Small modern rustic kitchen ideas – 5 ways to create a country-meets-contemporary feel in your compact space

Invite warmth and rural charm into a small kitchen with these modern rustic design ideas from interior designers

small modern rustic kitchen examples
(Image credit: Mindy Laven / Photography Hugo Landa / Jennifer Chipman / Tori Murphy)

There's a certain kind of warmth and charm that only a compact kitchen space can provide. From low ceilings to little nooks and minimal counter-clutter, a small kitchen forces you to be intentional with your style and storage.

And when it comes to modern rustic kitchen ideas, there's no shortage of character. This interior design style pairs the best of natural materials and cozy rural charm with modern functionality, style, and appeal. After all, kitchens should be warm, welcoming spaces where the family comes together – the heart of the home, if you will.

However, small footprints can be tricky to tackle when it comes to combining the perfect kitchen ideas and design. To help inspire your modern rustic small kitchen ideas, we've tapped the experts for their top tips, from color palettes to storage solutions.

Small modern farmhouse kitchen with antique and vintage decor

(Image credit: deVOL)

5 Small Modern Rustic Kitchen Ideas

This lived-in, charming interior style is coveted by many and, whether you live in the countryside or not, is easier to achieve than you may think. Especially in a small space. 

In order to do more with less, a smaller kitchen encourages you to focus on the essential items that truly strike a chord with the design trend. Think an abundance of exposed wood juxtaposed with more modern materials like polished concrete and stainless steel appliances, while sleek fitted cabinetry in a modern rustic color palette is often teamed with relaxed, freestanding antique furniture and decor. 

Easier to keep clean and maintain, to achieve the country-inspired look in your own home, there are plenty of ideas to choose from. Consider adding reclaimed kitchen countertops, ditching your upper cabinetry for open shelving, embracing print and pattern, and, if you can afford the space, a farmhouse kitchen table or vintage butcher's block on casters that can double up as an island.

Let these modern rustic kitchen ideas below, chosen specifically to enhance a small space, serve as your inspiration for adding some modern rustic style to your space.

1. Consider reclaimed or rustic countertops

small wooden rustic kitchen with modern black wall sconces

(Image credit: Kara Childress)

The choice of materials plays a starring role in crafting a cozy culinary space. Reclaimed wood or stone kitchen countertop ideas not only add a touch of history to the kitchen but also introduce a natural, earthy ambiance. The imperfections and patina of reclaimed materials tell a story, providing texture and character. 

'Smaller kitchen spaces can be at risk of feeling swamped, so adding one or two items can be enough to give a rustic feel to the room,' advises Merlin Wright, design director at Plain English Design. 'It's important to choose the items you prefer to be either modern or rustic and not get carried away to keep a balance.'

'Too many reclaimed or rustic pieces and the modern items look out of place, and vice versa,' he adds. 'A reclaimed timber worktop with texture and history, paired with understated kitchen cabinets styled with sleek, modern appliances could be enhanced with antique accessories. In an older beamed property, minimal styling brings a more modern accent without drama. While we spend more time in our kitchens cooking and sharing with friends and family a welcoming balance is important to feel at home and not overwhelmed by our surroundings,' says Merlin.

plain english kitchens design director merlin wright
Merlin Wright

Plain English was started in 1992 by Katie Fontana and Tony Niblock, and Merlin Wright joined their team almost 20 years ago after someone at a party suggested he might be interested in a job at Plain English. He is currently presiding as the Design Director.

2. Use light, neutral colors for an air of openness

small white kitchen with rustic country charm

(Image credit: Neptune)

Neutral paint colors and light tones are your allies when decorating a small space. A palette of whites, creams, and soft pastels will reflect natural light, creating an illusion of space, and making a small kitchen feel larger and more inviting. You can then begin to layer in texture and warmth with the use of accessories for that modern rustic allure.

'Start by selecting a neutral color palette, combining muted tones like earthy browns and greys with whites to create a clean and modern base,' suggests Victoria Fletcher, senior buyer at Garden Trading  'Focus on blending contemporary design elements with the warm, natural feel of materials like burlap and linen alongside metal and concrete for an appealing contrast.'

'In terms of neutrals, warm whites will pair well with the natural wood elements and metal that are used in this design style,' advises Erika Woelfel, VP of color and creative services at Behr. 'Take a light, casual approach with color selection by blending pastels with neutral cabinets, or for a moody ambiance, grays can even find a space in a modern rustic kitchen when juxtaposed with more rustic elements like shiplap and copper lighting fixtures and hardware,' she adds. Maximizing light sources, when possible, is another design tactic to enhance the openness of the space.

