This Living Room Staple Just Might Be Your Best Kitchen Storage Solution

published Jul 11, 2022
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Wide angle of a small studio apartment with a long wall of black storage cabinets to the left and a natural wood dining table and bench
Credit: Erin Derby

Renters and homeowners often need the most storage space in their kitchens. When dealing with food, spices, condiments, dishes, and cookware, it can feel like there’s never quite enough cabinetry for everything you need to stow. However, small-space dwellers have gotten pretty smart with their makeshift solutions over the years. One studio renter, in particular, had a really simple storage idea in her kitchen that you’d never expect to see, but you just might want to steal.

Skylar Pittmon lives in a 200-square-foot studio apartment in New York City that she’s been renting for almost two years.  “I wasn’t able to physically see the apartment and location prior to signing the lease, so I just had to go with my gut feelings,” she says in her house tour. Prior to moving to New York, Pittmon lived on a sailboat she remodeled in North Carolina. So she’s definitely used to making things work with minimal square footage.

“With my apartment being incredibly small and with zero closets, I knew I needed to find a solution for storage,” Pittmon says. For the living room, she and her family built a large storage unit that stretches to the ceiling, which serves as a place to stash her books, clothes, and other household items. For her kitchen, though, Pittmon chose a slightly smaller but equally effective storage option: a bookcase.

Credit: Erin Derby

As a solution to her studio’s lack of cabinetry, Pittmon placed a bookshelf next to her stove to create a perch for her plates, bowls, utensil crock, and large chopping boards. “I try to take advantage of vertical space and store things that I use the most at eye level,” she says. And she did exactly that with this piece, which is custom to her space like most of her furniture.

That said, if you don’t have talented woodworkers in your family like Pittmon, you could probably find this kind of simple bookshelf at a store like IKEA, Target, or even Wayfair. Thrifting could be another great way to find a petite piece like this. Obviously, if you’re dealing with a small kitchen, you’re going to want something sleek and unobtrusive. Pitman chose a contrast gray shade for her shelf, but you could always paint yours to match your wall color, which will help it recede in space. Just don’t get anything too bulky.

For those who don’t have open shelving but love the look and don’t want to (or can’t) install floating shelves, a bookcase can be a great, reno-free kitchen addition to display the dishes you love or a prized cookbook collection. Even with her fridge, oven, and this bookshelf on the same small wall of her cook space, Pittmon is still able to open the door to the room without any trouble. She clearly took measurements before constructing the shelf, which you’d definitely want to do before ordering anything as well, just to make sure you’d have the same clearance if you’re putting your shelving unit in a spot near a door, cabinet, or appliance that swings open.

Pittmon’s home is a perfect example of how to truly maximize your space without having to sacrifice the things that make you happy. “Despite the size of my studio, I still feel like I have the space to do all the things I need at home,” she says. “I tried to lay out the design in the most versatile way.”