24 Small-Kitchen Storage Ideas to Maximize Space in Even the Tiniest of Kitchens
Feeling cramped in a tiny kitchen? It doesn't have to be that way. Follow these expert-approved small-kitchen storage ideas for a more organized space.
When it comes to kitchen organization in tiny spaces, the challenges can be enormous. These cozy kitchens are the heart of the home for cooking, schoolwork and even bill-keeping, but space is limited. Don’t get discouraged. Small-kitchen storage ideas abound and can work magic in even the tightest galleys—just think outside of the box.
“Remember, if you’re working in tight quarters, not everything that should live in that space may be able to fit, so you’ll have to find ways to get creative,” says Jamie Hord, founder of professional organizing company Horderly. First order of business: Give yourself a clean slate and start decluttering. Remove everything from drawers and cabinets. Create various piles for things you’ll keep, store, purge and donate, and then assess what really needs to be handy. Once you’ve grouped everything by category, you can start exploring new frontiers and a variety of kitchen-storage ideas. Here are our expert-approved tips.
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Take advantage of wall space
Before buying extra storage, consider every wall, cabinet and under-cabinet area for space to hang rods, hooks and pegs. This will ultimately provide room to clear crowded drawers and cabinets. Assess kitchen items that make the most sense on wall space. Does a kitchen tool have a handle for easy hanging? Could you organize your pots and pans by suspending them and gain storage elsewhere? In space-challenged kitchens, taking advantage of walls and unused surface areas makes a huge difference.
Relocate the rarely used
With space at a premium, the stockpot does not have to occupy precious cabinet space. Storing less frequently used kitchen items elsewhere makes a lot of sense if they’re not needed daily or even weekly. Touch every item in the kitchen during your reorganization. Is it dusty? Is this the first time it’s seen the light of day in a while? It probably doesn’t need to live in the kitchen. Add a freestanding storage cabinet to the garage or basement, and place rarely used kitchen items in there. Consider it like organizing holiday decorations—simply bring those pieces out when you need them.
Install open shelving
When hanging a shelf (or multiple shelves), don’t discount areas that seem narrow. Shelves come in many depths and widths to match most wall challenges. They can be metal, laminate or wood. Use them for spice storage, often-used cooking ingredients or mugs you like to reach for. For heavy loads like plates or bowls, make sure the shelves are mounted securely to the wall.
Rethink the door
When is a door not a door? When it adds extra storage to your small kitchen. If you’re lucky enough to have a closet or a pantry, Hord recommends hanging a door rack for a top-to-bottom storage bonanza. If utility storage is your goal, place cleaners along the bottom, add tools in the middle and situate lighter, smaller items, such as sponges or dish towels, at the top. An over-the-door rack could also supplement a meager pantry with space for paper goods, spices, beverages, cans and jars. These small-kitchen storage ideas work with full-size and cabinet doors.
Add pegboard to your walls
One of the most DIY-friendly small-kitchen storage ideas, pegboard offers a wealth of creative organization options. Hooks can be added for baskets to carry produce or for colanders, pots, pans and utensils. Special racks attach to pegboard for added flexibility. You can use the shelf attachments for cooking supplies, such as oils, vinegar and spices.
Larger pieces of pegboard can be installed where the wall allows, but don’t limit yourself. Run a slimmer, vertical board in narrow spaces, or use it as a backsplash where smaller items can hang. In addition to matching the wall space, ensure there is enough room to hang everything you intend. Lay the board on the floor first and put all of its intended kitchen wear in place before cutting and mounting.
Embrace the modern china cabinet
Not enough kitchen cabinet storage? This is not your grandmother’s china cabinet (although we grandmillennials like that too). Whatever your style, there’s a china cabinet to match, from midcentury display cabinets to modern credenzas or antique sideboards. Small kitchens might not have space for more furniture, so look at adjacent walls in hallways or dining areas. If your kitchen cabinets accommodate everyday dishes, use the china cabinet for oversized items, holiday dishes or special collections.
