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Having been raised by a mother who makes everything from scratch (even yogurt), it’s no wonder I love to cook. But apartment buildings are rarely outfitted with large kitchens, so I’ve learned to cope with limited square footage. Does that mean the only hot meals I eat are from restaurants? Absolutely not. Here are some tips on how I’ve managed to get the most out of a small rental kitchen.

The biggest issue for most renters (and even condo dwellers) has got to be the lack of space. Most of us have kitchen gadgets, dried goods, pots, pans and glasses for every occasion, but nowhere to store them. With small spaces, de-cluttering is key. Hide away those cereal boxes from the top of your fridge and clear up all those oil bottles from your countertop. Where will they go, you ask? Behind closed doors! Invest in a pantry that can be placed in an adjacent room, where you can store plates, pots, dry goods or linens. See how Joel Bray and Michael Penney transformed an Ikea wardrobe into a practical pantry on this DIY TV episode.

If space is lacking but your walls are bare, try adding floating shelves or a pegboard. Both are an inexpensive way to add vertical storage and colour. Michael Penney covered a large wall in his tiny kitchen with pegboard for added pan storage. Or use floating shelves to display dry goods, but don’t forget to transfer them to pretty containers to avoid visual clutter.

Lighting in high-rise apartments is usually harsh or insufficient. Investing in a small but powerful ceiling fan with a light is a good idea. Seeing as stove hoods are a luxury rarely found in rentals, a fan will also help circulate the air while cooking. This one from Home Hardware is compact and contemporary, and under $100.

If you only have time and money for one piece, go for a moveable, freestanding kitchen island that adds counter space and storage all-in-one. My favourite is the Förhöja kitchen cart from Ikea. It has drawers, shelves, and a convenient butcher block top.

So don’t let a small kitchen keep you from enjoying a home-cooked meal. Indulge your inner Julia Child with these easy kitchen upgrades and get cooking!

For more on decorating rental apartments, see Andrea Mills’ Wallpaper For Renters blog post.

Photo credits:
1. House & Home Online TV Episode 50
2. Flickr.com
3. House & Home June 2009 issue, photography by Angus Fergusson
4. Home Hardware
5. Förhöja cart, Ikea

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