Want to know how to make a small kitchen look bigger? For a lot of us living in compact cities, a small kitchen is almost inevitable. But that doesn't mean there aren't nifty tricks to make even the pokiest spaces feel spacious, without having to knock down walls or move to a remote farmhouse.
We've got the lowdown from industry experts on how to make a small kitchen feel palatial, from the color you paint your room, the type of lighting you choose, and clever storage to materials, to bespoke furniture and flooring. We've got you covered.
Embrace small kitchen ideas with open arms and you'll soon see this essential part of the home in a whole new light. Here are ten top tips to get you started...
1. How to make a small kitchen look bigger with bespoke seating
Making a small kitchen look bigger doesn't have to involve a complete renovation. With a smart design, even the smallest of spaces can become an enviable modern kitchen that feels bigger than they actually are.
'Once the domain of restaurants and cafes, banquette seating and its versatility have led to a huge rise in popularity, particularly in small kitchens where optimizing space is essential,' explains Benchmarx Kitchens (opens in new tab)’ design expert, Ruth Lavender.
'Due to the nature of its design, banquette seating offers a truly efficient use of space. When designed properly, you can eliminate the need for a full dining table and chair set, which opens opportunities in smaller spaces. Corner banquette seating is a great way to accommodate additional diners while turning those tricky corners into creative opportunities, utilizing every inch of floor space.'
'For homeowners with a long, galley kitchen, I recommend fixing your banquette against one wall to allow more room to walk along the aisle,' the design expert adds. 'Not only will this save space in a narrow area, but it can also serve as a nifty storage option.'
2. Consider the color in your small kitchen
Fancy adding some drama to your small kitchen? Whether you opt for cool black kitchen ideas or pick a moody blue or green hue, don't shy away from going dark in a small space, even when general advice tends to be 'paint small rooms in light, bright tones to make them feel bigger'. Adding some deep hues to a small kitchen can be really effective at making a small space look and feel completely different.
However, if a bright space is what you're after, then it's essential to pick a light tone to reflect the natural light. Pale whites and grays are ideal for making a kitchen feel bigger than it actually is.
‘The paler the tone, the more it will reflect the available light, the darker the tone, the more light it will absorb,' explains Justyna Korczynska, Colour Consultant at Crown (opens in new tab). 'At the extremes, white will make a room look more spacious, and black bring the walls visually inwards. This rule applies to all colors. So a pale grey would be good if you wanted to make a room look larger, a deep charcoal would make it appear smaller. Having said that, a dark colour used in a small room can be really effective and dramatic.’
Lauren Wright, designer at Roundhouse (opens in new tab) adds; 'I know there is a trend for small spaces to be dark, intimate and cozy but a kitchen needs to be practical too. I prefer lighter colors that lift and freshen the space. If I use two tones or textures, the majority of the cabinetry and certainly taller furniture would be the lighter of the two with the darker finish becoming the accent.'
3. Try open shelving in a bid to expand your small kitchen
Kitchen shelving is a clever and essential way to make a room look bigger. But that doesn't mean it has to be boring and simply functional. There are so many gorgeous shelving options out there that can either blend into your scheme or stand out, adding character and interest.
If you have the space to give up built-in wall units, having an open wall with shelving helps the room breathe, making it feel wider and taller. Whether or not you're up to date with the open shelving trend debate, if you like the idea, you can fill the shelves with favorite recipe books, coffee cups, prints, and plants.
'A galley kitchen can often feel small, overcrowded, and zoned in, but there are ways to create a more versatile space. Keeping countertops and walls free of too much detail is important as it opens up the room a little and using as much light as possible makes a huge difference,' says Stephanie Nix, Kitchen Designer at Neptune (opens in new tab). 'Our Buckland floating shelf is a perfect way to include useful storage and minimal installation. Also having a bin cabinet and a designated space for everything really keeps the aesthetic seamless. Freestanding furniture is also handy, something like our Chichester potboard, as it provides shelving and drawer space, as well as an extra bit of work surface.'
Peter Erlandsson, Co-Owner, and Director of String Furniture (opens in new tab) adds that 'in a small home, it’s great to be able to change the design once in a while. With the flexibility of String shelving, you can achieve a completely new look whenever you like,' he says. 'String shelves are modular, so are ideal for any room size or type. Smart and flexible, the String system rests on only three elements – the shelf, the wall panel, and the metal fitting – so can be put together in an infinite number of configurations.'
4. Think carefully about cabinetry in a small kitchen
One thing to consider when attempting to make a small kitchen feel bigger is of course your choice of kitchen cabinets and how and where to use them.
'When designing a small kitchen, I try not to fill every space, surface, or wall with cupboards. Less can be more, and clever kitchen storage solutions to cater for what you actually need will give you a more effective kitchen than cramming a space with cabinets for the sake of it,' says Lauren Wright, designer at Roundhouse.
