kitchen with no storage space
July 24, 2013 3:47 AM   Subscribe

I am living in an apartment with a kitchen that is driving me batty. Can you help me organize it better?

The main problem is that my kitchen has almost no storage space. We don't have any kitchen cabinets. We have one horrible stand-alone cupboard from IKEA that takes up a lot of space but doesn't actually provide a lot of storage, and a silverware drawer. That's it. The pots live in a heap under the sink, and everything else lives on our (small) counter and on the kitchen table. My kitchen is small and narrow.

I can't add kitchen cabinets (I'm renting and it's probably too expensive anyway), but I've got enough space to add one more piece of furniture. I'm thinking of just buying a set of shelves. Do you have a suggestion for which kind of shelves would be best? Or for a different piece of furniture that would be better, storage-space wise? If you live in a kitchen with open shelving, do you like it or do you wish you had doors to close? We don't have any fancy pots or dishes, so it's hard to tell from looking at blogs if in real-life open shelving just looks chaotic and messy.

Also, do you have suggestions for how to take advantage of empty wall space without adding cupboards (I could probably add a single shelf though, like this one from IKEA)? And for optimizing counter-top space? And for organizing the blank space under the sink?

Thanks for your help. I know there are a lot of questions about kitchens on AskMe already.
posted by colfax to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
We have one horrible stand-alone cupboard from IKEA that takes up a lot of space but doesn't actually provide a lot of storage

Can you get rid of this and buy a new one to put in its place which DOES add a lot of storage?

In my old flat, the kitchen had these Ikea shelves mounted above the kitchen sink. They were useful because of the gaps which allowed you to hang tea towels from them and also allowed you to put the pots on upside down when wet (they drip dried into the sink below). You can also get hooks to hang things off them.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:15 AM on July 24, 2013

Can you take a photo of the kitchen, and of the open storage cupboard?
posted by DarlingBri at 4:25 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a small kitchen. I have added a lot to the walls, which isn't ideal in a rental, but hey, patching holes isn't the end of the world. (Also, my landlord paints everything, so I just have to caulk. There are worse things.) Things I have done thus far that might work for you:

-Added hooks over the sink to hold cutting boards and pot holders.

-Added a magnetic knife strip to hold knives. IKEA also sells several systems for wall-mounting a rail that will hold containers (Gruntal, Findtorp, or Bygel); that could work well for cooking utensils, dish soap and sponge, etc.

-If you use paper towels and don't have one already, add a paper towel dispenser.

-Added a small spice cabinet in a space too small for a normal cabinet. A spice shelf or shelves would work also, if you can get away with shelves but not a small cabinet. I didn't go for IKEA's magnetic spice containers that stick to your fridge as I have too many spices for that, but if you don't use a huge variety those could be good.

-Added open shelving (two Expedit units) to the next room over (the dining room) to hold dishes, infrequently used cookware, cookbooks, table linens, the microwave, etc. I'm not a fan of open shelving in kitchens, but the fact that this is in the next room cuts down on the grease build-up that I hate. The Expedit shelving is a decent size and isn't too annoying; also, Target and IKEA also sell perfectly-sized baskets for things like linens that don't stack well.

-Added wire racks to cabinet spaces to make things easier to store and access. Target's kitchen organization section has a ton of these.
posted by pie ninja at 4:27 AM on July 24, 2013

Your best bet is to go vertical. Hang pots and pans from a pipe that runs along the ceiling and some S hooks. Add a second shelf to stick out from the wall to increase your prep/counter space. If you want to add another piece of furniture, add a roll-y kitchen island thing -- you can put prep utensils and silverware in separate vessels on top. You can pick up cute holders for such things in Goodwill, or buy and use clay pots. You can put towels and such there too.

Re open shelving -- we have this because we have space constraints also. The best thing I read is that it looks good only if you keep it tidy. So we don't have fancy dishes, but are dishes are all white so even though we just buy them wherever, whenever, they match (white-white in our case, not eggshell white). All of our glasses are clear, and everything is in a row, and there are a few fluffy green plants on the top shelf keeping it from looking too sterile.

