Long narrow kitchen - design ideas needed
July 31, 2020 6:57 AM   Subscribe

What can I do with a very long empty wall if I can't afford new cabinets and a countertop?

Our kitchen is 22.5 feet long and 7.2 feet wide, not counting the appliances. All the appliances, counters and the sink are lined up along the same exterior wall. These things can't be moved under our budget. The long interior wall has an unbroken stretch of about 14 feet, it's across from the sink, cabinets and range. I need ideas for maximizing the wall's potential for storage while also providing a small seating area that does not face the wall. I'm pretty sure we won't be able to afford to install cabinets and a countertop, although that would be ideal. What else could we do with this space?
Many thanks in advance!
posted by FormerMermaid to Home & Garden (19 answers total)
Not recommending this product specifically, but would something like a fold down table cabinet work? Then you can get it out of the way while you're not using it and have other shelving and cabinets around it.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:10 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]

In a word, pegboard. Make a pot rack and/or hang your cooking utensils. Also magnetic spice containers.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:10 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]

Pegboard, racks, open shelves put up with heavy standards and brackets all come to mind. My previous kitchen was similarly narrow and we put in a set of cabinets and counter that were designed for upper levels as base - they were only 12" deep so fit despite the narrow space. In normal times I'd suggest checking out a Habitat for Humanity ReStore or the like if there's one near you - can pick up kitchen cabinets very cheaply that way at times. Right now I guess you'd need to call...
posted by leslies at 7:11 AM on July 31

can we see a pic?

I agree pegboards are likely to be part of the solution. Also, in general, European kitchen design has a lot more to offer for small space solutions. Ikea sits happily at the intersection of inexpensive + has a lot of stuff designed for compact spaces.

Also, maybe wire pantry shelving screwed to the wall? Very convenient. Like this.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:24 AM on July 31

IKEA has tons of products made to hang on kitchen walls. Most are based on a rail system, but they have shelves for higher areas, too. Good Housekeeping has this article showing lots of options from IKEA. I had a similar kitchen with about 6 feet of wall space and just one bar and one rack helped out with space quite a bit.
posted by soelo at 7:27 AM on July 31

+1 to shelves up high (I like the Ikea Lack shelves, but they are a pain to install properly)- starting at 6.5 feet, and then pegboard or hooks below. An Ikea rail system could be super super handy.

Muji also has interesting houseware solutions for narrow/small spaces, and surprisingly so does Urban Outfitters.
posted by larthegreat at 8:01 AM on July 31

I don't have a pic on this computer, but it's kind of like the first pic on this page, although not nearly so fancy. I would get rid of all that seating and replace it with a small table perpendicular to the wall and several cabinets for enclosed storage. I don't want open shelves because grease/cat hair/dust. Ikea is a great idea, their besta line has lots of options. Many thanks all!
posted by FormerMermaid at 8:18 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]

The cabinets we used were from IKEA.
posted by leslies at 8:30 AM on July 31

If you have storage with doors, are you going to be backing up into the appliance wall when you open them? Or turning around from the sink and braining yourself? Maybe sliding doors.

(We went for an overpowered range hood and open shelves and it’s been fine, but we don’t cook a lot of meat.)
posted by clew at 9:09 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]

I don't find pegboards particularly attractive but Julia and Paul Child did. If it was good enough for her...
posted by tmdonahue at 9:22 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]

I hear you about the dust and other airborne grossness. You could install a curtain rod above whatever you decide, and put a nice sheer or something over it.
I'd probably put heavy duty moveable wire rack shelving in and cover it with curtains, but that's just because when I figured out a more permanent solution, I could use those racks elsewhere. (I have some I'm already using like this in my garage.) The ones I got are from Costco, and I love them.
posted by ApathyGirl at 9:32 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]

This is probably not in your budget now but something to consider for the future.

See if it is possible to install a pop out "garden" window to replace a window on the outside wall, typically a window over the sink. You wouldn't think that a 16 inch pop out could make a difference but it dramatically increases the open appearance of a narrow galley type kitchen because it provides light from the top and the sides as well as straight out.

This is probably a $2,000 to $3,000 addition, but well worth it for a galley kitchen.
posted by JackFlash at 9:32 AM on July 31

I was going to mention the Julia Child pegboard wall but I see that tmdonahue already did it. I'm also now thinking that you could work up some adjustable cabinets and shelving on french cleats that could give you a fair bit of storage space for maybe not too much money.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:05 AM on July 31

Billy bookcases from IKEA. Seriously - we use a tall one as our pantry (with glass doors to keep the dog out) and a short one for holding things like the Instant Pot and stand mixer and they're great, shallow enough to not overwhelm our small kitchen but roomy and sturdy enough for the job.
posted by Flannery Culp at 11:53 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]

Seconding Billy, I have them in my kitchen and they are conveniently the size of appliances.

