So you have a small kitchen. A tiny one. What are your options? You could spend hours coveting the cavernous kitchens profiled in Architectural Digest. You could whine and complain. Or you could rethink your space. How? A three-pronged approach will make you happier with your itsy bitsy cooking space.1) Cook smarter. Clean as you cook. As a family friend and expert cook once told me, "you have to clean your area!" A smaller space can actually be a blessing because it forces you to be more controlled and efficient in your limited work area. New York Times food writer and cookbook guru Mark Bittman once said, "When it comes to kitchens, size and equipment don't count nearly as much as devotion, passion, common sense and, of course, experience."
2) Declutter and purge. Bittman wrote many of his cookbooks while living in an apartment with a very small and basic kitchen — a revelation that shocked many readers. But for this prolific food writer, all one really needs to be a cook is "a stove, a sink, a refrigerator, some pots and pans, a knife and some serving spoons. All else is optional." If he can be happy in a small space, so can you. Simplify your kitchen. Move or sell appliances you rarely use. Keep your utensils to a minimum. Buy only what you actually use, not what you want.
Because, as Bittman says, "To spend tens of thousands of dollars or more on a kitchen before learning how to cook, as is sadly common... is to fall into the same kind of silly consumerism that leads people to believe that an expensive gym membership will get them into shape or the right bed will improve their sex life. As runners run and writers write, cooks cook, under pretty much any circumstance." Buy nesting mixing bowls, collapsable colanders, and a decent knife or two. (Do you really need a paring knife? How many chefs knives do you really need?). Consider using a big Pyrex measuring cup as a mixing bowl. One wooden spoon will go a long way. Hand mixers and wand mixers are often sufficient unless you're a regular baker.
3) Reconfigure Your Space: If you have limited storage space and are working with an impossibly small amount of counter space, invest in some of these space-saving and space-building pieces, from over the sink dish drainers to foldable mini kitchen islands. Find ways to create extra, and temporary, countertop space by utilizing sink and stovetop space. And keep things off the countertops! Paper towel holders can be attached to the wall, as can pot racks. Use the insides of cabinets and the backs of doors for extra storage.
Here are some nifty space-making purchases that can help you maximize your culinary workspace:
1 Jessica's Blue & Silver Flair. This small New York kitchen is one example of a cook who knows how to make the best of a small space.
2 Folding kitchen cart from http://www.walmart.com/ip/Folding-Kitchen-Cart/17622592, $269. This is a great solution for those with cramped workspace in the kitchen. Easily folds up to be stashed elsewhere if needed.
3 Another folding Island kitchen cart from QVC, $174.80.
4 Grudtal wall-mounted dish drainer from IKEA, $10.95. Get that dish dryer off the countertop! If you love having a drainer (I just use a dishtowel myself), why not consider a wall mounted one like this, which could hang over the sink.
5 Here are three good options for adding instant and temporary countertop space. Clockwise from top left: Lipper International wood chopping board that fits over the range. Amazon, $24.99. Progressive International cutting board. Place this over the sink to free up countertop space. Amazon, $26.57. Over the stove cutting board from More Counter Space on Amazon, $44.95.
6 Kitchen island space saver set with stools that tuck underneath. Walmart, $149.
7 An alternative to a knife block on the counter or using up a drawer for sharp knives. From Cholulared. This would free up an entire drawer! As for the knife blocks that sit on the countertop: unless you are a serious cook who cooks often, you probably do not need immediate access to all of your best knives. Free up that counter space!
10 Rogar half dome pot rack from Bed Bath and Beyond, $60.99. This is a nice alternative to big bulky pot racks. You can tuck it over against the wall for minimal visual clutter.
(Images: As credited above.)