8 Brilliant Small Kitchens from 2021 House Tours — and the Products That Make Them Great

published Dec 22, 2021
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It’s easy to see why so many cities — often home to apartments with teeny tiny kitchens — have such great food delivery services. It can be tempting to order takeout when your space just doesn’t feel equipped for cooking. Luckily, there are some great hacks, tips, and products out there that can make even the smallest of kitchens look high-end and feel completely functional.

This year’s Apartment Therapy house tours featured no shortage of idea-packed, stylish small spaces, from studio apartments to tiny homes to homes on wheels — and their kitchens will have you deleting your delivery apps and dusting off your pots and pans. Take a peek at some of the smallest, most stylish kitchens AT featured this year and the products that make them so great.

Credit: Claire Koller-Smith

A Shelf Above the Microwave Maximizes Vertical Space in a Narrow Kitchen

Claire Koller-Smith’s 460-square-foot London flat has an adorable but narrow kitchen, and to help add more storage, she added a wire shelf that fits snugly around her microwave. You can find similar two-tier styles on Amazon. “This is my first time living alone and decorating an apartment exactly how I want it,” she said in her house tour.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

A Collapsible Dish Rack Makes Dishwashing in a Tight Space a Breeze

Alexandra Gater’s kitchen is a master class in stylish, space-saving ideas. She added an IKEA sink, a peel-and-stick backsplash, and new hardware to make her kitchen the cute pink-and-gold space that it is. Her CB2 matte collapsible dish-drying rack is handy for freeing up counter space when it’s not in use. Although Gater’s is sold out from CB2, you can find a near-identical collapsible one from Amazon or West Elm.

Cool Rolling Furniture in This Small Kitchen Makes the Whole Space Adaptable

Emily Regina Stambaugh and her partner Espen’s 180-square-foot Brooklyn rental is filled with clever ways to divide up a studio to create separate zones. The kitchen, unsurprisingly, is filled with very adaptable, hyper-functional finds.

Note the mirror that brightens the small space, the hanging shelf system for storing pots and pans vertically, and the two pieces of rolling furniture that can move if needed. The black bar cart can be moved around when hosting, and the Red Barrel Studio kitchen island “doubles as work prep as well as holds everything… storage-wise,” Stambaugh explained in her house tour video.

A Multifunctional (Portable!) Island Completes a Gorgeous Rental Kitchen

Amarachi Ukachu’s beautiful New Orleans home is packed with rental-friendly, high-end-looking finishes. Case in point: her kitchen, with its brushed copper contact paper cabinets, fish scale peel-and-stick wallpaper, and faux marble contact paper counters. She stores her pots and pans in the seemingly meant-to-be space above her cabinets to maximize space, and she has an island that you’ll want to steal if you need more prep surface or more seating (or both) in your kitchen.

The Belmont Kitchen Island from Crate & Barrel has a towel rod, wheels, and a drop-leaf, making it multifunctional and customizable for a small space. Ukachu added hooks underneath her towel rod for even more functionality.

A Family-Friendly Dining Nook Has Added Storage Underneath

Designer Shamika Lynch, of Maximizing Tiny, says her favorite space in her Jersey City rental is her dining nook. “Most apartments in my area don’t have formal dining areas, but also aren’t big enough to have a dining table in the kitchen,” she explained in her tour. “Being a family of four with young children, it was important for us to be able to have a space where we could all sit down and eat a meal, do an activity, get some work done, etc.”

Before creating the nook, Shamika and her family used a bar table and bar stools with a high chair for their little one. “It wasn’t a great use of space and definitely not kid-friendly; it felt like too many pieces of furniture,” she said in her tour. Part of what makes this setup so kid-friendly is the hidden storage underneath. To create the same banquet/bench setup as Shamika, use IKEA’s MOLGER benches, which can hold a storage bin or two on their lower shelves. Shamika painted hers black.

Credit: Emily Wickstrom

These Spice Racks Also Work as Shallow Shelving

Emily Wickstrom’s 330-square-foot Boston apartment has a cute, small kitchen with miniature appliances. “What most people ask me when they first come over is, ‘How do you survive without a full-sized fridge?!'” she said in her tour. “I just go to the grocery store more often! I actually think the least convenient part of the kitchen is the smaller sink, but nothing else about the space bothers me.”

Wickstrom buys quarter-sized baking sheets to fit in her oven because halves are too big, and she has two other small kitchen tricks up her sleeve: Her clear acrylic barstools add seating without taking up visual space, and her IKEA BEKVAM spice racks serve as shallow shelving for sauces, spices, cookbooks, and more.

A Converted School Bus’s Kitchen Cleverly Stores Knives and Dry Goods

A magnetic strip is a great option for storing knives since it takes up zero counter space, leaving knives flat against the wall. That’s how Caleb Brackney saves space in in his 220-square-foot converted skoolie. You can find a similar knife strip from IKEA or Amazon for under $15.

If you look on the other side of Brackney’s kitchen, you can see another clever space-saving hack that adds storage and light. “One of my favorite small-space-maximizing tips is to mount mason jar lids on the bottom of shelves and screw the jar into them to have under-shelf storage,” he said in his house tour. “I took this a step further and dropped lights into every other jar to provide ample light across my bar, and the jars which encase the lights are used as my drinking cups since they are always clean and empty for the light to shine through. This keeps them from breaking during travel and serves multiple functions.”

Credit: Antwuan Vat

A Modular Hanging Spice Rack Adds Storage to a Blank Wall

Marina Carlos’ 678-square-foot Paris apartment is completely wheelchair accessible, and the spice rack she has in her kitchen is great for keeping everyday cooking items such as spices, condiments, and oils out of cabinets and at the forefront. There are plenty of hanging options out there that are totally modular to suit your cooking needs. Find steel customizable kitchen wall grids and shelves like Carlos’ at IKEA or Bed Bath & Beyond.