5 Surprising Things I Took for Granted When I Had a Tiny Kitchen

published Mar 24, 2023
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Our tiny apartment kitchen received exactly zero compliments in the time we lived there. It was originally painted white, but by the time we claimed it, the color had morphed into something one might call butter yellow. The hardware was mismatched, the appliances were ancient, and counter space was at a premium. The fire alarm went off constantly, and once when I was fanning it with a baking sheet, I hit the light fixture and covered every corner of the kitchen in shards of glass. 

All that is to say, when I told a guest that it was my favorite kitchen I’d ever cooked in, he struggled to hide his surprise. 

Hear me out: She was no beauty, but she was a workhorse. There’s something magical about producing a perfectly baked and precisely plated loaf of challah out of a closet-sized kitchen. These are the things I miss most about cooking in a small kitchen.

Minimal counter space taught me to work more cleanly.

The lack of space forced me to clean as I cooked, so by the time dinner was on the table, all the dishes were done and the counters were clear. They had to be, or I’d have nowhere to place the finished food. (I didn’t yet know about this ingenious prep space solution.) In my new kitchen, which is approximately five times larger, the mess can reach epic proportions before I run out of space. 

Serious cleaning took mere minutes. 

Cleaning my mini kitchen took maybe 20 minutes, often less. The footprint was so small that it was easier to just use a towel to wipe the floors by hand, rather than going to the trouble of getting a mop. 

Compact kitchens are efficient kitchens.

The efficiency of that space was incredible. I could reach every counter with a simple pivot. Teaching my preschoolers to cook there was a delight. They chopped with their little Montessori crinkle knives, and I could monitor while simultaneously stirring risotto “across” the kitchen. (I was still within arm’s reach.) 

In my new kitchen, the admittedly gorgeous range built into a brick wall is at least four steps away from my cutting board. I suppose I get more steps in, but dinner takes significantly longer to make.  

Nothing can languish in a nonexistent pantry.

The lack of storage space — the problem universally bemoaned in tiny kitchens — is the one thing I’m truly shocked I miss. In the apartment, I’d make mini jaunts to the grocery store and weekly visits to the farmers market, never coming home with more bags than I could carry in one trip. Our food was always fresh, and rarely was anything wasted. 

Now with all the space I have, I feel obliged to shop in bulk; it’s cheaper, and dream houses come with hefty mortgages. But the truth is, I hate spending 45 minutes unloading giant boxes of pasta and crates of applesauce, and I loved breezing in from the farmers market with a handful of gorgeous produce. 

Entertaining was intimate.

The tiny kitchen never once stopped us from entertaining, and often four friends would squeeze into the space at once, sipping wine and bumping elbows while finishing food prep hip-to-hip. The intimacy of an apartment kitchen is a special thing. 

I’m not ungrateful. I love my giant island, double oven, space for my teens to lounge, and room for as many specialty flours as I desire. But I still save space in my heart for the tiny kitchen that always felt much bigger than it looked.