A Tiny Kitchen That Proves You Can Cook Even When You're Short on Space

A Tiny Kitchen That Proves You Can Cook Even When You're Short on Space

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Adrienne Breaux
Feb 21, 2017
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

If Ursula had unlimited money and space, her dream kitchen would be incredible. "Three ovens: two gas (one with steam injection) and a wood-fired buddy out back for good measure," she writes. But that's just the start. She'd also throw in "a six-burner gas range and a walk-in fridge and freezer because I mean why not?" An island with a cutting board tabletop would seat six, and a breakfast nook would have wrap-around bench seating. And why have only one or two compartments in your sink when you could choose three? "Approximately one trillion cupboards (bamboo with glass doors), a walk-in pantry for dry storage, and a compost chute that would go straight into a bin out back for reuse in my garden—because I'd also have a garden," she finishes.

Ursula moved from Los Angeles to Chicago to pursue a career as a baker.
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Unfortunately, Ursula doesn't currently live in her dream kitchen. But it doesn't seem she needs to; she's come up with creative ways to make her teeny kitchen in her tiny studio apartment work for her.

She added counter space with this island from IKEA. She hung her pots and pans on the wall to help keep things clutter free. Flour is stored in large Ball Mason Jars on exposed shelves. And a clever DIY added a narrow bar counter (with hanging step ladders used as seating).

But most importantly, not living in the kitchen of her dreams didn't stop her from working on achieving her career dreams. She moved from Los Angeles to Chicago to pursue a career as a baker, and though she's short on space in her current kitchen, she still makes it work. More of her tips below:

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

How do you keep the small kitchen from feeling cramped with so many tools out in the open?

Simply, I kept things close to the walls! Nothing protrudes more than 12" away from the wall where I put in shelving, and I made sure to measure the depth of my counters to find an island that would not extend out any further. If anything jutted out, I knew it would make the narrow space look closed off and messy, so I stuck to creating vertical space by mounting shelves, aprons, and pans as one might do with a gallery wall in a living room.


"Plants make any room feel warmer — not to mention they purify the air — and what better way to fill corners?"


(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Do you consider decoration to be just as important a function for a kitchen?

Absolutely! I spend most of my time in the kitchen so it helps to enjoy actually looking at it while I'm there. I decided when I moved to Chicago that I would surround myself with as much green as possible to get through the winter and it really does help. Plants make any room feel warmer — not to mention they purify the air — and what better way to fill corners? As far as the red chair... I literally didn't have room for it elsewhere and didn't want to get rid of it so... voila.


"No surface in my home is safe from becoming a kitchen counter, as far as I'm concerned."


Have you ever felt frustrated by not being able to do something in your small kitchen...but then figured out a workaround?

I mean...everything! I had no counter space for baking so I got an island. I wanted a wood surface for pie doughs and breads so I bought a huge cutting board to place on top of that island. I had no room for all the flours and starches I use so I threw them in mason jars and put them on the wall. The oven is much smaller than standard modern ovens so I had to invest in 1/4 sheet trays to make anything fit. My coffee table in the living room became a staging area for bread proofing. No surface in my home is safe from becoming a kitchen counter, as far as I'm concerned.


"I know most apartments are not for life, but you should really make it livable while you're spending all that rent money on it!"


(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

What do you think most people get "wrong" when organizing and decorating a super small kitchen?

I think they give up and throw whatever can fit into the space. The girl who lived there before me had a square table with two chairs against the wall. I'm assuming she figured she needed a table for eating and that's just where it was going to have to go. It looked so cluttered and out of place; I mean it's essentially putting a table and chairs against the wall of a hallway.

Secondly, I think people are afraid to make holes and mount things, especially if they are renting. I know most apartments are not for life, but you should really make it livable while you're spending all that rent money on it! I'd rather lose part of my deposit than be miserable in a cluttered home. This apartment was the 12th one I've lived in so just trust me on that one.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

What advice do you have to give anyone who wants to do more cooking or baking but thinks their kitchen is too small to work?

Absolutely take a look at Apartment Therapy studio layouts and see what other people are working with, then see how it applies to your own home. Is your small kitchen narrow and in need of long, shallow lines like mine? Or is it a corner of your entire living space and calling for a boxy island-with-bar-stools layout? Do not try to cram normal kitchen decor into the space!!! Let the lack of room be your creativity, and please please throw out the hand-me-down-from-your-roommate-freshman-year table and chairs. You won't miss them when you move again, promise.

Thanks Ursula!

See more of her home in her house tour → A Baker's "Hip Grandma" Small Studio Apartment in Chicago

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