A headshot of Erika Woelfel, VP of color and creative at Behr
Erika Woelfel

Erika Woelfel is the VP of Color and Creative at Behr. She has over 20 years of experience across color consulting, visual merchandising, graphic design and marketing.

3. Replace upper cabinets with open shelving

small gray green kitchen with low ceiling and rustic beams

(Image credit: Plain English Design)

A defining trait of a modern rustic kitchen is open shelving. If you're wondering: is it a good idea to ditch kitchen wall cabinets? The answer, almost always, is yes. Not only will it make your space feel more open and lighter, but you'll have more opportunities to show off your most treasured items.

'Make the most of limited space by replacing upper cabinets with open shelving made from reclaimed wood, dotting around accessorized elements like dried florals, vintage signs, antique utensils, or pottery to add character,' adds Victoria Fletcher. 'A small herb garden on the windowsill brings the outdoors inside too, whilst providing a practical use for cooking,' she adds.

The key is to focus on efficiency without sacrificing aesthetics. Rustic spaces feel like they're genuinely lived in, so instead of worrying about keeping everything tucked away neat and tidy, a combination of cabinetry and open shelving will maintain the charm without compromising on functionality. 

Interior designer Kara Childress agrees, saying: 'For smaller kitchens, incorporating both cabinets and open shelving is a great approach to maximizing appearance and functionality. I also love to source antique pieces to use as an additional surface area, such as a chopping block table or bar cart,' says Kara.

portrait of Kara Childress
Kara Childress

Texas-based interior designer Kara Childress marries timeless style with Old World European charm for liveable homes that exude comfort and personality. 

4. Embrace pattern and print

small modern meets rustic kitchen with reclaimed wood worktop and gingham cabinet skirt

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Introduce pattern, print, and playful decor to your small modern rustic kitchen for a layer of visual interest. Embrace subtle prints with a rustic flair in textiles such as cupboard or sink skirts, cafe curtains, table linens, or even dishware. 

'When it comes to pattern and textiles, ginghams, checks, and stripes are key,' says textile designer Cathy Nordström. 'Nothing really needs to match, which conveys warmth and a sense of embrace.' 

Renowned interior designer Emily Henderson, suggests 'For some, quick no-reno ideas I would also lean into the decor,' says Emily. 'Think old cutting boards, vintage paintings, and a few iron decor pieces. You don’t need a lot to lean into this style.'

Whether it's a checkered pattern, vintage-inspired florals, or textured fabrics, incorporating print is a traditional way to soften any utilitarian space such as the kitchen.

Emily Henderson
Emily Henderson

Emily Henderson is Emily Henderson is a stylist, interior designer, HGTV host, and founder of Emily Henderson Design which she's been running for over a decade. Emily provides us with style inspiration every day over on her Instagram, and her blog is a great source of ideas for DIYs and making the most of your space. 

5. Try to fit in a pantry or larder to optimize organization

small kitchen with large pantry cupboard and terracotta floor

(Image credit: Ca’ Pietra)

In a more bijou space, a dedicated pantry is a practical and stylish solution for storage. A pantry allows you to store staples and ingredients while maintaining a clean and streamlined look.

'Pantries are a popular kitchen storage trend, but if you are after a modern rustic aesthetic, consider including some more unusual features,' says Richard Davonport of Davonport Kitchens. 'Reeded glass is popular in interior design, and by including this as part of the pantry doors, it gives it a fresher, more modern take on a classic,' he suggests.

Maximizing vertical storage with tall freestanding cabinets and utilizing corners effectively can further enhance the functionality of a small modern rustic kitchen, making every inch count.

'You could also consider a different-style pantry door such as bi-folds, which not only look the part but are highly practical too, as they can be pushed back to provide better access,' adds Richard. 'Pair with Shaker cabinetry for a rustic look, along with antique-finished hardware and contemporary appliances.'

Size is no limitation when it comes to infusing warmth and style into a space. With careful consideration of layout, materials, and storage solutions, your small kitchen can become a cozy, inviting hub with some well-chosen modern rustic design choices. By introducing reclaimed, weathered woods, a few antique (or antique-inspired) accessories, and plenty of clashing patterns and prints, you can create a more characterful kitchen - no matter the shape or size.

Charlotte Olby
Style & Trends Editor

Charlotte is style and trends editor at Homes and Gardens, and has been with the team since Christmas 2023. Following a 5 year career in Fashion, she has worked at many women's glossy magazines including Grazia, Stylist, and Hello and most recently worked as Interiors Editor for British heritage department store Liberty. Her role at H&G fuses her love of style with her passion for interior design, and she is currently undergoing her second home renovation in Surrey - you can follow her journey over on @olbyhome