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How to Share a Small Kitchen With Flatmates or Family

A mini kitchen can be a challenge to share, but with some smart design and considerate planning, small can work beautifully

Houzz UK Contributor. I have been an interiors journalist since 1995, writing several… More

The kitchen is one of the busiest areas in the house, with a huge functional role to play. When space is short in this crucial room, the pressure is on to make it work really efficiently, particularly if more than one person will be using it. A combination of clever design, considerate use and great communication will ensure even the tiniest of kitchens works well and is easy to share with a partner or housemates.

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Communicate your expectations
Sharing any small space relies as much on good communication between the people using it as fancy kit or clever storage. So it’s important to sit down with your partner or housemates and discuss everyone’s expectations and standards. One person’s version of tidy may not be another’s, so try to iron out any differences to help a small kitchen work for everyone. Consider issues such as cleanliness, who cooks when, and which ingredients, shelf space or utensils can be shared.

It can also be helpful to divvy up kitchen maintenance jobs according to who prefers each task – from loading/unloading the dishwasher to cleaning the fridge or emptying the bins.

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Provide a perch
If the kitchen is too small for a table and chairs, it might still be possible to provide some kind of space-efficient perch. This means you can chat with your partner or roomie while he or she cooks, or provide space for children to do homework, without anyone getting in anyone’s way. A folding chair that can be stored on the wall or a simple stool can help two people enjoy the same small kitchen comfortably.

If there’s a sliver of wall space, you could also consider a small, fold-out table; be sure to take expert advice on how best to fix it securely to the wall.

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Keep worktops clear-ish!
Prep space is often at a premium in a small kitchen, so keep it as uncluttered as possible. Take the pressure off precious work surfaces with smart storage alternatives, such as freestanding shelves, hanging rails and magnetic knife strips.

Keep everything you can in cupboards or drawers, and consider removing lesser-used items out of the kitchen entirely to free up storage for worktop hoggers, such as juicers and blenders. Look for little baskets to hang from your rail for oft-used ingredients, such as oil, salt and pepper.

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Create additional prep space
Sinks eat up a fair portion of potential worktop space, which is bad news when more than one person is trying to work in a small kitchen. Simply finding a chopping board that can slot over the sink buys you additional prep room.

Similarly, if you can install an induction hob that sits flush to the worktop and generally remains cool, even shortly after it’s been used, it can also be a useful surface.

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Designate the space
If you share your small kitchen with housemates, it’s a good idea to identify which is common space and which is personal. If possible, designate one cupboard or shelf to each person, and divide up the shelves in the fridge, too.

Be clear about which areas are shared space, such as worktops, utensil cupboards and the oven, and make sure there’s an equal commitment to keeping these communal areas tidy and clean.

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Draw up a cooking schedule
In a shared house with a tiny kitchen, it can be helpful to create a cooking schedule. Allocating cooking slots can prevent the chaos of two people trying to create two different meals in a confined space.

If you live with a partner, it’s sensible to appoint a cook and let them rustle up dinner solo. Although cooking and prepping food together can be fun in a generous kitchen, in a small kitchen it can lead to too many cooks…

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Relocate white goods
If possible, move space-hogging white goods to other parts of the house, to create vital room for food storage, an oven or even a table in a small kitchen. Perhaps the washing machine could slot in under the stairs or even in a dressing room or bedroom? Could the fridge stand just outside the kitchen, in an open-plan arrangement?

The more storage you have in your small kitchen, the better it will function and the easier it will prove to share.

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Flag-up special occasions
If you plan to prepare a dinner party for six or want the afternoon in the kitchen to create a celebration cake, it’s a good idea to let your partner, housemates or family know. Small kitchens can quickly be consumed by a big cooking project, and if your Bake Off experimental afternoon coincides with someone else’s sushi prep or revision session, there could be rolling pins at dawn!

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Add a noticeboard
This is an easy way to stay in touch with the other members of your household. Painting a cupboard door or section of wall with blackboard paint won’t hog space, but will help your small kitchen work well. Use it to chalk up a shopping list, leave a note (preferable to covering that valuable worktop space with stickies) or book time to use the kitchen.

If you choose magnetic blackboard paint, you can then also pin up paperwork that would otherwise litter surfaces and prevent the small kitchen from working well.

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Tidy up!
It might seem obvious, but mess is the enemy in any small room, making it harder to use and much less appealing. So be sure that you and everyone who uses the kitchen in your house clears up after each meal. Load the dishwasher or wash dirty plates, tidy away ingredients and wipe down surfaces.

How do you share your kitchen successfully? Let us know in the Comments below.

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