ADD AN ISLAND
Although Lisa Maceda says she loves the roomy digs of her new East Garfield Park loft apartment, her kitchen got the short end of the stick. “It was definitely designed by a man,” Maceda says with a laugh. “I don’t cook very much so I didn’t think it would be a problem, but I literally have a couple of cabinets and two drawers for all of my food and kitchen stuff.” Working with a tight budget but desperate for more storage space, Maceda scored a stand-alone island at Sam’s Club for about $100, in which she houses utensils. Metal shelves hang along the wallwhere you’d expect to find cabinets: Maceda props art and storage canisters on them—and cleverly hooks her coffee mugs underneath.
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Embrace the design aesthetic of displaying your wares out in the open and organize them thoughtfully—by color, for instance. “It’s a really tough space because you can see everything I own,” Maceda says. “But it forces me to be organized.” She hunted for wire locker baskets on eBay and collected different-size transparent canisters that house everything from spices to snacks ($2.49 and up at IKEA).
Cheery red serving bowls cozy up the raw, industrial feel of the kitchen ($4 and up at Cost Plus World Market).
Think you don’t have room for a kitchen table? Four chairs discreetly slip inside this Fusion table to free up more floor space in a narrow room ($299 at IKEA, under window above).
Maceda’s stainless-steel island is a convenient spot to stash kitchen wares—and it matches the industrial feel of the loft. Achieve a similar look on the cheap with a chrome microwave cart ($50 at Target). —Liz Plosser
BUILD YOUR OWN COUNTER
When Erika Torvik moved into her three-bedroom Wicker Park apartment with two friends, her architect father offered to add countertops for food prep. He cut a piece of plywood to the depth of the existing countertops on each side, oiled the wood to provide a washable surface and secured it by screwing cleats into the side of each supporting cabinet. “The people before us had a stainless-steel rolling rack with three shelves, but it looked [clunky],” Torvik says. “It’s a cleaner line to have an additional countertop [without legs] as opposed to something removable.” Plus, when they do want to take it out, it simply unscrews from the wall.
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Plywood starts at $5 for a 4-by-8 foot piece and costs $1 per cut at Home Depot. Size it to fill the gap between two cabinets or between a wall and one end of a countertop.
Make sure the wood for the new countertop matches the hue of the floors to create a cohesive look.
Slide two chairs under the counter to accommodate guests for dining or chatting while you cook. —Jessica Herman
USE REMNANTS TO ADD STORAGE
Andrea Newberry writes the food blog Forkable and loves to cook so much she catered her own wedding. Her apartment has a massive kitchen with one drawback: no counter or cabinet space. As a renter, she couldn’t attempt a fancy build-out, so she added surface and storage on the cheap by piecing together salvaged remnants. “With a bit of ingenuity,” Newberry says, “we created a space that’s both usable and comfortable.”
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Love to cook? Consider a chest freezer ($200 and up at Sears). “They’re actually really cheap and energy-efficient—about $50 in utilities a year,” Newberry says. It also works as extra counter space.
Newberry’s cabinets are alley finds, remnants of a remodeling project. “I painted red accents to tie them together,” she says.
Her granite countertop is just a kitchen-sink cutout—a discard from a condo construction site—perched atop two milk crates.
A white laminate board and a pair of two-by-fours create a shelf that runs above Newberry’s stove for stacking and hanging storage. “I think it cost about $75 in hardware to set up,” she says. —Katherine Raz
When Linsey Burritt moved into her Ukrainian Village apartment, she had a single drawer and maybe a foot of counter space in her kitchen. She decided to make do by hanging as much as she could. A pot rack from IKEA hangs directly above an island from Crate & Barrel. For the pots’ and pans’ lids, she fastened a rod that she found behind her apartment to the wall with hardware (sticking cardboard between the hardware and wall to provide enough space for lids to slide behind the rod). She set up her espresso maker on a wooden ironing board—which she also found on the street—in a large closet-cum-pantry adjacent to the kitchen. Burritt dressed up the space with an old camera and antique glass bottle, “which I believe used to hold medicine but now holds a dried hydrangea from my mother’s garden.” Custom-cut shelves from Home Depot on the opposite wall hold boxes of food.
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Add decorative cabinet knobs like the one Burritt purchased from Jan’s Antiques to add flair to the kitchen without cluttering up usable wall space.
Keep clunky pots and pans from taking up precious cabinet space by buying a hanging pot rack, such as an affordable wrought-iron version from Target ($61), and increase counter space with a sturdy Groland island from IKEA ($199).
Make your own spice rack using deck brackets, superstrength magnets from American Science & Surplus ($4 each) and glass canisters from IKEA ($3). Align a handful of brackets, secured with screws and anchors in the wall, to create a shelf on the upper half and hang the canisters from the magnets on the underside. —JH