The Shoebox: What To Do When Your Kitchen Has No Counter Space

Welcome to The Shoebox, Refinery29's small space advice column. With the help of Homepolish interior designers, we'll tackle all your cramped living woes — from where to store your stuff to how to make 500 square feet feel as open and unique as you are. This week, we're seeking solutions from Mandy Cheng.
Question: How do you add additional counter space in a small kitchen?
Mandy's Answer: Start by making sure all of your given counter space is clear! Sometimes I have to tell my clients to be realistic with the amount of space they have versus the amount of stuff they have. Do you really need an entire drawer of specialty gadgets like avocado slicers and citrus spiralisers? If you have plenty of space, go for it! If you don’t, bring it down to your kitchen essentials so there’s more room to store bulkier items that would otherwise have to sit out on your countertop. Do you have a pullout cutting board built into your base cabinetry? Pull it out and you’ve immediately gained space for another large mixing bowl!
If you have the space, invest in a pre-fab kitchen island. I just installed this kitchen island in a client’s condo and it doubled her counter space as well as made the kitchen feel so much more substantial.
If a kitchen island just doesn’t work because there isn’t enough space, consider a collapsible table. There are so many options for this: some attach to the end of cabinetry and some are wall-mounted collapsible tables that can go on open wall space.
Question: I live in a first-floor apartment, which means that if I open the windows or leave the curtains open, everyone on the street can see directly in. However, when I keep them closed, the place feels really small and dark and depressing. What can I do?
Answer: I used to live in a first-floor apartment and had the same struggle. This is a great scenario to consider top-down bottom-up shades. If your windows are so low that even these don’t solve the problem (or maybe you hate the way those shades look), consider purchasing window privacy film. You can pick up a roll at your local hardware store! Definitely read the instructions, make sure you spray down the window with the solution like your life depends on it, and also spray some on your hands before peeling back the protective paper. Once it’s installed, you’ll enjoy filtered light while maintaining your privacy!
Also think about adding more light to your space to supplement the natural daylight. Both the top-down bottom-up shade and privacy film options are great, but it’s not going to be equivalent to completely open windows. Plug-in wall sconces make me super happy because anyone can benefit from them including renters that aren’t allowed to permanently add more lighting. Try adding two behind the sofa (preferably flanking some amazing artwork). Ideally the cord is a pretty, fabric twisted cord, and is hung above a piece of furniture so the plug and outlet are hidden.

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