Our Favorite Small-Space, Multifunctional Kitchen Gear for Your First Apartment

published Aug 7, 2023
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Small Cool 2020 winner kitchen
Credit: Michelle Spetner

Outfitting your first apartment is an undertaking, to say the least, and sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. But, if you’re anything like me, you have a few boxes that each product needs to check. For one, you’re probably on the hunt for things that don’t break the bank, but are good quality. (We all want our first purchases to last, right?) However, even if you splurge on something, it’s key that it can perform more than one function and actually saves you money in the long run. Your gear also needs to take up as little space as possible, since first apartments tend to be on the smaller side. Of course, the best case scenario is when a product hits all of these criteria.

Here at The Kitchn, we’re always looking for these kinds of products, and luckily, we’ve tested tons of multifunctional and compact items that are perfect for your first apartment. Trust us, they’ll come in handy time and time again — and they’ll last you well beyond the months you spend settling into your place. Check out this curated list of some of our favorites and get ready to deck out your new kitchen.

1 / 13
Our Place

Odds are the beloved Always Pan has crossed your social media feed at least once — it’s a true workhorse in the kitchen, which contributor Stella Totino discovered to be true. Since it can perform an array of functions, it cuts down on the number of pans you need, and Our Place's mini version opens up even more storage space with its compact design.

2 / 13
was $76.00

You can’t go wrong with a Dutch oven, and this one from Lodge has a lid that doubles as a 10.25-inch skillet. “All in all, this is a super-useful piece of cookware that works like a champ. For just $50! If your kitchen cupboards lack real estate, this two-in-one pot/skillet combo is the one thing you shouldn’t do without,” contributor Danielle Centoni wrote.

3 / 13
Great Jones
was $90.00

My colander is one of my most-used items in my kitchen, so I can assure you it’s a must-have. Stella tried out this four-in-one set that works as a steamer, splatter guard, trivet, and colander. “Essentially, if all you had was a stock pot and one of these things, you could tackle just about any kind of cooking,” she wrote, adding that she used it as a splatter guard when frying cutlets, steamed beets inside a pot with the smaller one of the two, and more. “I’m happy to report back that the heat-resistant tools handled each task with grace.”

4 / 13
was $16.98

Now, if you want an even more space-efficient colander (that’s also less pricey), check out this one from editor-loved brand Joseph Joseph that doubles as a scooping tool. On top of becoming a game changer in Kitchn writer Aly Walansky’s studio apartment, it has a 4.7-star average rating from over 8,000 reviews on Amazon.

5 / 13

This small spatula has been a staple in contributor Su-Jit Lin’s kitchen for years. With a comfortable handle and flexible edge, it’ll scoop out seemingly anything, from an avocado to a jar of mayo. it’s also ideal for preserving your nonstick pans, since it won’t damage the material.

6 / 13

This vacuum made our sister site Apartment Therapy’s Best List as the top budget-friendly option on the market, and it’s more than worth its $34 price tag. It only weighs three pounds, can turn into a handheld vacuum, and has detachable parts for compact storage. It's great for "those who want something simple [and] those looking to spend as little as possible (without compromising efficacy)," according to contributor Kendall Cornish.

7 / 13
was $21.85

It’s hard to beat this affordable and efficient blender. Senior commerce editor Ian Burke loved it because of how little space it took up in his cabinet, as well “the fact that it’s super straightforward: No settings or knobs to fumble around with — just press the button and you’re off.”

8 / 13

Ian’s also a fan of this clever two-in-one paper towel holder that has a center piece which holds cleaning solution and works as a spray bottle. It makes quick work of messes, since it’s handily available on your counter at all times.

9 / 13
was $20.99

“This piece from mDesign can fit every piece of tableware I own, including my oversized mixing bowls, yet its narrow shape takes up hardly any room on my kitchen counters,” The Kitchn writer Nic Dobija-Nootens said. The silicone is easy to wash, and Nic noted that the included mat catches water without letting it spill over the sides.

10 / 13

Everyone needs baking materials in their first kitchen, and editor Sarah Vazquez can’t recommend Rubbermaid’s bakeware collection enough. They’re light, nest together for tighter storage, and can go in the microwave, freezer, and dishwasher. “Having a baking dish that can act as prepware, bakeware, and serveware is a revelation for anyone who likes to entertain but is small on space,” she wrote.

11 / 13
was $50.00

These nesting bowls will have a small footprint in your cabinet — and you get a large mixing bowl, strainer, colander, small mixing bowl with a spout, three measuring cups, and a teaspoon for just $30 right now. Contributor Sholeen Damarwala thought they were top quality and a breeze to clean up when she tested them out.

12 / 13
was $52.99

You may not have the budget for a classic KitchenAid Stand Mixer while setting up your first kitchen, but Ian prefers this $60 one over pricier options anyway. It even has a unique two-in-one function, with a lightweight hand mixer that detaches from its base.

13 / 13

This fast and efficient air fryer became a go-to for contributor Erin Cavoto, who loved its size and weight that was easy to get down from where she stored it on top of her fridge. “This new Cosori Air Fryer 4-Quart has totally transformed the way I cook, especially in the summer!” she wrote. “I love how I can make deliciously crispy foods with little fuss and less cleanup than usual.”