13 Creative Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinets for Tiny Houses

If you've been dreaming of living in a tiny house, or if you're currently working on your build, you've probably been on the lookout for clever space-saving ideas. And while you might have come across fold-out desks, under-bench storage, and stairs made out of drawers, I wonder if you've considered alternatives to regular kitchen cabinets.

Kitchen cabinets for normal houses are usually four-sided. The backside is attached to the wall and the bottom is attached to the floor. You can buy these kitchen cabinets for tiny houses and many people do. Just pick out some you like and fix them into place.

However, those back and bottom sides are redundant. The wall of your tiny house can act as the back of the cupboard and the floor can act as the bottom of the cupboard.

While this might not matter in a regular house, in a tiny house, those extra few inches can make a big difference. If you're determined to use every inch of space sensibly, using regular kitchen cabinets for your tiny house won't be the best decision.

Kitchen cabinets for your tiny house - decision

Of course, you could build your own kitchen cabinets without the back and the bottom sides. But I thought I'd take this opportunity to collect together lots of creative alternatives to kitchen cabinets for tiny houses. That way you can see all your options and decide which one(s) is best for your new home.

Tiny house kitchen cabinets

I built my cabinet boxes and got the doors custom made at a local cabinet shop

13 Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinets for Tiny Houses

Here are thirteen types of storage you could use in your kitchen instead of regular kitchen cabinets.

1. Shelves

Tiny House Kitchen Shelving

Kitchen shelves in Rowan's Tiny Home

Of course, the most obvious alternative to kitchen cabinets for tiny houses is shelves. If you don't have space to install lots of cabinets, you could install one or two on the floor and use shelves above them, or you could forgo the kitchen cabinets altogether and just use shelves.

Using shelves instead of cabinets might work well for you if you want a lot of space to move around, perhaps if you have mobility issues.

Shelving is also a good option for those on a budget. You're likely to be able to buy, salvage, or build shelving fairly easily and cheaply, perhaps using Craigslist and scrap pieces of wood.

You can also use a wide range of materials to build your shelves; anything flat will work. You could come up with a unique look for you tiny house by using pallets, planks of wood, or even skateboards!

Skateboard Shelves

Photo courtesy of AngryJulieMonday

If you plan to move your tiny house a lot, however, storing your belongings on shelves rather than in cupboards might grow old quickly. You'll have to take everything down every time you move, so it's not loose for the journey. I would advise against going this route if you plan to travel in your tiny house.


If you plan to have both cabinets and shelves, Jenna and Guillaume from Tiny House Giant Journey recommend storing your “pretty” items up high on the shelves. By doing this, you'll both clear your counters of clutter and add a bit of “art” to the walls!

To get the most out of your shelves, consider storing items like trays, plates, and lids vertically. Add dividers onto your shelves to keep everything upright. You can either buy these or make them yourself, perhaps by attaching rods or sheets of wood to your shelves.

Shelf Dividers

Photo courtesy of A Jones For Organizing

2. Repurposed or Salvaged Cabinets

Salvaged Kitchen Cabinets

Lou of Little Lou Tiny House reclaimed these cabinets and gave them a makeover

If it's your budget rather than space you're concerned about, salvaging some old cabinets is a good option. Catherine Zola managed to get hold of five used cabinets for just $150 by doing this. She got them from two restores and a dump, and then cleaned and painted them. They're cheaper than anything she could have bought brand new and lighter than anything she could have built herself.

To get your hands on the best salvaged cabinets, I recommend setting up a Craigslist alert. This way you'll be the first to know when something good comes up. You can also try contacting anyone you know who's renovating or who's involved in the business of doing up houses and buildings.

3. Crates, Boxes, or Pallets

Tiny house kitchen crates

Photo courtesy of The Rustic Modern Tiny House

If you want to go for a rustic look or if you're on a budget, why not reclaim scrap materials like crates, boxes, and pallets? You stack them or fix them to some wood to create drawers.

What you'll be able to come up with will depend on the materials you're able to find, so keep an open mind and have your tiny house kitchen measurements to hand.

Tiny house kitchen palettes

Photo courtesy of Tiny House Giant Journey

4. A Dresser

Tiny House Kitchen Dresser Cabinets

Photo courtesy of The Rustic Modern Tiny House

As long as you believe you'll be able to fit your kitchen items into it, there's no reason why you can't use another piece of furniture as your kitchen storage. You could salvage or buy a dresser like the one used in The Rustic Modern Tiny House to store your utensils, food, and cutlery.

Alternatively, you could try any other piece of storage furniture you come across. Perhaps some office cabinets, some bathroom cupboards, or a chest of drawers would work in your kitchen.

