Pimp My Small Kitchen: 10 Cheap, Renter-Friendly Improvements

All the small space goodness from last month inspired me to make some tweaks and additions to make my small Brooklyn kitchen more serviceable and user-friendly (especially since I am its primary user). The changes are affordable, renter-friendly and, hopefully, helpful to some of you simmering and sautéing away in your own small kitchens.

1. Over-the-Stove Cutting Board: small kitchens are a challenge not just for storing things but for actually cooking. To gain a bit more usable counter space I purchased this bamboo cutting board that fits across two burners. If you don't use your stove much you could leave it there most of them time. Or, of course, you can just bring it out when you need more surface area to work on. I used it for an easier quesadilla assembly line recently and it was a great improvement. If you're curious, the one I have is by Lipper International and available through Amazon, Wayfair, Bed Bath & Beyond and more for around $23.

2. Vertical, Affordable Recycling Holder: Do you recognize this piece? It's from the kids' section of IKEA and is mainly marketed as a toy bin. I use it to hold recycling and it's just big enough to hold nearly a week's worth for my family of four. It's a TROFAST frame ($29.99) with two TROFAST storage boxes ($5/each).

3. Mini Dust Pan & Brush Secured to Fridge: Tired of getting the broom out of the closet every time there was something small to sweep up in the kitchen (like a bit of flour, coffee grinds, etc.) I had the idea to get a very small dust pan and stick it on the fridge. See below for an adhesive method that did not work - what did work was Scotch brand fasteners (adhesive on one side, Velcro-esque on the other). The mini dust pan is by Oxo ($6) and they also make a similarly small, but differently shaped one for a buck more.

Public Service Announcement: I first tried to hang the dust pan on the fridge with glued-on magnets. I don't know if the glue I was using wasn't up to the task (Gorilla Glue Super Glue) or if the plastic surface wasn't porous enough, but this method only lasted a few tries before the magnets came off and stuck to the fridge instead of the dust pan. Maybe you can make this method work, but I recommend skipping the frustration.

4. Double Magnetic Knife Holder: I wrote at length about this space-saving improvement recently and included some purchasing and DIY options. I'm still happy with this small, but effective tweak which freed up some wall space, which I used instead to add...

5. Vertical Shelving: With my knife holder off the wall, I had a few feet to use to put up some shelves (in this case, some very cheap IKEA shelves, the Ekby Laiva shelf with Stilig brackets). I haven't maximized the storage potential yet, but so far I'm using them to hold some canisters of grains and paper towels (remember, I caved and started buying them in bulk?).

6. Attractive storage baskets: I included this tip in a post about my small home. Adding stylish baskets above my cabinets has been the happy medium between underusing the space (with the benefit of an uncluttered appearance) and overusing the space (with big and visually heavy storage bins). My baskets are holding things I rarely use like cookie cutters, plastic easter eggs and extra light bulbs.

7. Cookbooks above the fridge: Yes, no space is sacred in a small kitchen. I've whittled down our collection of cookbooks considerably, but prefer to have them close at hand in the kitchen if possible. Why not above the fridge? I turned a galvanized steel bookcase we were getting rid of on its side and it can hold most of our cookbooks. I'd like to whittle down even more so there isn't overflow on the top, but I'm getting there.

8. Microfiber drying mat: My small kitchen doesn't have a dishwasher and my dish drainer doesn't hold much more than a meal's worth of dishes. This is especially bothersome when I'm cleaning up after having company over and we have twice as many dishes to wash and dry (I know, I could hand dry as I go, but I prefer to let the air do my work!). When I purchased a microfiber drying mat to use under my drainer, I decided to get two for when one was in the wash. But I've also found it's great to pull out for overflow dish drying.

9. Simple pot lid container: This tip isn't just for small kitchens. My uncontained pot lids were making me batty and taking up much more space than they needed to. I researched, I pinned, I plotted, I planned. And found many terrific ideas and products. And then I just happened to see this simple plastic tub that was the right size and shape and solved my problem in perhaps not the most elegant way, but in a quick, cheap ($9), efficient way. It is actually intended to be a pull-out container but there is a lip (not pictured) on the bottom of this cabinet which would make that tricky so I decided, for once, to make things easier on myself and just forgo that functionality and simply use the bin to contain my pot lids. Nothing fancy, but it does the job just fine.

10. Magnetic Hook: This is such a tiny thing it barely warrants mention, but I wanted to give a little shout out to my new magnetic hook which I use to hold a kitchen towel. All my life I've hooked a towel around the fridge door handle because it was easy and it was there and I just didn't give it much thought. This gives the fridge front a more streamlined look and is another easy way to use the vertical surface of the fridge. This one cost $7 (from Amazon) and they also sell a double hook version.

So, there you have it, 10 ideas from my own small kitchen, maybe, to yours.

(Image credits: Carrie McBride)