Transform a rolling cart into a pantry
We’re not all lucky enough to have a butler’s pantry. For a flexible small-kitchen storage idea, build your own pantry with a rolling cart, which comes in all shapes and sizes. Rolling carts can be used for food or kitchen tools. Maybe it’s the snack cart, ready for the afternoon run. If you’re a baker, load all of your supplies for easy access and easier storage. And if space is really limited, look for slim storage carts to fit into narrow kitchen spaces.
Mount a magnetic knife strip
This is one of the best small-kitchen storage ideas for home chefs. Placing your knives on a knife strip does two things: It clears kitchen drawer space and streamlines food prep. That’s exactly what you want in a tight kitchen, where drawer and counter space is often at a premium. Beyond industrial metal casing, wood-clad knife racks offer warmer styling. Extra space along the strip can host other metal kitchen tools as well.
Turn pots and pans on their sides
Need some kitchen cabinet organization tips? Pots, pans and their lids take up a large chunk of cabinet space. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. “Our favorite solution for pots and pans is a cookware rack,” says Hord. Turning pans and their lids on their sides reduces bulk. The rack can sit in drawers or cabinets or on shelving or counters. She prefers drawers for pots and pans if possible.
Hang a rail for hooks
Small kitchens never offer enough drawers. Nor do some larger ones. Devoting prime space to silverware leaves utensils at loose ends, but that’s just fine since there are other options. Hord suggests a kitchen rail bar with hooks to offer a perfect perch for utensils. Locate the rack near your workstation and stove if possible. Look for a metal that blends with existing drawer pulls, and reserve an extra hook for a color-coordinated dish towel.
Bring in utilitarian shelving units
Let’s think outside the box with this small-kitchen storage idea. Look in the kitchen and in adjacent space for real estate. There’s beauty and function in adding freestanding utilitarian shelving. Place open-backed units near an outlet, and there’s a perfect place to create a coffee bar. Add airtight food-storage containers with cereal to make mornings a breeze. This can also be the place for larger appliances. Store anything heavy at waist-high or lower if possible for easy and safe access.
Don’t forget the window space
Both ledges and the windows themselves offer opportunities for additional storage. Mount a shelf on a window ledge to store crocks of utensils or cookbooks. With the correct exposure, it’s a great place to grow indoor herbs and microgreens to jazz up dinner. Bars, shelving or a combination of both can stretch across windows to exponentially expand space. In super-tight kitchens, this could be the place for stashing glassware as well.
Hang your produce
Forget the banana boat if counter space is in short supply. Instead, hang a multitiered basket in a corner or along a wall for triple the fruit and vegetable storage. Then layer up all of the produce that doesn’t head into the fridge. This is the place for pears and potatoes. Just remember to watch for heat, air and light sources since that could reduce longevity for some items. Beyond bananas, those baskets are a great repository for other items, such as your cookie cutter collection, dish towels and napkins.
Slim the knife block
The traditional knife block casts a pretty wide shadow. One way to organize kitchen counters and gain a few extra inches is with a slim and more contemporary model. An upright knife block easily hugs a backsplash. Knives slide into some versions. Others are magnetized, allowing knives to cling to them without the risk of dulling the blades. Not only stylish, they are perfect for renters reluctant to mount a magnetized strip on the walls.
Consider a wall of shelves
Instead of freestanding storage, puzzle shelving units together to provide a solid wall of storage. Adjust shelf depths to accommodate both the room and whatever you decide to place on them. Shelves can stretch bookcase style across the wall, but a handy stylist might want to play with size and structure, combining a variety of options together. Average books need 10 to 12 inches, meaning a cookbook collection might need a deeper space. Add glassware to your shelving or treat it like an open pantry for cooking supplies. Narrow depth works beautifully for cans and jars, and Hord recommends woven baskets for collecting like items or produce.
