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This One Little Change Will Transform Any Small Space

Introducing: your new favorite corner of the home.

March  7, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

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What if you could wave a magic wand and transform a tiny, underused corner of your kitchen—or your living room, or your hallway, even—into a space that feels so significant, it'd become part of your daily routine? Only instead of a magic wand, what if the tools you waved around in the air were a couple of mugs, a filter, and some beans?

That's right, I'm talking coffee nook. Your own personal HQ for a morning ritual that's as quick or as meandering as you'd like. Because I firmly believe that the one secret to making a small space sing is this simple: make it useful. Make it a genuinely functional destination. (Then, make it good-looking!)

Whether it's one of those weeks where I'm drinking decaf, so much caf, cold brew, or tea, a well-organized coffee nook speaks to me as a single, manageable project with a giant payout. It creates a peaceful place to take a minute, a physical reminder to practice a soothing ritual (even if it's one of those mornings when I'm wearing my oldest, rattiest PJs, which, full disclosure, is every morning). I always come away from it with a little (edible) present.

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Top Comment:
“Benefits: - the cute coffee cups i found at the Goodwill that match my placemats and chairs exactly are now visual accents instead of taking up shelf space - frees up precious counter space in the kitchen - eliminates am rush hour traffic jam in the kitchen - gives both me and my guests a more leisurely time in the am since I felt obligated to prepare their coffee because I was bogarting the kitchen space. Now they can prepare their coffee or tea the way they like it, when they want it and drink it at their leisure. Everything is just sitting in baskets atop the bar fridge right now. I'm excited to beautify and feng shui it in the coming weeks!”
— Cindy C.
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And you can, too. Here are my ideas for turning your littlest, loneliest corner into your favorite spot in the house.


Don't Overlook a Unique Space

Featuring: a coffee nook–to be. Photo by Julia Gartland

When it comes to setting up shop for your coffee nook, a regular old spot on your kitchen counter is great—but don't overlook any diamond-in-the-rough locales, either. Like, that spare two-by-two-by-two on your bookshelf. The bottom level of your bar cart. A lone side table next to your comfiest armchair. A console in the hallway between your kitchen and the next room. (If your coffee routine calls for something that plugs in, just keep an eye out for nearby outlets.) The funkier, the better! How else will we get to flex our—cracks knuckles—funky-space storage solutions?


Do Keep It Together

Using a tray as your coffee corner's base (like, one of these—or an antique silver tray from a thrift shop)—provides a visual signal that it's a dedicated, continuous space. Big bonus: A moveable tray makes it easy to transport your nook's constituents away when it's time for a deep clean. You could also use an overturned cutting board you already have, or get a cut-to-size plank and stain it yourself.


Stock Up on The Essentials

Imagine your sleepiest self, stumbling out in some extra soft slippers, bleary eyed to boot. Now do that future self a favor, and make sure your coffee station is self-contained with every little thing you could need, from start to finish. Like:

  • Your favorite beans and tea bags
  • A kettle for transferring water, and keeping it piping hot, plus a trivet you can scoot away or hang up when it's not in use
  • Filters, if you're into drip
  • A scale and grinder
  • The coffee creation vessel of your choice, whether it's your trusty espresso machine, a zero-fuss dripper, a French press, or a giant jar for keeping your cold brew brewing
  • Mugs fit to size (small for espresso, bigger for cappuccinos, drip, or tea), or tumblers for cold brew
  • A sugar dish
  • Kitchen towels (preferably ones you can hang from a space-saving wall hook!), for any dribbles

Move On to the Accents

Don't be afraid to mix and match mugs, saucers, and the like—just pick a color family that makes you smile. If you commit to a single range of related shades, then varying shapes, finishes, and sizes will look quirky and curated instead of chaotic. Choose an accent piece or two with a bold tone and finish to go next-level. (And psst: If you love that silly mug you got 10 years ago for Mother's Day, keep it! There's never such thing as too many mugs...)


Let Smart Storage Be Your BFF

Hey, inconveniently sloping ceiling! It's your time to shine.

Make quirky structural aspects of your small space work as hard as they possibly can. Look to:

  • Stackable jars and canisters , for storing your beans, tea bags, and any tall utensils (lookin' at you, grounds-scooper)
  • Shelves, risers, and structural helpers create a handy sliding in-and-out environment for filters, scales, and saucers
  • Wall hooks—the straight on the wall kind, or consider installing a bar for S-hooks—and clips for hanging mugs and towels
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(Sun)day morning ☀️

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Don't Forget to Give It a Quick Wipe-Down

Give your coffee nook a quick freshening up after each use to avoid build-up of grounds or splatters. Nothing a mini crumber brush and a trusty towel can't tackle!


What's your favorite little nook of your home? Let us know in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • John
    John
  • Rhonda35
    Rhonda35
  • Cindy Choi
    Cindy Choi
  • Lorraine Fuselli
    Lorraine Fuselli
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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches.

4 Comments

John June 25, 2019
Aeropress coffee maker. Great coffee cheaply and easily portable.
 
Rhonda35 May 19, 2019
I've long-coveted a friend's coffee bar and champagne mini-fridge she had built into her bedroom's walk-in closet. Genius!
 
Cindy C. May 12, 2019
OMG I had to enact this completely genius idea even before I finished reading the article! In 4 minutes my dead space was transformed into a destination space! I moved the coffee stuff OUT of my small galley condo kitchen into the dining area. Since I just completed a 3 month project to decaffeinate myself, guests could not find the coffee stuff. Benefits:

- the cute coffee cups i found at the Goodwill that match my placemats and chairs exactly are now visual accents instead of taking up shelf space
- frees up precious counter space in the kitchen
- eliminates am rush hour traffic jam in the kitchen
- gives both me and my guests a more leisurely time in the am since I felt obligated to prepare their coffee because I was bogarting the kitchen space. Now they can prepare their coffee or tea the way they like it, when they want it and drink it at their leisure.

Everything is just sitting in baskets atop the bar fridge right now. I'm excited to beautify and feng shui it in the coming weeks!
 
Lorraine F. March 9, 2019
Just before my daughter sent me this link I had just finished setting up my tea bar in my bedroom! Love it every am am afternoon