences of living small — from the hunt for the perfect tiny desk and managing everyday clutter to how to smooth the frustrations out of cooking in a galley kitchen.
I have no complaints about having a small kitchen. I’m an avid home cook, and find it just as easy to create a great meal in my tiny galley as a large chef’s kitchen. In a confined space, everything you need is right at hand, and several years working as a cook for a catering company taught me that you can truly cook anywhere (including the deck of a boat and behind a dumpster in two rare instances).
However, design can make or break a small kitchen’s utility. When my husband and I bought our apartment seven years ago, our lease on our rental was expiring, so we had to renovate the awkward kitchen on the cheap — and in a hurry. Our remodel was an IKEA special that moved none of the original appliance placements. We did a pretty good job planning it, but with a little more time to get to know the space, I could have designed something even better. Now, seven years in, I am contemplating how to get even more utility out of our small space.
Designing a kitchen is tricky, especially if you have a finite budget, but it’s worth the time and effort to get right because you’re unlikely to renovate again. If you’re hoping to redesign your current kitchen, take the time to observe how you use the space. Make a list of what you like and don’t like about your existing kitchen. Note which places always seem to end up a mess. These will give you clues about how to redesign it for better function.
Here are 14 tips for renovating a small kitchen:
Before moving into our current home, I did a major edit of our belongings. I was particularly ruthless in the kitchen category, eliminating the duplicates (do we really need two pairs of spring tongs? Two mesh strainers?) and the rarely-used items (goodbye silicone bundt pan!). If your kitchen is feeling cramped, I recommend starting with a long, hard look at what you can do without. For those infrequently utilized items you’re not ready to part with, consider storing them elsewhere: our party and entertaining gear is all stashed in a closet and sideboard.
Pay attention to materials
We opted for a basic Shaker-style IKEA door that was in stock, but I wish we’d sprung for the Semihandmade doors we were considering. In a small space like the kitchen, you will be touching and experiencing the materials daily. Luckily, cabinet doors are something I can upgrade with the turn of a screwdriver, if (and when) I want to refresh our space. Now that Plykea is available stateside, I’m considering their birch plywood cabinet fronts; I’m also in love with these colorful wood knobs.
Don’t skimp on the sink
Choosing a too-small basin is a common mistake in small kitchen designs, but you need a decent amount of space to wash dishes. One thing I wish we’d had the time and money to do …….