Use adhesive bins
Spices and seasonings fall into the “flex” category of storage, says Hord. They certainly don’t need to be kept in a pantry, so you have options, depending on what is available and what is a priority. Adhesive organizer bins can attach anywhere there is room. Try to place them adjacent to prep or cooking areas. Be open-minded. They work on a backsplash or inside a cabinet door. Condiments can hang there as well. Double your order of adhesive bins for other spaces, too, including for storage beneath the kitchen sink for small-scale cleaning tools and products.
Edit your utensils
OK, we actually mean purge. If you have many of the same-size spatulas, keep one nonstick and one metal, and donate the rest. Ditto for too many measuring spoons, can openers or kitchen gadgets. You don’t need multiples. And if you don’t pit cherries, remove that tool as well. Collect the everyday utensils, such as tongs, wooden spoons and ladles in a utensil holder by the stove. By reallocating these, you’ll expand drawer space for the things you prefer to store flat.
Separating silverware by category upgrades drawer space. Small kitchens might be limited here, but reserve the drawer closest to the dishwasher if possible—organized spoons and forks improve kitchen efficiency. An expandable cutlery tray works to maximize space, says Hord. Another option? Create room for both cutlery and utensils with stackable kitchen drawer organizers.
Incorporate shelf risers
Shelf risers come in a variety of materials—and they’re not just for cabinet interiors (where stackable options multiply dish storage). Use them to expand and elevate pantry shelves so cans can’t hide beyond their expiration date. To organize your countertops, pick a riser that coordinates with your counter’s material and keep the depth relatively narrow to preserve the workspace upfront. Treat the counter as the first shelf with space for mugs and bowls. Then add taller items to the top riser.
Utilize the space above the fridge
You’ve already managed to organize the refrigerator. Now tap the top of it like the airspace of a city high-rise—there’s plenty of unoccupied real estate, making this one of the most underutilized small-kitchen storage ideas. Plus, the fridge is super sturdy. Use the top of the fridge like a pantry. Keep like items together in woven baskets or plastic bins. That will ensure snacks or lightweight ingredients aren’t sloppy or soaking up space.
Add a metal rack to the countertop
Take a page from a well-run chef’s kitchen. Metal racks are easy to clean. They’re also super flexible in terms of width and height. The space between the counter and the cabinet bottom can easily be doubled by adding metal or other shelving without sacrificing prep space. Look for narrow-depth shelves and fill them with everyday items. This could be the spot for breakfast bowls and coffee cups. Or use it for spices, seasonings and condiments. The key to something Instagram worthy? Assemble by color and function. Remember not to overload shelves—clutter diminishes the appearance of organization.
Decant the pantry goods
Even within a pantry, snacks and canned goods seem to exceed shelf capacity. The same can be said for flour, sugar, dried beans, grains and pasta. Decant shelf-stable pantry items for easier and cleaner storage. If open shelving is your substitute for a pantry, coordinating items in containers is also more visually pleasing. Don’t forget the zoning and other keys to perfect pantry organization.
Love your Lazy Susan
The functionality of the Lazy Susan certainly belies its name. The spinning plate collects ingredients for easy access when meal-making, which means it’s one of the most efficient small-kitchen storage ideas. Keeping salt, pepper, olive oil and hot sauce near the prep area speeds cooking and keeps the ingredients looking neat. Using a Lazy Susan in a cabinet or pantry means a quick spin can reveal the ingredients you need. Updated Lazy Susans have divisions for snacks, and some are tiered for extra storage as well.
Install gliding shelves
If existing cabinets don’t have pullout shelving, gliding shelves can be retrofitted to enhance kitchen function. Heavy but less frequently used appliances are easier to roll out, and pantry items are easier to organize and see. Adding a double-shelf pullout system increases cabinet capacity.
About the expert
- Jamie Hord is the founder of Horderly Professional Organizing, which focuses on home organization from coast to coast. A type-A personality, she and her husband founded Horderly in 2015 to bring order to homes.