Our small kitchen ideas are perfect for those not blessed with a large and sociable space.
Not all homes come with vast open plan spaces. 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, when designing a small kitchen, you'll soon realize that 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 small kitchen 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.
Small kitchen ideas
These small kitchen ideas are useful, whether you are looking for remodeling ideas for small kitchens or looking to furnish a mud or laundry room, or if you just want clever, space-saving ideas for a larger kitchen. Space-efficient, they are stylish, too.
1. Invest in smart storage
'It might seem counter-intuitive in a kitchen where space is at a premium, but unless the ceilings are very high I like to do away with wall cabinets altogether in favor of kitchen shelving,' says interior designer Lonika Chande (opens in new tab).
'It looks much better and opens up the space. I am always on the lookout for vintage shop fittings and characterful reclaimed planks that can be repurposed as shelves. I then decant what I can into Kilner jars for display, alongside stacks of crockery, linen and the odd jug. I love nothing more than to be left to it with my Kilner jars and a Dymo labelling machine – unbelievably satisfying work and so visually pleasing too’.
2. Use decorative tricks to brighten a small kitchen
Creating a light and bright space as part of your small kitchen ideas can feel like an impossible task. When faced with this small kitchen, Shawna Percival, founder and designer at Styleberry Creative Interiors (opens in new tab) started by relocating the window to a central position and making it larger so that it would let more light into the small kitchen. Finding ways to increase the natural light in the kitchen is a great way to combat the challenges and make a small kitchen look bigger.
‘For the backsplash, we went with these vertically laid tiles in variegated off-white, the tone variation creates the illusion of depth, while the high-gloss finish helps to further reflect light throughout the space,’ says Shawna. She paired these other white kitchen ideas including off-white cabinets which help the white countertops and eggshell white vent hood to really shine.
‘We heated things up with brass sconces, brass cabinet pulls, and warm wood accents through the custom range and accessories,’ continues Shawna. ‘We also incorporated this white-washed brick and rust-colored rug for some warm, cottage character.’ Adding details from cottage kitchen ideas are a great way to add warmth and personality to your small kitchen ideas.
Other decorative tips include knowing which items home organizers say make rooms feel small (so you can avoid them in your kitchen). Top tips include keeping small kitchen appliances away from your worktops and getting rid of food packaging that is taking up unnecessary room in your pantry or cupboard.
3. Maximize awkward corners for storage
Older homes, which often come hand in hand with small kitchens, small kitchen layouts are characterized by their unusual nooks and crannies. Making the most of these unusual spaces is key to maximizing the storage space in your small kitchen ideas. Inset cookers and cabinetry into unused fireplaces and pair with your favorite stove backsplash ideas, or install open-shelving into alcoves to make the most of all the available space. Pair with neutral cabinetry and white stone countertops, like these from Caeserstone (opens in new tab) to keep the space feeling bright.
4. Work a dining nook into a small kitchen
Galley kitchen ideas are one of the most common small kitchen ideas. These long, narrow spaces bring with them myriad design challenges from cabinetry through to lighting.
Often small kitchen ideas prioritize storage at the cost of social spaces, however this kitchen designed by Georgia Zikas (opens in new tab) manages to combine the two to great effect. ‘The custom design of the corner banquette seating incorporates drawers below the bench and a tall pantry cupboard to the right, while also providing a space for friends and family to sit and relax,’ explains Georgia.
Small kitchen lighting ideas are vital to the functionality and decorative aspects of your design, too – here, downlights in the cook zone are complemented by a pendant light over the dining table, which creates a warm pool of light over diners.
5. Make an open-plan space work with a small kitchen
How to plan the layout of a small kitchen? There may be little choice, though a galley kitchen is often your only choice – even in an open plan area. One of the benefits of open plan kitchen ideas is that you have a large footprint at your disposal. However, when incorporating a kitchen into an open-plan space you need to be careful that it doesn’t dominate the room.
This clever kitchen design divides the living space from the kitchen with a wall of cabinetry and a small subway tile backsplash – one of our favorite kitchen wall tile ideas – helping to keep the practical space separate from the social. However, the partial wall ensures that the cook isn’t isolated. Designed around a large window with the half wall also letting in light from the patio doors and skylight, this small kitchen still feels open and airy too.
