Cleverly designed storage is the way to make your small kitchen a multi-purpose room, a space not just for cooking, but also for entertaining, dining, relaxing and family life.
Whether you have a compact space or a large open plan room combined with dining and living areas, the goal is to be able to keep clutter out of sight in well-organised storage, so that everything is in easy reach when you need it, prep surfaces remain spacious, and your kitchen stays looking its best.
The good news is that there are lots of kitchen ideas to play with.
Given the increasing amount of time we spend in the kitchen, and the current trend for open-plan living, ample and well-organised storage is proving ever more crucial for a comfortable and clutter-free environment. This is especially true of compact schemes. Being able to store pots and pans away neatly can help boost the sense of space, while well thought-out storage solutions for ingredients and cookware will make cooking easier, and possibly free-up room for a dining area or breakfast bar and stools.
Small kitchen storage ideas
These small kitchen storage ideas are perfect for tiny cook spaces – but you can also use them in pantries, larders, mud rooms and, of course, larger kitchens to stretch room's proportions.
- See: Kitchen storage ideas – 13 smart storage solutions and organization tips
1. Create a curated display
Create a smart statement by painting shelves and the backdrop in a coordinating color. Keeping the lighter color at the top will help enhance space.
To style the shelves up – always a good idea for making a small space feel bigger – group similar items together and create small vignettes, ensuring there are a variety of shapes and sizes, leaving room around them so that the eye rests on the display.
To keep shelving uncluttered maximize the space inside cupboards using under-shelf baskets, stacking shelf inserts or racks for pans, lids or tupperware.
See: Small kitchen ideas – turn your compact kitchen into a smart, organized space
2. Show off glassware in glass-fronted cabinets
If you want to put certain pieces on display but still need practical storage, why not choose glass-fronted cabinets? They can be used to make a focal point with your best glassware, for example, but everything inside will stay clean and ready to use.
The upside of this small kitchen storage idea is three-fold: the glass reflects light; it allows you to see beyond the doors into the depths of the cabinet, which creates the visual trick of making the space look bigger; and it can be lit from within, which is perfect for night-time.
3. Use slim, tall units to maximize small kitchen storage
'Pull-out larders are a space-saving storage option that offers ample opportunity for storing food, appliances, utensils and more. The pull-out mechanism gives easy access and displays available food with ease, which can, in turn, minimize food waste,' says Daniela Condo, designer at Life Kitchens.
'Designed to make life easier when gathering ingredients and accessories for a meal, the larder discretely blends in with the rest of the kitchen, giving a seamless finish.'
4. Use versatile storage fittings to max out space
'Traditional corner units can be notoriously difficult to access and store items in, but there are solutions available such as racks that slide along and out when the door is opened. This simple addition utilizes all available space and makes the kitchen more user-friendly,' says Daniela Condo.
'Pull-out cupboards are also highly efficient and perfect for tidying away herbs and condiments, whilst the pull-down option offers greater accessibility for those with high set cabinetry.'
5. Swap out cabinets for drawers
'Drawers are an essential part of kitchen design. Providing multiple storage options, whether deep or shallow, the addition of drawers will bring ultimate versatility to the space,' says Daniela Condo.
'Deeper drawers are perfect for storing pots and pans, and the addition of shallow drawers layered on top is great for keeping cutlery, spatulas, corkscrews and more. There is also the option to add drawers inside a cabinet to offer additional storage possibilities.'
6. Opt for multi-functional islands
'A small kitchen island is a practical way to get more out of your kitchen,' says Daniela Condo. 'Entirely functional, islands can offer alternative storage opportunities. The ends can be designed to store and display cookbooks whilst the drawers and cabinetry can make the body of the island. Alternatively, a freestanding island is a compact solution that offers both storage and flexibility in the space.'
Portable kitchen island ideas are a brilliant small kitchen storage solution, allowing you to create a vertical space that you can adapt to your needs.
7. Add storage helpers
Your cupboards and drawers are your biggest storage resource but it’s likely that they’re not being used fully.
Internal storage solutions will make the most of them, so think about retrofitting wire racks that pull out of corners or slim cupboards, some plinth drawers, or using drawer dividers for utensils, spices, pans or plates.
Boost your storage further with a mobile solution, such as a trolley or butcher’s block on castors, or think about popping baskets or containers on top of your wall cupboards – just keep a sturdy stool nearby so you can reach them.