If you have one Ikea cupboard thing that isn't providing space, can you take measurements and go get something that *will* provide space? That should give you room for food, and if you're lucky, a small space for extra paper towels etc as well.

I guess I have to think this because I have one, but I sort of like small kitchens in that they force you to really pay attention to function and proximity in every decisions. Sometimes constraints can be sort of fun.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:29 AM on July 24, 2013

Yeah, seconding that this would be a bit more helpful with a picture.

Are you able to hang anything from the ceiling? A pot rack would take care of the pots, and you can totally make one out of an old oven rack from a junk shop. I also have a set of hanging baskets for my onions and garlic and potatoes (which it's actually better not to refrigerate).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:31 AM on July 24, 2013

Some ideas, a few of which are contingent on the question of how far you can go in terms of drilling holes into things:

1. could you hang a pot rack from the ceiling? pot racks look a little jumbled, IMHO, but it's a sort of jumbled that looks appropriate in a kitchen.

2. The IKEA kitchen rail system for kitchen wall storage offers a lot of flexibility.

3. Some more IKEA thoughts: we have a table similar to this FÖRHÖJA. It's a very flexible piece, and it would give you some extra counter space and 2 drawers. You could add a couple of wall shelves above for your tableware and glassware, which IMHO is the one type of kitchenware that doesn't wind up looking chaotic in open shelving.

4. Still more ideas if you have even more money to throw at the problem: a gateleg table with additional drawers.

5. IKEA Hackers has some interesting ideas about out-of-the-box uses for our favorite flat-packed furniture (such as using Expedit 2x2 cube units for kitchen storage)

6. Do you really need more than one coffee cup?
posted by drlith at 4:31 AM on July 24, 2013

I use this IKEA product in my tiny kitchen. I hang all sorts of things from the sides on hooks. IIRC there's even a wire drawer you can mount on the bottom of the shelves. (though I would advise some sort of liner on the shelves used to store smaller objects. The mesh is pretty open, and small things don't sit well on it.)
posted by HFSH at 4:39 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, photos! Here:

One side
Another side
posted by colfax at 4:52 AM on July 24, 2013

I liked this stack plus hang shelf solution.

More tiny organised kitchens at
posted by Ness at 4:55 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wow, you have a lot of space there, it's just horribly organized!

A pot rack might be a solution.

Then I'd go to Ikea and get a Fintorp or two.

Then I'd throw one of these up, two if I could swing it. Then I'd get some attractive baskets, or galvanized steel containers and put other kinds of stuff in there. Or you can just stack things neatly on it. Drill into studs!

That should solve your problem and it won't cost the earth!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:08 AM on July 24, 2013

I also hate your bare bulb, it looks dangerous. Get yourself something pretty and wire it up in there.

This is a really simple thing to do and as you can see, the fixture is dirt cheap!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:13 AM on July 24, 2013

darling that is a massively huge kitchen if you're living in a city.

you have a ton of veritcal space over that table, though my first suggestion would be to get rid of that table. get hooks and those bar/rail things that you can hang things from.

put an expedit or two where the table is.

get slidy storage things to go where it looks like you have your detergent and your trash/compost.

and please, get a better/safer light fixture.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 5:13 AM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

This option won't be for everyone, but here's one thing I might try:

Build up. You have a huge amount of space above your heads. Build (or get someone else to build) a large and sturdy frame out of 2x4s. You want the kind of construction you would use to make a bunk bed or a work area for a garage, only you want to build pretty much all the way up to the ceiling. Maybe leave enough room on top to put things between the frame and the ceiling. You could build it so you walk under it when you come through the door. A huge wooden frame that will stand solidly without being screwed to the walls, and that is strong enough for an adult to climb. It has to at least be taller and wider than your doorway. Paint it white and it will fit in.

