Creating extra storage and counter space in a small kitchen

You’ve been a good unclutterer and gone through your cabinets and discarded the items you never use. You’ve put away the rarely used appliances that sat on your countertop. For those with a good size kitchen, you’re done. Your kitchen is uncluttered. But what about the rest of us?

If you’re like me and you rent an apartment or own a condo with a tiny kitchen, your counter space still doesn’t offer enough room to cook a complete meal. I have size and poor design to deal with in my kitchen. I can clear my counters completely and still have a difficult time finding space to cut vegetables. To work around this dilemma, I have found a solution: A kitchen cart.

I used to think kitchen carts were silly. That is, until I had a real use for one. Now, I can’t exist without it.

My cart won’t fit inside the kitchen, so I have to store it against the wall across from the kitchen entrance. When it’s time to cook, I just wheel the cart over to the kitchen and, suddenly, I have all the counter space I need. It also blocks off the entrance, keeping my husband and the dog out of my cooking space.

Here is what to look for in a kitchen cart:

  • Sturdy – You need to be able to chop things on it, so go for something that won’t rock or cause you to slice your fingers.
  • Wheels – You should be able to move it where you need to use it.
  • Wire Racks – This feature is great for holding mixing bowls and other items used for cooking.
  • Hooks – If you’re also short on drawer space, the hooks are nice for utensils.

20 Comments for “Creating extra storage and counter space in a small kitchen”

  1. posted by Anne on

    that is exactly what I am looking for! even with the lovely chrome~we are downsizing major time, from a 2200 sq ft home to a 1300, and most of that is the kitchen! I will miss my counter space, but like the idea of something movable and that has to keep the top clear!!
    Ikea here I come!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. posted by Courtney I on

    I lived in an apartment with a small kitchen with just enough counter space for a microwave and about 2 foot of additional space. We found that dirty dishes placed to the side of the sink quickly took up that space, and in the sink they chipped and made it inconvenient to use the sink.

    A lifesaver for us was to take a dish bin, place it UNDER the sink, and place our dirty dishes in there throughout the day. The counter stayed clear. It seems a little strange to put your dirty dishes in a cabinet under the sink but as long as you do your dishes every day, it is not unsanitary.

  3. posted by Lyn Never on

    I have a cart like that from Target, and it was great in my last house’s bad-counter kitchen (and also kept the dog out). My only complaint was the lipless shelves, as things tended to fall off when the cart was moved. A tray or shallow basket made non-slippy with some rubber drawer liner or rug gripper helps with that. You could also tie (ribbon, zip tie, etc) some bamboo or scrapwood around the edges to make a frame.

  4. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    I love my kitchen cart. The top shelf is wire like the other two. Instead of putting a butchers’ block top, I put a big plastic tray on the top. The plastic tray comes off for easy cleaning. I can remove the plastic tray and put my muffins and cakes on the top so they cool more quickly.

    The kids can wheel their meals into the living room to eat while watching “Sponge Bob” (yuk) which means they don’t slop milk and juice all over the hallway.

  5. posted by Tina Mammoser on

    This might sound strange but I’ve been pushing kitchen trolleys as work studio furniture for some time! I’m an artist with a small workspace and have used a kitchen trolley for years. Mine has a different lower sections with more variety of storage. Shelves down one half are perfect for larger jars of mediums, varishes, spray cans and such. Wire baskets down the other side hold endless tubes of paint. Two small drawers across the top hold pins, nail, string, blu-tak, screw, scissors, pens, etc. The knife block holds palette knives. The tiled top is covered with a sheet of glass for my palette. The towel rail holds my working rags.

    Perfect for any city artist! I imagine it could work well for other types of craft/workshop people too.

  6. posted by A. on

    Great article! We’ve been using a similar kitchen cart (wire shelf on top as well) to keep our small counter area free of clutter. We have the cart hidden between the fridge and a wall.

    To solve the “lipless” shelf problem, we turned the wire shelves upside down before putting them on the rack. That way, the “lip” points up and provides an edge so things don’t slide off. We store our microwave on the middle shelf so we don’t have the behemoth on the counter — just wheel it out when you need to reheat something and wheel it back when finished. Works great!

  7. posted by D on

    I have a similar kitchen cart that’s all wood, and has two extensions (one on either side) that fold down when not in use. They don’t take up any more space, but when I need them, I just pop them up and I’ve just doubled the usable surface on top! I actually currently use it to hold my microwave, and i normally have the extensions out on either side to prepare food. It’s great!

