While pondering my kitchen space problems, I stuck a small shelving unit on top of the counter to simulate open shelving. I tried it on a whim and kept it as a fun interim solution. But new developments have brought unexpected changes to my little kitchen and these shelves are now gone. I’m posting these photos anyway to document the kitchen’s evolution and to show you my quick-fix solution.

Shelves on the counter hold dishes and bread bin.

Small shelves on top of the counter act as a temporary fix.

I liked the texture and color this arrangement brought to the kitchen, but counter space was still a big problem.

I still think wall shelves are the only viable solution (cabinets would be too bulky). As soon as I figure out how to hang shelves with concealed hardware, I’ll put them up.

Counter space to the right of the shelves.

Counter space to the right of the standing shelves.

In the meantime, I’ll share my recent kitchen upset in the next post.

Close-up of the kitchen counter

The tiny kitchen’s counter space (not shown are two tiny parcels to the left of the sink and right of the stove top).

The back wall in the kitchen is just crying out for open shelving, right? Below the wall is the only counter space to speak of. There’s little room for food preparation, especially after a few small appliances stake their territory. Open shelving will help keep clutter off the counter and will also solve the problem of no overhead cabinets.

I’ve been brainstorming some solutions (see below). In this tiny kitchen, I may want to try them all.


Problem: Kitchen needs counter space and is too small for an island.


  • Cover the sink or an open drawer with a large cutting board to create an extra work surface (easy! see pic below; hey, what happened to my vintage cutting board that pulls out from under the countertop?)
  • Keep a mobile cart outside the kitchen and roll it over for temporary counter space (easy, but requires giving up precious space in the main room)
  • Build a lightweight, removable countertop that spans part of the open space and props against the counter on either side (requires some time and effort to build; I’ll make a quick cardboard prototype and show you later)
  • Add shelves on the wall to keep things off the counter (with these vintage plaster walls, may require some time and effort)
Photo of cutting board and sink.

A large cutting board covers the sink to act as temporary counter space.


Was it Ikea madness or my own? Shopping at Ikea during the July 4th weekend sale? What was I thinking? Strangely enough, even though the showroom marketing maze was packed and difficult to navigate, the checkout lines were short. I breezed through in some sort of Ikean space-time warp.

I wonder if the massive redesign in the Emeryville store confused shoppers so much that they couldn’t find their way to checkout (despite the herdlike signage). I envision shoppers pushing their carts endlessly in circles, piling on more and more stuff, and then abandoning them mid-maze, clawing their way to emergency exits out of Ikea-induced exhaustion/overload. Or, near closing time, security finds shoppers trapped in the maze in shopping-induced stupors. They manually lead them back to checkout, to mile-long lines and Ikea has to stay open all night to check them out.

Or maybe they just had all the cash registers open. Forgot to notice.

I wonder if Ikea has considered an express lane to the checkout area (or toll lane—you’d have to pay them to let you out of the store early). But I guess that defeats the purpose of the maze.

As you might have suspected, I have a whole shopping/consumer love/hate philosophy about Ikea, but I’ll share that with you in another post.

FIND: Sometimes the small finds are the most fun. This simple inexpensive storage solution is perfect for my winter clothes. It’s a zippered bag made out of recycled plastic and it can fit in tight spaces. I had considered storing my winter clothes offsite, but now I can cram this bag on the top shelf of my tiny closet.

Tip: A flexible bag fits better in a tight space then a cardboard box or plastic storage bin. And it looks cuter too. You can also carry it by the handle if you ever need to move it. Did I mention the $2.99 price tag?

Photo of storage bag

You can use this recycled plastic bag for storing out-of-season clothes. It can sit on its side or stand up (as shown), and you can mold it to tight closet spaces. Or it’s actually cute enough to leave out. Love the zipper!

I actually went to Ikea for curtains (I’ve always liked their selection of lightweight white curtains), but no luck on that front.

Oh and I did find a few other small-space solutions. More on those later.