Now cover it from top to bottom with hooks, ropes, nets, Velcro, baskets, pulleys, anything that can hold your stuff. Make it climbable or keep a ladder next to it. Use pulleys to raise and lower things that normally dangle up near the ceiling. When you buy the hardware for it, don't think kitchen, think garage or workshop or stable. Big eye-screws and hook-screws and rods and so on.

When you move out, tear it apart and take it with you, or at least take all the useful hooks and such.
posted by pracowity at 5:31 AM on July 24, 2013

Ok, having seen the kitchen in question, I think the biggest bang for your buck (or Euro or pound) that you'll get is by moving the pots from under the sink to some sort of hanging solution (overhead pot rack or wall-hung on a rail with hooks), move your soap and garbage pail etc. under the sink, then getting 1-2 inexpensive wire rolling carts to put your oils and vinegars and plastic wrap etc. under the counter next to the stove (measure the clearance to make sure they will fit). There's more you can do, obviously, but just that one simple switch will make a big difference.
posted by drlith at 5:32 AM on July 24, 2013

Oh, it's wonderfully tall! And a weird shape. If you could do a little floorplan drawing that could really help us help you out. And perhaps a photo of the rest? I suspect you're hiding a fridge somewhere… :)

The 4x4 EXPEDIT has been a lifesaver in 2 too-small kitchens for me already. Our previous kitchen had a blank wall but was too narrow for a table, so we put the EXPEDIT there and it added SO much more storage. Right now we're in a teensy tiny junior 1-bedroom and the kitchen has just 2 little cupboards, so there is an EXPEDIT in the room next to the kitchen and it is also a lifesaver. The EXPEDIT will serve as your pantry and plate/glass/dish/pan storage, will get all those oils off your counter (giving you your counter back!), and it's great for cookbook storage too. I am on the tall side (5'10"), but I also find that the 4x4 EXPEDIT is the perfect height for a microwave if you put it on top. We keep our wine and our mail up top as well.

Ours is mostly open shelving, but if you organize it well it looks fine. You can get drawers and boxes for it too, which solves the "looks messy" issue completely.

The cabinet by the door is yours, right? And it's not working for you? Get rid of it. Are you wedded to the rectangular table? A circular table could fit into that nook where the cabinet is now, and then you can use that wonderfully long wall for your new EXPEDIT.

Here are some slidy storage things.

Above the counter, get the GRUNDTAL rail system. You can even get a hanging dish rack above your sink.

Alternatively, you could go for a kitchen wall pegboard above your counter. You can hang all your hang-y utensils (spatula, whip, measuring cups, etc) and your pots and pans.
posted by heatherann at 5:37 AM on July 24, 2013

I'd get something like HFSH suggests. I got this rack at Home Depot or Lowe's, I keep my plates, glasses, and pots in cabinets, but they could go on this. I don't have any drawers. I keep all towels and napkins in basket, my silverware in a organizer, and put all my vinegars/sauces on here instead of on the counter, tho I put some in the fridge even tho they don't need to be cold. I keep pantry stuff on one shelf and then try to keep big appliances on this to save on counter space.

I sort of love your kitchen, pretty!
posted by katinka-katinka at 5:48 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another idea would be to go smaller with the table, or to get a kitchen island-type thing that has an eating area on it as well. You can use it for workspace and storage at the same time, and eat at it (especially if you only ever have two people eating at that table).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:02 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I came here to suggest Grundtal rails, but it looks like everyone else already did. The second best space-saver in our low-storage kitchen is using an over-the-door shoe organizer for all of the things that usually make a tangled mess in a drawer. We easily get 2-3 drawers worth of storage space out of ours.

To comment specifically on open shelving, we added a big piece of metro shelving (ok, cheap Target metro shelving knock-off) and while it stores a lot of stuff, we didn't think about the fact that our dog spends all day in the kitchen and everything on the bottom few shelves gets covered in dog hair and has to be washed before using. If you have pets, take this into consideration.
posted by juliapangolin at 6:06 AM on July 24, 2013

Two things I got that helped with my kitchen were this pot rack and this baker's rack. Both added vertical storage space. The bakers rack added additional work space.

