Photo: Stacy Zarin Goldberg
Small apartments and homes offer plenty of charm, but they tend to be lacking when it comes to kitchen space. Luckily, there are tons of small kitchen ideas that maximize storage and efficiency. By thinking creatively about how to make the most of your tiny kitchen floor plan and utilizing whatever countertop and wall real estate you have, you can make even the tiniest of kitchens a space you enjoy cooking—and hanging out—in. Ahead, we’ve gathered 51 small kitchen design tips to help you maximize your space, be it a petite galley kitchen or just a single wall in an open-plan apartment. Whether you’re renovating and starting from scratch or just looking to refresh your existing space, read on to get your small kitchen in tip-top shape.
1. Add a prep area
Adjustable Kitchen Cart
Kaloh Storage Carts
$185.00, West Elm
You may not have space to expand or add a full island, so think about bringing in a slim rolling kitchen cart or bar cart to hold your mise en place or serve as extra counter space. Even a narrow console can work as a spot to set tools and ingredients on while you cook.
2. Remove upper cabinets
Handmade Rustic Live Edge Floating Shelves
“Open shelves are extremely functional and make it so much easier to access dishes and glasses,” says New York–based interior designer Jenny Wolf, adding that you should think about your kitchen architecturally, as it doesn’t always make sense to have upper cabinets—“especially if the ceilings are 10 feet high.”
3. Get custom hardware
“I try to use hardware as statement pieces. It’s the jewelry you put on to complete the look,” says architectural designer Karen Williams, who serves as the creative director for St. Charles New York.
4. Or opt for invisible hardware
“When you lean up against the counter, you don’t want to feel a handle poking into your side. You also want a clean surface where you really see the materiality of [it]. We’ve worked a lot with Dada and have been generally seeing less hardware and more integrated pulls or touch-to-open cabinetry. It makes working much more efficient,” said designer Stephanie Goto.
5. Get super organized inside your cabinets
Expandable Lid & Pan Organizer
Shelf Risers, Set of 2
$72.00, Open Spaces
For any small room (a kitchen or otherwise), getting organized is essential. When space comes at a premium, you can’t afford to waste any of it—even the hidden space inside your cabinets. Stock up on risers, lid organizers for your various pots and pans, spice-sorting systems, and anything else that will streamline and maximize your kitchen storage.
6. Streamline dish duty
simplehuman Kitchen Compact Steel Frame Dish Rack
$80.00, West Elm
If your small kitchen doesn’t have room for a dishwasher, making sure that the kitchen sink is both an efficient and tidy space is key. Consider adding in a compact dish rack, like this one from Simple Human, that drains directly into the sink and will never rust.
7. Splurge on fun glassware
Wave Glass Pitcher
$195.00, MoMA Design Store
Sophie Lou Jacobsen Totem Glasses
There might not be room for much decor—so let your dishes do the talking. Unlike hefty serving pieces, colorful drinkware adds visual interest without bulk. Display arty stemware on an open shelf, or let a pitcher pull double duty as a countertop vase.
8. Add a kitchen island
Whitmor Supreme Kitchen and Microwave Cart
French Kitchen Island
$1300.00, Crate & Barrel
Even if your kitchen is on the narrow side, you can still bring in a slim kitchen island for prep space and conversation. Consider a rolling island, which can be pushed out of the way once dinner is ready. “Don’t think if you have a tiny kitchen that you can’t have an island. You can; you just need to put it on wheels so that when you’re working and you need an island it’s there, and when the guests arrive you can push it over to the side or move it into the dining room or living room and let it be the bar,” says interior designer Ellen Cheever. Alternatively, choose an island with slim legs that you could pull a few stools up to and let it double as bar or breakfast seating.
9. Use light colors to visually expand your small kitchen
“The lighter the kitchen, the larger it can feel,” Wolf says. “Sometimes, if there is a good view out a window, I like to focus on bringing the outdoors in and using nature to dictate the palette.” Keeping an especially light palette on countertops, backsplashes, walls, and millwork also helps a small kitchen feel more open. If you’re not in the market for a full renovation, consider the cooking tools that you always have out: Cutting boards, pots and pans, and linens can all lift a space if you opt for pieces in light shades.
10. Double down on white
Casafina Modern Classic Ceramic Dinnerware
$168.00, Made In
The lightest palette of all, of course, is all white. “White paint will help spread and reflect light around, which also makes a space seem bigger,” says interior decorator and blogger Emily Henderson. If you have exposed shelving, create a wall of white by displaying white dish sets.
