Nine DIY ideas to survive any small kitchen

DIY, Kitchen, Organization, Storage

I’ve experienced my fair share of tiny kitchens, the smallest of which, by far, was the one in my NYC studio apartment which was only 6 ft x 10 ft. Necessity being the mother of all inventions, I came up with a few ways to make that kitchen more functional, and have since added more tricks thanks to my move to a new apartment and dealing with that kitchen’s challenges. Hopefully these practical low budget DIY tips that I will share today will help you survive your small kitchen!


My first strategy in any small space is to use as much of the vertical space available as possible, be it on the walls, the space above the cabinets or the vertical space inside the kitchen cabinets:

1) Wall mounted magnetic spice rack

Storing your spices on the wall is a great way of freeing up precious cabinet space in a small kitchen. You can make your own DIY wall spice rack by using a cookie sheet or pizza pan with magnetic spice containers – the colorful spices will also doubles as artwork. You can buy the round magnetic spice containers or you can also easily make your own by gluing magnets to the containers like I did here.

DIY magnetic spice rack 1

2) Add an extra shelf to your upper cabinets

You can also take advantage of the wasted vertical space in your kitchen cabinets by making a simple extra shelf. This 1 min video shows how easy it is to do without any power tools or making any holes in the cabinets so it’s easy to remove or change up the configuration as your needs change. It also helps to see what you have and makes another great place to store spices.


3) Use the space above the upper cabinets for storage

When every cubic inch counts, that space above the kitchen cabinets can provide a great place to store less-often used items. Using boxes protects the items from dust and grease you can make this low budget DIY project by recycling paper boxes and covering them with contact paper so they can blend in with your decor.


Most tiny kitchens are “counter space challenged”, so my second strategy to surviving a small kitchen is to find ways to remove clutter from counter tops or creating more countertop space that’s usable wherever possible.

4) Add a shelf above the stove

The space above the stove often goes unused and in my NYC studio apartment where I had next to zero counter space, adding a small shelf on top of the stove added much needed storage space and freed up my countertop for other things.

DIY shelf

5) Reconfigure the stove top

If you’re like me and rarely use more than 2 or 3 of the burners on your electrical stove at any one time, consider removing the heating elements from the burners you don’t use and covering them up with glass cutting boards. I did this in my NYC kitchen and having that extra flat surface available while cooking was really helpful – I honestly never missed having those extra burners, making the trade-off a no brainer.

Add counter space with your stove

6) Unclutter the area around the sink with a tension rod or a curtain rod

Reducing clutter on the countertop will make the space you do have more usable. One way to still have what you need easily accessible but off the counter is to hang them from the wall. You can do this by hanging a curtain rod or even a towel and using bins or hooks to hang items or you can use a tension rod like I did in my LA kitchen. Having things off the counter also makes cleaning much easier!

Tension rod over the kitchen sink

7) Use a wall mounted knife rack

If you like having your kitchen knives easily accessible, a wall mounted knife rack is the way to go. You can use a magnetic knife rack or make a custom knife rack like this one I made for my LA kitchen. It’s very thin so even though it sits on the counter against a wall, it doesn’t take up much counter space compared to the bulkier traditional countertop knife racks.

DIY wooden knife rack with Glue Dots

My last strategy revolves around lighting – a tiny kitchen can feel cramped and having better lighting helps to make it more functional and also makes it brighter and feel bigger.

8) Add under-cabinet lighting

Having task lighting where you need it is a huge deal in any kitchen, and the easiest way to see what you are doing at the countertop is to install under-cabinet lighting. It’s a quick project to do and there are many inexpensive options for LED lights that are low profile and don’t use much energy, like these lights from IKEA that only cost $25. Once you have under-cabinet lighting, you’ll wonder why you didn’t install it sooner!

Finished kitchen lighting

9) Add mirrors 

Adding mirrors in a small space is one of the oldest tricks around but there’s a reason for it: it works!  It will immediately make your small kitchen feel bigger and brighter, especially if you can reflect the light from a window. This trick made a huge impact on how I felt about my tiny NYC kitchen, and somehow made me a lot happier to cook in it and made it feel like it was twice the size. Not bad for just adding a mirror!

Make a galley kitchen feel larger with a mirror

Hopefully you got a few helpful ideas you can use and I would love to hear what strategies you’ve come with to survive your tiny kitchen, so please share in the comments below!


  1. Jeanine Ruby

    Your ideas are always useful Isabelle. I used the tension rod over the sink idea and it is very helpful. I have a very tiny kitchen – it’s an RV kitchen so basically no space but I manage :). So I love your small space ideas although your small space is huge compared to mine!

    • Isabelle LaRue

      Thank you Jeanine! Yes indeed, “small” is a relative term but an RV kitchen is definitely tiny by any standard!

  2. Wendy Young

    Hi! I used to live in Los Angeles too and I’ve been following you for quite a while now. You have great ideas and I just love to see what new thing you have to share. Your newsletter and web site are awesome. Also, I’ve turned other people on to your site. Keep up the great job Isabelle. You are appreciated!


    • Isabelle LaRue

      Thank you so much Wendy for your kind words 🙂 Means a lot to me!


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