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6 low-fuss design tips to make the most of your compact Shanghai kitchen on a budget

The pros at Studio Doho share low-budget hacks that'll make home-cooking more convenient

Photograph: Taryn Elliott via Pexels
Shanghai flats aren't usually known for luxurious kitchens, but there are plenty of mods you can do to make home-cooking more convenient. Xin Dogterom and Jason Holland, the duo behind Shanghai-based design firm Studio Doho, share some low-budget hacks.

2.used-homeInset option 2 - courtesy studio doho-0
Photograph: M2 Studio, courtesy Studio DOHO

Bear in mind the ‘golden triangle’
‘Arrange the fridge, the stove top or the oven and the sink in a triangle, so you can always be one step away from them.’

Build your own movable counter
Not enough counter space? ‘Find the white IKEA bookcase (the one with four cubes), put a plank of wood on top of it and put some wheels on the bottom and you’re looking at some extra counter space.’

Small appliances are a big thing
‘Investing in small appliances like a blender, a toaster or even a double sink will make your life so much easier. Choose sinks that come with accessories such as vegetable washing baskets or a cutting board.’

Photograph: Beazy via Unsplash

Don’t forget the wall
‘Tired of the boring cheap white tiles? Hang stuff on the walls over the tiles to make it nicer or look on Taobao for other tiles. Alternatively, patch over some water-resistant wallpapers to make an accent wall.’

Opt for an open shelf system
‘If your landlord agrees, remove the doors of the cupboards and get glass jars for your pasta and rice. If you have some pots and pans, install a wall rack, so you can get to them easily while achieving a rustic look.’

Have some plants
‘What actually makes your kitchen really nice is having little herb plants, so you can have fresh herbs as you cook. A lot of people grow their own beansprouts. That directly makes it feel like a space that’s been lived in.’
Shanghai’s home kitchen whizzes spill their favourite items
Photograph: Icons8 Team via Unsplash

Shanghai’s home kitchen whizzes spill their favourite items

IKEA salad spinner 
‘Underrated kitchen tool, especially when buying leafy veg from the markets here.’

Garden bricks
‘Wrap one in foil and it’s the perfect press for pan-seared meats with crispy skin and perfectly grilled sandwiches – it allows for surface areas to be cooked evenly.’

Repurposed takeaway containers and jars 
‘Saved plastic containers from waimai and jars from leftover groceries make the best vessels for saving leftovers.’

–– Andrew Moo, Taste Collective

Toshiba rice cooker
‘It’s not just a tool for cooking rice. After work, I usually use this to create my whole meal. I put rice with a Japanese chirashi seasoning mix, plus water and raw salmon (from IKEA) on top. When it’s done, it’s like instant fried rice without the oily bits.’

Ziplock bags
‘Since I have limited space, I use this for my marinades, for my frozen breads, for piping desserts (just cut the tip and ta-dah, a piping bag), and my makeshift “shake” bags (for whatever food I want to coat with flour/breadcrumbs).’

Kitchen torch
‘I usually just pan-fry my marinated meats and just torch them for finishing. So it will have a
barbecue taste without the trouble. It’s like faux-barbecue.’'

–– Noemie Lacay, Sunday Batch

Andrew James Three-in-One Hand Blender
‘I could not even imagine my kitchen without this beauty, it literally does everything, chopping, mincing, whipping and blending...’

–– Anu Aggarwal, Desi Dhaba