Got a Tiny Kitchen? Five Tips To Get The Most Out of Your Space

So here's the thing: Bryan and I live in an L.A. apartment. It's a small four-plex from the 1950's, and as many apartment-dwellers know, furniture tends to get pushed too close together, styles get mismatched and my kitchen is, well... BEYOND TINY. So friends and family who read this blog and come over to our place for the first time ask me, "How in the world do you get so much done in THAT kitchen??" First of all, thanks for insulting my kitchen (I'm kidding), but second of all, I do have a few spacial secrets. I hope you find them helpful!

Here's my kitchen. A culinary wonderland, it is not.

If I literally turn around from the photo above, I'm face-to-face with my range and refrigerator.
I guess I have a Napoleon complex when it comes to my kitchen; I try to imagine it's one of those gigantic, state-of-the-art, kitchens with cabinets, pantries, islands and room to spare. It's not anywhere near that, of course. In actuality, it's about 4' x 11', fitting a range/oven, refrigerator, trash can, counter/sink, dishwasher and under-counter cabinets. So that basically leaves about 25 square feet of working space. Well, I thought about it and realized I've got five tips for working in a tiny kitchen, where barely one person fits comfortably, much less two. For those of you making the best out of a similar (read: tiny kitchen) situation, are these similar to your cooking short-cuts? I'd love to know.

I do a TON of chopping, slicing, mincing, dicing and overall prep work for meals. It's all done on one BOOS cutting board that basically takes up the entire top of my counter. In order to keep vegetable and fruit scraps out of the "real" food – think tops and bottoms of eggplant, garlic and onion skin, herb stems, bell pepper cores/seeds – I keep a designated "trash" bowl just to the left of my workspace. Any time I have something to discard, I just put it in my bowl. This saves me many awkward trips to the actual trash can, hands full of scraps that our little pup Charlie is just waiting for me to drop. When the bowl gets full, I dump it in the trash can and start again. It keeps me organized, makes the cutting board an "ingredients-only" space and makes throwing away all the trash at once a breeze.

My "Trash Bowl" from last night's dinner

Everyone I know keeps a "grocery list" full of items they're running out of that they need to replenish on their next trip to the supermarket. Well, when you're working in a tiny kitchen with a narrow, side-by-side refrigerator/freezer that forces you to push items deep in its recesses (only to inevitably be forgotten and rot), you risk losing wonderful ingredients and a boatload of wasted money. My solution? I flipped the grocery list on its head, creating a "reverse grocery list" of items that I ALREADY HAVE but risk forgetting about. We have a magnetic chalk board on the front of our refrigerator and every time we come home from the grocery store, I write the items we've just bought. As we go through them, I cross them out. That way when it comes to meal time, I know what we have, what my possibilities are, and make sure nothing goes to waste.

My "Reverse Grocery" List

I have more ingredients for more kinds of foods than I can count. Italian olive oils, truffle pastes, pasta sauces, canned tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and pastas. Asian vinegars, Sriracha sauce, udon and soba noodles and sesame oils. Over 30 types of seasonings and specialty salts. Not to mention the baking ingredients and decorations...melting chocolates, sprinkles, sanding sugar, and the essentials: flour, baking powder, sugar, etc. The problem is, where the heck am I supposed to fit all this stuff? I ended up buying on-sale boxes of different sizes that fit in my tiny cabinets and on top of my refrigerator. I filled them with like-minded ingredients, so I now have Asian-, Italian-, spice- and baking-specific containers. I simply grab the box and everything I need is there. No digging around in cabinets or risking knocking over 20 jars of spices. It's all there, in one easy grab.

My "Spice" Box

I have a soft spot for really cute kitchen towels. Considering I don't have room in our apartment, much less kitchen, to buy any new equipment, I tend to buy lots of kitchen towels. Problem was, we didn't have anywhere to put them. Several attempts to hang them over the sink were thwarted by an inevitable slip to the floor or into the sink, where they would either get dirty or drenched. Not an ideal situation when it comes to the items drying your newly-cleaned utensils, pots and pans. So Bryan had the brilliant idea to use a few (3M brand, in case you're wondering) adhesive hooks and stick them to the tile behind our sink. He grabbed a few clothesline clips that we had lying around, hung our towels over the hooks and secured them with the clips. They look so cute and definitely add a little bit of personality to the kitchen. Not to mention, we haven't had a towel fall in the sink or on the floor since.

Use your walls for creative organization, or in our case, kitchen towels!

This has seriously changed my life. Did you know that knife blocks are like the Titanic of bacteria vessels? Think about it; the slots never get clean, sit exposed to the kitchen elements – water, fire, dust and God knows what else – and are a breeding ground for bacteria. Everything you thought was good about a knife block, well, it isn't. This is where a magnetic knife rack comes in. I didn't have a lot (or any, really) of counter space to lose to a knife block, so I ordered an 18" magnetic knife rack, used a power drill to screw it into the wall (don't worry, it's really secure) and added all my knives. I just turn around, grab a knife and after it's been cleaned and dried, I stick it back on the rack. It looks pretty bad-ass and makes me feel just a tiny bit more professional in my kitchen.

My magnetic knife rack

It's just an added bonus. :)

Here's my sous-chef, Charlie, keeping a close eye on a baking cake.


  1. Okay, I might copy you on the reverse grocery list idea. Love that!!! I totally find myself throwing away stuff because I forget I bought them weeks or even months ago! Great post.

  2. The reverse grocery list idea is génial!

  3. I bought one of those knife racks for my desk and I'm going to use it for scissors. I love scissors and am always losing track of them when I'm sewing and crafting.

  4. Totally need to adopt that reverse grocery list!

  5. I, too, am amazed tha you do such incredible work out of such a small kitchen. Thanks for sharing your tips!

    Agree with the previous posters - awesome grocery list idea. My husband goes on (and on...) about Japanese knives so I showed him yours - he's jealous. 8-)

  6. This is a fantastically helpful post! May you have the kitchen of your dreams soon! Imagine what will be created in that kitchen then....!!

  7. Thanks, everyone! So glad the list is helpful... the reverse grocery has helped us like you can't even imagine! Steal it and run with it! :)

  8. And I thought I had a small one--good to see that size doesn't matter. ;)

  9. Love, love, LOVE this post! Our kitchen is very space challenged as well so any extra inches of space are like gold.

    Like everyone else said, your reverse grocery list is genius!

  10. Brilliant idea on the reverse grocery list!

  11. I love this! And my kitchen is half the size of yours so don't feel too bad! Most people have bathrooms bigger than my kitchen.

  12. Excellent ideas, you are a creative genius.

  13. When I bought my house through costa rica homes for sale
    I expected to have a big stove in the kitchen with a huge space, now I am really happy because I can cook every kind of recipe in my huge stove. I really love it.

  14. Dear Christie,
    I am from India;i stumbled onto this blog...n i am really amazed with every single idea of yours:-)..inspires me to de-clutter my tiny kitchen; thanks:-)

  15. Great ideas -- love the reverse grocery list (I do something similar with my meal planning/freezer lists).

    As a former New Yorker, I know from small kitchens -- I used to have one (1) square foot of counter space in my Brooklyn studio! I'm now in Phoenix with a kitchen many think is small, but I believe is enormous. Now I have about 25 square feet of counter space, too. It's glorious.

    Quality, not quantity, as the old saying goes... :)

  16. I keep my BOOS cutting board right at the edge of my counter, so then all I have to do is slide the scraps right off the edge of the cutting board and right into the trash can thats underneath.

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