Small kitchen ideas – 16 incredible ways to expand this space's personality and purpose

Tune into our small kitchen ideas guidebook and open up this tiny space to more use and design

A small kitchen with light wood cabinets and white walls
(Image credit: deVOL. Photo credit Ellei Home)

Whether it's a small kitchen or a large one, this space is the engine room of the home; one that fuels the family and also keeps the home running smoothly. In the last decade or so, this room has also become a big socializing spot, where people happily host dinners, drinks, and more.  

If you have a small kitchen and are feeling restricted by its size, then remember, that even the tiniest of spaces can be made highly functional, modernized and bespoke with smart design ideas. 

In this article, we've put together a few creative modern kitchen ideas to get your creative juices flowing, showing you just how much can be done on a smaller scale, considering budget, style, and function.

16 space and design-boosting small kitchen ideas

'There's an incredible opportunity in small kitchens for big impact,' says Victoria Sass, principal, and design director at Prospect Refuge Studio (opens in new tab). 'A statement detail, a brave material, or an impactful color can go a long way in crafting a unique voice for your space.'

1. Add an island/dining table for increased functionality

A small kitchen with a dining table fitted inside it

(Image credit: Studio Munroe. Photo credit Thomas Kuoh)

You might not think it’s possible, but see how this small kitchen island idea works perfectly in a tiny space. Worksurface is usually in short supply in small kitchens, so this is a great solution, especially if you can add a seating area too – two problems, solved.  

'An uber-functional way to maximize space in a small kitchen is to integrate the prep island with the dining area,' says Emilie Munroe, founder of Studio Munroe (opens in new tab). 'A continuous tabletop allows diners and chefs to easily interact during meal preparation and clean up. This layout also works well for parents so children can work on schoolwork and projects while adults prepare for mealtime.' 

2. Take the storage to the ceiling and add a ladder for access

A small kitchen with mint cabinets and wooden cabinets

(Image credit: Blakes London)

If space is limited, look up. Expand on the small kitchen's square footage by making the most of the vertical space, and taking the storage up to the ceiling. This solution will not only offer more opportunity to keep your extra pots, pans and containers but also save on floor space. Add a ladder for access, and paint it the same color as the cabinets to make it look like a design feature. 

Of course, if you still wish to include more storage, could also look at investing in a free-standing unit such a dresser for plates and serveware, and place it outside the working kitchen radius. Or add more pantry shelves.

3. Create a moody look with dark hues

A small kitchen with a dark paint color

(Image credit: deVOL)

Who says small kitchens cannot have dark hues? As per color theory, deep tones create a sense of depth and a feeling of infinity in a room. Plus, let's be honest. Dark tones look immediately arresting and dramatic. A look you want to give in this small yet extremely significant space.

"I think color is a completely personal choice and a decision that should be primarily based around the atmosphere you want to create, rather than trying to make a small room look big,' says Helen Parker, creative director at deVOL's (opens in new tab). 'However small a room is, if you want moody and atmospheric then go dark or bold or busy.'

4. Or go for a bright color scheme to give the kitchen personality

A small kitchen with a bright island and a copper splashback

(Image credit: Mary Patton. Photo credit Molly Culver)

Contrary to popular belief, a small space deserves vibrant colors. And no, it doesn't make it seem smaller; in fact, a bright lick of paint will give the room personality and depth. If you're planning on remodeling your kitchen, pack a punch with a choice of a bold hue. 

'Adding a pop of bright color to the center of a room with light walls can make the room appear larger,' says interior designer Mary Patton (opens in new tab). 'In this project, the sunny island makes the copper backsplash shine and brings cheer and warmth to the room.'

5. Avoid wall cupboards to create a sense of space 

A small kitchen with a marble splashback and deep green cabinets

(Image credit: deVOL)

'If you aim to make your kitchen look bigger, then the best way to achieve this is by not filling the room with cupboards and leaving plenty of light and space around windows,' says Helen Parker, creative director at deVOL (opens in new tab). 'Avoid wall cupboards. It is also a good idea to keep the colors and materials similar, so soft light woods and flooring and similar color walls and cupboards work. This will have more of an impact than just painting your walls in a light color.' 

Also, while you're going in for a sleeker look, remember that protruding cabinet knobs and pulls can take up a lot of visual and physical space. Choose handleless kitchen cabinets with a lip or touch latch. This will give the space a seamless, minimal look without visual interruptions.

6. Go for checkerboard flooring to distract attention away from the small square footage

A small kitchen with black and white flooring

(Image credit: Weespaces)

Long stripes, geometric patterns, chevron prints, and even checkerboard can give your kitchen flooring a boost, and even work as a wonderful diversion. As you enter the space, eye-catching floor tiles will generate immediate interest and make one forget to notice the small square footage of the area. 

