Small gray kitchen ideas – 10 ways this elegant shade can uplift a small space

From two-tone schemes to light-boosting layers, here’s how gray can transform the spaciousness of your kitchen, with advice from the experts

small gray kitchen with large window and small island and bench seating in the corner
(Image credit: Copeland Interior Design/Adam Kane Macchia)

Gray may have fallen from grace in recent years but it’s time to reconsider, especially if you’re seeking small kitchen ideas that appear elegant and inviting. As a neutral with natural sophistication, gray is a strong choice for timeless kitchen ideas you’ll love forever.

Cool colors like gray often feel fresher and brighter than warm hues, which can lead to spatial advantages. The space-boosting powers of light gray kitchen ideas are well documented, but grays in every shade can work well in a small space, if curated with care.  

As when selecting paint colors for any room, your choice of gray should be steered by the factors that can’t be easily altered, like the room’s ceiling height and natural light levels. Gray paint colors with a dose of pink or yellow work best in north-facing kitchens, while a blue-toned gray will invigorate in a room with southern exposure.

Small gray kitchen ideas for every home

White kitchen ideas may be your go-to when space is tight, but we urge you to consider the opportunity to add more depth and interest that gray can offer. Gray is soothing, timeless and refined, as these small gray kitchens with big personalities reveal.

1. Scale up for a gray kitchen with impact

gray kitchen with large canopy cooker hood and steel range cooker

(Image credit: Mel Bean Interiors/Laurey Glenn)

Believing big style statements should be avoided in a small kitchen is an understandable mistake to make. Often the opposite is true, especially in small gray kitchens, which need all the help they can get to steer clear of dullness! 

When updating her clients’ existing kitchen, interior designer Mel Bean refreshed the cabinets in Farrow & Ball’s Plummet and made one BIG change – upsizing the cooker hood from a bland built-in design to something far more compelling. 

‘The previous space felt severe and lacked character. Switching the cabinets to warm gray and adding the outsized canopy hood has transformed the space, giving it an inviting atmosphere and fresh new primary focal point,’ explains Mel.

Mel Bean
Joana Aranha

Interior design graduate Mel Bean opened her Oklahoma-based studio in 2018 and has established an enviable reputation for creating luxurious interiors imbued with originality and creative flair. No two projects are alike, and Mel’s approachable style and organizational skills ensure personal recommendations are her most popular route to new business.

2. Fit a roof lantern

gray kitchen in narrow space with roof lantern

(Image credit: Stéphanie Coutas/Francis Amiand)

If the architecture allows, adding a roof lantern can transform the fortunes of a small gray kitchen. Interior designer Stéphanie Coutas explains why she employed this structural trick in this London apartment. ‘The galley kitchen was relatively small with no windows, so it was important to utilize clever design elements to enlarge the room and bring light in from above,’ she says. 

‘We chose to add a roof lantern as it brings an interesting architectural dimension while heightening the space and flooding it with light. Opting for pale gray cabinets and walls keeps the space simple and enhances the bright atmosphere.’

blonde woman sitting on striped chair with yellow cushion
Stéphanie Coutas

After fifteen years in the fashion industry, Stéphanie shifted her attention to interior design, opening her own studio and art gallery in the heart of Paris. Taking on every aspect of a project, from major structural work down to choosing the tiniest spoon, from art collections to custom-made furniture, and designer fabrics, Stephanie’s imaginative flair and passion shines through.

3. Focus on the base

white kitchen with gray island and big chandelier

(Image credit: Amanda Barnes Interiors/Bess Friday)

Opening up smaller spaces to keep them light and airy doesn't mean you have to cover all the millwork and walls with white paint. ‘Anchoring a space with a moodier tone like we did in this kitchen adds character to the room without making it feel smaller,’ says interior designer Amanda Barnes. 

