22 Design Ideas that make a Big Impact on Small Kitchens

In our dream homes, we see a large, spacious kitchen, with sprawling counters, countless cupboards, a bar top, and a space dotted with different built-in appliances. But in reality, we’d all have to scale down quite a bit and make do with a smaller, sometimes oddly-shaped or awkwardly-positioned, kitchen. 

But not to worry. It’s not all that bad. 

Whether your home’s interior style is contemporary, modern, traditional, farmhouse, coastal or one with your own personal spin, our design hacks will make you love it no less. These stylish solutions will help you maximize storage (an ever-present issue in small kitchens), functionality, movement and the perception of space. 

First things first, when planning your kitchen, you have to think about your work triangle. To have an efficient kitchen layout, your cooktop, sink and refrigerator must ideally form a triangle so you can cook, clean and reach food with ease.

Photo source: Southern Living

It might be tricky to achieve this in a small kitchen layout since the space does not have a lot of room for moving back and forth to begin with. But the position of these three areas is still imperative to have a fluid kitchen workflow. 

Now, here’s a quick slideshow of how-tos to make your small kitchen beautiful and functional.

Pull-out cabinets
Use pull-out racks and organizers

Go for customizable pull-outs for higher efficiency, functionality and space that will fit your current cabinetry.

Consider getting pull-outs for higher efficiency, functionality and space. These can be customized for your current cabinetry size and will fit almost any unused or awkward space you have. Since it's retrofitted, you can adjust it based on what you plan to put in the space.

Smooth cabinets
Smooth, streamlined cabinet design

A clean look that gives a smooth illusion of a modern, spacious kitchen.

A clean overall look that tricks the eye to smoothly travel across the surfaces and makes it feel bigger than it is. If you replace large, bulky traditional handles with finger pulls or sleek knobs, this modern look gives the illusion of an uncluttered, more spacious kitchen.

Cabinets to ceiling
Extend cupboards to the ceiling

Let the eye travel up and forget about the square footage on the ground; you get more storage too.

One old design trick in the book for small spaces is to let the eye travel up and forget about the actual square footage on the ground. You’ll get a lot more additional storage by making use of an area that is otherwise often overlooked.

Decor above cabinets
Decorate above your cabinets

Leave that soffit and put rarely used kitchen items or some decor instead.

Not liking high cupboards? Leave that soffit and put rarely used kitchen items instead. Or, place meaningful collections, plants, or try painting it a color that pops against your cabinetry, backsplash and ceiling for strong impact.

Hanging rods
Hanging storage solutions

Use rods or mounted racks to hang small items or maybe even bigger stuff like pots and pans.

Perfect for different areas. Use rods on your kitchen wall, under upper shelves, or from the ceiling to hang pot and pans. Another idea is to have a mounted rack where you can install hooks and hang different items that way.

Open shelves
Have a lot of open shelving

Open shelves create flexible storage and maintain a light, airy, relaxed feeling you’ll want in a small kitchen.

Open shelves create flexible storage and maintain a light, airy, relaxed feeling you’ll want in a small kitchen. You can always combine these with cabinets and only put some displays or everyday items in the open shelves.

Glass cabinet doors
Replace cabinet doors with glass

Use glass for cabinet doors to widen the space by creating more visual depth.

If open shelves aren’t for you, replace your cabinet doors with glass instead. The purpose here is to widen the space by creating more visual depth. But just ensure that all the items in your cabinets are well arranged and there’s no clutter.

sneaky storage
Install a sneaky appliance garage

Transform blind or awkward corners into sleek storage for small appliances.

For more storage space, look at blind, dead corners that are often void spaces and transform those to a secret hiding place. Work with the sides of counters, walls and have a hole installed for your toaster, microwave, mixer and other small appliances.

natural light
Let in ample natural light

Welcome as much natural light as you can to brighten up and make your kitchen airy and welcoming.

Natural light is as much a need as a want, especially when it comes to small spaces. Your small kitchen needs as much natural light as it can get to maintain an airy feeling and brighten up the place. Plus, it makes it easier to prepare meals.

windows
Line it with windows

Create the illusion of space by letting light in and extending the view out.

