Small Kitchen Design Ideas

Here are lots of small kitchen design ideas to make your kitchen look, feel and work bigger and better!

Start with a clean slate

If you're remodeling, can you move or even remove any doors to your kitchen? This can make all the difference in how efficiently the room works.

Are there windows in the way that could be relocated? These let in light, of course, but they also take up valuable wall space. Consider how the room might be improved by changing the window configuration.

Get rid of clutter! Here are great ways to do just that:

Cures for countertop clutter

Easier said than done, I know. This is the biggie...and the hardest to attain. But take heart - you can do it! A fresh, clean start is the basis for small kitchen design.

  • First, get rid of everything non-kitchen related. Put the change jar in the bedroom. Throw receipts and junk mail into a basket by the desk. Charge cell phones in the home office. Hang wall hooks by the door for keys.
  • Store canisters and cookie jars in a cabinet, or on top of the fridge. Put away the cutting board, wooden spoons, spoon rests, and other useful things you have "out."
  • Keep a small basket or jar under the sink for kitchen clutter that mysteriously appears - miscellaneous screws, bits of paper, etc. When someone asks, "What happened to my ___?" show him where you keep the basket.

Only absolute necessities should remain on the counter. If your microwave sits there, invest in one that installs under the wall cabinets...or put in a shelf for it.

Storage cures

What exactly are you storing in your kitchen?

Grandma's waffle iron with the frayed cord? The food dehydrator you've used, what, exactly never?

Unload anything you "might need someday." Small kitchens work best using essentials only!

  • Store things you only use occasionally in other rooms/closets. Move non-kitchen things like the junk drawer to another room.
  • Open shelving - one of the best small kitchen design ideas! Storage plus an airy feel.
  • Move your cabinets up! If there are soffits in the way, determine if they're there for "looks" or to serve a purpose. If you can remove them, do it and make use of the've just found storage gold! (For cabinet-moving tips, see Move Your Cabinets.) 
  • Once the cabinets are moved up - or if you have room now - add a shelf under the wall cabs to store canisters, spices, even dishes. See Kitchen Storage Ideas for more on this and other great ways to add storage!

Moving your cabinets up to create more storage space is one of the easiest small kitchen design ideas!

These cabinets were raised to make room for a stemmed glass rack underneath.

Small kitchen design ideas for a
larger look and feel The illusion or the real thing - both can make all the difference in a compact kitchen! Here are small kitchen design ideas to work some spaciousness magic.

Add glass

Change your wall cabinet doors - or at least some of them - to glass-front. Glass cabinet doors make a dramatic change in the open feeling of a small space!

Use fancy glass if you want to camouflage what's behind the glass. Add lighting if you want to show it off.

Kitchen cabinets don't come with glass shelves, but to let the light shine all the way through, you'll need them.

Remove your cabinet's wood shelves and take them to a local glass shop to have custom shelves made.

This homeowner chose seeded glass doors to complement his vintage home.

The glass shelves let light into the interior and add ambient light to the kitchen.

Paint it white

Paint it white! White is a small kitchen's best friend...but if you must have color, go with pale shades. Boring? Try a light blue ceiling - goes with every color.

Avoid patterns

"Patterns" make your kitchen design look "busy."

Flooring is the biggest. If you have hardwood, run it out of the kitchen into adjoining rooms for more of a "flow." Select new tile with matching grout in a color close to your wall color. Existing tile - stain the grout to match. 

Avoid cabinets with natural multi-colored woods like hickory, or fancy doors and drawer fronts that add a lot of texture.

Don't go crazy with fancy granite colors. For tile counters, use matching grout. Get panels for the front of your dishwasher and fridge that match your cabinets.

Remove "obstacles"

Obstacles can be cabinets hanging over open space, a raised countertop bar, big range hoods, pot racks...

...anything that interrupts the clean flow and open sight-lines of the room.

Add light

A larger window? A door with glass panes? These add natural light AND views to the great outdoors, both of which expand a compact space.

Of course, more light fixtures help, too! (See Kitchen Lighting Ideas - bright ideas for not much money!)

Open up the room

You can do this in small, medium or large doses.

  • Small - a "peephole" at least a foot square to an adjoining room (mine lets me watch TV in the living room while I cook in the kitchen!)
  • Medium - a pass-through to the dining or family room
  • Large - removing a wall or part of one! 

Expense can play a large part in which of these you choose, but any open space is a good thing.

Downsize appliances

This doesn't mean you can't have a large refrigerator - consider one that's a slim 24" deep. It's taller and wider than the average model, but it'll look built-in, give you more floor space and the illusion of a bigger room.

I used this size refrigerator when remodeling MY kitchen...of all small kitchen design ideas, this one continually makes me happy! Read about my kitchen redesign - Small Kitchen and Two Cooks!

Consider a single drawer dishwasher! Easy on the back, uses less water so you can run it more often, and only takes up the space of a large drawer. My local Lowe's store carries Fisher & Paykel, an innovative New Zealand company that makes several sizes including 24" wide.

Kitchen Plans for Small Spaces

Two Cooks

Kitchen Storage Ideas

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Thinking of remodeling?

Keep a notebook or scrapbook of notes, clippings and ideas.

Kitchen magazines are expensive - look through them in the grocery checkout line. If you see pix of a kitchen you really like, buy that magazine.

Stop in at home centers and pick up any free cabinet manufacturers' catalogs.

See our DIY section...

...for how-to on kitchen remodeling - including
How To Tile a Backsplash.