Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma
There’s no getting around it: Small kitchens can be challenging to maneuver in, especially for home cooks who prepare meal after meal with no countertop elbow room. Even the cooking-adverse who do little more than microwave last night’s takeout may feel the countertop squeeze. How can you make the most of this prime real estate in tight confines? “I have found that clients that cook a lot tend to want the most functional countertops,” Liz Tiesi, owner and lead designer of the Brooklyn-based interior design company Threshold Interiors, tells MarthaStewart.com.
Consider standard-size kitchen countertop appliances that earn their keep—and compact versions that don’t hog every available inch.
Related: Brewing Perfection: Our Shoppable Guide to the Best Coffee Makers
Sizing Up the Situation
Before planning a gut renovation, purging rickety appliances, or swapping large countertop contraptions for mini iterations, first think about your cooking habits and needs. “I suggest clients take an audit of how they work in their kitchen and take an inventory of appliances, gadgets, and pots and pans they use before starting the planning process so that when you design your kitchen space it is as efficient as possible and functions the way you work in your space. This assessment ensures that you plan enough countertop space,” says Tiesi.
Smaller Saves the Day
Sometimes big appliances make sense because they’re multitasking miracle workers. Case in point: the Vitamix Ascent Blender ($499.99, bedbathandbeyond.com), a dynamo with tons of culinary applications, and the Oster Food Processor and Blender ($79.99, target.com). But if those big boys are gathering dust from lack of use, consider sizing down with handy options like the Cuisinart Elite Die-Cast Mini Prep Food Processor ($110, williams-sonoma.com) and Ninja Nutri Pro Compact Personal Blender ($59.99, amazon.com)—small but mighty space-savers.
Toaster ovens such as the Oster Extra Large Convection Oven ($119.99, amazon.com) can handle toasting, broiling, roasting, and baking—and so can pint-sized, energy-efficient models like the Breville Compact Smart Oven ($285, williams-sonoma.com). Then there’s Balmuda The Toaster ($329, momaorg.com) which uses steam technology to toast or revive day-old bread without the bulk. The Dualit 4-Slice Toaster, ($345, food52.com) is great for feeding a hungry crew, while its two-slice counterpart ($265, food52.com) and other mini models, including the Revolution Cooking 2-Slice High-Speed Smart Toaster, ($299.95, williams-sonoma.com) and Zwilling 2-Slice Toaster ($99.95, wayfair.com) may be the answer for smaller households and appetites.
Other large-scale old reliables can also size down a notch. The Cuisinart 4-Cup Coffeemaker, ($57.04, amazon.com) keeps you caffeinated without counter spread. Ditto the Nespresso Pixie Espresso Machine with Aeroccino Milk Frother by De’Longhi ($186.75, delonghi.com) which makes a better shot than your stovetop espresso maker, thanks to its heating system and bar pump pressure. Even coffee grinders on the smaller side, including Bodum Bistro Electric Coffee Grinder ($19.99, target.com) and Baratza Encore Coffee Grinder, ($139, amazon.com) are up to the task. As for tea time, space-saving kettles range from collapsible electric models like the Gourmia Portable Tea Kettle ($17.99, target.com) to smaller takes on the gooseneck like the Cosori Gooseneck Electric Kettle, ($59.49, amazon.com).
And there’s more—much more, actually—in the mini mode, like the tiny sensor-activated SMEG Citrus Juicer ($180, food52.com) and the programmable, multi-use Instant Pot Duo Mini Pressure Cooker ($79.99, amazon.com). And the compact COMFEE Retro-Style Microwave Oven ($89.99, amazon.com) and Hamilton Beach 6-Speed Hand Mixer ($41.49, target.com).
More Solutions at Hand
Big or small, some kitchen countertop appliances can also be stowed away. When reimagining spaces, Tiesi says that her firm often suggests design solutions like appliance garage cabinets where you can hide electronics like coffee makers and toasters, cutting boards that sit over garbage cans, pastry carts that also stand in for prep space, and microwave drawers that move the apparatus out of the line of sight, all allowing for less countertop clutter.