Plus, some patterns can create the illusion of extended space. 

'The small kitchen comes alive with classic black and white harlequin floors and a beautiful marble backsplash,' says Vinithra Amarnathan, founder of Weespaces (opens in new tab). 'A prep table with carved wood legs adds function and character.'

7. Consider pastels to give the kitchen a soft look

a small kitchen idea behind a reeded glass door

(Image credit: Pluck)

You'll be surprised at how much just mere color can do to make your small kitchen look bigger. Soft, neutral tones can create a feeling of lightness in the room, so the bulky drawers and cabinets look neat, clean, and visually light. It can also create the feeling of expanse.

‘There is a plethora of smart ways to make your kitchen feel spacious. To keep an open feel choose light paint colors and reflective materials such as bright quartz or a mirrored splashback,' says Tom Howley (opens in new tab), design director at the eponymous kitchen company. 

Keeping the kitchen paint colors in mind, ensure all storage is painted the same hue as different colors can break the visual synchrony. 

'A bright white kitchen is a classic, and, because light bounces off all surfaces, feels clean, bright, and spacious,' says  Ming Thompson, principal architect at Atelier Cho Thompson (opens in new tab). 'White paint and tile are easy choices, but if you want dark cabinets, light countertops like matte white quartz or Caesarstone Raw Concrete can create a bright area of central focus in the kitchen.'

8. Hide all appliances to keep the countertops free

An all-white kitchen with a hidden storage for the microwave

(Image credit: Hanna Grankvist. Design: Studio Nato. )

Clutter can visually contract the size of a space, especially an open plan kitchen where the room has several more elements adding to the busy vibe. Countertop elements, microwaves, blenders, and crockery can almost make the kitchen suffocating to look at. This is the reason why everything must be hidden away.

'Space is at a premium inside small apartment kitchens, but an easy fix is keeping countertops free of appliances and storage,' says Ming. 'If possible, keep larger appliances like stand mixers in cabinets until needed.'

'For larger, more frequently used appliances like microwaves, you can take a cue from contemporary kitchen designs and try to place these within cabinets, even removing doors to make a simple appliance hutch,' says Ming.

9. Ensure multiple storage options in your tiny kitchen

a wood kitchen with a patterned wallpaper

(Image credit: Lucas Madani. Design: Hauvette & Madani)

You need to be brutal with clutter in a small kitchen and don’t buy more than you need in terms of cookware and gadgets, which take up a lot of space, especially on the worktop. 

As far as kitchen updates go, drawers are essential and offer multiple storage options, especially deep drawers with cutlery or utensil inserts in the top part. Tall, thin larder units can fit into the gaps between units and are great for storing food and spices. 

10. Utilize the entire height of the kitchen

small kitchen ideas

Ladbroke kitchen, £10,000 for a similar kitchen, Naked Kitchens (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Naked Kitchens)

To create small kitchen storage ideas, don't only look to the walls and the floor – look up, towards the entire length and breadth of the room. After all, in skinny spaces, every single inch counts. 

Bring in a standard 12- to 16-inch cabinets above the counter so you have enough breathing room at your elbow height. Choose deep cabinets to stash large items or seasonal pieces. 

'Utilize every inch of space from the full height and awkward nooks. Take the storage up; it will benefit your kitchen by ensuring more storage,' says Ming.

Consider installing a multipurpose unit in your floor-to-wall storage. Add a pull-out chopping station, complete with a chopping-block top in it. You could add a fresh set of drawers so you have everything you need tucked away.

11. Trick the eyes with patterned splashback 

A small kitchen with red and blue cabinets and large prints on splashbackl

(Image credit: Baldiwala Edge)

Pattern used for a kitchen splashback idea can make a smaller scale space appear bigger.  That's because big designs distract the eye away from the small square footage and onto the pretty patterns.

'For small kitchens, I recommend patterned tiles with no more than two colors, one being neutral to not overwhelm the space,' says Damla Turgut, founder of Otto Tiles. 'A single tile that encompasses a whole pattern such as a grid, pyramid, or herringbone design, rather than a tile which needs 4-6 tiles to make up a design, is ideal for a small kitchen making the space appear visually larger, by tricking the eye.'

12. Use one tone throughout 

a white kitchen with a brass faucet

(Image credit: Matthew Williams)

Ideally in a small modern kitchen, the lesser visual obstructions, the better. By blurring lines and keeping the same color tone between worktops, surfaces, and cabinets, you can create the illusion of extended space.

'Light and muted worktops work brilliantly in smaller kitchens as they naturally reflect light into the room,' says Julia Trendell, interior designer at Benchmarx Kitchen and Joinery

'Blurring the lines of where the worktop ends and the wall starts is another great trick for making a kitchen feel larger. Continue a granite or quartz worktop up the wall as a splashback or upstand to give the illusion of more space with minimum hassle,' sats Julia.