'Drawers are more often than not a better use of space than cupboards. Often two sets of drawers would give more usable space in a corner than a pull-out mechanism or corner carousel. Corner mechanisms take up a lot more space in the cabinet than clients realize and much less space is actually usable.'
'At the entrance to the kitchen I try to avoid tall furniture or deep wall cabinets as this can crowd the space. A wider more welcoming entrance can be achieved by reducing the amount of cabinets and grouping tall cabinets together toward the back and away from the windows,' she says. 'With galley kitchen ideas, it's important to prevent it looking like a tunnel or corridor. Opening up the wall space by either reducing the amount of tall cabinetry and wall cabinets, or being clever with where they are located can make the space feel much wider. It’s important not to fill both walls with cabinets unless absolutely necessary.'
5. Ditch the handles
Go handless for a sleek and seamless look in your small kitchen ideas. Ruth Lavender from Benchmarx suggests going for handleless kitchens for a contemporary, minimal style. 'This rise in appeal has been fuelled by an increase in demand for a clutter-free look, particularly for those with a small modern kitchen where space is at a premium,' she says. 'By avoiding any extrusion, a kitchen can instantly become sleeker in its design, with uninterrupted, streamlined lines offering the feeling of more space, creating a more efficient environment where there's room to maneuver.'
'Adding a hot water tap is also a great option if you have a small kitchen with limited worktop space,' she adds. 'Hot water taps are a great kettle replacement, helping to free up existing work surface space to create an uncluttered look.'
6. Lighting is key in a small kitchen
Good lighting is so important in a small kitchen to make it look bigger. From atmospheric dimmer switches over dining areas and brighter, more direct lighting for food preparation and cooking, effective kitchen lighting ideas can make or break a room.
'A well-thought-through lighting solution is integral to the space so it’s vital that the lighting, as well as the electrical wiring, is considered from the very beginning of the project. In this way, it’s possible to make a space feel larger than it actually is,' says Marketa Rypacek, Managing Director, Industville (opens in new tab).
'Lighting should be approached in a layered manner, so embrace the whole range of available sources, from pendants to recessed lights, to track lighting, lamps, and spotlighting. I always advise customers to vary the lighting in a room to create little pockets and pools of light, and to mix and match products to create a coordinated scheme. Ambient lighting will brighten and enhance the glow in a room, while lanterns and wall sconces will create a soft, relaxing atmosphere.'
'Accent lighting is great for highlighting architectural features or to show off a piece of art or photography and can be created using halogen spotlights or table lamps. For work areas such as food preparation, task lighting provides localized light and is particularly important in a kitchen,' she adds. 'A trio of pendants over a dining table or breakfast bar makes a great statement and can complement other accessories in the kitchen.'
7. Think about tiles in the kitchen
'For smaller, darker kitchens choosing light-colored porcelain will help to encourage the light and using a large format tile will create the illusion of space,' says Jo Oliver, Director, Stone & Ceramic Warehouse (opens in new tab). 'Recent technological advances have meant porcelain tiles are now available up to 300cm x 150cm, which gives a very impressive finish. These large format tiles are excellent for making spaces appear bigger than they are.'
Using oversized kitchen floor tiles in a small room tricks the eye into thinking that the space is much bigger than it really is, so can help to create a sense of scale. 'Thanks to their large surface area and fewer grout lines, large-format tiles also result in a continuous, uninterrupted finish - a look that is proving very popular with our customers,' says Jo.
Jonty Cook, Product Manager for Marquis Collection (opens in new tab) also agrees: 'to make a small kitchen look bigger, we recommend using large format tiles allowing for minimal grout lines to achieve a contemporary finish - giving the illusion of a larger space. We also recommend using contrasting tiles for a kitchen backsplash idea to give a focal point at the far end of the room'.
8. Go for gloss in your small kitchen
Louisa Forsyth, Showroom Manager for Kitchens International (opens in new tab) suggests choosing high gloss units to make a small kitchen appear bigger: 'use mirrors and reflective surfaces to maximize natural light – high gloss finishes, especially in white give maximum reflection and contrast high gloss cabinetry with a light wood effect or darker color to break the uniformity up.'
'Plus, 'Go for integrated appliances to streamline the look and if you have a galley or U-shaped kitchen, make maximum use of space by going for a peninsula with a breakfast bar rather than an island as it takes less space but still gives the option for casual dining.'
9. Try a two-tone effect
Two-tone kitchens are a popular look simply because it's a quick way to add interest to a kitchen scheme. Pick from different colored cabinets on the top and bottom or mix dark units with light worktops and vice versa.
'There is no reason why a small kitchen shouldn’t be big on style points and many of the trending materials and styles lend themselves to compact spaces. Dramatic marble veining, for example, will instantly be a focal point of the small kitchen and is the ideal starting point for the remainder of the room’s design,' says Simon Boocock, Managing Director, CRL Stone (opens in new tab).