Amanda restricted the dark gray paint to the lower cabinets, leaving the uppers and paneled fridges white. ‘This allows the light to play off the white paint as the sun moves through the day and the darker paint to be the linchpin of the design,’ she explains.

Amanda Barnes
Amanda Barnes

Amanda Barnes Interiors is a multifaceted design studio founded in 2016. Based in San Francisco, Amanda and her team specialize in high-end residential design. Curating functional and sophisticated spaces with layers of texture and interest is her signature skill.. 

4. Make it monochrome

monochrome kitchen with gray island

(Image credit: Unique Kitchens & Baths/Stacy Zarin Goldberg)

You’d be forgiven for assuming there’s no place for dark, almost-black grays in a small kitchen, but it can be done, provided you tread with caution. One popular option is to blend small doses of charcoal gray with off-white to achieve a sophisticated monochrome palette that’s a little more relaxed than black and white kitchen ideas.

‘We love mixing creamy whites with moody grays to create a timeless monochrome kitchen,’ says Tanya Smith-Shiflett, founder of Unique Kitchens and Baths. ‘Do practice some restraint with really dark gray. Keeping it below your sightline and focused on one area, like this island, is a good way to prevent charcoal gray from overpowering in a small room.’ 

Tanya Smith-Shiflett
Tanya Smith-Shiflett

A self-taught and talented kitchen designer, Tanya Smith-Shiflett worked full-time in medical sales before discovering a passion for interiors while helping out at her husband David’s building company on the side. She founded Unique Kitchens & Baths in 2005. Now with multiple showrooms, a team of skilled designers, and David overseeing millwork, Tanya has never looked back. 

5. Let the grain shine through

grey kitchen with brown walls and wood floors

(Image credit: Berkeley Place)

If your small gray kitchen is blessed with an abundance of natural light, taking the plunge with a darker gray scheme can yield big rewards. Maximize the way light and shadow move across the room through the day by opting for gray timber cabinets with visible graining. 

Achieved by brushing out the grain between paint coats, the effect is far more textural and interesting than a flat painted finish. ‘The hand-painted warmth of the visible grain allows the natural timber to shine through, providing a unique, bespoke look that can lift a small kitchen,’ says Nick Cryer, founder of Berkeley Place.

Nick Berkeley
Nick Cryer

With more than 35 years’ experience in property and construction, Nick Cryer formed property and construction company Berkeley Place in 2009. Working on high-end private residential renovation projects, Berkeley Place specializes in restoring and remodelling period and listed buildings, innovatively integrating historical detailing with contemporary fittings.

6. Match with gray marble

gray kitchen with large island four stools and black hardware

(Image credit: Brad Ramsey Interiors)

For a subtle gray scheme that will enhance the sense of space and appear utterly dreamy in the process, look no further than an elegant tone-on-tone palette. Boost the luxe levels by majoring on a white marble with delicate gray vein such as carrara, calacatta or statuario, then color-matching the paint finish on your cabinetry. 

‘Pairing the right color of gray on the cabinetry perfectly complements the marble and lets it stand out as the main feature. This is a great route to take if you really want that gorgeous slab you hand-picked to be on display,’ agrees Brad Ramsey, Principal and Founder of Brad Ramsey Interiors. Follow Brad’s lead and add black hardware and accessories to keep the look modern and fresh.

Brad Ramsey
Brad Ramsey

Brad began his design career in 2008 at a Nashville interior design studio, where he helped present the popular HGTV show, Interiors Inc. His namesake firm, Brad Ramsey Interiors, was launched in 2013 and he has been kept busy building and reimagining homes and commercial spaces around the country ever since. 

7. Layer gray-on-gray

gray kitchen with dark island and wood floors

(Image credit: Cherie Lee Interiors)

Building up a gray palette in layers is how the professionals keep things interesting. ‘Gray is timelessly elegant but you need to be careful, as it can easily appear flat and lifeless. Layering gray-on-gray is a sophisticated way to create the depth and definition required to enliven and excite, which is especially vital in a small space where there are fewer opportunities to impress,’ says interior designer Cherie Lee.