6. Work cleverly with color
‘As well as the walls, consider your kitchen cabinets and storage: highlighting these essential elements within a kitchen is a fantastic way to deliver design impact,' says Ruth Mottershead, creative director, Little Greene (opens in new tab).
Are there architectural features or areas of interest to draw attention to? Color is a fantastic way to highlight a favourite feature. If you don’t want to use a bold color all over, highlight the back of your shelving in a contrasting color or opt for a dynamic two-tone kitchen color scheme by adding one color to the lower cabinets and contrasting colors for walls and upper cabinets.
7. Paint in one color palette
‘In the cozy kitchen in one of our Chelsea pied-à-terre projects, we applied fresh colors throughout (with white cabinets and Stone I by Paint & Paper Library on the walls) to help the eye slide seamlessly from one surface to another and make the space seem bigger than it really is,' says Sarah Peake, founder and creative director, Studio Peake (opens in new tab).
8. Choose space-enhancing flooring to trick the eye
Flooring is always a challenge when it comes to kitchens – there are plenty of kitchen flooring ideas but it can be difficult to choose the right material and style for your small kitchen ideas. It must be hard wearing, easy to clean and provide the perfect backdrop to the rest of your kitchen.
‘A smaller kitchen requires careful thought and consideration to give the illusion of a larger space,’ says Isabel Fernandez, director at Quorn Stone (opens in new tab). ‘Contrary to belief we often find a larger tile can work well at achieving this. A smaller tile results in lots of grout joints which can enclose the space and detract the eye from the tile. We often suggest a large tile as it works well in both smaller and larger areas'.
There are also plenty of different stone flooring types and kitchen tile ideas that are perfect for small kitchen ideas. 'Wood effect porcelain is becoming increasingly popular in tighter spaces due to their long and narrow format – if you choose a complementary grout color it makes the grout less noticeable which again helps to open the space out,' adds Isabel.
9. Focus on vertical design to boost space
With the rise in open-plan kitchen-living spaces, kitchens have become smaller in favor of larger entertaining spaces. If your kitchen is part of an open-plan layout, then tidiness is key. Unlike with traditional kitchen ideas, where the door can be closed after cooking, in open plan kitchen ideas everything is permanently on display, meaning that storage is essential.
What small kitchens lack in footprint, they often make up for in height, so focus your design vertically. Full-height cabinetry not only provides more storage but creates a sophisticated design that clearly zones your kitchen within the open-plan layout.
By factoring height into your kitchen layout ideas, you can incorporate a wide range of kitchen cupboard storage ideas into your small kitchen design. In this kitchen from John Lewis of Hungerford (opens in new tab), dark green full-height cabinets create an elegant, traditional backdrop while the yellow feature wall not only adds warmth but draws the eye to the small windows and the decorations, exaggerating the length of the space and focuses the eye on the source of natural light.
Note: clever breakfast bar ideas for small kitchens can provide the only dining space within an apartment, so go for glamorous fittings and furnishings.
10. Work a kitchen island into a small kitchen
Kitchen island ideas are a dream for many homeowners and it can seem impossible to unite this dream with small kitchen ideas. However, with the right design and placement, it's a realistic addition which will provide more prep space and extra storage. Here, a slim design, painted white so as not to seem domineering, adds drawers, countertops and an extra sink. Incorporating white kitchen ideas into your small kitchen also helps the space to feel larger and brighter.
Adding a kitchen island also requires compromises as it will take up potential storage space and, as a result, will need to be paired with other small kitchen storage ideas. ‘When adding cabinetry to this kitchen, we focused on building upwards. This not only provided more storage, but also gave the kitchen a high-end feel,' says Malka Helft, designer at Think Chic Interiors (opens in new tab) ' My pet peeve is kitchen cabinets that do not go up to the ceiling when they can; it is a dust collector and a waste of good storage space.'
11. Paint cabinets the same color as the walls
‘If you are short of space in a kitchen, it’s a great idea to paint the units the same color as the walls, says Joa Studholme, color curator, Farrow & Ball. 'The walls should be painted in wipeable modern emulsion and the units in super-durable modern eggshell. This will make the space feel bigger but also less utilitarian – more like a living room than a kitchen.’
