Top tips for tiny rental kitchens

Hello! Ever since I wrote my post last week about our teensy kitchen, I’ve been on fire thinking up ways to get the most from the space so I’m back with some of my top tips!

We’re renters, so while I could write a million posts about things I’d do in this kitchen if I owned it (pot rack, wall mounted lid racks, more sensibly proportion cabinets, extra shelving….etc), here are some ideas that anyone can do – whether you own your house or not).

1) Never underestimate the power of extra shelves. All of our cabinets are these stupid massive boxes with no interior shelves. They’re too shallow for the normal shelves you can put inside cabinets, but these half ones from Ikea give us just a little bit of extra vertical storage space.

(I know, I know, we could totally easily build extra shelves in here, but something so permanent is a little bit down the line, if we’re even here long enough to fully commit to customising stuff like that.)

Update! See some more extra shelves we added to make better sense of an odd cupboard right here.

2) Do what makes the most sense, whether it’s what people normally do or not. Mugs live in cupboards or on shelves, right? no! With so few easily accessible shelves, we’ve ended up with mugs in a drawer. Keeping mugs in our cupboards led to a whole load of wasted vertical space. Keeping them in the drawer makes the most sense, for us.

I might put down a pad in the bottom to keep them in place, or construct some sort of divider (like this?) if I think they’re at risk of breaking.  (It helps that we have no kids who will open and slam the drawer.)

While we’re talking drawer storage, I had these scrappy bits of quilted fabric from a project that I ended up not making, so I made them into pan liners so we could stack our non-stick without damaging them.

Hey, they don’t look perfect, but leftover fabric and batting is better than spending £4.99, right? (Hmm. Until this moment I thought those things were £4.99 each, not per three….probably would have been better to just buy them!)

3) Think outside the room! The advantage of small space living is that things can be the opposite side of the flat to the kitchen but still be easily within reach.

The kitchen is one of the smallest rooms in the flat so it makes sense to use the other rooms to store kitchen items. Right now we keep this stack of lesser used items in our bedroom cupboard (but I’m refinishing a cabinet to keep them in the living room, because I’d rather keep jumpers here). I’ve now moved these items into a cabinet in the living room, and jumpers live here, but a bedroom closet is still a great place to keep kitchenware (the living room just made more sense for us).

We also have this shelf of cookery books in the sitting room.

4)  Get stuff off the counter. As you can see, I’m ok with appliances on the countertop. (Sure, it would look clearer without but I don’t see any other choice here.) But! I do agree with keeping as much small, cluttery stuff off the counters as possible.

I picked up four of these hooks from Ikea (they’re actually from the Pax wardrobe range) and use them to corral onions, garlic and kitchen roll. The onions etc are this small wire basket and the kitchen roll is strung up using some black grosgrain ribbon. Oh, and gotta love a magnetic knife rack.

5) Back of the door! Buoyed by how well my cord and charger organiser worked, I bought this over-door organiser to whip the kitchen into shape. This time I decided to go for a bold graphic labeling system rather than adding pictures to the pockets. It’s not pretty but I love it because it’s really working well so far (and it freed up a load of drawer space).

What are your favourite tips for small space living?

PS. Smitten Kitchen’s top tips are here


  • May 10, 2012 - 8:49 pm | Permalink

    These are all great tips! We have that half shelf thing from Ikea and it’s awesome. Also, using the back of the doors = genius. That’s what I’m doing with closet doors right now. And we keep serving ware in the living room since it doesn’t fit in the kitchen and it’s not used so often!
    I’ve also found that taking the time to adjust the height of the shelves (since they’re usually adjustable in height) to fit your things works wonders to make a better use of the space.

    • May 10, 2012 - 8:54 pm | Permalink

      Oh yes that’s definitely a great tip (we did that in our last flat) but these cabinets have no shelves at all, ick!

      One day I’d love a baking tray rack somewhere like you built.

  • May 11, 2012 - 12:18 am | Permalink

    I love all of your little tips! My favorite is how you hide things behind the door (so clever!). We definitely need to get those half-shelf things from IKEA since I’m too short to reach most things. Our kitchen is much bigger than our last so we haven’t had a huge issue with storage but I always feel like we move things around the longer we’re here.

    • May 11, 2012 - 7:46 am | Permalink

      The little shelves are great! I optimistically bought one of the deeper ones before realising just how shallow our cabinets are and it’s out in the open in the bedroom because it’s pretty enough.

      I think we’re close to not having to move stuff around any more – Mr V was joking yesterday that he can never find anything because I move it all so much!

