Small kitchen ideas – to turn your compact kitchen into a smart, organised space

Small can be beautiful by making the most of every inch with stylish space-saving ideas

Small kitchen ideas
(Image credit: Davide Lovatti)

Our small kitchen ideas are perfect for those not blessed with a large and sociable kitchen space.

Not all homes are blessed with vast open plan kitchens and, if your kitchen is on the small side, there is plenty to feel positive about. For a start, it’s easy to keep everything to hand without having to march from sink to hob to fridge. Plus, there is a wealth of clever storage ideas available to get the very best out of every inch – look for a designer with a proven record of creating dynamic and ergonomic designs for small spaces. 

And, finally, you can afford to go for unusual and unabashedly luxurious materials. With a limited amount of door and drawer fronts to cover, investing in a little luxe easily elevates your kitchen area from small to cool.

Need ideas for a larger space? See our Kitchen ideas – decor ideas for open-plan, galley, U-shaped and L-shaped kitchens

How do I plan a small kitchen?

Small kitchen

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Getting the right designer on board is key and, crucially, the kitchen needs to be designed to suit the space, rather than picking a range or style and trying to adapt it to fit. 

Dual purpose pieces and good internal storage will make the most of cupboard space, and weigh up the pros and cons of tall units over worktop space – small double galleys often benefit from one side of tall cabinets teamed with one run of base units opposite, although you should make every attempt to keep work surface clear of clutter. 

Look for compact appliances, choosing premium models that give the optimum internal space while still fitting a standard or compact footprint, as well as pieces such as multi-functional compact ovens that offer a range of cooking methods from steam to conventional and microwave in one neat little package.

Small kitchen ideas

These small kitchen ideas are useful, whether you are redesigning a compact space or looking to furnish a utility or laundry room – or if you just want clever, space-saving ideas for a larger kitchen. Space-efficient, they are stylish, too.

1. Venture vertically

Small kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Darren Chung)

Think vertically by continuing your cabinets up to the ceiling but plan carefully to ensure the room feels as open as possible. Store less frequently used items in high cupboards. Add a breakfast bar if you can – the amount of storage and workspace it provides makes great use of the footprint and will ensure your kitchen is more sociable.

2. Form and function

Small kitchen ideas

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Creating a fuss-free, family friendly design is easy with handleless cabinetry. Available in a variety of finishes, from hi-gloss white to textured woods and ceramics, it’s a style that works beautifully in both modern and period properties. 

A handless scheme, particularly one in a cool white, can appear clinical and adding a few natural materials will give it a softer edge. Think about including a colourful patterned tile backsplash or wooden worktops. Stone or wood floors are also a practical solution for a kitchen that will help to create a layered texturized effect.

3. Mind the gap

Small kitchen ideas

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Named after the kitchen space on a ship, galleys are designed to be super-efficient by maximising every available space. Known for their two parallel counters, there is a range of practical options to help make it a workable layout, from smart storage solutions to lighting tricks and fun flooring ideas. Storage is key in a galley kitchen, as space saving is the goal. Opt for a multi-use drawer as it offers a compact space for crockery and cutlery.

4. Bright idea

Small kitchen ideas

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Eye-catching details aren't just for the big boys. Neutrals are not for everyone and the size of your kitchen shouldn’t dictate that you play it safe. Decorative accessories will add colourful flourishes and can be easily updated to keep abreast of new trends. Lamp shades, blinds, artwork and countertop storage are all good, inexpensive options.

5. Light up

Small kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti)

Consider rooflights or glazing your ceiling if you have few or small windows. Similarly, keep tall cabinets and bulky fridge freezers away from windows where they may limit the amount of daylight in the room.

See: Kitchen colour ideas – to create a vibrant lift to your space

6. Food for thought

Small kitchen ideas

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Even very small spaces can often accommodate an open-plan dining area. In a compact kitchen, consider using banquette seating, fitted into a corner or even on one side of an island, to create a cosy dining spot.

