17 Small Kitchen Ideas That Make The Most of a Tight Space

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17 Small Kitchen Ideas That Make The Most of a Tight Space

Small spaces can get a bad rap in the design world, particularly with homeowners. There’s a common misconception that to have a beautiful home, you have to have plenty of space. While very few of us live in sprawling houses that take up thousands of square feet, we’re still susceptible to throwing in the towel when faced with a small space, convinced it can only look—or function—so good with so “little” to work with. The great news? That couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Take kitchens, for example. Some of the best chefs in the world create culinary masterpieces in a 4 by 4-foot space; likewise, the best designers can make a petite kitchen pack a punch using smart space-saving techniques, clever design hacks, and stunning aesthetics. Looking to make the most of your modest kitchen? Below are small kitchen ideas that will help you live large in a snug space. From clever layouts and smart cabinet choices to new tile applications, these easy ideas will make even the tiniest cook spaces feel brighter, roomier, and—best of all—prettier.

Take Advantage of Height

When we think of square footage, we tend to only consider how much room you have side-to-side. However, when it comes to kitchens, going vertical can be just as helpful for gaining extra storage. In this narrow city apartment, the team behind Martin Moore Design tripled the storage height in the space by pairing lower cabinets and a floating shelf with high upper cabinets that can be used to house occasional serving pieces or extra dishes.

Add Playful Tile

In a small space, every design moment counts—and you should feel free to have fun with each! You may not have a lot of square footage to play around with, but that doesn’t mean the floor that is showing needs to be boring. In this tiny space by creator Sophia Hardy, gray hexagon tiles bring a subtle pattern and graphic touch to the swath of floor seen between the cabinets.

Choose Fun Accessories

Cabinet space is at a premium in small kitchens, making your countertops a natural overflow zone. And, when you’re staring at your stuff all day, you’re going to want to make sure it’s pretty. Whether you’re displaying your favorite chef’s knives, salt and pepper shakers, or beloved air fryer, choosing fun accessories and gadgets—like those seen on the countertops of creator Cynthia Moreno of Hot Pink Pineapples—will go a long way in making your small kitchen feel stylish.

Sneak in Storage

When it comes to making any small space functional, sneaking in storage wherever you can is essential. The thing is, that may not always look like traditional cabinetry. In this kitchen by Artichoke Design, a stone oven backsplash acts as storage in disguise, thanks to two handy niches cut into the marble, where cooks can keep oil and spices nearby. 

Select Streamlined Finishes

A small kitchen that feels and functions well doesn’t just come down to taming physical clutter—it requires taming visual clutter, too. Everything your eye rests on in a space can either add or detract from the room’s calm feeling so, in most cases, you want to keep small spaces free of too much visual clutter. In this room designed by Fiona Parke of Johnston Parke Interiors, slab-front cabinetry and no backsplash keep things simple yet stunning.

Illuminate Your Space

Many apartment dwellers aren’t just contending with a small kitchen—they’re also up against rooms that get very little natural light, which can immediately make a space feel more snug and claustrophobic. If that’s the case with your cook zone, put a focus on finding illuminating solutions to make sure the vibe remains light and airy. In this Bakes & Kropp kitchen, a variety of different light sources—including overhead can lighting, shelf lighting, and interior cabinet lighting—make for a dynamic and roomy small space.

Make the Most of Every Inch

Categorizing a kitchen as small speaks to more than just the available square footage—it can also reference a room that has such a quirky layout that it’s almost impossible to make functional. In that instance, working with a pro to make the most of all your nooks and crannies can be super beneficial. Case in point? Designer Polly Ashman worked around tight angles and throughways to come up with a unique cabinet design that sneaks in bonus storage.

Scale Down Your Island

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to sacrifice the coveted island when designing a small space. By scaling down the footprint—or opting for a free-standing piece—you can still incorporate that extra surface area without sucking up all your available square footage. For designer Whitney Romanoff of Meet West Design, that meant turning to an antique worktable for a slim but functional solution. 

Work in Standalone Storage

In an open floor plan, you can co-op nearby spaces (a free wall here, the back of a door there) to expand your kitchen beyond the confines of its original footprint. Standalone case goods—like this Butler’s Pantry by deVOL Kitchens—can go a long way towards putting these bonus bits to work. 

Opt for Glass-Front Cabinetry

Crowding a small space with cabinetry can afford you more storage, but it can also make your kitchen feel even more claustrophobic. The solution? Swap solid cabinet fronts for ones made of glass, which will lighten the feel of the entire room. Here, designer Emilie Fournet chose reeded glass to lessen visual clutter while disguising the contents of each cabinet.

Sneak in Natural Light

Maximizing the layout of a small kitchen can often mean sacrificing other aspects, like trading a window for extra cabinetry. Luckily, the design team behind BHDM Design found a clever solution, opting for horizontal windows in between the top and base cabinets for a “living backsplash” of sorts.

Make Your Backsplash Mini

Another backsplash option? Make it mini! This clever design by Lizzie Green bottles the best of both worlds, marrying a charming tile backsplash with a small-scale application that doesn’t overwhelm a petite kitchen or short run of cabinetry.

Go Two-Toned

Choosing the perfect cabinetry color can be a tricky task, as it’s so dependent on your home’s style, size, and natural light. One combination to consider? A two-toned design. This space by designer Emma Doucet of Grassroots Design marries a stormy blue with a midnight black for a snug space that feels like two distinct zones.

Add a Graphic Touch

Stuck with a small kitchen and low ceilings? A tile treatment could be the trick to making the whole room live larger. The graphic arrangement designed by Amanda Paa of Heartbeet Kitchen naturally draws the eye up, making the room feel more spacious and expansive.

Hang Interesting Lighting

Lighting is the jewelry of any room, and when it’s one of the few elements chosen purely for design in your kitchen, the style factor is extra important. To really make your small space sing, look for fixtures that bring personality and presence to the room, like the graphic circular pendants seen here in a city escape by Jennifer Hunter Design.

Don’t Forget Art

Practical over pretty, right? Well, not always! Just because you’re contending with a small kitchen doesn’t mean your love for design has to fall by the wayside. In addition to choosing beautiful finishes for your cabinetry, fixtures, and countertops, you can still work in decorative elements, like the museum-worthy art display seen in this BHDM Design kitchen.

Lean Into Luxury

The biggest perk of a small space? Just that—they’re small! And less of a footprint means more of your budget can go to high-end finishes and luxury design elements that really wows. Take this kitchen by Morgan Madison Design for example. A tiled ceiling, walls, and countertops swathed in marble, a high-end BlueStar range and hood—it’s the stuff of dreams.

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