If you can't afford that depth or can't afford that depth at floor level, I would consider the rail based shelving systems that are often sold as closet shelves. You fit a hanging bar at the top of the wall, hang rails off it and add shelving brackets that clip into the rails. Shelves are big box pieces of 8in wood, as cheap or dressy as you like.

They aren't super attractive (though they aren't super ugly either), but they are cheap and functional and easily removed when you figure out what you want to replace them with. They're also strong - I have a lot of books stacked up on one of these systems, and there are only something like 8 screws in the wall holding it up.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 1:19 PM on July 31

Upper kitchen cabinets are not as deep, and there's no reason you can't use them on the bottom as well as the top for a nice pantry or other storage. Ikea cabinets are pretty affordable. Watch Craigslist/free and freecycle and ReStore for great deals. I just saw a gorgeous slab-cut pine counter for free, would make a good breakfast bar.
posted by theora55 at 1:27 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]

My first instinct was to suggest steel racks, because I just saw a very beautiful long narrow kitchen using cheap steel racks from IKEA opposite the counter. However, I understand your need for closed cupboards.
So, what I would do would be to cover the wall floor to ceiling in shallow "upper" cabinets in the style you like the best. Except for a niche where you have your little breakfast table and two chairs. I would definitely have cupboards over the niche, both to optimize the space, and to create a special place for the table. I would paint the wall in the niche in a strong, contrasting color, and decorate the niche with a poster or painting. A lamp over the table will help to emphasize the space. In this way, you will break up the narrowness of the kitchen, even as you actually make it narrower by adding more cupboards. I hope this makes sense.
posted by mumimor at 3:06 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]

If your budget is low and your space minimal you could look into a café table and two chairs for seating. The table would be just barely large enough to eat off and reserved solely for that. A third chair could be stored in the next room, or possibly folded and stored further along the wall and only brought out when you need to seat a third person. Above the table you'd want something like a tiny shelf with a trailing green plant, or a poster, or a bulletin board with artwork and decorative things pinned to it.

Consider bookcases for the wall. They are inexpensive and supply a lot of storage space without sticking out very far. However if their contents turn into a messy jumble you will know it and it will look terrible. Despite the visibility issue, open shelving like that is extremely convenient and can be used for storing things like the nicer crockery. The old yogurt and kool whip containers would go in the closed storage on the window side of the room. You can get baskets that fit your shelves to use as drawers and hide the clutter, or ornamental containers to stand up things like cutlery. Book cases often have low shelves, so keep that in mind when looking into that option. You likely won't be able to stand a container full of ladles and spatulas and whisks on the bookcase shelves. Tall things would have to go on top. You can even store things like your tea towels in the bookcase if you fold or roll them so that they fit the shelves.

If you go with bookcases make sure you use shelf paper so that they last longer. If you go with more than one bookcases low enough to be a working height you can top them with with a counter top. If your budget is really tight you can make the counter from shelving or lumber and add a coat of polyurethane or water proof enamel to make it more durable. Keep in mind that such a budget shelf is not heat resistant or damage resistant, and be sure to use cutting boards and trivets when there is a risk of damaging it.

You might wish to invest in wall-mounted closed shelving on the scale of a large spice rack with doors that will hide the contents - think of cabinets much like the ones that get installed in bathrooms. A cabinet like that would hold a lot of baking supplies - food colour, flavour extracts, spices, baking powder and baking soda, yeast, etc, and become the designated area for all the small packets and bottles you use for baking, where the flour and large sized packages and tools like the bread machine would be directly opposite. You could also use it for the shelving where you store lunch cans of soup and pasta and crackers, or use it for the designated spot for unhealthy snacks.

A potato bin and recycling bins would also fit on this side of the room.

I would suggest leaving a large central portion of the wall bare of anything except artwork which is surrounded by a larger amount of bare wall. If you do so it will make the room feel larger. You want to be able to see some of this wall to avoid the room feeling like a tunnel. Negative space is important in small spaces.

Aim for smaller items rather than larger. For example if you want a wall clock get the smallest one you can still reasonably see, even if there is space for a larger one. As many things as possible want to be small in order to give the impression that the room is larger. A row of plants in little pots would be better than one large plant
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:28 PM on July 31

Upon further consideration, a wall-mounted drop-leaf table/counter might be helpful as well.
You'll have surface when you need it, and can drop it when you don't.
posted by ApathyGirl at 10:32 AM on August 2

« Older Saving without a goal, midcareer edition   |   Wireless earbuds that are easy to use Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments