How to create more storage in a small kitchen - the expert guide

Find out how to create more storage in a small kitchen with these design tricks and decor updates from the experts

how to create more storage in a small kitchen
Kitchen design by Harvey Jones
(Image credit: Darren Chung)

Wondering how to create more storage in a small kitchen is a common problem when it comes to home design. For whether you have an apartment or an open plan living space, there never seems to be quite enough room to fit all your utensils, plates, glasses and  - most importantly - spare batteries, in the drawer that also seems to contain old takeout menus too. 

Small kitchen ideas, therefore, revolve around storage. Not just cabinetry, but clever drawers, maximized shelves and hidden cupboards that make the most of every single inch.  Vlad Putjatins, kitchen designer at Harvey Jones, who created this space in London, shares his secrets for finding a place for everything, even when square footage is tight. 

How to create more storage in a small kitchen

how to create more storage in a small kitchen with white cabinets and brass taps

Kitchen design by Harvey Jones

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

1. Start with a life audit

It has to be said that even with a host of expert tips up your sleeve, space is still going to finite, so there is a limit to how many small kitchen storage ideas you can have. 'A conversation about storage is essential when designing a new kitchen, particularly in a smaller space,' Vlad says. 'Clients often think they need a lot more storage than they actually do, so we begin by talking through specific items. How often do they get used, is there anywhere else in the house they can go?'

In this particular project, Vlad was forced to focus on L-shaped kitchen ideas, as the cooking hub was in the corner of a wider living area.

'The owners wanted to keep it contained from the dining and living areas, but for the three spaces to flow seamlessly, and gel as one room. Extending the cabinetry, even just the island, outside of the kitchen area was a no-no so the challenge was to make every inch of the kitchen’s 3.7m x 3.4m footprint count.' With a limited space to play with, it was important for the owners to get rid of everything they didn't truly need at the start. Yes, even those takeout menus. 

2. Use vertical space wisely

how to create more storage in a small kitchen with white cabinets and a black island

Kitchen design by Harvey Jones

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

Even though maximizing storage is key, you still need to remember this is a space to enjoy being in, too - not just a store room. 'There’s always a tug of war between practical and pretty – if you overload a kitchen with cupboards, it can start to look more furniture showroom than home,' Vlad says, highlighting a key factor to consider when it comes to small kitchen layout ideas

'However, there are ways you can load up on storage without overpowering, especially if you have tall ceilings – these are 3.1m high,' Vlad continues. 'We initially toyed with just one run of standard height wall cabinets on the sink elevation. But we quickly realised that two runs of shorter, medium height wall cabinets, stacked, would make much better use of the vertical storage available. There’s still a decent gap between the cabinets and the ceiling, which I always recommend in smaller kitchens as it gives you a clear visual of the room’s full dimensions. Taking the cabinets right to the ceiling can be effective in big rooms, but here it would have enclosed the space. We also didn’t want to cover up the pretty cornicing.'

3. Break up the cupboard doors with glazing

The problem with going too hard on your kitchen cabinet ideas is that you end up with walls of the same material - a flatness that feel imposing. This is where glass fronts come in. 'When you are going high with storage, glazed doors are a great idea and will break up large expanses of cabinetry,' Vlad says. 'You’ll need to be a little more careful about what you store inside – glassware and crockery is always going to look nicer than boxes of teabags and cereal for example.'

Thankfully, even if you know how to organize a kitchen this trick doesn't rely on fastidious tidying. 'It doesn’t have to be perfectly ordered though, different shapes and silhouettes will add character and interest,' Vlad says. 'If you’re worried, go for fluted glass to obscure the contents. Naturally, more frequently used items are stored closest to hand, but a small stepladder clipped on the back of a larder door means nothing is impossible to reach.'

4. Choose colors that increase the feeling of space

how to create more storage in a small kitchen with white cabinets and brass handles

Kitchen design by Harvey Jones

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

Small kitchen paint colors can be some of the trickiest to choose - how do you find something that is functional to work around but also helps to feel light and airy? 

'As this kitchen gets all its natural light from the adjoining rooms, it made sense to go for a pale paint color on the main units,' Vlad says. 'Using the same paint shade, Little Greene’s French Grey Pale, on the walls and glazed backsplash helped blur the lines between where the cabinetry starts and ends, further diluting the impact of so much storage. The island’s color choice, Railings by Farrow & Ball, is far braver. Topped in glorious Stromboli granite, it makes a real statement and ensures this compact kitchen holds its own within the larger living space.'

5. Build storage cleverly around appliances

Building around the Fisher & Paykel fridge-freezer creates a neat frame while allowing access to the in-door water dispenser. The slimline cabinet above has a lift-up door and is used for storing soft drinks pre-chilling but would also work well for large roasting pans and trays. The tall wall of cabinetry finishes with a curved end panel for a softer stopping point. 

Linda is a freelance journalist who has specialised in homes and interiors for the past 19 years, beginning on a trade rag for the Daily Mail Group and now writing full-time for the likes of Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors, Ideal Home and Real Homes. Linda is our resident mattress reviewer. She spends a couple of weeks on every mattress she tests for us, as does her ever-patient husband. In reviewing mattresses for us for more than two years, she has become something of a very opinionated expert. She lives in Devon with her cabinetmaker husband, two daughters and many pets, and is locked in an on-going battle to drag their red brick Victorian home out of 1970s swirly-carpet hell...