12. Avoid a 'fully fitted' look
‘When designing a compact kitchen, you might consider avoiding the “fully fitted” look and perhaps think about decorating above kitchen cabinets with open shelves, or use glass in the upper cabinets to provide a degree of reflection and additional depth,' says Claire Sa, director, De Rosee Sa (opens in new tab).
13. Choose commentary colors
A kitchen usually has lots of colorful elements in it 'I would go with quite neutral colors for the walls and some bright color on the cupboards,' says Edward Bulmer, interior designer and founder, Edward Bulmer Natural Paint (opens in new tab).
'Try mixing it up with contrasting colors: as long as they work tonally you cannot go wrong. You can play it safe with colors that sit alongside one another on the color wheel, or for striking impact, go for those on opposite sides i.e. greens to complement reds, blues to complement oranges and purples to complement yellows.’
14. Find space for a small pantry
Storage is a key consideration for any kitchen, however, it is even more important when it comes to small kitchen ideas. ‘Tidiness is really the difference between a small kitchen looking sleek and sophisticated, or cramped,’ says Maryana Grinshpun, principal at Mammoth Projects (opens in new tab).
If you are lucky enough to have a large cupboard in your kitchen or utility, consider converting it into a small pantry, it will give you that valuable storage space. Plus, there are plenty of different pantry ideas that can suit every shape space. ‘With pantries continuing to top kitchen wish lists, people are adding open shelving and slimline doors or a curtain to even the smallest of spaces to create mini ancillary pantries,’ says Anderian Bergman, design manager at British Standard (opens in new tab).
15. Choose rich textiles to add pattern
When space is tight, you can distract the eye with color, but the best place to have rich shades is on the floor. That gives you the opportunity to introduce the cabinetry and walls in pale plains, which are more likely to make a small kitchen feel bigger.
16. Love bold tiles? Keep them to the floor
If you love pattern, again, limiting it to the floor can make a small kitchen feel bigger. Any pattern that creates lines that draw the eye across the kitchen will help make the space feel larger still and if you limit the color palette of the tiles you choose, you will exaggerate the effect further.
Kitchen flooring like this becomes the feature of the room and is best used when the units and walls are plain in color, that way there’s no creative clashing. You can also use tiles to zone the kitchen area if the space is open plan.
17. Light up with pretty shades
Small kitchens can be in dark, dramatic shades but they will benefit from an element of the cabinetry being in a contrasting pale color. Pale pretty shades like blush pink combine well with gray countertops and backsplash and they will expand your small kitchen visually.
Be clever too with your textures. The ribbed white sink mimics the ribbed glass of the cabinets and you can see the white tableware peeking through. These are all key design features that help a dark and small scheme look fabulous.
18. Create a visual trick when you replace wall cabinets
Clever lighting ideas for small kitchens are needed in compact spaces. LED strips under cabinets are one great idea and so are downlights. But we like the idea of making a design statement with your lights and if you can source wall lights that have adjustable heads then all the better, as they can double as task lamps too. This works particularly well when you don’t have wall units to hang LED strips from.
Here, a line of lamps is echoed by a line of pictures above. This linear trick is another way to make a small kitchen appear longer than it is.
19. Venture vertically
When planning small kitchen layouts 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.
20. Focus on form and function
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 handleless 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, textured effect.
21. Mind the gap
Named after the kitchen space on a ship, galleys are designed to be super-efficient by maximizing 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 galley kitchens, as space saving is the goal. Opt for a multi-use drawer as it offers a compact space for crockery and cutlery.
For kitchen ceiling ideas for a smaller galley kitchen, if it is possible, install skylights to boost the natural light in the space.
22. Add color to enliven a small kitchen
Eye-catching details aren't just for large kitchens. 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 kitchen trends. Lamp shades, blinds, curtains, artwork and countertop storage are all good, inexpensive options.
One way to add color to your small kitchen space is through stylish window treatments, for more inspiration, guide on, what do you put on a small kitchen window?
23. Shed natural light into a small kitchen
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.
24. Factor in food for thought with seating
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.
25. Look on the bright side
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 mirrors, 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.
26. Keep it neat and tidy
Storage is one of the most important elements in a small kitchen and open kitchen shelving ideas 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.
27. Put it on display
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 (opens in new tab).
28. Add a color pop
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.
29. Keep things off surfaces
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.
Fitting and organizing kitchen drawers so that they can house everything from spices to crockery is a far more efficient use of space than installing cabinets in small kitchens.