11. Maximize floor space with a dining nook
Vera Pedestal Dining Table
$700.00, Urban Outfitters
Round White Marble and Black Metal Bistro Side Table
$200.00, World Market
The shape of the room can have just as big of an impact as the square footage. “It’s important to pay attention to the structure of your kitchen,” Henderson says. “If you have a small dining nook, then go for a round table that opens up floor space and seats more people than a square one would.”
12. Pair utilitarian appliances with refined cabinetry
Anza Concrete Espresso Machine
“People who frequently cook want to maintain something visually appealing. For one client—a New York City lawyer who has eaten at virtually every major restaurant in downtown Manhattan—it wasn’t about being a show kitchen, but a foodie’s kitchen. It’s very utilitarian—he wanted a heavy-duty Wolf stove—yet we took care in the selection of the finishes. The white cabinets are glass, and the gray cabinets are lacquer—they really play with materiality. This way, it’s not too precious or too utilitarian,” said designer Goto. For those not in the market for a whole new range, consider a striking espresso machine, like this Brutalism-inspired one by Anza, instead.
13. Think vertically
Magnetic Knife Holder
Just can’t get rid of that timeworn cookbook or prized flea market find? “Installing pot racks, knife mounts, and open shelving above your stove will free up tons of space,” says Henderson.
14. Build a storage bench
If you’re building out a dining nook, add seating with storage compartments to hide away bulk purchases, unwieldy serving pieces, or kitchen linens.
15. Get rid of all clutter
Emile Henry French Ceramic Kitchen Storage Bowl
“Countertops are prime real estate for clutter, which instantly makes a place feel smaller,” Henderson says. “Make a point of getting rid of all your unused plastic containers and mismatched dinnerware every couple of months.” Tidy up your produce storage while you’re at it: A handy covered fruit bowl will separate onions and garlic from odor-absorbing fruit and keep their papery skins from cluttering the countertop. And if you’ve got the installation skills, a hanging fruit basket for those extra bits and bobs will add visual interest too.
16. Add a pegboard
Pegboards give you space where you didn’t think you had any—which is a huge boon in a small kitchen. You’ll find plenty of prefabricated pegboards online, like this handmade option from Etsy. Use it to hang everything from measuring cups to colanders. Or go the Julia Child route and put it to work showing off (and organizing) burnished copper cookware.
17. Opt for small appliances
Cuisinart Convection Toaster Oven
“Don’t think small means cheap apartment, entry-level, dormitory stuff anymore. High-quality small appliances are now available. The other thing is combination appliances: You can have a microwave-convection-browning appliance,” Cheever says. We wholeheartedly agree. If you’re toying with putting in a new oven but rarely cook for a crowd, consider a convection oven instead. It is tiny enough to fit on a countertop and works as both an oven and toaster. And if you’ve been curious about the crisping capabilities of the trendy air fryer, you’ll love the circulation of the convection oven.
18. Use baskets for storage
Croft Cream Handwoven Storage Bin
Handwoven Scallop Basket
$78.00, Amber Interiors
Add baskets! If you’re running out of space in your cabinets and pantry, baskets and bins can make all the difference. Find baskets that fit the vibe of your kitchen and can double as decor and additional storage. Consider a basket for your clean kitchen linens that can be tucked out of the way on the lower shelf of a kitchen island, for example.
19. Add extra seating to your small kitchen
Nadia Black Cane Bar Stools
Put that extra counter area to use! Pulling up a few barstools will help take advantage of what can be an extra dining spot for casual dinners or for having your morning coffee.
20. Add a good kitchen rug and other warm accents
Bowen Jute & Wool Flatweave Rug
Neutral Medallions Rug
Incorporating warm accents like a good rug can make a small kitchen feel more like a cohesive space, especially if you have a one-wall kitchen that isn’t its own separate room. Natural colors, like those in this jute rug above, will be especially forgiving for the odd coffee spill.
21. Use concealed storage
“Maybe it’s our modern approach, but we design with concealed storage for the most part. With open shelving there’s a concern about dust, and there’s just less of a desire to showcase the interior of cabinetry,” Goto says. It’s not just dinnerware you can conceal—you can basically stash away anything. If you’re designing a small kitchen from scratch—or completely overhauling one—the possibilities for concealed storage are endless. Williams has stashed appliances behind a set of custom French doors, tucked a pullout banquette into an island, devised pullout marble pantries, and concealed outlets. “I love designing in a creative and unique way to incorporate the fundamental necessities of the kitchen,” she says.
22. Invest in kitchen supplies you don’t mind showing off
Fellow Stagg Kettle
$160.00, Great Jones
If your kitchen is in the same space as, say, your dining and living room, set out well-designed pots, pans, kettles, and dinnerware right on the stove or counter (or even on that weird shelf created by the tops of your cabinets) when not in use.