7. The bright side

Small kitchen ideas

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When it comes to the color scheme, you don’t have to play it safe, even when looking for small kitchen ideas. Conventional wisdom suggests light and bright with reflective surfaces to keep the space airy but the opposite can work just as well. 

Dark and moody charcoal cabinetry teamed with a dramatic lighting scheme will make the kitchen feel smart while good use of mirror whatever the color scheme will give a greater illusion of space. 

And don’t stint on the lighting. Incorporate adequate task lighting under cabinets for food preparation and include in-drawer and in-cabinet lighting where possible, so you can always see the contents. Finally, add some mood lighting if you can on a separate circuit.

8. Neat and tidy

Small kitchen storage ideas

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Storage is one of the most important elements in a small kitchen – and open shelves can make a small space feel larger – unlike a solid run of cabinetry. If you are using open shelves in your small kitchen, ensure you save the best-looking pieces to be both stored and displayed for this space.

See more: Small kitchen storage ideas – create a sense of order that allows you to cook with ease

9. On display

Small kitchen ideas

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Talking of display... don’t forget to include a small display area if you can squeeze it in. Open shelves are ideal for showing off decorative items and cookbooks that make your kitchen feel personal. 

'Keep materials simple. I would recommend a maximum of three finishes in a small kitchen, which allows you to zone areas, create features and let other sections blend into the background,' says Lindsey Rendall, co-founder, Rendall & Wright.

10. Add a color pop

Small kitchens

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Don't be afraid to use color in a small kitchen space. A bright splash of bold red could really make the difference between a cold, cramped space and one that is interesting and exciting.

What is the best layout for a small kitchen?

Small kitchen ideas

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In terms of the best layout for a small kitchen, a galley format is a popular choice. 

Galley kitchens, with their linear simplicity, have a timeless appeal no matter how big or small your space. And with open plan living becoming increasingly popular, a galley kitchen is a compact solution that is both practical and surprisingly stylish.

See more: Small kitchen layout ideas – ways to maximise that small space

What is the best color for a small kitchen?

Small kitchen ideas

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The best color for a small kitchen ultimately depends on what you want from the space - but don't let the size hold you back from going bold.

While the long established preference for going ‘light and bright’ when decorating small spaces does apply, it’s important not to let your kitchen slip into neutral obscurity. 

'Don’t be afraid to use color – even really bright colors in high gloss finishes, such as lime green, blue, lilac or pink. It’s a great way to give your kitchen a boost if you haven’t got a great deal of space to play with,' advises Adrian Stoneham of Stoneham Kitchens.

If you do feel more comfortable with a pale palette, try to shake things up in other ways. Incorporating interesting shapes, via serpentine curved units, or adding one strong feature piece like a chandelier or designer bar stools, can create a really dynamic room that’s easy to update.

How can I make a small kitchen look bigger?

Small kitchen ideas

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Lighting, materials and layouts are all ways you can make a small kitchen look bigger.

With the help of some professional advice, a smaller kitchen can have as much character and personality as one measuring twice the size. 

'Making the most of a small kitchen is as much about creating an optical illusion as it is about finding clever storage solutions for problem areas,' says Katie Fontana of Plain English.

'For example, long, linear shelving creates practical storage areas without overcrowding the wall space and also helps to draw the eye across the length of the room. I might store interesting glassware or pale coloured china here to avoid a heavily cluttered look.'

How can I decorate my small kitchen?

Decorating a small kitchen can be approached in the same way as in a larger kitchen – in other words, pick finishes and decorative elements that please you and complement the style of the rest of your home. But it's really important to understand that every choice you make for a small kitchen will be magnified by the compact conditions.

So, if you were to choose a paint color, bold tiles or a maximalist wallpaper for the walls, each will feel that much more vivid and dominating than in a larger kitchen. For this reason, it is a good idea to limit your choice of decorative layers to just two – and to keep them to specific areas of the room.

Or, go for subtlety and be aware that toning down your choices just a little can still be really effective in a small kitchen.