Start with your palest grays on the largest areas, usually the main cabinetry and walls, and gradually go darker in smaller ratios – on the kitchen island and splashback here, for example. Use wood flooring and brass hardware to keep the palette warm and welcoming.

Cherie Lee

A former Lawyer, and now mother of two boys, Cherie Lee understands the demands and busy lifestyles of her clients. Founder of CLI Design Studio, Cherie brings a unique combination of creativity and style, a logical approach and tireless energy and commitment to every project.

8. Take it to the top

gray kitchen in open plan space with wood stool and window seat

(Image credit: Christopher Peacock/Tamarkin Co)

If you’re blessed with high ceilings and plenty of natural light, taking gray cabinets right up to the ceiling will emphasize the height of the room, making it feel bigger and brighter. It’s also a smart way to max up the storage when space is tight.

‘Taking gray cabinetry to the ceiling also avoids a dust trap above the units and just provides a sleeker, neater aesthetic,’ adds Christopher Peacock, found and CEO, Christopher Peacock. Add glamorous coving to make the connection between uppers and ceiling bold and purposeful.

9. Clear the walls

Small narrow Kitesgrove blue kitchen looking towards window

(Image credit: Kitesgrove)

Wall units can overwhelm in a seriously small kitchen. Sometimes less is more. ‘In this gray kitchen we decided not to hang wall cupboards to preserve the beautiful natural light and airy atmosphere and help the space feel much bigger,’ explains Katie Lion, senior interior designer, Kitesgrove. ‘The eye is left free to wander above the base units towards the focal point, a large artwork full of pattern and color and a striking bronze wall sconce, which is both sculptural and functional.’

To compensate for reduced kitchen storage, Katie recommends drawers under countertops as they are easier to navigate in a tight space than cupboards. ‘We also included a slim breakfast bar for additional seating without taking up too much room,’ she adds. 

10. Go big on texture

gray kitchen with burnished brass and marble

(Image credit: Katharine Pooley/FBC London)

Adding texture to a small kitchen is an excellent way to make it feel curated, interesting and luxurious, rather than just cramped and underwhelming. In this small but beautifully executed kitchen, gray-tinted timber is combined with elegant gray veined stones, steel appliances and bronze feature doors. 

‘A smaller kitchen is an opportunity to be embraced, it means you can work in special, luxurious finishes and detailing without too much expense,’ says interior designer Katharine Pooley. ‘This is the time to seek out a really beautiful marble, poured resin or textured metal for the cabinetry fronts, and pick exquisite handles and hinges,’ she adds. ‘Mixing up the textures adds interest and can help the space feel far bigger. I like to combine reflective finishes with matt and textured finishes for a layered effect. A different door finish on low and high cupboards looks particularly chic.’ 


What color goes well with a gray kitchen?

When considering what colors go best with gray kitchen cabinets, we’ve got great news! As a sophisticated neutral, gray can comfortably carry virtually any accent color you can possibly imagine. Our favorite gray partners include mustard yellow, soft dirty pink, and royal blue. 

A word of caution; avoid too much stainless steel in a small gray kitchen. This common gray kitchen mistake can make a bijou kitchen feel cold and uninviting, especially if it’s a north-facing room. Instead, opt for warm metallic or black hardware and integrated appliances concealed behind cabinet doors.  

Whatever shade(s) of gray you settle upon, you can be sure gray is a sound choice when space is restricted and the opportunities to make a beautiful impression are limited. Which gray will win the day in your next kitchen remodel?

Linda Clayton

Linda graduated from university with a First in Journalism, Film and Broadcasting. Her career began on a trade title for the kitchen and bathroom industry, and she has worked for Homes & Gardens, and sister-brands Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, since 2006, covering interiors topics, though kitchens and bathrooms are her specialism.