As in a traditional home, the kitchen is also a central area for a tiny house. Unlike regular-sized houses, however, tiny homes don’t have the luxury of space to include too many large appliances or a fully countertop. Effective storage solutions such as cabinets can really make a difference for your tiny kitchen.
So how do you make tiny house kitchen cabinets work in a limited space? By choosing the right type of kitchen cabinet, you can free up extra square feet for cooking and preparing your meals. Smart cabinet design choices and complementary storage alternatives can also help you open up the kitchen area of your tiny home.
3 Types of Kitchen Cabinets
Cabinets are the backbone of any kitchen and the most important factor in its design, right after the layout. A cabinet combines function, value, and aesthetics all in one.
There are three basic types of kitchen cabinets: base cabinet, wall cabinet, and tall cabinet. With these basic designs, you can create variations so they are more fit to store cookware, display pretty dishes, or reinforce a specific style. Other tiny homeowners have their cabinets custom-made so they can secure kitchen appliances as well.
Cabinets can also be combined to form other cabinet types. For example, when you put multiple base cabinets together, you can create a kitchen island. But first, you have to understand these basic building blocks before you play around with this kind of furniture:
The base cabinets are integral to building any kitchen as they are part of the layout or floor plan. Base cabinets are mounted to the floor and support countertops. They bear most of the everyday work for keeping a kitchen organized well. With tiny houses, you install the sink and appliances like dishwashers into these base cabinets.
Because of how useful they are, base cabinets tend to be more expensive as they must be strong enough to keep all cutlery, crockery, appliances, and utensils. Some base cabinets can be turned into drawers, pull-outs, or lazy Susans so they naturally become a part of your tiny house.
As the name suggests, wall cabinets are cabinets mounted to the wall and extend to the ceiling. Sometimes, these are called upper cabinets or “uppers” and they offer lots of design flexibility so you can really get your creativity flowing. Wall cabinets come in various height, width, and depth options which you can explore. You can also switch out the doors with clear or frosted glass to achieve a stylish effect.
Since wall cabinets are high spaces, they are best for storing infrequently used cookware or serveware. Some kitchens also have wall cabinets to keep food items, kitchen accessories, and not-so-bulky appliances.
From a tiny house perspective, wall cabinets don’t really work well. Because the space is limited, wall cabinets can be bulky and inconvenient for moving around the kitchen. They can even make a tiny kitchen look more cramped as they take more space compared to open shelves.
Tall cabinets are also called pantry or utility cabinets and they extend from the floor to the ceiling. A tall cabinet can be very functional compared to a wall and base cabinet in the same space, as it offers four additional cubic feet of storage space.
A pantry cabinet can be good for small appliances, bulk food supplies, canned goods, and cleaning items. Sometimes, they are even configured to accommodate microwaves or built-in ovens. Tall cabinets can be a good place to keep unmanageable items out of sight and away from your countertops.
Of course, tall cabinets can also make a tiny kitchen feel crowded and you might have trouble reaching the higher shelves. With this type of cabinet, you have to think about balancing the need for storage with the need for room to move around in.
|Height: 24 - 34 inchesWidth: 9 - 42 inchesDepth: 24 inches
|Multipurpose storage and counter space; essential to any tiny house since they map out the kitchen layout
|Can be too deep with a lot of unused space in the back which you can’t see
|Height: 30, 36, or 42 inchesWidth: 12 - 36 inchesDepth: 12 or 24 inches
|Good for storing infrequently used items out of the way
|Takes up a chunk of overhead space and makes the room look crowded
|Height: 84, 90, or 96 inchesWidth: 18 or 24 inchesDepth: 12 or 24 inches
|Very roomy and can keep the kitchen decluttered
|Might not fit well in your tiny kitchen and can make it feel cramped
Tips for Designing Your Tiny Home Kitchen Cabinets
Even a kitchen cabinet can be an opportunity to make the area look more appealing or tap into additional space for smaller items. Here are some design tips to help you ‘hack’ your furniture:
- Paint your cabinets in white or another light-reflecting color to make the space appear bigger than it is.
- Smaller kitchen cabinets can be built without doors so they look more open. You can also opt to have glass-paneled doors to trick the eyes into thinking the cabinet is larger.
- Treat the sides of your cabinets like a “mini-wall” by hanging small shelves, hooks, or magnetic strips to hold onto small items like towels and knives.
- The cabinet under the sink can be a good space to store cleaning products. Just stick hooks or baskets inside and place a drip tray in case of leaks as well.
Alternatives to Tiny House Kitchen Cabinets
Maybe you don’t really want additional cabinets or you simply need more space around your kitchen. There are plenty of alternatives for storage you can look into, including:
If you have a spare wall, a dresser can be a good choice to have because you can utilize the top part as extra counter space. The drawers and shelves can easily store food, dishes, and cutlery as well so dressers can be multipurpose.
A hoosier cabinet is a special, freestanding kitchen cupboard that became popular at the turn of the century. Hoosier cabinets were built to solve organizational issues in the kitchen so they have compartments, racks, drawers, and cupboards for spices, flour, and other tools. They even have unique features like a flour bin or bread box. Hoosier cabinets are great for tiny homes because they are virtually an entire kitchen, minus the refrigerator, stove, and oven.
A shelf is the most obvious alternative to wall cabinets, especially if you want room to move around in. They are also cost-effective if you’re on a budget because any flat surface works. You can get scrap planks of wood or even mount a skateboard to store your stuff.
The only problem with shelves is that they might be a problem if you’re a tiny house on wheels because you have to take everything down before you travel.
Bags, Pockets, Baskets
When in doubt, going vertical is not a bad idea if you’re living in a tiny house. Your ceilings and walls can allow you to have additional storage if you can be a little creative. Hang baskets to keep fruits, vegetables, and spices for kitchen decor. You can also sew bags into your kitchen curtains or hang pockets for utensils, spices, and other cooking implements just to keep all flat surfaces free.
Keep Your Tiny House Kitchen Decluttered
The best way to cook comfortably in a tiny kitchen is to make sure everything has its place in your cabinets, drawers, and shelves. With all that freed up countertop space, you can prepare great food for you and your family to enjoy.
Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).
This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.