Can you put in shelves? I've gotten away with adding shelves at most places before.
posted by kat518 at 6:06 AM on July 24, 2013

Command Adhesive hooks will hang pots, spoons, pot holders, mugs, towels ... if you can't permanently install things and you want a cheap solution, command adhesive hooks will hang ALL KINDS of things. Very popular in apartment kitchens.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:48 AM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'd put the table at either end of the room, rather than in the middle — maybe along that slanty wall where the white shelf is now. Then I'd get a couple of nice looking shelf units (with doors) and put them in the middle — maybe towards the window end if the table is at the other end. If the white shelf came with the unit I'd ask the landlord to take it out. If it didn't, I'd re-purpose it or I'd toss it. That way there's no installation of anything, and you can take the units you buy with you when you go. I'd get a small freestanding shelf (at least two shelves high) that I'd put on the counter to hold things that I used all the time, like salt and pepper and spices and sugar and so on. I'd also get a nice looking crock to put cooking utensils in. I'd put up a few hanging plants to make it warmer, and I'd stick a few framed posters on the walls.

If I wanted to install anything, I'd go with a pot rack.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:00 AM on July 24, 2013

I would get a large wall unit or set of shelves and fix a folding/hinged tabletop to it, something like this wall unit. The tabletop goes away when you want room to move, and provides a space for dining or working when you need it.
posted by telophase at 10:16 AM on July 24, 2013

Also, my husband and I tend to go to the Container Store and assemble customized Elfa or InterMetro carts for every storage purpose under the sun. Before we moved in together, we each built a kitchen island/microwave cart (that are now doing duty as garage-stuff holders since we married), and we have a 5-foot-tall Tower of Power holding all the DVR/game system stuff made from these sort of things, and a TV/fitness equipment cart in the master bedroom, and shelves in teh cloet for clothing. Bonus: the wheels make them easily able to store off in a corner and pull out when needed.

The open-space storage can look a bit messy, but you can also make or buy muslin drapes and hold them on to metal shelves with magnets. That's on my long term To Do list to hide the tangle of cables in the Tower of Power--even though the wire shelves provide cable management, there's only so much you can do when there's 123431432454 feet of cable attaching all your things.

With shelves instead of baskets--they have both and you can mix and match, add drawers or small baskets on the sides, and they come in several heights and with different tops. We've got butcher blocks for the former kitchen islands, and metal tops for the TV and A/V carts.
posted by telophase at 10:27 AM on July 24, 2013

There are plenty of options in "rolling kitchen shelves" from the kind you find in restaurant kitchens to pretty wooden things.
posted by JJ86 at 10:38 AM on July 24, 2013

As people digitize their CD collections, you may be able to find a solid wood CD rack (or DVD rack) that you can paint a pleasant color and use to store teas, herbs and spices, and canned goods. That's what we did with ours once it was emptied of media. Ikea has a rack that would fit neatly in a small space, but ours is quite wide.

I would also re-evaluate the placement of the table. Can it go against the window that appears to be behind you in the pictures? Or rather than place the long side along the wall, what about the short side? I might be misjudging the amount of floor space you have, though.

Also, seconding Eyebrows McGee's recommendation of the Command Adhesive Hooks and telophase's recommendation of Metro Shelving or the equivalent. Both have helped keep our storage-challenged kitchen in great shape!
posted by metarkest at 12:49 PM on July 24, 2013

Metro shelves are a great use of space. Solve the problem of too widely spaced mesh by lining them with a piece of fome-cor cut to shelf size for smaller items. It looks clean, can be cleaned, and lasts a lot longer than you think. We use it in a retail environment all the time.

There seems to be plenty of space over the hob for a wall hung pot rack.

For what it's worth, that kitchen is about three times the size of mine (counting the tiles on the floor for measurement) so you have plenty to work with.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:16 PM on July 24, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you all SO much for your suggestions! You've given me lots of new ideas and things to think about!
posted by colfax at 1:55 AM on July 25, 2013

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