'A lighter-colored kitchen countertop and backsplash used as an accent allows for the inclusion of darker furniture, creating a two-tone effect that is very effective over smaller spaces. A marble-effect surface, such as Ceralsio Calacatta Gris, can be teamed with dark cabinets to make a striking two-tone effect in a compact kitchen.'
10. A small kitchen needs clever storage
Storage storage storage. It's vitally important in any space, let alone a small one so take the time to get it right, including clever in-cupboard options. Something like this Planero storage system can work wonders.
'The sleek aluminum Planero storage system by Pronorm Kitchen Design (opens in new tab) is an ergonomically designed storage system that makes use of the inside of the door as well as the cabinet space; it's a highly practical choice in compact kitchens. The system optimizes available storage while ensuring the contents are more visible and accessible,' says Richard Turner of Pronorm.
11. Include lots of glass in your small kitchen
A great way of making a kitchen feel more spacious is with a maximum amount of glazing, so go for as much you can afford and have space for. 'It gives the impression that the space extends into the outside and on top, it brings in lots of light,' says Claudia Aksoy, partner at A2 Studio (opens in new tab).
'Full height glazing and a level patio gives the impression for this kitchen to extend into the garden. It also helps to blend other required storage units with the kitchen to make it look bigger and create a calmer feel,' she adds.
'Plus, rather than having all enclosed wall cabinets we played with a variation of shelves and wall cabinets. This way the kitchen gives the illusion of opening up at eye level instead of closing in with kitchen fronts.'
What colors make a small kitchen look bigger?
Lighter kitchen color ideas certainly make kitchens feel bigger and brighter in general, but that doesn't mean you have to paint your kitchen white if you don't want to. There are other tricks to look out for:
'I would avoid too many different finishes and textures or patterns in a small kitchen. That doesn’t mean avoiding them completely but being careful not to introduce too many finishes which can create a busy, cluttered feel. One patterned backsplash can look stunning in a light and simple plain matt lacquer finish kitchen,' suggests Lauren Wright, designer at Roundhouse.
'I use color or texture to bring personality into a kitchen. In a small kitchen, you have to be clever on where you use this. Often introducing a change in material like wood on the stools or open areas is enough to add warmth. Color introduced on one wall, the backsplash or a single wall cabinet would create visual focus.'
What do I do if my kitchen is too small?
No need to fret if you have a small kitchen as there are plenty of quick tricks to make a smaller kitchen appear larger.
Alex Main, Director at The Main Company (opens in new tab) suggests; 'use mirrors to bounce light around the room, extend and use the same floor from your kitchen into the adjoining rooms to create a feeling a continuity and have no defined difference between the ceiling and the walls. What's more, make sure kitchen flooring lines run parallel to the longest walls and not across them and create subtle lighting in various areas rather than a blanket spotlight overall. And finally, connect color in accents from one end of the room to the other to join it up
Benchmarx Kitchens’ design expert, Ruth Lavender suggests it's all about maximizing storage. 'It may seem obvious to discuss storage when talking about making a space feel bigger, however it is often overlooked when planning a kitchen,' she says. 'I would always advise thinking about your specific needs in the first instance, as there may be a better solution than just standard cabinetry and shelves. For example, do you host a lot of dinner parties? A conveniently placed slimline wine cooler may be a good option.'
'Internal storage is also key in maximizing the space – integrated carousels are excellent for convenience as they allow you to locate different utensils quickly without having to scramble around at the back of the cupboard,' the design expert adds. 'Pan drawers are another great option, as they provide the depth needed to store larger items while keeping them accessible. You can also make the most of every inch of your cupboard space with concealed drawers, pull-out pantry ideas and storage baskets, too.'
As the Houses Editor on Livingetc, Rachel has been obsessed with property ever since she was a kid. With a diploma in interior design and more than a decade working on interior magazines under her belt, she feels very at home sourcing the best contemporary houses the world has to offer for Livingetc. It's not just the day job either, she admits she's spent a scary amount of her own time researching schemes for her own renovations - scrolling Instagram, stalking Rightmove and Modern House, flicking through magazines and snooping in other peoples' windows - so she really does live and breathe houses on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Before Livingetc, Rachel had a stint finding homes for Ikea Family magazine where she was lucky enough to gallivant around the world on shoots meeting and interviewing interesting people, all with a very keen eye for blending high-end design with everyday items from Ikea. It inspired her to not be afraid of mixing new and old, expensive and affordable, vintage and modern and so Rachel's current Victorian terrace in north London is very much an updated, contemporary take on a period property; think open-plan modern kitchen with concrete floors, feature fireplaces and her grandmother’s paintings on the walls. Rachel is currently crushing on reeded glass, large gingham prints, squishy curved furniture; like Buchanan Studio’s Studio chair, and vintage wall sconces; she especially adores Retrouvius for sourcing antique finds and feels inspired by Lonika Chande, Beata Heuman and Matilda Goad and already can’t wait to start planning her next home, wherever that might be.
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