12 Clever Tips for Maximizing Storage in a Tiny Kitchen, According to Apartment Dwellers

published Apr 2, 2022
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When your kitchen is so small that it barely feels like there’s room for a fridge and oven, it can be a challenge to carve out storage space for the rest of your stuff. You know, the stuff you need in order to cook a meal. That’s why those of us with small kitchens have to get creative. We find ourselves desperately looking for problem-solving organizers and clever hacks that can make the most of the limited storage space we do have.

To get the best advice and find inspiration, we asked some apartment dwellers with tiny kitchens to share their most clever tips. These are the big upgrades they’ve given to their little spaces.

Credit: Erin Cavoto

1. Take advantage of the side of your fridge.

The side of the fridge often goes unused. Or if it is used, it’s covered with shopping lists and random magnets. Instead, try using the side to mount a stylish, multipurpose tool, like a magnetic spice rack that also doubles as a paper towel holder. Aime Parra has lived in her Los Angeles studio apartment for more than a year, and this was one of the first items she bought for her mini kitchen. “This tool gives me more space in my cabinets and on my counter,” she says. “It also has a couple of hooks for cooking spoons or dish towels, which is a plus.”

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

2. Optimize the top of your fridge, too.

Another unused (or, rather, misused) part of the fridge is the top. This area usually collects dust or becomes a hodgepodge of overstock kitchen items and pantry goods (cereal, anyone?). Karina Carmona, who has lived in her Harlem apartment for eight months, uses storage bins to reduce the look of clutter in a small space. “I put all overstock goods like paper towels, napkins, olive oil, and salt refills in these bins,” she says. “The bins make my kitchen look neat, and I don’t have to access that area too often.”

Credit: Nicole

3. Add shelf risers to double your storage.

Jorge Guerreiro has lived in his Bronx apartment for three years and only has two cabinets, which makes dinnerware storage a unique challenge. To create space and keep his cabinets tidy, he uses inexpensive stacking shelves. “These shelves are really the only way I’d be able to fit my plates, napkins, and mugs into my two small cabinets,” he says. You can easily use this same solution to maximize space for storing pantry items, too.

4. Make use of slim spaces.

Catalina Castro has lived in her San Diego apartment for a year and a half and decided on one rule when it came to her tiny kitchen: If you don’t have space, make it. “Because my fridge and stacked washer and dryer are right next to each other, I pushed my fridge over as much as I could to create a space to fit this slide-out storage cart,” says Castro. “It was the best decision! I can now easily store my kitchen tools, like my hand mixer.”

5. Turn a cabinet into an organized pantry.

It’s rare to find a tiny kitchen with actual pantry storage, which is why many apartment dwellers opt to use one of their cabinets as a dedicated pantry. Carmona uses a section of her cabinet to organize snacks, such as granola bars and chips. “Using clear bins makes it so much easier to see what kind of snacks I have left without having to rifle around,” she says.

6. Install foldable furniture.

Roommates Alexandra Cabal and Jodie Sanchez have lived in their Los Angeles apartment for nearly a year and found a way to turn their dining area into a workout area. “When we want more space to work out, we just drop down our kitchen table and fold our chairs against the wall,” says Cabal.

7. Hide bakeware in the oven.

All kitchens have a hidden storage space that stays empty most of the time: the oven! While this can be a tricky hack that involves a lot of rearranging, it can be worth it for bulky and oven-safe items (just remember to use caution). For instance, Carmona stores all of her baking sheets, cast iron pots and pans, and cooling racks in the oven.

8. Stack your drinkware.

Carmona opted for this stackable glassware set to create more space in her cabinets without compromising function or style. “Not being able to stack drinkware is one of my biggest kitchen pet peeves so these glasses are the perfect solution,” she says.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

9. Fill the empty space above cabinets.

For those with a space in between upper cabinets and the ceiling, there is an easy storage solution for rarely used items. “I have an expensive butcher block cutting board that was gifted to me, and I only use it a couple times a year. It fits perfectly on top of my kitchen cabinets,” says Parra.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

10. Rely on a turntable.

Cooking oils, vinegars, and sauces are notorious for taking up kitchen counter space. To keep them out of the way, Guerreiro stores all of these items on a turntable inside his cabinet. “I want to prioritize my limited counter space for things like a cutting board and a coffee maker,” he says. “Keeping oils and sauces off the counter also helps me keep everything cleaner.”

11. Get a utensil crock for your most-used tools.

It’s not uncommon for small kitchens to be without drawers, notably those in New York City like Carmona’s. To store silverware and cooking utensils, Carmona uses a large utensil container with dividers that she keeps on her counter for easy access. 

12. Hang a fruit hammock under your cabinet.

Fruit baskets and bowls can take up quite a bit of kitchen real estate on top of counters or tables. This under-the-cabinet macrame fruit hammock not only prevents clutter, but it also encourages Parra to get her regular intake of fruits. “This is my favorite kitchen product because it saves me space, and it looks super cute,” she says. “I imagine my fruits are taking a relaxing vacation.”

How do you maximize your kitchen space? Tell us in the comments below.