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Small Kitchen Space-Saving Tips

Make your small kitchen more efficient with better storage, roll-around work surfaces, better lighting and other space-saving ideas.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Tip 1: Remove a wall

Removing a wall visually opens up the kitchen, making it feel much larger. You'll be able to chat with family members and guests without having them underfoot while you work in the kitchen. If you're also remodeling the kitchen, think about installing peninsula cabinets with a wide countertop and an overhang for seating. It'll become the kids' favorite spot to do homework, provide extra seating for party guests, or just accommodate those big cooking projects.

Tip 2: Add a single-bowl sink

If you're remodeling your kitchen, consider installing a single-bowl sink instead of a standard-size double-bowl. Instead of two small bowls, you'll have one large one. The Kohler Alcott sink shown here is one example. It'll also allow you to buy a smaller sink base and save 6 in. of cabinet and counter space that could be put to better use. If you team up a 25-in. single-bowl sink in a 30-in. base cabinet with an extra-narrow (18-in.) dishwasher, you'll gain a foot of extra cabinet space.

Tip 3: Make a blind-corner cabinet more accessible

Blind-corner cabinets are cabinets on inside corners that are accessible from only one door. If you have a blind-corner cabinet in your kitchen, you know how hard it is to reach anything that gets shoved to the back. Most kitchen designers will try to plan space for a lazy Susan base cabinet instead of a blind corner. These have rotating shelves that provide good access to the contents. But if you're stuck with a blind-corner cabinet and no lazy Susan, here are a few options worth exploring.

There are a number of ingenious sliding-shelf mechanisms that allow you to move the contents within reach, but most, like the Knape & Vogt model BBCT shown, are rather expensive ($500 to $600). However, we did find a unit by Lee Valley that costs about $150. It can be installed in existing blind-corner cabinets that are 35-1/2 to 39-1/2 in. long. You can order one online at www.leevalley.com.

Half-moon–shaped shelves that swivel and pull out are a less expensive option for blind corners. They only allow you to utilize about 60 percent of the space but give you easy access to the contents. You can install these in existing blind-corner cabinets.

Tip 4: Store dishes in the eating area

Why not store your dishes where you use them? Sure, it'll mean a little extra work when you put them away, but they'll be convenient to use, and you can save kitchen space for cooking items. For example, a pair of custom-built cabinets could look perfect in a dining room setting. The dishes are stored a few steps from the dishwasher and within easy reach of the dining room table. You don't have to build a custom cabinet. Bankers' bookcases or other glass-front cases work well too. You can find these at antiques stores.

Tip 5: Consider a cabinet-depth refrigerator

Cabinet-depth refrigerators stick out about 6 to 8 in. in front of your cabinets, robbing you of valuable floor space and crowding passageways. If you're designing a new kitchen, consider buying a shallow-depth refrigerator. It'll make your kitchen seem much more spacious, and depending on the floor plan, may even allow you to gain cabinet space across from the refrigerator. Cabinet-depth refrigerators cost a little more, about $1,500 for the least expensive versions, but the extra cost is easy to justify if you need the space.

Recessing a standard-depth refrigerator into the stud wall is another way to increase space (you'll gain about 4 in.). You'll have to cut out one or two studs and add a header over the opening for support. You'll also have to relocate the outlet if it's located directly behind the refrigerator.

Tip 6: Make the most of every inch with roll-outs

Base cabinets have tons of room, but you have to get down on your knees to reach the back. And even then it's hard to see what's back there. Roll-out shelves are a great solution. You can order new cabinets with roll-outs already installed. Or you can easily add them to existing cabinets. There are many options. Factory-made units that you install yourself cost $30 to $400. Or you can make your own.

Tall, narrow roll-outs are perfect for those skinny cabinets that are normally relegated to cookie sheets. If you have an extra cookie-sheet cabinet, install one of these roll-outs. They're great for soda, canned goods or spices. You can also buy stock roll-out hardware that supports a wide selection of wire baskets.

Tip 7: Build in your microwave

Counter space is a valuable commodity in any kitchen, but even more so in small kitchens. Moving the microwave off the counter is a great way to free up a few extra feet of counter. In existing kitchens, you may be able to convert the lower half of a wall cabinet to hold a microwave, but this means making a smaller set of matching cabinet doors for the top—a challenging job.

If you're remodeling, you can easily design in a location for a space-saving microwave. The GE Profile Spacemaker II model is 12-9/32 in. deep, so it'll fit close to flush with the fronts of wall cabinets for a sleek built-in look. Remember to install a recessed outlet, or locate the outlet inside an adjoining cabinet. Another option is to recess the back of a standard microwave into the stud space. This takes careful planning, but it's a good way to make a deeper microwave look built in.

Tip 8: No room for an island? Try a cart instead

Kitchen islands are more popular than ever, but because you need at least 36 in. all around an island for walking space, they just don't fit in most small kitchens. A rolling kitchen cart will give you many of the benefits of an island and is more versatile. You can move it into the center of the kitchen for food prep or use it as a buffet table when guests arrive. Then just roll it out of the way when you don't need it. In new kitchens you can leave a spot under the countertop for the cart. Commercially made carts are available with cutting board tops, shelves and hooks on the sides for utensils. The John Boos, Cucina Elegante shown retails for $870, but simpler carts cost as little as $200. Check online for a sampling of the variety available.

Tip 9: Pantry cabinet in a closet

Moving some of your bulkier or seldom-used items out of the kitchen and into a nearby pantry can free up a lot of space. Look around. You may have extra space in a nearby closet or hallway where pantry shelves would fit. A pantry could be as simple as adjustable shelves on wall standards or a more elaborate built-in cabinet. You can order closet parts like those shown here online at www.easyclosets.com.

Tip 10: Add undercabinet lights

Good lighting helps by allowing you to make the best use of the space you have. Dimly lit or shadowy countertops are hard to work at. Adding undercabinet lights is a great way to make the countertops more useful while making a small kitchen feel larger.

It's easy to wire for undercabinet lights with the rest of the wiring during a kitchen remodel. But adding them to an existing kitchen requires a little more ingenuity. You can fish them through the basement, crawlspace or attic and pull them through the stud spaces to each light fixture. As a last resort, buy plug-in type undercabinet lights.

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December 09, 5:34 PM [GMT -5]

I thought I'd seen pull-out plans for those space wasting spacers in my kitchen cabinets, but I can't find the plans anywhere...

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