July 23, 2024


Design with distinction

51 Small Kitchen Design Ideas That Make the Most of a Tiny Space

51 Small Kitchen Design Ideas That Make the Most of a Tiny Space

While small apartments and homes offer plenty of charm, they tend to be lacking when it comes to kitchen space. Luckily, there are tons of small kitchen ideas that maximize storage and efficiency. It’s all about working with the layout of your space, whether your kitchen is confined to a single wall, U-shaped, or tucked in a corner. Ahead, we’ve gathered 51 small kitchen design tips to help maximize your space. Whether you’re renovating and starting from scratch or just looking to refresh your existing space, you’ll want to give these a try!

Table of Contents

1. Add a prep area

<h1 class="title">Small Kitchen Ideas</h1> <cite class="credit">© Emily Gilbert Photography</cite>
© Emily Gilbert Photography

You may not have space to expand or add a full island, so think about bringing in a table that can do double duty as a spot for prep and dining. Even a narrow console can work as a spot to set tools and ingredients on while you cook.

2. Remove upper cabinets

<cite class="credit">© Emily Gilbert Photography</cite>
© Emily Gilbert Photography

“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. Add some greenery

<h1 class="title">Kitchen in home</h1> <div class="caption"> Kitchen in home </div> <cite class="credit">Thomas Barwick</cite>

Kitchen in home

Thomas Barwick

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.)

4. Add extra seating to your small kitchen

<cite class="credit">© Emily Gilbert Photography</cite>
© Emily Gilbert Photography

Use that extra counter area for casual dinners or your morning coffee. Pull up a few barstools and take advantage of an extra dining spot.

5. Install pendant lights or striking light fixtures

<h1 class="title">Small Kitchen Ideas and Designs: Modern Scandinavian kitchen and dining room</h1> <cite class="credit">tulcarion</cite>

Install lights to brighten up the entire kitchen. “You can never have enough lighting in a kitchen, and I always down-light with decorative fixtures over the island and prep station,” says Wolf. Good lighting, plenty of it, is incredibly important while cooking.

6. Get super organized inside your cabinets

<h1 class="title">Kitchen Cabinet</h1> <div class="caption"> Kitchen countertop with open cupboard with stacks of dishes, bowls, and cups. </div> <cite class="credit">jmsilva</cite>

Kitchen countertop with open cupboard with stacks of dishes, bowls, and cups.


For any small space (kitchens 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, spice-sorting systems, and anything else that will streamline and maximize your kitchen storage.

7. 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.

8. Keep your materials cohesive

Even a small space can look sleek and put-together. Go for panel-ready appliances and match them to the cabinetry and countertops for a minimalist kitchen.

9. Add a kitchen island

<h1 class="title">Domestic kitchen with cityscape visible out window, night</h1> <div class="caption"> Portland, Oregon, USA </div> <cite class="credit">Ryan McVay</cite>

Portland, Oregon, USA

Ryan McVay

Even if your kitchen is on the narrow side, you can still bring in a slim kitchen island. 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.

10. Make your kitchen island really stand out

<h1 class="title">Modern Domestic Kitchen Interior</h1> <div class="caption"> Digitally generated contemporary domestic kitchen interior design.The scene was rendered with photorealistic shaders and lighting in Autodesk® 3ds Max 2016 with V-Ray 3.6 with some post-production added. </div> <cite class="credit">Bulgac</cite>

Digitally generated contemporary domestic kitchen interior design.The scene was rendered with photorealistic shaders and lighting in Autodesk® 3ds Max 2016 with V-Ray 3.6 with some post-production added.


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.

11. Use light colors to visually expand your small kitchen

<cite class="credit">Photo: Malcolm Menzies</cite>
Photo: Malcolm Menzies

“The lighter the kitchen, the larger it can feel,” says Wolf. “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.

12. Double down on white

<cite class="credit">Photo: Anki Wijnen</cite>
Photo: Anki Wijnen

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.

13. Maximize floor space with a dining nook

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,” says Henderson. “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.”

14. Get rid of all clutter

<cite class="credit">Photo: Zeke Ruelas</cite>
Photo: Zeke Ruelas

“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.”

15. Think vertically

<cite class="credit">Photo: Zeke Ruelas</cite>
Photo: Zeke Ruelas

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.

16. 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.

17. Consider using chalkboard paint

Chalkboard paint is practical, transformative, and fun. You can use it to completely change the look of your kitchen, and let it take up an entire wall or just a small section. Use ito write grocery lists and dinner menus, or just draw.

18. Opt for small appliances

“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,” says Cheever.

19. Find a tiny sink, and get one with a cover so it doubles as a prep area

<h1 class="title">Stainless steel sink with mixer tap</h1> <div class="caption"> Modern stainless-steel faucet and sink on kitchen,with chopping board on top of sink </div> <cite class="credit">adavino</cite>

Modern stainless-steel faucet and sink on kitchen,with chopping board on top of sink


“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,” says Cheever.

20. 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,” says Cheever.

21. 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,” says Cheever.

22. Consider a mirrored backsplash

“Mirrors are especially useful when there is no, or minimal, natural light in a kitchen,” says Wolf. “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.