8. Introduce open-shelving
Open shelving is a great way to add extra storage space to a room, as well as wow factor. Adjustable shelves, lighting and neat joinery will enhance the look of a piece like this, as well as offering a way to group favourite items and add impact to a scheme.
The materials and colors you opt to use for an open shelving unit can really make a difference to the overall scheme. Consider combining pale and dark timbers, or using a timber and painted finish combination, or even incorporating other materials such as wallpaper or fabric, which can make interesting back panels.
See more kitchen shelving ideas in our dedicated picture gallery.
9. Factor in freestanding furniture
If you don’t want a fitted look in your kitchen or if you want to supplement existing storage, consider a free-standing larder cupboard, lined with shelves, bottle racks and drawers: those with stepped shelves allow you to see and reach items towards the back.
A kitchen dresser enables you to display your favourite jugs, platters, vintage china and family heirlooms, usually with drawer space below, while a sideboard can work as a serving area and a useful link between kitchen and dining zones.
You might also want a butcher’s block or work table on wheels, so that you can move it around the room to where you are cooking.
10. Keep it flat
Technological advances in push-open and close doors means that it has become possible to dispense with handles in both wall and base cabinets.
If you prefer not to have push-open cupboards, then recessed handles provide the same sleek look and can be lined with contrasting colors and materials to add interest.
Whether you’re after handleless cupboards to make the most of a small space or keeping a large space open and light, it’s important that clutter is kept at bay.
Too many objects on work surfaces can spoil the look so ensure you have as much storage space as possible by incorporating the latest drawer systems.
11. Get organized
Decanting your cooking supplies into neat matching jars yields a certain amount of satisfaction, and makes it easy to spot if you are running low on any ingredients. As well as keeping your shelves looking tidy, your dry goods will also be kept airtight.
This type of shelving does require some dusting, but we think the styling benefits are worth the extra bit of effort.
These pantry organization ideas will give you more inspiration – even if you don't have a pantry.
12. Use reclaimed wood
For a country-style kitchen, modern shelving may look out of place. Why not have a shelf built from reclaimed wood to add instant character and provide the perfect ledge for your rustic bowls and utensils?
13. Fake a dresser
If you love the look of a traditional welsh dresser, but don’t have the room, why not wall-mount just the top section of a unit? Paint the dresser top in the same color as your kitchen cabinets, and use it to display mugs, glasses, and plates.
14. Install a pantry space
If you are able to use an existing anteroom or carve off a corner to make a new room, you may want to consider a walk-in pantry for your favorite ingredients, organized so that most-used items are at eye level. It can also be used to store large platters and serving dishes, and bigger pots, such as a preserving pan or fish kettle.
Traditionally built with wooden shelves and a cold marble slab, and constructed in the coolest, darkest part of the house (most foods prefer to be stored away from direct sunlight), a modern-day pantry is a great way to be able to see what you have in store – and to use an otherwise challengingly dark corner.
Alternatively, you may want to include a utility or laundry room in your plans, to keep drying clothes out of the way, provide storage for cleaning materials, iron and ironing board, pet food and vases.
See: Pantry ideas – versatile storage that’s equally suited to modern life
15. Divide your drawer storage
Make the most of every inch of your new drawers with clever organization.
Choose from adjustable dividers and boxes that allow you to compartmentalise interiors as you wish, or purpose-made fittings to store sharp knives, cutlery, utensils, jars, bottles, cling film and foil.
Non-slip surfaces, moveable pegs and plate holders ensure the safe storage of china and pans, so that they don’t slide about each time you open the drawer.
16. Swap wall cabinets for open shelving
Kitchen storage can come in many forms other than traditional wall cupboards, whose bulk can make a small space feel still more crowded. Open shelving is a great option if you are the proud owner of an impressive crockery collection, or are a keen cook who appreciates having ingredients close at hand.
Having everything on display, however, is not for the faint-hearted as it requires a certain amount of dedication to keep shelves looking smart.
17. Work around an island
An island is a great way of bringing heavy blocks of furniture off the walls. Replace crowded walls with storage in the island: drawers can be used to store utensils and pans below an island hob, a dishwasher, integrated bins and drawer for cleaning materials close to an island sink.
