6 tips to improve a tiny apartment kitchen

Joan Fieldstone

April 14, 2015

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Kitchen RemodelInterior Home Improvement

Not everyone has a big, beautiful kitchen and if you live in an older rental that hasn't been updated in a few decades, you might not have one until you can afford your own home.

Some rental apartments have kitchens that are not only small and cramped but dingy and hard to keep clean and uncluttered. A couple of months ago I wrote about my son's apartment needing a decluttering and a kitchen makeover. The budget is thin and certain improvements are dicey when it comes to adhering to the leasing agreement. On my last two visits, however, I was determined that the kitchen would be someplace he (and I) would not run from screaming.

I've seen smaller kitchens -- I had a galley kitchen in my studio a number of years ago in which you couldn't open the dishwasher and refrigerator at the same time. At least, however, I had a dishwasher. Here are six tips to make an old, cramped kitchen more functional.

  • Keep the sink clean. The only place my son has in his kitchen to wash dishes is a very ancient sink. It was heavily stained, and we could barely bring ourselves to put dirty dishes in it, let alone wash them in it. After a thorough scouring with Comet and the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which got rid of anything the bleach didn't remove, the stains were nearly invisible. Only refinishing or replacing it could have improved it further.
  • Collect food waste in a small container with drainage. Composting is required where he lives, but the lack of space (and lack of screens on the windows) make it impractical to keep the compostable waste in the kitchen without attracting flies. A tiny colander in one corner of the sink holds food until clean up time when it can be deposited in a compost pail outside the apartment.
  • Steam clean tile counters. The tiled countertops on either side of the sink have almost as much grout as tiles and it wasn't too pleasant to contemplate what might be growing on the grout. Those counters are about six or more decades old. Attacking them with a household steam cleaner and then some antibacterial kitchen cleanser made them more than clean and bright enough to set something down without fear of coming in contact with salmonella.
  • Get a smaller dish drainer you can put away when not in use. Replacing a large dish drainer with a small collapsible one limits the number of items you can leave drying at one time, and makes it less time-consuming to put away the few dishes and pots when you come home tired from work or are in rush in the morning. It also reduces the chances of the drainer growing mold. A bamboo rack similar to a letter holder corrals the assortment of cutting boards to keep them dry.
  • Create room for everything you need by decluttering and using vertical space. Getting rid of dishware, pots, pans, utensils and expired food creates way more space than you can imagine. In the kitchen things get pushed to the backs of cabinets and take up space without you knowing why you can't fit another thing in them. Make it a habit to go through your cupboards and pantry periodically to throw out anything you haven't been using and no longer need. Hang pots and pans from a pot rack or from the ceiling. Or add an open shelf across the window, for example, and install hooks in the bottom from which you can hang your cookware. Get as much off of your countertops as you possibly can to create more work space and be able to clean it easily. Keep a sturdy, folding step ladder between the fridge and the wall to make high, deep cabinets accessible.
  • Decrease the number of bags you save for reuse. Who doesn't love to store paper and plastic bags to reuse? Make sure you don't have dozens of them taking up valuable real estate in your broom closet where you can store tall cleaning equipment. If you collect bags more than once a week, limit your collection to no more than five to ten. You can replenish them pretty quickly if you need them for a cleaning or shopping spree.

Creating space by decluttering and doing some serious cleaning can make even the most depressing, tiny kitchen more functional and appealing. Take away the stress of preparing and cleaning up from meals and you might even find that your kitchen is not quite as unpleasant as you thought.

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