23. Hang a mirror above a stove

According to Wolf, you can create the same effect with a mirror. “It’s better to look at than a plain wall,” she says.

24. Use pattern in unexpected places, like your floor

<cite class="credit">Photo: Zeke Ruelas</cite>
Photo: Zeke Ruelas

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 ju
st limited to your floor. You can also jazz up your kitchen walls with patterned tile, wallpaper, or wall decals.

26. 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.”

27. Pair utilitarian appliances with refined cabinetry

“People who are frequent cooks 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 Stephanie Goto.

28. Get custom hardware

<cite class="credit">Photo: Courtesy of St. Charles of New York</cite>
Photo: Courtesy of St. Charles of New York

“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.

29. 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 the surface. 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 Goto.

30. Install a 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.

31. Make the most of marble

<cite class="credit">Photo by Gieves Anderson</cite>
Photo by Gieves Anderson

Marble is a stunning addition in any kitchen. This newly renovated kitchen in Manhattan features Calacatta marble countertops and backsplash—and we’re here for it.

“I like to incorporate is a full slab of marble running behind the range and through to the back of the cabinet,” says Williams. “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.”

35. Add a good kitchen rug and other warm accents

<h1 class="title">Small kitchen with dining table</h1> <div class="caption"> A shoot of a small kitchen with dining table. Render image. </div> <cite class="credit">Aleksandra Zlatkovic</cite>

A shoot of a small kitchen with dining table. Render image.

Aleksandra Zlatkovic

Adding 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.

36. Realize that anything can become a pantry

<cite class="credit">Photo: Rebekah Carey</cite>
Photo: Rebekah Carey

An old locker found at an estate sale, then repainted? Yep, that’s your new pantry. Double points for adding a magnetic knife strip to the side and/or magnetic spice jars for even more storage that doesn’t take up counter space.

37. Invest in kitchen supplies you don’t mind showing off

<h1 class="title">Santa Monica home of textile and interior designer Kathryn Ireland</h1> <div class="caption"> Barstools and a butcher's island in a white kitchen with colorful crockery </div> <cite class="credit">Andreas von Einsiedel</cite>

Barstools and a butcher’s island in a white kitchen with colorful crockery

Andreas von Einsiedel

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.

38. Use the wall space above the counter for additional storage

<cite class="credit">Photo: Nick Solares; homeowner: Tarajia Morrell</cite>
Photo: Nick Solares; homeowner: Tarajia Morrell

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.

39. Get colorful with an accent wall

<h1 class="title">Modern and cozy studio apartment and small kitchen</h1> <div class="caption"> Modern and cozy studio decorated with modern furniture. </div> <cite class="credit">Drazen_</cite>

Modern and cozy studio decorated with modern furniture.


An accent wall (or two!) can completely transform the look of your kitchen, regardless of its size.

40. Double down on color with vivid appliances

<h1 class="title">Scandinavian Domestic Kitchen</h1> <cite class="credit">Bulgac</cite>

If you don’t want to commit to a colorful wall, opt for a colorful appliance instead.

41. Hang your mugs

<h1 class="title">Colorful coffee cups on hooks</h1> <div class="caption"> Colorful coffee cups on hooks </div> <cite class="credit">ThomasVogel</cite>

Colorful coffee cups on hooks


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 right to wall for an even bigger statement.

42. 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,” says Williams.

43. Add drawers to the inside of yo
ur cabinets

Cabinet drawers are easy to install, and they make your assortment of lids, pans, and Tupperware so much easier to access. This solution is also a lot less costly than getting custom cabinetry.

44. Hide your fridge within the cabinetry

<cite class="credit">Photo: Courtesy of St. Charles of New York</cite>
Photo: Courtesy of St. Charles of New York

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.

45. 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.

46. Or open up part of the walls

<cite class="credit">Photo: Richard Powers</cite>
Photo: Richard Powers

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.

47. Put up artwork

<cite class="credit">Photo: Manuel Rodriguez/Courtesy of Alexander Reid</cite>
Photo: Manuel Rodriguez/Courtesy of Alexander Reid

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.

48. Add a pegboard

<cite class="credit">Peter Dressel 2018</cite>
Peter Dressel 2018

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. You can get one made in the exact size you desire, and then use it to hang everything from measuring cups to colanders.

49. Make use of every nook and cranny

<h1 class="title">Woman hand open a kitchen storage cabinet in modern interior</h1> <cite class="credit">Lazy_Bear</cite>

Find a use for everything, even the space next to your stove (it makes a fantastic place to store spices, oils, soup stocks, et cetera). 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.”

50. 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,” says Goto. 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.

51. Use baskets for storage

<h1 class="title">Kitchen shelf with jars.</h1> <div class="caption"> Kitchen interior with a fragment of a white shelf with a basket, a sugar bowl,l and jars of ingredients. </div> <cite class="credit">Valery Yurasov</cite>

Kitchen interior with a fragment of a white shelf with a basket, a sugar bowl,l and jars of ingredients.

Valery Yurasov

Last but not least on our list of small kitchen ideas: 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 they can double as decor and additional storage.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest