It’s easy to make your home feel personal and beautiful when you’re working with an airy open floor plan and plenty of space to spare. It’s a lot harder to do when you’re limited to, say, 400 square feet. Learning how to live well in a small space is a special skill, and we’re picking up tips from the best.
Interior design maven, blogger and author, Whitney Leigh Morris makes living in a tiny home look elegant and effortless—even with a husband, baby, and two pups. She and her fam live in a 400-square foot 1920’s bungalow in Venice Beach, California and somehow has managed to make it feel much bigger than it actually is. In her debut book, Small Space Style, she shares excerpted tips for making the most of a small home — and staying stylishly organized no matter the spacial constraints.
Whether you live in a very cozy apartment or just looking to make more use out of less space, these tips will help guide the way…
Store items on the stovetop | I find it helps to keep the coffee carafe, teapot and saucepan on the stovetop all the time, even when I’m not using them — just select practical yet stylish designs since they’re always in sight. Treating these mainstays as decor frees up storage space and gives your kitchen a welcoming, personal feel.
Load up the fridge | Every exposed surface of your refrigerator can play an active role in maximizing storage. On the top, organize drinkware, linens and dishes in well-chosen containers such as silverware caddies and sturdy baskets. In the Cottage, we opted for wire bins — their see-through sides keep the room looking airy and help us see instantly where something is located. On the door and side panels of the fridge, we store an array of items, including measuring charts, serving utensils, aprons, pot holders, and dish towels. (Make sure anything on the door can withstand it opening and closing without falling off.)
Hide Storage in a Toekick Drawer | In a tiny kitchen, no nook or cranny should be overlooked as a potential storage solution. That includes the secret compartment behind the toekick—that funny recessed board under your base cabinets. You can install a drawer here that’s perfect for baking trays, oversize platters, linens, and more. Order your new kitchen cabinetry with toekick drawers, or retrofit your existing cabinets with premade drawers (or built-from-scratch ones, if you’re handy).
Modify a Kitchen to Let Light In | Depending on when your home was built, your kitchen may not only be small, it may also be dark. In addition to using pale and reflective surfaces to bounce and amplify light, which will do a lot to open up your space, you may also want to consider a few contractor tasks that can help you let the sun stream into your space and make it feel larger (landlord and budget willing!).
The single skylight in our kitchen works wonders for bathing our cooking and dining space in natural illumination, and they can be relatively simple and inexpensive to install, depending on your architecture. I also adore our Dutch door (ours has a window in the top half), which we made by simply cutting our door in half with a contractor. The window always lets in some light, of course, but when the top is open onto the front porch, it brightens up our home immensely and also introduces new air flow into the room. You can buy Dutch doors at a home improvement store or ask your contractor for a good local source.
Dangle Dry Herbs as Decor | One way to get the beauty of botanicals in your small kitchen without taking up precious countertop space is to tie your favorite cooking herbs by their ends and then leave them hanging up as decor after they’ve dried. Dill, mint, basil, rosemary, and thyme all look lovely strung in a row like above, and their fragrance can linger and make your small space smell magical. All it takes is two hooks and some twine.
For a similar aesthetic, display a cook’s wreath, a gorgeous collection of culinary herbs all woven together. Look for organic ones that you can use as you work at the stove, plucking bay or sage leaves and dropping them right into your pot.
Set Up a Tiny Tea and Coffee Station | At the Cottage, we like to keep essentials for coffee and tea out on our breakfast counter so they’re always at the ready. (Plus, no fumbling for your grinder and beans first thing in the morning before you’ve had caffeine!) Set up a small tray or caddy that you can swiftly clear off a surface as needed, and make sure you tuck it out of the way of heavy traffic and activity.
Keep it out with your grinder and French press — or your coffee brewing instruments of choice — and a small bag of beans, or an array of your favorite teas. Have sugar and honey on hand plus handcrafted stirring tools or filters. It also helps to have a cloth or two nearby to wipe up drips or spills.
Organize food + dry goods | Every week when you go grocery shopping, clear out your fridge of last week’s leftovers and not-so-fresh items before restocking. Once a month, survey your pantry and make a meal plan that allows you to use up any half-full bags or cartons, donating anything that’s overstaying its welcome or tossing items that are past their expiration date. Once every year, take inventory of your spices and oils and get rid of any that have expired or seem unlikely to find their way into a dish anytime soon.