  8. posted by Steph on

    I don’t know why I never thought of this – my kitchen is too tiny even for a table and has no extra counter space (it’s taken up by the dish rack). A cart would be perfect, but I’m moving in a few months and trying not to buy anything new. One of my priorities for a new apartment is a bigger kitchen, so hopefully I won’t need one in the new place. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. posted by angela on

    I live in a standard California-style 1950s apartment. 550 sq. ft. I shopped and shopped around and I found that the best cart is this one from Ikea for $50:

    It’s very sturdy and doesn’t have flimsy metal parts that will break. It is also highly customizable: You can stain or paint it to match your decor or you can add some hardware like hooks to keep kitchen towels or handles/pulls to move it around easily. I highly recommend it.

  10. posted by Sandra on

    There’s a cart very much like this available at Target for less money; I don’t remember how much exactly but I just saw it last night.

  11. posted by allen on

    I had to get one for a similar reason to the Author’s: Horrible kitchen design planning (i have exactly ONE drawer!), and this is the only way i can put things NOT onto the counter top! my blender, waffle iron (i like waffles, and you need an iron), my large pot, and my kitchen mits all live on this little guy!

  12. posted by ChristineB on

    I also have the Target version, three in fact. They have hooks on the side and one shelf slides out. we have a huge kitchen with almost no counter space. When we first moved in we were prepping food on top of the dryer! These little carts are a godsend. One cart is next to the sink with the coffee pot. I keep cleaning rags and dish scrubbers. The other two are near the stove with a plastic grocery bag hanging from the hooks to serve as a garbage/scrap bag. We have three of them and I have enough kitchen surface now, to leave the top of the dryer to the cats;0 They are small and versatile enough that I have high hopes that when we move out of this shitty apartment we will be able to use them.

  13. posted by Jen on

    I just got a small cart this weekend, and it has totally transformed my tiny kitchen. Really! Ours is pretty small, but even so, with the two shelves, and the extra counter height surface, I was able to clear off the items that routinely clutter my counters making it less annoying to tidy and wipe up.

  14. posted by Tim Visher on

    Great post! I don’t even have my own kitchen yet but when I do, I think it’s definitely going to be of the smaller kind so something like this will be invaluable!

    One thought I had was whether or not people have experienced a need to have the wheels lock, or is that just something of a given? I would think that you’d want to be able to roll it when necessary, and lock when you’re doing things like using very sharp knives. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Great post! Look forward to reading you more.

  15. posted by Alex Fayle on

    My kitchen is tiny (the whole apt is 200sq ft), so we don’t have a cart, but we do have a wooden board from IKEA that goes over the second sink, giving us more counter space. And when we need the sink the board goes in the space between the fridge and the washing machine.

    Kitchen carts can also be used for other rooms. If you don’t want a desk with drawers (as drawers tend to get messy really easily), use a kitchen cart in a corner of your office to store file boxes. When you need more desk space (for large projects, or for research notes for example), wheel the cart over to the desk.

    Welcome Teri! I look forward to reading your posts.


  16. posted by H... on

    i have a rolling cabinet style black kitchen cart with black/grey granite top. I put my mircowave on it. I store all sort of applicances in the roomy cabinet. it works out beautifully. it only works if you have space for it.

  17. posted by Anne on

    just an added note….I have a large wooden cutting board my hubby cut to fit over a pulled out drawer…is another great way to add as needed counter space!! I slide it between fridge and cabinet when not needed!

  18. posted by Tommy on

    My wife and I have 5 kitchen carts (yes that’s 5!!) in our home. All are from IKEA and all are well used. We have 3 of the butcher block-ish style ones with two lower shelves. Two of these are in the kitchen and serve as an island. The third one serves as a technology rack upstairs (A Dell PC fits perfectly in one of the shelves along with our storage arrays, networking gear, and a printer on top). The other two carts are the longish kind that have drawers which are always in short supply at the big I. One is used as a “tea station” in the kitchen and houses our Zojirushi water pot and our array of tea making gear. The other longish cart is in our entry way and serves as a shoe rack, gadget charging station, and “out-the-door” area where we keep keys, wallets, transit passes, piggy banks, maps, binoculars, etc.

    Overall, I’d say that my next home will be furnished with kitchen carts almost exclusively for three reasons:

    1. Cost – they’re cheap
    2. Functionality – they work for just about everything
    3. Looks – they actually look pretty nice

  19. posted by mitch on

    i have one of these carts… i have limited kitchen space.. i use the bottom rack of the cart to put my most used cookbooks secured with those large metal bookholders.. i do have counter space so i use the top of the cart to put my grass baskets which hold dried beans.. i use the pull out middle shelf for canned goods

  20. posted by Jill on

    Wow, I had no idea you could use a kitchen cart in that way.

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