30. Opt for slimmer cabinets
Slimline base cabinets could be a great option if you're in need of a little more floor space 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.
31. Use geometric patterns
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.
32. Get reflective
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.
33. Go for a single sink
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.
34. Integrate your appliances
Integrated appliances, like fridges, washing machines and dishwashers, will make a room appear bigger and more streamline.
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.
35. Add a portable island
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.
36. Keep lines clean
Did you know that something as simple as removing bulky handles from cabinets can make your small kitchen appear larger? By using modern kitchen ideas such as push/click catches instead, the room will be more streamline and will look smoother.
37. Use light-reflecting accessories
Metallic, glass and reflective 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.
38. Stretch cabinets up high
Storage is clearly king when it comes to the small kitchen and this is where bespoke, made-to-measure designs as part of the layout really come into their own. The flexibility of having non-standard door sizes, clever corner cabinets and tailor-made carcasses at your fingertips is a huge plus point for small kitchen layouts.
One way to max out storage possibilities in a small kitchen is to stretch cabinets all the way to the ceiling – this will also eliminate that awkward space on top of cabinets that collect dust. Use high-up storage for items you use infrequently such as party platters and seasonal gadgets like ice-cream makers and slow cookers.
‘Here, glazed and closed storage covers a whole wall from floor to ceiling,’ explains Helen Parker, creative director of deVOL (opens in new tab). ‘We usually like to stick to our standard-sized cupboards to keep costs down for our customers, but there is always the option of a special bespoke piece, made and fitted for an awkward space or alcove to maximize storage, and that’s just what was needed here.’
39. Add the slimmest breakfast bar
Who said you can’t dine in a small kitchen? Not us. This small galley kitchen is just over 6.8ft (2.1m) wide, 13.5ft (4.1m) long and the distance between the two runs just over 2.6ft (785mm) – but it still manages to fit in masses of storage, appliances and even a bespoke seating/eating area. The slim ledge is carved out of the same pale quartz worktop as the rest of the kitchen with two stools to perch on and take in the views of the city of Bath, England, outside.
‘This project is proof that you don’t need a huge space to create a dream kitchen,’ says Helen Parker. ‘Space is a wonderful luxury but it’s not about having loads of it, big rooms, big gardens and big houses, it is about creating room to live comfortably and simply in the space you have available.’
40. Go for open and closed storage
You might be tempted to squeeze in as many cabinets as possible when planning small kitchen ideas – but beware, this can sometimes simply make a small space feel smaller. While storage is a key priority, consider a mix and match of closed door cabinets at the bottom and open shelving on the walls as part of the layout. Two rows of cabinetry, top and bottom, has the potential to make your kitchen feel claustrophobic and confined, especially if there aren’t any windows to break up the run.
‘When working with a galley kitchen, I like to incorporate some open shelving,’ says Erin Davis, lead designer for Mosaik Design & Remodeling (opens in new tab) in Portland, Oregon. ‘Too much cabinetry can make a small kitchen feel smaller. Some open shelving combined with closed doors offers a chance to display your favorite items, inject personality to the space and adds an open feel to the kitchen.’
How do I plan a small kitchen?
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 your small kitchen ideas to fit.
Dual purpose pieces and good internal storage will make the most of cupboard space. 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. Also pieces such as multi-functional compact ovens, 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 – U-shaped kitchens for example, can work really well in a small space.
What is the best layout for a small kitchen?
In terms of small kitchen layouts, 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 (opens in new tab).
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 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.
Can I put an island in a small kitchen?
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 (opens in new tab).
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 (opens in new tab).
What shape is most efficient in small space kitchens?
A U-shaped layout could be the most efficient choice for a small space kitchen as it allows a good number of cabinets. With two corners in the layout, use pull-out internal fittings that permit access to all the contents of these cabinets to maximize storage.
A galley kitchen can also be an efficient choice. Bear in mind that the width of a galley kitchen should be 7 to 12ft (2.1 to 3.7m) with a minimum of 3ft (0.9m) between opposite countertops. Be mindful that 3ft (0.9m) of walking space between countertops is a bare minimum and is the best solution for kitchens where one person is using it. For a more flexible layout, 4 to 5ft (1.2 to 1.5m) of space between countertops is ideal.