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Supersized Storage in a Tiny Kitchen: 7 Game-Changing Aha! Hacks

Emily Henderson Velinda Hellen Small Kitchenette

The headline is not click bait. When we first saw Velinda Hellen’s kitchen makeover on Emily Henderson’s blog (Velinda is a designer at Emily Henderson Design), we were floored by the space-saving solutions she came up with. Given that we are a site devoted to storage and organization, that’s high praise.

Velinda’s new small but mighty kitchen is in the basement of her bungalow. The basement had been used primarily as storage space, but after she married, she and her wife decided to transform it into a welcoming guest suite for her new mother-in-law.

“The standard kitchenette with only a microwave, mini-fridge, and tiny sink sounded like no-fun,” Velinda wrote. “I wanted [my mother-in-law] to do everything she could do in her own kitchen here, in under 50 square feet.”

Here, Velinda’s 7 space-saving, game-changing tips:

Photography by Sara Tramp, courtesy of Emily Henderson Design.

1. Think in 3D.

Emily Henderson Velinda Hellen Small Kitchenette Pot Rack
Above: Behold the ingenuity on display in this picture. Don’t see it yet? Look closer. Upper left-hand corner: That’s a paper-towel-bar-turned-pot-rack jutting out from the wall. Velinda mounted it to the ceiling (as opposed to upright on a wall) in order to create hanging space for pots and pans between the refrigerator and the vent hood.

2. Cover the sink.

Emily Henderson Velinda Hellen Small Kitchenette Sink Covers
Above: There’s no getting around it: This tiny kitchen has very limited counter space. Velinda improvises a larger work surface by covering the sink with a roll-up dish rack when necessary (which can be rolled up and stored away when not in use) and a cutting board when preparing food.

3. Don’t follow directions.

Emily Henderson Velinda Hellen Small Kitchenette Sink
Above: Velinda wanted to maximize the counter space without resorting to a standard teeny-tiny kitchenette sink. Her clever solution? She turned a normal-sized sink 90 degrees so that the front-to-back is longer than the side-to-side (installing a wall-mounted faucet allows for this unorthodox sink orientation). The only downside? The drain is now off-center, but that’s a flaw she’s totally happy to live with.

4. Hang everything.

Emily Henderson Velinda Hellen Small Kitchenette Under Sink
Above: Walls aren’t the only places to hang up stuff. Over-the-door racks and hooks can provide hanging storage opportunities, too. Here, a Target over-the-door paper towel holder boasts a hanging wooden rod on the other side (win, win!). Note the black garbage disposal at left: A bonus benefit of installing the sink sideways is that the disposal is now on one side (as opposed to centered), which allows for more under-sink storage.

5. Ban bulky.

Emily Henderson Velinda Hellen Small Kitchenette Shelves
Above: In a super-small kitchen, big and bulky pieces just don’t work. With that in mind, Velinda sourced storage items that have slim profiles, like this tie-rack-cum-utensils-rack and the thin, minimalist open shelves by Shelfology. “Custom designing the Tromso open shelving system with Shelfology was probably my biggest splurge and also my favorite detail,” she says. “Shelves that ‘float magically mid-air’? My now-spoiled eyes expect nothing less.”

6. Store and display.

Emily Henderson Velinda Hellen Small Kitchenette Open Shelving
Above: In a kitchen that has only three drawers and three cabinets, there are bound to be items that need to be stored in plain sight. Be tactical. Keep the oft-used and attractive pieces out in the open and stow the unsightly stuff behind closed doors. Just remember that whatever you keep out in the open should be neatly stored and appealingly displayed. Here, utensils have a charming home in a wooden vessel and sugar and coffee are contained in cute bins.

7. Mini-size the appliances.

Emily Henderson Velinda Hellen Small Kitchenette Appliances
Above: You wouldn’t buy an extra-large shirt for someone who’s petite. So why would you outfit a small kitchen with large appliances? To this end, Velinda chose the skinny Smeg refrigerator for its good looks, the Master Chef 5-in-1 oven (it’s a combo microwave and convection oven) for its versatility, and a built-in two-burner stove for its streamlined unobtrusiveness. (See more appliance recommendations for small kitchens in 10 Easy Pieces: Best Skinny Refrigerators and 10 Easy Pieces: Best Appliances for Small Kitchens.)

Before

Emily Henderson Velinda Hellen Small Kitchenette Before
Above: The no-frills, uninspired space before the renovation. The advantage of dealing with a small space is that expensive products—Clé tiles, CliqStudio cabinets, a Smeg fridge—are less expensive when you need less of them. “A few elements of this teeny kitchen were 200 times nicer than anything in my main space . . . but that’s part of what excites me so much about tiny design: Higher quality items can become affordable to the 99 percent when tiny quantities/sizes are needed,” says Velinda.

Head over to Emily Henderson’s blog to learn more about Velinda’s renovation. Want to see some Emily Henderson-designed spaces? Check out:

And find more small-kitchen storage ideas here:

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