18. Play hide and seek
In open plan spaces, pocket doors which slide open and then fold into the cabinetry are brilliant for revealing the kitchen just when you need it. This bespoke kitchen sits within an open-plan living area and has been designed with full-height doors painted pale green to match the space, concealing contrasting worktops and shelving inside.
19. Stack appliances to maximize storage
This small kitchen storage arrangement wins on two fronts: its streamlining of three appliances stacked one upon the other makes for a neat layout, allowing for lots of useful vertical storage in this kitchen; then, of course, it offers wine storage, that's always to hand.
20. Fit small kitchen storage into banquette seating
We've saved the cleverest of small kitchen storage ideas until now because we felt it was worth the wait. This is how to make space for dining (thank you, space-saving banquette seating) and storage in one place – with pull-out baskets packed out with all those things you need to keep to hand (or somewhere, at least), but don't use often.
How can I increase storage in my small kitchen?
To increase storage in a small kitchen, it's good to design the space with specific contents in mind. Smaller items will benefit from a shallow drawer with numerous compartments to keep items separated and easy to locate.
Consider whether any cupboards will benefit from integral electric sockets, allowing you to charge gadgets out of view. The cases for DVDs and games tend to come in standard sizes so shelving can be fitted at precise heights to get more in, and the same is true of spice jars, which can slot into racks on the back of an easily accessible cupboard door.
Many kitchen furniture ranges are now designed to morph into dining and living room furniture, enabling full coordination throughout. ‘Choose cabinets with feet rather than solid plinths to provide the freestanding look that’s more familiar in dining and living rooms,’ recommends Hayley Tarrington, Creative Director, Plug in Design.
How do you organize a small kitchen with few cabinets?
It's still possible to organize a small kitchen with few cabinets. Cupboards were traditionally considered the building blocks of the kitchen, but their popularity has been on the wane for a few years now. Base units with fixed shelves can make contents difficult to reach, especially in the far-flung corners at the back. Whereas drawers offer ordered and accessible storage space.
Look for fully extendable models that allow you to reach contents right at the back, and sturdy drawers that are built to carry substantial weight (some average-width drawers can take as much as 30Kg). Drawers can offer considerably more capacity than fixed shelves, simply because you can position them closer together, yet still reach the contents at the back.
If cabinets and drawers are not an option, then utilize wall space with an arrangement of open shelves.
Open shelving can create a real statement in a room and is both practical and visually pleasing. It is also a more economical option than a fully enclosed storage unit. It is particularly suited to small recesses in areas, helping to visually correct uneven proportions.
Keep things organized. 'Items placed in groups or in lines of threes, fours or fives will prevent the shelves looking untidy,’ advises Anne Haimes, Anne Haimes Interiors. ‘When choosing the overall look, decide if you want the shelves to be made in a material which is a statement in itself, or if you want them to have a less prominent role, allowing your display to do all the talking.’
Where do you put appliances in a small kitchen?
It can be difficult to know where to put appliances in a small kitchen. While drawers make great use of space below hip level, you may also want to make the most of the ceiling height of your kitchen with a section of tall cabinets to house an integrated fridge, freezer and eye-level oven and coffee machine, as well as dry food larder storage.
‘The trend is about lots of storage hidden behind sliding doors, so that the kitchen can be shut away when not being used,’ says Alex Orosia, UK Marketing Manager, Porcelanosa.
Slide and hide systems can create, when closed, a feeling of uncluttered space, with the advantage that everything is within easy reach when open. Pocket doors which open, pivot and slide into side recesses, leaving contents directly accessible without doors in the way, are also particularly useful here.
How do you declutter a small kitchen?
The best way to declutter a small kitchen is to start by having an honest clear-out of all the things you never use. Then it’s easier to see how much storage you really need, and to plan for large and special items, such as stock pots, preserving pans, antique serving dishes or fine glassware, and all those extras, such as children’s toys or a drawer to stash and re-charge phones and tablets.
Precision planning is the best way of keeping your kitchen from descending into chaos. In a multi-use, open-plan space, try to allocate dedicated storage in each area, not just the kitchen cupboards. This is your opportunity to design your kitchen to suit you.
For example, window seats with deep pull-out drawers are perfect for stashing away toys and ensure that there’s at least one drawer or shelving unit near the TV for tidying away remote controls and games consoles.
‘Installing an island with cabinets on both sides helps maximize storage in the dining area for formal crockery and glassware,’ adds Tony McCarthy, Commercial Director at Crown Imperial.
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