How to make the most of a small kitchen

Make sure toasters, kettles and coffee machines have a home that wont block all your workspace, and consider stashing...

Make sure toasters, kettles and coffee machines have a home that wont block all your workspace, and consider stashing underused tech in other rooms. Picture: iStock/PA - Credit: Press Association Images

A more modest kitchen presents challenges at any time of year, especially at Christmas. But it doesn’t mean sacrificing style, says Luke Rix-Standing.

Consistent colouring helps a room feel fluid and coordinated, so consider sticking to a two-colour limit. Picture: iStock/PA

Consistent colouring helps a room feel fluid and coordinated, so consider sticking to a two-colour limit. Picture: iStock/PA - Credit: Press Association Images

Christmas dinner with all the trimmings requires a well-organised kitchen.

But if you have a small space (and so many of us do), trying to juggle all those pots, pans and dishes can quickly lead to over-cramped chaos.

Luckily, there are ways of maximising your space and making this vital area of your home work more effectively. Here’s how to live large in a limited kitchen, and put a stop to claustrophobic Christmas cooking…

1. Work your walls


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Your overarching goal is to squeeze usage out of every square inch of space – and that includes the walls. The hanging rack is the unsung hero of the small kitchen, accommodating everything from tea towels to spatulas. Magnetic knife boards can perform a similar service, while hooks and rails add utility to cupboards and doors.And while we are on walls, consider hanging a mirror in your kitchen. It’s an age-old trick for making a small area appear bigger.

2. Clever lighting

Stack your storage with extra layers of shelving and floor-to-ceiling cupboards and cabinets, storing less frequently used...

Stack your storage with extra layers of shelving and floor-to-ceiling cupboards and cabinets, storing less frequently used items in higher spaces. Picture: iStock/PA - Credit: Press Association Images

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It’s no coincidence that dark is often paired with dingy, and how large a room looks is as much about perceptions as dimensions. A small kitchen matters much less if it feels bright and breezy, and maximising natural and artificial light is almost always improving. Contrast is king when lighting a small space, so use lamps, inset fixtures and other targeted light sources to highlight important parts of the room (the stove, the table, the worktop).

3. Conduct a purge

Clearing out the clutter is perhaps the most direct way of making a small space serviceable. Look for expired foods, long-neglected spices, cookbooks you’ve memorised or outgrown and surplus storage boxes. Be particularly ruthless with larger appliances. We know that popcorn maker was a Christmas present, but you haven’t actually used it since Boxing Day 2014.

4. Build upwards

Crammed cupboards quickly become difficult to navigate, but drawers instantly showcase their contents while slotting...

Crammed cupboards quickly become difficult to navigate, but drawers instantly showcase their contents while slotting seamlessly into the scenery. Picture: iStock/PA - Credit: Press Association Images

People tend to judge rooms on their floor space, but high-ish ceilings open up a brave new world of space-saving hacks. The upper eaves of most kitchens remain wastefully empty, so stack your storage with extra layers of shelving and floor-to-ceiling cupboards and cabinets. Store less frequently used items in higher spaces.

5. Drawers over cupboards

Kitchens should be functional first and foremost, and it doesn’t matter how streamlined your storage is if you can’t find what you need when you need it. Crammed cupboards quickly become difficult to navigate, but drawers instantly showcase their contents while slotting seamlessly into the scenery.

Who knows what expired horrors lie at the back of your deepest cabinet, behind the 20-odd types of herbal tea. In a drawer, there’s nowhere to hide.

A small kitchen matters much less if it feels bright and breezy, and maximising natural and artificial light is almost...

A small kitchen matters much less if it feels bright and breezy, and maximising natural and artificial light is almost always improving. Picture: iStock/PA - Credit: Press Association Images

6. Embrace downsizing

Microwaves vary from portable pocket ovens to armour-plated monsters that take two to lift, while fridges can range from half your size to double it. Washing machines and dryers are particularly bulky, and may be best kept elsewhere. They end up in kitchens as a matter of course, but could do just as well in a cupboard (if you choose your appliance carefully).

7. Colour palette

Lighter colours feel airier – whitewashed kitchens are especially a la mode, alongside old favourites beige and cream – in contrast to heavier, more claustrophobic darker shades. Whatever palette you pick, consistent colouring helps a room feel fluid and coordinated, so consider sticking to a two-colour limit.

8. Keep the surfaces clear

The right to be untidy is a sacred part of adulthood, but it’s also gospel truth that an orderly kitchen is a functional kitchen. Christmas dinner-esque endeavours require plenty of room to manoeuvre, and you’ll need to marshal every square inch of surface. Make sure toasters, kettles and coffee machines have a home that won’t block all your workspace, and consider stashing underused tech in other rooms.

9. Portable storage

Consider a moveable trolley on casters. This can provide several layers of added storage, double as an extra prep space while keeping surfaces clear, and can be wheeled into a different room when it is culinary crunch time. You can even repurpose it as a conversation-starting drinks trolley when guests are finally allowed over again, just like in the movies.

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