23. Use the wall space above the counter for additional storage and decor
Brass and Copper Pot Rail
Venezia Stoneware Hanging Planters
The sky’s the limit—or at least your ceiling is—when it comes to how much storage you can add onto a wall. You can create an incredibly efficient storage system with shelves for glassware, hooks for mugs, pegs for pans, and a rod for frequently used utensils without taking up much space at all. Or use this space to add a little greenery to your kitchen without giving up any precious counter space.
24. Use pattern in unexpected places, like your floor
Wolf says the floor—an often overlooked area of a kitchen—is the perfect place for a high-impact design element: “A patterned floor will give the illusion of a greater expanse to the space.” Wolf likes mixing it up with either chevron or herringbone wood-floor patterns or even using hand-painted cement tile for a more bohemian feel.
25. Or use pattern on your walls
Patterns, of course, aren’t just limited to your floor. You can also jazz up your kitchen walls with patterned tile, wallpaper, or wall decals.
26. Double down on color with vivid appliances
Cuisinart Stand Mixer
$365.00, Sur La Table
If you don’t want to commit to a colorful wall, opt for a colorful appliance instead. Something that’s always out, like a stand mixer, toaster, kettle, or coffee machine, will add just the right bit of color to an otherwise white space.
27. Knock down walls
If you’re able to, knocking down a wall is one of most transformative things you can do to your kitchen. It takes what was once a cramped kitchen and makes it part of an open space.
28. Or open up part of the walls
It’s often difficult to open up a galley kitchen completely, particularly in old buildings, due to the placement of pipes, but you can still add light and air by removing even a small section of the wall. A portal or open corner can help connect the kitchen to the rest of the living space.
29. Hang your mugs
Another one of our favorite small kitchen ideas is this simple one: Hang your mugs. This solution does double duty—it frees up space in your cabinets, and the (right) mugs can become a decorative accent. You can install a rack under your cabinet or set a mug tree on your counter. You can also mount any kind of rack to a wall for an even bigger statement.
30. Think outside the box when it comes to cabinet surfaces.
“Believe it or not, the cabinetry is one of the last items to go in a kitchen. Of the many choices to pick from, try using metal or mirrored finishes to glamorize the kitchen,” Williams says.
31. Install a pot rack
Old Dutch Wall-Mount Pot Rack
Cooks Standard Hanging Pot Rack
If those bulky pots and pans are taking up valuable storage space, try hanging them from a rack to create a culinary centerpiece—and free up room in your cabinets for other essentials.
32. Find a tiny sink, and get one with a cover so it doubles as a prep area
“Don’t overlook the sink. The biggest innovation in sinks today is they all come with covers. When you need a big sink, it’s there for cleanup, and when you need a tiny sink, it’s there as well,” Cheever says.
Food52 x Epicurean Matte Black Over the Sink Board
33. Or go for a deep sink to conceal dishes
“Because the sink is a dirty space, our clients also generally prefer deeper sinks so pots and dirty dishes can be concealed,” Cheever says.
34. Consider moving the freezer out of the kitchen altogether
When things just won’t fit, determine if there’s an appliance you can put elsewhere. “If there’s no room, what can you move into another space? With tower refrigeration today, what I oftentimes do is keep the refrigerator in the kitchen and put the freezer next to a stacked washer and dryer in another part of the house,” Cheever says.
35. Consider a mirrored backsplash
“Mirrors are especially useful when there is no, or minimal, natural light in a kitchen,” Wolf says. “They can help to open the space up and bounce light around.” The designer has been known to use antique mirror tiles instead of traditional tile for a backsplash.
36. Put up artwork
Phthalo Ruth - Cheers
$50.00, PSTR Studio
Just like every room in your house, your kitchen deserves artwork. Adding art that fits your space and style is a simple but effective way to amp up your kitchen design.
37. Choose hard-wearing surfaces
“Surfaces and durability are things we bring up a lot. We absolutely love natural materials, but if there is heavy use, we lean toward fabricated materials like Caesarstone that allow a higher level of durability. They’ve really improved the color palette that’s available to designers, so when you get a high level of durability plus that palette, it becomes the right choice.”
38. Add some greenery
Baltic Blue Pothos
$78.00, The Sill
Plants can liven up any space, including your kitchen. (Check out our favorite air-purifying plants, indoor trees, and pet-friendly plants to see what greenery might strike your fancy.) Consider adding them to open shelving, drawing the eye upward and creating interest in even the smallest of kitchen spaces. Potted herbs, like basil or oregano, are an easy addition that will also liven up your favorite dishes.