A great tip to keep in mind is that the upper cabinets should start at the height of your hood as compared to cabinets at one height and the hood at another. This will create a tidier look with clean lines. Ensure your cabinets start about 20 inches above the counter, although you could start them a little higher (24 to 30 inches) to feel a lot less boxed in as you work at the counter below. 

13. Go handleless for clean-lined cabinets

a small modern kitchen with a table

(Image credit: Ema Peter. Design: Gillian Segal)

Small kitchens can quickly look cluttered, so keep detailing to a minimum and avoid the shaker style. Handleless cabinets create a contemporary, clean-lined effect that doesn't confuse or overwhelm the eye. 

There's a wide range of finishes to choose from, including the modern glossy white of these units, chosen by interior designer Gillian Segal (opens in new tab) for a sleek new apartment in Vancouver. 

If you need handles, choose integrated grooves instead of attached hardware to give the kitchen a modern look and save a precious few inches of room. This will also encourage you to not hang your kitchen towels or bump your knees on knobs or pulls while moving around.

14. Light up dark corners for a bright small kitchen design

a small green kitchen with a lamp on the countertop

(Image credit: Pooky)

When it comes to small kitchen lighting ideas, Rohan Blacker, designer and founder, Pooky (opens in new tab), suggests installing downlights or LED strip lighting in the recesses of your cabinets. 

'They're great at highlighting darker corners and will open up your space,' he says. 'Use lighting to highlight certain features in your kitchen that may be hidden in the shadows of overhanging cabinets, be it your new red toaster or a statement tiled splashback.'

15. Choose the right layout for a small kitchen

the sink area in a small modern kitchen

(Image credit: Anna Stathaki. Design: Finkernagel Ross)

Small kitchen layouts are aplenty, from U-shaped, L-shaped, galley to open plans. Ideally, a U-shaped kitchen has great ergonomics, as it's the right distance between the three main points of the space – the fridge, sink, and stove – and makes for the best kitchen work triangle. It makes it easier to walk between these points during meal prep and reduces cooking time.

Most kitchens benefit from an island but if you don't have space for one, even a cart on wheels or a pull-out counter can help to a great extent. If you wish to have a breakfast counter in your small kitchen, choose seats that tuck under the countertop, thereby saving precious floor room.

16. Organize a small kitchen carefully 

Small open plan kitchen with arched doorway

(Image credit: Davide Lovati)

Cabinet organizers can be extremely useful to store knives and forks and ensure these small items don't clutter the kitchen. Consider breaking up your drawers into compartments so you can store more things effectively and learn the basics of how to organize a kitchen.

Most importantly, if your kitchen is mini, consider a good edit of your paraphernalia. Think hard: do you really need more than a handful of plates, mugs, or glasses if there are just two members in the house? Owning lesser things can be immensely freeing, and will significantly make your life easier and smoother.

How can I make the most of my small kitchen?

While thinking of small kitchens, whether it's an apartment kitchen or narrow gallery spaces, there are a few that could work very well. 

A great way to maximize space in your tiny kitchen and to make it look organized is to choose a clean, neutral color scheme that makes everything look neat. Choosing similar tones for countertops and cabinets can blur the lines between spaces, giving the kitchen a seamless look.

Choose handless cabinets, hide all appliances inside storage units, and keep all cutlery inside drawers. If you have a little more floor space, consider adding an island that will increase storage and countertop space. If you have a skinny kitchen, bring in carts that can be wheeled in and out of the room.

Use the entire height of the room to increase storage. Ensure all your cabinets are well-lit so that no area or corner of the room is dipped in darkness. You'll be surprised how much you can open up the small kitchen just with effective lighting. 

Finally, use large patterns in unexpected spaces to give the illusion of expanded space. Hang a mirror on one of the walls for more space-boosting tricks.

A small kitchen with a black splashback

(Image credit: Ater Architects)

How should pots and pans be stored in a small kitchen?

Pots and pans make up the majority of kitchen accessories and storing these efficiently are of utmost importance. These can at times be challenging to store because of their size and bulk. 

If you don't mind your cookware being on display, use the magic of wall hooks or pegboards to hang them for a tidy countertop. You can even add these hooks behind doors, if not the walls, so the pans are somewhat out of sight. You could  choose a smart pot rack and suspend it over an island or peninsula. Make sure it is mounted high enough that it doesn't come in your way, nor is it in your line of sight.

Another neat way to store your pots and pans is by installing a shelf right above the range. You will want to keep your daily use vessels here so they are easy to reach and re-rack.

A pull-out rack inside a deep drawer is effective if you don't want your cookware to be visible. You can add an easy Susan or even hooks to keep the pots.