5. A Hoosier Cabinet

Hoosier Cabinet for Tiny House

Sarah Hastings found this Hoosier cabinet on Cragistlist and used it in her tiny house

Rather than a dresser, you might consider installing a Hoosier cabinet. These are freestanding kitchen cupboards designed to store spices, flour, and other items. They generally include racks, drawers, cupboards, and even flour sifters and other useful tools. Save for the fridge and oven, they're practically all-in-one kitchens, so they're brilliant for tiny houses.

The Tiny House reader Dereama Ann Jackson first introduced me to this idea. She's putting a Hoosier cabinet in her kitchen instead of cabinets. She likes the amount of storage space this will give her, and she's pleased with the flour bin and the tin bread box too. Even better, she bought the 40″ piece of furniture for just $100. With a lick of paint, it'll be perfect!

6. Shelving or a Cabinet and Shelving

Tiny House Kitchen Curtain Cupboard

The Boulder by Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses

To keep things simple, you could install shelving or a workbench and then hide your belongings behind curtains. This would probably save you a bit of money and you could choose some material to match the rest of the decor in your tiny house.

Tim Eddy and Hannah Fuller went for this option. They made their kitchen counter out of a stainless steel table with material hung across the front side. It's basic but it does the trick!

Tiny House Kitchen Curtains

Photo courtesy of June Bhongjan from Apartment Therapy

7. Bags and Pockets

Tiny House Kitchen Pockets

Photo courtesy of Tiny House Giant Journey

Jenna and Guillaume from Tiny House Giant Journey made the most of the curtains in their tiny house by sewing bags into them. This option would give you a double whammy – storage under a cabinet and inside the curtain itself.

You could also use this idea elsewhere. If you have a spare section of wall, you could attach a hook or railing to it and hang some pockets there too. These pockets could hold utensils, spices, vegetables, or anything else that you want to keep off of your worktops.

8. Hooks, Rails, or a Pegboard

Tiny House Kitchen Rail

Macy Miller's kitchen

Photo courtesy of Original Home Design

Rather than or as well as hiding your kitchen utensils, you could hang them up to get them off your countertops. Attach hooks or rails to your walls to hang anything from chopping boards and ladles to pans and tea towels.

This is a simple way to use up any spare wall space in your kitchen. You should be able to combine this kind of storage with other types, as Macy Miller has done in her kitchen (shown above).

Tiny House Pegboard

Photo courtesy of HD Adventuring

9. A Drying Rack

Tiny House Dish Rack

Photo courtesy of Fred's Tiny Houses

If you don't have too many plates, rather than storing your utensils in a kitchen cupboard, you mount a dish rack to the wall and keep them there. Dish racks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so you should be able to find one big or small enough for you.

Depending on where you place your dish rack, it could also double up as a drying space. If necessary, you could position it right over your sink! You could wash your plates, hang them up, let them dry, and then take them down for your next meal.

Tiny House Dish Rack Sink

Photo courtesy of Little Yellow Door

10. Boxes, Containers, or Jars

Tiny House Mason Jars

Photo courtesy of Logan Smith

Of course, if you want to keep things super simple you can just keep everything in boxes and containers like Tupperware boxes and Mason jars. Stack them up in an order that makes sense, whether that's on the floor or a kitchen counter and voila – kitchen storage.

This option doesn't have to look bad either. Mason jars look good and you should be able to find some attractive boxes if you look around a bit.

11. Magnetic Strips

Tiny House Metallic Strip

Photo courtesy of Tammy Strobel

If you don't like the idea of hanging items on your walls, and if they're made of metal, you could hang them up without the hooks. You can buy magnetic strips and paint, and of course your fridge door might work too.

This option works well for knives (just be sure that the magnetic strip is strong enough to hold them!), spices in metallic containers, and other small items. Of course, it's not a complete alternative to kitchen cabinets for tiny houses but it should keep a few items out of the way. And it looks smart too.

12. Under-Shelf Wire Baskets

Under Shelf Storage Basket

Photo courtesy of Tidy Tova

If you do plan to build cupboards or shelves into your tiny house, you may find that you end up with a bit of unused space, depending on the height of your belongings. In this case, you could try to build in more shelves or you could hang wire baskets underneath the existing ones. Ones that slide out would be extra convenient.

13. A Kitchen Food Box Shelf

Custom Tiny House Food Cubes

Photo Courtesy of Food Cubes Storage Shelf on Etsy

The Toybox Home is a tiny house with a very modern design. Its kitchen features a custom-made food container that became very popular online. Because of its popularity, the designers decided to start offering custom food box shelves through Etsy.

If you bought this storage shelf, you'd be able to store all kinds of foods above your kitchen counters. You would discuss the size it would need to be and have it designed specifically for your tiny house.

So Many Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinets for Tiny Houses!

As you can see, there are loads of storage solutions you can use instead of or alongside regular kitchen cabinets for tiny houses. Whether your goal is to make better use of space, save money, or design a unique home, there are plenty of ways to get creative with your kitchen storage.

What clever alternatives to kitchen cabinets for tiny houses have you come across?

Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinets for Tiny Houses