5 Ways for Renters to Maximize Space in Galley Kitchens

published Mar 5, 2020
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When I first toured my current apartment, I thought everything was perfect. Well, almost everything. The only problem? The pesky galley kitchen. As an aspiring Ina Garten, I spend most of my time cooking. But how am I supposed to work on the next best recipe in a cramped cook space? Not to mention the galley’s hallway-esque lighting—it sure doesn’t do any favors for the quality of my Instagram recipe tutorials.

After scouring online home and design forums, I realized I could calm down about living life with a galley kitchen. Before you, too, spiral into a mess of pros and cons lists, know that galley kitchens don’t have to be deal breakers. 

Here, a real estate agent and a fellow renter share ways to maximize every square inch of such a narrow space. To my surprise, it turns out galley kitchens need as much TLC as open-concept ones.

Let there be light

To make your space look larger, light cabinets are the way to go. Brian Brant, a renter in New York City, is using a mirror to make his galley kitchen, complete with gray countertops and white cabinets, look more airy. “Having it lighter makes it feel bigger and more open,” he says. 

If you have a window at the end of the kitchen, try to maximize the amount of light coming from it, says Boston-based real estate agent Joselin Malkhasian. “I recommend a lot of light, whether it be natural or artificial,” she says.

Make counter space a priority

There’s nothing more annoying for an amateur chef than not having enough counter space to cook. But you can get creative about adding more. “Use anything magnetic that can stick to a fridge, such as magnetic sheathing on knives,” to maximize your space, says Malkhasian. 

Another fix? Buy floating shelves to efficiently store spices, plates, and cups. Use this spot to find a home for any basil, thyme, or rosemary plants you’ve been itching to cook with. 

Credit: Photos by Sally and Mohammed

For storage, think vertically

It’s an age-old conundrum: What’s the best way to store bulky pots and pans? Malkhasian says pot racks are your friend. Not only are they easy to install, but they’re also a very sophisticated-looking decoration. 

And you can never go wrong with a classic pegboard. “If you do it in a way where it’s creative and aesthetically pleasing, it will look nice,” Malkhasian says. Use a pegboard to merge functionality and personality: Hang plants, a rustic cutting board, or your favorite tote bag at the bottom of the board to add extra flair.

Invest in some wheels

Some landlords are nit-picky, so if you can’t install more permanent cabinets, opt for roll-away cabinets or carts (hello, IKEA’s RASKOG cart). In lieu of a pantry, keep snacks, tupperware, and dry foods here. This way, everything stays organized and you can maximize your built-in cabinet space, says Malkhasian.

If your galley kitchen is wide enough, there’s the option to insert a small island. Malkhasian recommends a roll-away island or butcher block. Use it for extra counter space, and easily move it out of the way when you’re done cooking.

Consider hiding some appliances

Most appliances are too bulky for displaying a galley kitchen. Brant says that while he keeps his toaster on the counter, he’s gotten creative with everything else. He hides his coffee maker in a cabinet, while his microwave rests on top of the fridge. 

Malkhasian reasons it’s sometimes necessary to keep a blender or electric mixer in the pantry. But you don’t have to keep everything hidden. “If there’s another room in the house that you can make a coffee bar or a coffee station, that helps get your Nespresso machine and your Keurig out of the way,” she says. Brant says his kitchen makes it difficult to entertain, but this is an easy remedy for any small space that needs some love.