  • May 11, 2012 - 9:12 am | Permalink

    We keep our cook books in the livingroom as well. It’s crazy when we put in our new kitchen I thought we had more than enough cupboard space. But a year later and they are all full to capacity. Those 1/2 shelves look like a great idea for all our crockery, tupperware. Going to check them out xox

    • May 11, 2012 - 9:19 am | Permalink

      If your cupboards are normal you should be able to fit the bigger ones if you wanted to as well! They’re much nicer than any other ones I’ve seen.
      Kitchen stuff is like a gas – it always expands to fit how much space you have (and a bit more!).

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  • Melanie @ Mailbox Journey
    May 11, 2012 - 1:13 pm | Permalink

    So many great tips! Love them all.

  • chinamartens
    May 11, 2012 - 1:14 pm | Permalink

    i love the caramel colored tile in your kitchen :)

    • May 11, 2012 - 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Thanks China! I have a love-hate relationship with it because it clashes with everything I own :)

  • chinamartens
    May 11, 2012 - 1:15 pm | Permalink

    I love the caramel colored tile in your kitchen! :)

  • Christine @ Casa-de-Christine
    May 11, 2012 - 4:12 pm | Permalink

    These are great tips! You really have made the most of your small space. Love the over the door storage- it’s brilliant! Also love that little basket for garlic and onions… very smart and cute!

    • May 11, 2012 - 10:50 pm | Permalink

      I love the little basket. I picked it up in the shop and just couldn’t put it down!

  • Christine @ Casa-de-Christine
    May 11, 2012 - 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Great tips! You truly have made the best use of your small space. I love the over the door storage and the little wire basket for garlic and onions is a great idea- cute and functional!

  • May 11, 2012 - 7:02 pm | Permalink

    You are just too clever! I think I need to get some of those half shelves. That’s such a good idea. We’ve pretty much used up every spare inch in our kitchen, but I think a few of those would get us just a couple more. ;-)

    • May 12, 2012 - 9:49 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Clair! i love them (so much prettier than those wire ones you find elsewhere!)

  • May 11, 2012 - 8:35 pm | Permalink

    These are great tips! I really love the basket with the garlic and onions in it.

  • ericestate
    May 13, 2012 - 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I never would have thought of putting cups in a drawer. These are great ideas, that every apartment renter should use.

  • ericestate
    May 13, 2012 - 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I never would have thought about putting cups in a drawer. These are great tips that everyone should use.

  • May 15, 2012 - 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I love those hooks! I neeeed them! I have the opposite problem with my shelves – they are too short and I can’t fit my oil or vinegars into them.. instead they live on top of the fridge. Also, how the heck did you get your knife thing to attach to the wall? I have brick walls and don’t want to deal with getting a drill yet.. If there is some brand that doesn’t need screws/nails I would be so happy!

    • May 15, 2012 - 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Aw no, I’m so sorry but that was here when we moved in! It’s screwed into the grout as far as I can tell. Sorry! Do you have any cupboards you could mount one under?
      The hooks are incredible though, definitely grab some of them!

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  • August 30, 2012 - 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Annabelvia – amazing tips girl! I’m loving it! especially the onion hanging deal – i need dat!

    My old rental kitchen was small – my new one is tiny! Since I was in my old one for 3 years I went nuts making modifications – “mr. landlord it looks better now, what’s the problem?’ is my rationale!
    Some of my tips are!

    HANG IT UP! I have coffee mugs hanging, wine glasses hanging, i built a pegboard to hang pots from!

    use a breakfast cart!

    I also like the magnetic tin spice jars that you can put on the fridge. It’s pretty and functional.

    AND you can even do a down and dirty DIY kitchen bar if you dont already have one like the one pictured here.

    • August 31, 2012 - 9:02 am | Permalink

      I’d love pegboard! and hanging stuff up is a great idea – I wish I could hang my mugs but it just doesn’t work sadly.
      Thanks for the comment – I love that breakfast cart!

  • Barbara
    August 31, 2012 - 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Your kitchen is lovely despite the lack of storage. I have the same problem and now my kitchen spills out into the dining room with bookcases and baskets. Coffee mugs, linens, placemats, spices, vitamins, jars, and CANNED goods(!) are in attractive baskets. Looks not so bad and is handier than always opening and closing drawers and cupboards!

    • August 31, 2012 - 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Barbara! I do love our teeny kitchen and I’m glad I’m not the only one storing kitchen goodies all over the house!

  • August 31, 2012 - 8:30 pm | Permalink

    The paper towel holder is BRILLIANT!!!!

    • August 31, 2012 - 9:11 pm | Permalink

      So glad you like! I didn’t want to spend loads of money on something don’t the hooks plus ribbon = dreamy!9

  • September 26, 2012 - 1:28 pm | Permalink

    So cool, I love that you keep your mugs in a drawer, very good idea x

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