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

Less can be more - make the most of every inch with these stylish small kitchen ideas...

Small kitchen ideas
(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

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

Not all homes come with vast open plan spaces and, if yours is on the small side, there is plenty to feel positive about and there are still plenty of kitchen ideas to play with.

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.

How do I plan a small kitchen?

Small kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future / Alicia Taylor)

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.

It's also worth taking shape into account – a U-shaped kitchen, for example, can work really well in a small space.

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: Future / 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. Focus on form and function

Small kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

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 but adding a few natural materials will give it a softer edge. Think about including a colorful 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

(Image credit: Future / Jonathan Gooch)

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

(Image credit: Future / Jon Stewart)

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 colorful flourishes and can be easily updated to keep abreast of new trends. Lamp shades, blinds, artwork and countertop storage are all good, inexpensive options.

If you love this particular kitchen, be sure to check out more of our L-shaped kitchen ideas.

5. Light up

Small kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future / 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.

6. Factor in food for thought with seating

Small kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton)

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 a kitchen island, to create a cozy dining spot.

7. Look on the bright side

Small kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

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 scrimp on the kitchen lighting ideas. 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. Keep it neat and tidy

Kitchen shelving - Small kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future / Jan Baldwin)

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.

But the possibilities really are endless when it comes to kitchen storage ideas.

9. Put it on display

Small kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future / Carolyn Barber)

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 kitchen ideas - colorful cabinet

(Image credit: Future / Polly Wreford)

When it comes to kitchen color ideas, don't be afraid to go bold 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.

11. Keep things off surfaces

Small kitchen ideas - copper pans hanging in kitchen

(Image credit: Future/David Cleveland)

If your kitchen is small, any clutter that's left on the side is going to use up much-needed workspace and make it look even smaller - also when it comes to cooking, you'll be limited with countertop surface area. 

Make more room for yourself by putting any appliances that aren't used every day in a cupboard, rather than on the side - the same goes for any food. It also might be worth considering if decorative kitchen accessories are actually adding anything to the space, or if they are just getting in the way.

An alternative way to make space on counters and in cupboards is to hang pans, like this rustic aesthetic.

12. Opt for slimmer cabinets

grey and white kitchen with narrow cabinets

(Image credit: Tom Howley )

Slimline base cabinets could be a great option if you're in need of a little more floor space - this is because they are built with a reduced depth. However, this does mean that you won't be able to store any big pans in them – so it's important to come up with an alternative way to store these essentials, or size down. 

13. Use geometric patterns

Small kitchen ideas - geometric kitchen floor

(Image credit: Future/Jonathan Jones)

Geometric patterns are becoming an increasingly popular choice and they are incredibly helpful for making a space look bigger, as they draw the eye vertically or lengthways – to give the impression of a longer, taller kitchen.

14. Get reflective

Small kitchen ideas - reflective surface in kitchen

(Image credit: Tom Howley)

We all know mirrors make a space look bigger, so why not throw a few into your kitchen? Alternatively, opting for reflective surfaces, such as gloss, will help bounce light around the room - making it appear bigger and brighter.

15. Go for a single sink

Small kitchen ideas - with small sink

(Image credit: Future/Mark Luscombe-Whyte)

There's no denying a double butler sink makes dishwashing incredibly easy - but if you have a small kitchen, this style is going to take up precious space. Not to mention it will make the room look even smaller. 

A single sink can look just as stylish and will give you more counter space to play with.

16. Integrate your appliances

built in fridge and pantry in kitchen

(Image credit: Tom Howley )

Integrated appliances, like fridges, washing machines and dishwashers, will make a room appear more streamline and bigger. 

Yes, you might have to open a cupboard to get to them, but the overall look will be sleeker instead of a mix-match of different elements in a small space.

17. Add a portable island

Small kitchen ideas - blue portable farmhouse style kitchen island

(Image credit: Cotswold Co.)

A portable kitchen island can be moved about the room according to needs - which means they are more flexible than their static counterparts.

These moveable options don’t feature plumbing, electricity or gas, they are usually tables, trollies or units on wheels - but they come in a whole host of styles from industrial designs to classic farmhouse kitchen islands.

18. Be fridge smart

Small kitchen ideas - smeg fridge in kitchen

(Image credit: Future)

It's important to be realistic about your space. If it's going to be a squeeze to get a huge fridge/freezer in then perhaps don't - or look at alternative options, like slimmer designs. 

Also, think about where it can tuck in neatly within your layout - whether that's in the corner or built into the cabinet design.

19. Keep lines clean

Small kitchen ideas - dark kitchen cabinets in small room

(Image credit: Future/Paul Raeside)

Did you know that something as simple as removing bulky handles from cabinets can make your small kitchen appear larger? By using push/click catches instead, the room will be more streamline and will look smoother.

Love clean lines? Be sure to check out our modern kitchen ideas.

20. Use light-reflecting accessories

Small kitchen ideas - metal accessories in a dark kitchen

(Image credit: Future/Damian Russell)

Metallic accessories – whether that's pots and or pendant lights – will help bounce light around the room. These light-reflecting objects will boost brightness and add a sense of depth.

What is the best layout for a small kitchen?

In terms of small kitchen layout ideas, 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.

What is the best color for a small kitchen?

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?

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 colored china here to avoid a heavily cluttered look.'

How can I decorate my small kitchen?

Small kitchen ideas - shelving in green kitchen

(Image credit: Future / Damian Russell)

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. 

Can I put an island in a small kitchen?

Kitchen ideas

Photography: Davide Lovatti

(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to fitting a kitchen, a question that's often asked is 'can I put an island in a small kitchen?' The good news is that there's usually always a way to make it work.

An island unit is perhaps the most popular feature in a kitchen, and is one that can work well in a small kitchen. 

In a very large room, it will act as a bridge between perimeter furniture, improving the work triangle and allowing more than one cook to work comfortably side-by-side, but can also make a wonderful addition to a small kitchen, adding extra seating and negating the need for a separate dining room.

With the addition of arresting light pendants or an eye-catching work surface, it can become the room’s design centrepiece. In an open-plan kitchen, use an island or peninsula to divide cooking and dining. 

‘The addition of breakfast bar seating can create intimacy in the smallest kitchen, and only requires a 40cm worktop overhang to  dine in comfort,’ says interior designer Abigail Hall

Connect both water and electricity, and your island will become an impressive workhorse, incorporating cooking, washing and cooling appliances. ‘This will free up surfaces in the rest of the kitchen but we also see the island as an opportunity to have extra ovens or specialist appliances such as a teppanyaki, wok burner or BBQ grill,’ adds Neil Lerner