7 Ways to Maximize Kitchen Storage Without Adding Extra Cabinets (or Sacrificing Style)

Make the most of your available storage space without the need for costly renos or bulky cabinets

A kitchen with green cabinetry, a white kitchen island, and open shelving
(Image credit: Future)

If you’re the proud owner of a sprawling kitchen with a beautiful sweeping island and sparking marble countertops, consider yourself lucky. For most of us, a spacious kitchen with ample storage and enough room to host friends is nothing more than a pipe dream. And yet, the kitchen is the one room of the home where practical storage is more important than ever. 

If you want to maximize storage in your modern kitchen but don’t have the space for extra cabinets (or perhaps, like me, you have an aversion to cabinets on the walls) then fear not - there are plenty of ways to house your cookware, crockery, and utensils without splurging on a new cabinetry. After recently moving into a one-bed annex, I’ve been forced to find clever space-saving solutions for my kitchen. With only two existing cabinets (and a huge collection of kitchenware) I’ve been on a mission to find as many creative space-saving ideas as possible.

To help me in my quest I sought the advice of some professional organizers who know a thing or two about maximizing space, and thanks to their suggestions my entire kitchen has been completely transformed. Here are seven ways to make the most of your kitchen storage without sacrificing style (and no reno necessary). 

1. Declutter what you already own

a minimalist white kitchen

(Image credit: Justin Chung. Design: Design Assembly)

Having enough storage space is one thing, but before you begin adding new solutions, it’s worth having an audit of what you already own. I guarantee there are old roasting trays, chipped plates, and duplicate utensils that you can get rid of, and doing so will instantly open up more space for the things you decide to keep.

‘In a small kitchen, every inch counts,’ says California-based organizer, Melissa Gugni. ‘Take it from me, I have a tiny kitchen (in my 650 square foot apartment) and I cook a lot!’ She suggests that the initial step whenever you’re seeking to maximize storage is to cull anything that you don't use or need. ‘That includes expired food,’ she says. ‘No organizing product will magically transform a kitchen that is too packed with things.’ 

2. Add Open Shelving 

A kitchen with open shelving above a sink with chrome fittings

(Image credit: Paul Craig)

Once you’ve cut down your kitchenware, you can begin streamlining your storage. In small space tall wall cabinets can feel really imposing so, in order to open up the space and increase air flow, opt for open shelving instead. Kitchen shelving can be a brilliant way to store the more beautiful kitchenware you own, and creating a designated space to display pretty plates, glassware, or cast-iron pans will allow you to curate a more personalized space (while also encouraging you to keep it super stylish and tidy). 

This a method revered by expert organizing Di Ter Avest, owenr of Di is Organized. ‘Embrace the trendy and practical concept of open shelving,’ she suggests. ‘The only thing I recommend about this solution is to be careful so your open shelves don't become a point of visual clutter. Coordinate colors, materials, height, and shape to make the shelves functional and visually pleasing.’ I personally love open shelving units with in-built plate racks to pair style and functionality. 

3. Utilize space-saving spice racks

A fully stocked kitchen pantry

(Image credit: Anna Stathaki. Design:Indie & Co)

One of the food items that can take up a surprising amount of space is our spice collection so, rather than opt for free-standing solutions that take up valuable real estate or opt for designated spice drawers that dominate your concealed storage, embrace vertical spice racks instead. 

Optimize the wasted space in the upper cabinets by using a vertical spice rack to hold your favorite spices, keeping them accessible,’ says Di. ‘In my house I have them divided into most used, baking, and special occasions, but you can also organize them by cuisine or in alphabetical order.’ 

To organize spices you can place these storage solutions on the back of your kitchen door, the side of a fridge, or within a pantry if you have one. I especially love this clever pull-out spice rack from Joseph Joseph, available at Amazon, which is perfect for your smaller collection of regularly used spices and dried herbs.

4. Make the most of vertical space

Samuel Iron & Wood Hook Wall Shelf

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

On a similar note, when space is at a premium, making the most of vertical storage is a must. The back of doors, the space below cabinets, and available wall surfaces should always be used to their potential in a small kitchen, but be careful not to overwhelm the room. 

‘In a tight kitchen, it's important to get creative and consider any available space as a storage opportunity,’ explains Melissa. ‘I love to recommend banana hooks like these, from Amazon, which can be hung from the bottom of a kitchen shelf or cabinet. Not only does it help them ripen evenly it's a way to store them without taking up counter space.’ To further maximize kitchen storage, consider using mug hooks below wall shelves or make use of over-the-door organizers for food storage if you’re a renter.

5. Add Pullout shelves, shelf risers, or lazy Susans

An organized neutral toned pantry

(Image credit: Weeth Home)

To maximize storage space in your kitchen cabinets and eradicate the need for more of them, it’s vital you make the most of the existing cabinets you already own. Adding some clever solutions within those cabinets themselves could be all that’s needed to improve your storage. I guarantee it’s a trick you’ll have wished you'd done sooner. 

‘Many of my clients have cabinets that are so deep, things tend to get lost into the "cabinet black hole" rendering a large part of prime real estate useless,’ Melissa explains. ‘Pull out shelves like these ones at Amazon can be a great solution. They're very easy to install and I even recommend them to renters since they only require a few small holes that can easily be filled.’ 

Shelf risers or undershelf baskets can also be a great way to make use of those few inches of space that usually go to waste between your individual shelves, while the likes of lazy Susans make it possible to access items at the back of deep shelves. 'We love to include the nine inch IDesign lazy Susan, available from Walmart,' adds professional organizer Amanda Wiss, founder of Urban Clarity. 'They're great for making oils and spices easily accessible for cooking and prevent anything getting lost in the back of a cabinet.'

6. Use a rolling kitchen island 

A red IKEA kitchen island

(Image credit: Emily Harnasz / @houseofharnasz)

We’d all love a big kitchen island but sometimes, no matter how much you long for one, there just isn’t the floorspace available. You don’t have to give up on the dream entirely, though. If you want an extra surface but can’t commit to a costly reno, a rolling kitchen island can actually be a far more useful solution. 

Not only do these useful carts take up far less space than a fixed island, but they’re super versatile thanks to their transportability. As Di notes: This mobile storage solution can be moved around as needed and provides extra space for kitchen gadgets, cookware, or even a makeshift prep area.’

7. Find alternative ways to store cutlery and utensils 

putty-colored kitchen

(Image credit: Kennedy Nolan / Laminex)

Because they’re smaller, it can be easy to overlook the contribution cutlery and utensils have when it comes to taking up space. Rather than use up valuable drawer space, why not find alternative ways to store these items instead? This could be as simple as a utensil jar, but if you want to maximize countertop space too, go for a vertical solution instead. 

‘Many kitchens that I work in have very few drawers and a traditional cutlery organizer can take up a lot of room,’ Melissa explains. ‘I was recently in a kitchen where the dish cabinet had a few baskets like these at IKEA mounted inside the door to hold cutlery. It was a great use of space and it looked charming, too. Similarly, using the walls for a magnetic knife holder like this one at Amazon frees up drawer or counter space.’

In my kitchen, I’ve used a utneisl rail for my most frequently used items, and it’s also where I keep my best pots and pans, too. Not only has it banished the need for extra cabinets, but it means all my primary cookware is more accessible than it ever was before!

Costly renos and bulky kitchen cabinets aren't always the answer to maximizing storage in a small kitchen. Employ a few of these nifty ideas instead and you’ll be using your existing space to its full potential (and you might even find your kitchen looks more beautiful, too!)

Lilith Hudson
News Editor

Lilith Hudson is the News Editor at Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.