The more windows you can have, the better. This creates the illusion of space and lets in a generous amount of light. You can also have large windows in adjacent spaces where your kitchen can ‘borrow’ some of that light and perception of space.

reflective materials - mirrors
Use reflective or shiny materials

Use lacquered or metallic finish for light to bounce off or just use the classic mirror trick on walls or the backsplash.

Another way to welcome more light is to have shiny and reflective surfaces. Use lacquered or metallic finish for light to bounce off or just use the classic mirror trick. Incorporate mirrors in some walls or on the backsplash to double your kitchen space.

white kitchen
Adhere to light, clean color palette

White makes a space brighter and gives off a sense of spaciousness. Add some color or texture so it won't feel too flat.

As you guessed, white makes a space brighter and gives off a sense of spaciousness. You can add a few pops of color and texture or play along the neutral palette so your kitchen won’t feel too sterile and flat.

pattern and color
Mix and match pattern and color

Partner dark colors and some patterns or texture for a livelier atmosphere.

Don’t want a white kitchen? Partner dark colors and some patterns for a livelier atmosphere. Start from the floor up - have dark colored cabinets and then a white, clean theme on top it. Or, just go dark all the way but add some texture.

peninsula or island
Double your peninsula or island for dining

Extend your island countertop like a drop leaf table to make a dining or bar area and more prep space.

Extend your island countertop like a drop leaf table to make a dining or bar area. This can also add to your prep area. Or another option is to place a rectangular table perpendicular to the wall for more table space.

bar stools
Low back or backless stools

Stools should be backless or low-backed so they can easily be hidden underneath the table when not in use.

Stools should be backless or low-backed so they can be hidden underneath. Don’t want them taking up more space in a small kitchen when they’re not in use, just slide them under then they disappear from view.

bar cart
Invest in a bar cart

Go for a bar cart or rolling kitchen island - it’s functional, cool, with storage, and you can move it anywhere.

Really want an island? Go for a bar cart or rolling kitchen island instead - it’s functional, cool, and you can just move it out of the way when you’re done prepping the food. They also provide a bit of storage below, which is always a good thing.

kitchen pass-through
Make a kitchen pass-through

Break down half of your kitchen's third wall for more light, space and even additional counter and dining area.

Break down half of your kitchen's third wall. The empty upper part expands it tenfold with more light and air by connecting it with adjoining spaces. Quick tip: you can convert the lower half into additional countertop and dining space.

pull-out counter
Install a hidden prep space

A hidden pull-out counter is handy any time you need additional prep space.

Have a hidden pull-out counter for more prep space. You can extend this till the bottom of your cabinet and have additional storage underneath, or even a trash can.

subway tiles
Use classic subway tiles

Subway tiles guide the eye's movement giving the perception of a wider space, especially when it connects different walls.

Subway tiles give the perception of a wider space because of their uniform horizontal shape. It lets the eye continue moving creating the illusion of a wider space especially if installed continuously and connects different walls.

flooring
Flooring styles to expand visual space

Flooring guides eye movement and chevron's zigzag shows continuous flow that makes a space seem wider.

Just as wide-striped designed shirts make a person look bigger, the similar concept can be incorporated into a small kitchen. Another option is to try the chevron style. If you don’t want to change the flooring, put a rug instead.

pare down on stuff
Pare down your stuff

Let go of items you don’t need or use then you’ll see your kitchen actually is quite big. Nothing crowds a space like clutter.

Let go of items you don’t need or use then you’ll see your kitchen actually is quite big. Keep to the things you use everyday, and the pots and pans you need to cook your specialty dishes. Nothing crowds a space like clutter.

plants
Beautify with some natural greens

Use indoor plants to soften up the space. Or, make a little herb garden, that way, you have actual use for the plants besides aesthetics.

Indoor plants will soften up the space and make it more welcoming. You can put them above the cupboard so it doesn't disturb your work space. Or, make a little herb garden, that way, you have actual use for the plants besides aesthetics.

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All in all, there are several tips and tricks you can play with when it comes to increasing the perception of space for your small kitchen, while simultaneously adding functionality and style. Choose the design ideas that work for your space and start experimenting.

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