39. Hang a mirror above the stove
Bar Harbor Bone Inlay Mirror
$398.00, Serena & Lily
Jera Shelf Mirror
$168.00, McGee & Co.
According to Wolf, you can create the same effect with a mirror. “It’s better to look at than a plain wall,” she says.
40. Make the most of marble
“I like to incorporate a full slab of marble running behind the range and through to the back of the cabinet,” Williams says. “The single slab, as opposed to marble tiles, provides drama but can also be hard to implement.” For countertops, Williams relishes using slabs with semiprecious stones to create a wow factor. “This is a great area to personalize your kitchen with a fun color or pattern.”
41. Get colorful with an accent wall
An accent wall (or two!) can completely transform the look of your kitchen, regardless of its size, and doesn’t require any power tools. And if you haven’t noticed already, we love a colorful kitchen.
42. Install pendant lights or striking light fixtures
Liuku Drop Mini Pendant
$630.00, Ladies and Gentlemen Studio
Install lights to brighten up the entire kitchen. “You can never have enough lighting in a kitchen, and I always downlight with decorative fixtures over the island and prep station,” Wolf says. Good lighting, plenty of it, is incredibly important while cooking.
43. Make your kitchen island really stand out
The island is the centerpiece, so why not make it look special? Try coating the base in a bold color that complements the other cabinetry.
44. Make a statement with thoughtful details
“Just because your kitchen is small doesn’t mean it can’t be a showstopper,” says Jade McNeil, AD PRO Directory member and the founder of Jade McNeil Interiors. So don’t neglect the little details—which truly aren’t so insignificant, after all! “With small kitchens, we can get away with splurging on fun accent pieces like cabinet hardware, countertops, and backsplashes, since there is less material involved,” the designer says. Look for drawer pulls that speak to your aesthetic and are far more exciting than the standard builder grade options within your home. This type of upgrade is renter-friendly, too—just keep original pulls somewhere safe so that you can replace them before moving out.
45. Hide your fridge within the cabinetry
This is one of the more expensive small kitchen ideas, but it’s a game changer. Concealing your fridge within your cabinetry streamlines the entire look of the space and gives it a seamless surface.
46. Make use of every nook and cranny
Find a use for everything, even the space next to your stove (it makes a fantastic place to store spices, oils, soup stocks, etc.). One of Cheever’s favorite small kitchen design solutions is adding in “very, very narrow nine-inch-deep pantries, which can take the place of a filler between a refrigerator and a wall.”
47. Add skirting
Skirting will help conceal kitchen clutter while adding a feminine flair to your cooking space. Christina Nielsen is a proponent of using it to hide microwaves, wine fridges, and much more. “It’s easy to pop underneath the skirting and open up the skirt when in use, either via a rod or velcro,” explains the AD PRO Directory member and founder of Christina Nielsen Design. Better yet, such an approach is full of style. “This is a great way to add a pop of color or pattern to a small space,” Nielsen says. “I always go bolder in smaller spaces as they can hold more drama without feeling overwhelming.” Adding a skirt in the kitchen can also be a great way to repurpose fabric remnants left over from a prior upholstery project—shop your home before ordering something new.
48. Install a floating table
If your L-shaped kitchen faces a blank wall, why not make use of it? Install a floating shelf or table for extra counter or dining space. Dealing with a narrow space? Install a table that can fold down to be flush with the wall when not in use.
49. Hang an accent wall
While we certainly aren’t opposed to hanging framed works in the kitchen, who says that pots and pans can’t double as kitchen art? Taylor Fusco, the founder of Tay Fusco Design, recommends displaying cutting boards and/or bronze or brass pots and pans directly on the wall. You’ll save precious cabinet space and infuse tons of personality into your kitchen at the same time. Best of all, you’ll never forget exactly which pieces you own and can easily access everything while cooking.
50. Add light to shelving and cabinetry
For an instant upgrade, Henderson recommends flooding the space with as much light—natural and artificial—as you can. There is nothing worse than cooking in a dimly lit area. If possible, add library lights or LED light strips near cabinets and shelves to brighten everything up.
51. Revamp the floors
Have your kitchen floors seen better days? You’re certainly not alone—particularly if you’re a renter. But before you start panicking about the cost of a full-on professional floor makeover, keep in mind that there’s a budget-friendly hack worth exploring: chic peel-and-stick floor tiles. Fusco likes how this particular style of faux Carrara marble tile pays a nod to the 19th century. “It’s classic,” she says. “These floors pack a punch in a small space.”
Not fully moved by this pick? For a retro look, experiment with black-and-white stick-on tiles to create a charming checkered design.
Nexus Vinyl Floor Tiles
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest
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