Creative Ways to Make a Small Kitchen Work
The kitchen is by far the space in homes that's remodeled the most. For renters and homeowners alike, not having enough space or ideal appliances can restrict comfort and culinary creativity in the kitchen. But for Kimberley Hasselbrink, food photographer and creator of The Year in Food, her rented apartment's kitchen is the birthplace of her seasonally-inspired culinary masterpieces, despite its less-than-ideal design.
Although Hasselbrink's San Francisco apartment has a good amount of space, her kitchen is restricted in both size and storage. A lack of natural light was daunting at first, but with a few quirky thrift finds, playful art and vintage accessories, Hasselbrink was able to make the kitchen feel like her very own.
Hasselbrink makes the most of her space by keeping things crisp and clean, accenting with simple but quirky accessories. "Hidden storage is my answer most of the time, unless the object is both useful and attractive," Hasselbrink says. Drawer dividers, racks on the inside of cabinet doors, and attractive bins and baskets are all great solutions for renters with little room for storage.
Tip: Less is more in a small kitchen. Hasselbrink often cleans out her drawers, getting rid of unnecessary, broken or duplicated items and donating those that are still functional.
Hasselbrink likes to scour thrift stores for playful kitchen accessories. Online shops like Etsy are another good resource for out-of-the-ordinary supplies. Of course, she'll occasionally peruse San Francisco's latest and greatest — a little shop called Pot and Pantry is one of her recent favorites. "The owner has a keen eye for gorgeous items," she says.
Tip: Add a personal touch. Accenting with unique tchotchkes and artwork is an easy way to give a bland kitchen your own personal touch. Try going to thrift stores instead of your usual home good shops to find one-of-a-kind items with a bit of extra style.
Although she'd be the last person to call her kitchen professional, the dishes that Hasselbrink whips up for The Year in Food imply otherwise. She's constantly creating fresh, colorful and deliciously simple dishes.
"I love to cook with seasonal produce, so that's usually my starting point," she says.
Tip: Get good tools. If you feel confined by your small kitchen, try investing in a few new kitchen tools to inspire the culinary genius within. A new baking dish or cookbook might be just the thing to push you beyond the microwave.
Simple white thrifted pitchers keep favorite tools within easy reach. Her beloved chef's knife is the most used thing she owns. "I also really love cast-iron skillets and well-worn wooden spoons," she says.
Tip: Storage with personality. Cute containers are another attractive storage solution for small kitchens. If you've run out of drawer space, pop your most-used items in a fun jar or vase.
Like any cook, Hasselbrink isn't just inspired by what produce is available, but also by what she's craving. Often, her recipes are simply great comfort foods reinvented with a healthy twist. "The weather influences my cooking a lot too — cozy, warm foods when it's cold and light salads when it's warm," she says.
"I'm kind of late to having helpful gadgets in the kitchen, but now that I do, it's hard to imagine doing without," Hasselbrink says. Her immersion blender is a must-have, and a recent splurge on an electric mixer is completely reshaping her previous experiences with baking. Next on her wish list: a food processor. All of these items make cooking just a little easier.
Although there wasn't really a final vision for her kitchen's décor, Hasselbrink has been able to give her kitchen a cohesive, polished look by sticking to a simple white color palette for her dishes and storage containers. "My attempts to decorate my kitchen so far have been a little haphazard," she says. "It's mostly based on when there's been time or a little extra money to invest. I'm limited by the fact that it's a rental too, which can be frustrating at times."
Tip: Choose a simple palette. Even if you're not able to paint or replace cabinetry in your kitchen, you can define a color palette through art and accessories. Sticking to a simple like theme gives your kitchen a polished and more cohesive feel.
Hasselbrink's kitchen is open to her home's dining room — one of her favorite parts about the space. "Otherwise it would be a pretty dark and dreary place," she says. Her crisp all-white palette helps diffuse the great natural light that filters in from the dining room.
Tip: Make the most of your light. Even if your kitchen is tucked away in a dark corner, using light-colored accents and adding task lighting can help it feel cozy rather than constrained.
A collection of cookbooks in various styles sit on a table just outside the kitchen. Hasselbrink's collection includes a mix of old classics and new must-haves, as well as several from well-known Bay Area restaurants — including Mission Street Food, Chez Panisse and the Zuni Cafe.
Tip: Borrow space. A small table, console or shelving provides additional storage and carries your kitchen's workspace beyond its originally defined area.
Hasselbrink's cheery apartment is located right on the border between the Potrero Hill and Mission neighborhoods of San Francisco — two very different areas with a lot to offer.
"I love having all the advantages of both neighborhoods and I love to go for long walks in both," Hasselbrink says. "The Mission is just exploding with new restaurants, and I'm scrambling to try at least a tenth of them. Potrero Hill is cozy and neighborhoody and has gorgeous vistas that are especially lovely just after dark."
“Deliciously Simple: Food Photographer Warms Up a Rental Kitchen” by Vanessa Brunner originally appeared on Houzz.com, where you can buy the perfect console table for your cookbooks and learn more about decorating your rental kitchen. Photo credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink, original photo on Houzz.