Published on January 20, 2020

With our New Year’s resolutions freshly penned, January at Domino is all about change—the demo and construction kind. Welcome to Renovation Month, in which we pull back the curtain on the highs (mood-boarding!) and lows (finessing the budget—again) that come with creating the home you’ve always wanted, whether that involves a top-to-bottom remodel or a rental kitchen facelift. Sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss a thing. 

Stop us if this sounds familiar: You reach for a bag of pasta in your pantry and about seven other boxes come tumbling out. Carefully stacking all your clean dishes could basically qualify as an Olympic sport. And let’s not even discuss under-the-sink storage.

If any of these scenarios apply to you, it may be time to rethink the design of your tiny kitchen. Renovating any room can be overwhelming, but remember: You’re not the first person to ever tackle this kind of project. Luckily, you can take the advice of people who’ve come before you—and lived to tell the tale of cooking meals in their brand-new, expertly designed spaces.

These five pros navigated the challenges of a small-space reno (trust us, there are a lot) and came out the other side with the near impossible: stylish and functional kitchens that defy their square footage. Here are the lessons they learned along the way. 

Do: Factor Technical Issues Into Your Budget

Julia Marcum’s dark and dramatic space looks perfect now, but it came with one minor financial snafu: The range hood wasn’t vented correctly. “We were maxed out on budget, and I wish we had known about the ventilation before starting, because this affects it a lot!” she says. Luckily, the room had enough windows for this not to become a safety concern, but if your own project is a bit more cave-like, it’s definitely something to keep in mind. 

Don’t: Forget About Hidden Storage

Every square inch counts, and those secret nooks are just as important as anything visible. Whitney Leigh Morris has a mix of concealed and exposed shelving—though she wishes she had added adjustable shelves behind the closed doors. “By avoiding fixed heights, you can adapt your storage over time to better accommodate your evolving needs and tastes,” she says. 

Do: Pare Back the Cookware Purchases 

“Buy the smallest and fewest appliances you can live with—it’s better to purchase fresh food more often or hand-wash dishes than sacrifice counter and open space,” cautions Kate Hamilton, whose recently renovated rental is a testament to savvy design. For example, she decided not to install a range hood to make room for extra floating shelves. This may sound like risky business to anyone who has spent one too many hours cleaning splattered grease off their backsplash, but because Hamilton doesn’t cook a lot of meat, it worked out for her. 

Don’t: Write Off Seemingly Trivial Safeguards

In an effort to economize, Michael Geller decided against asking his cabinetmaker for shop drawings. He may have saved some cash, but now his oven door barely clears the adjacent knob. “What I wish I knew was that these drawings are not worth skimping on, because small mistakes can have outsize impact,” says Geller.

Do: Triple Check Proportions (and Scale!)

It wasn’t until after everything was fully installed that Lauren Bug noticed a problem: All the hardware looked way too big on her cabinets, given how mini the floor plan was. “In the elevations, they looked just fine with the split Shaker cabinet we had chosen to make the space appear bigger, but in real life, we realized we had been tricked by our own optical illusion!” she says. 

See more ways to make the most of your tiny kitchen:
Double Your Kitchen Storage With This One $30 Addition
I May Not Have Kitchen Drawers, But These Containers Are the Next Best Thing
Big Impact, Small Budget: 7 Kitchen Upgrades That Make a Difference

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