5 wall colours to make a small kitchen feel bright and spacious, according to interiors experts

Making a kitchen feel bigger doesn't mean sticking to white walls - these playful colours offer so much alternative inspo

Farrow & Ball setting plaster in pink kitchen
(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

We’re not all blessed with sprawling kitchens with room for an island, enough seating, and ample worktop space. We like to remind ourselves that good things do come in small packages. So if your kitchen is petite, we’re here to tell you that there are plenty of small kitchen ideas and design fun to be had when it comes to the colours you choose for the walls.

Whether you’re looking to create a light, bright and airy space or want to inject personality through colour, a small kitchen can absolutely handle a spectrum of shades – it’s all about how you use your colour(s) of choice, what finish you choose and where it's applied. 

‘Whites and creams are an obvious choice to make a space feel bigger. However we shouldn't feel limited to just neutrals when tackling compact kitchens,' advises Milena Vallier at My Bespoke Room. With that in mind, if you're looking for different and playful wall colour ideas for a small kitchen, take note of these shades as recommended by the pros... 

Best wall colours for a small kitchen  

Arguably, the best colours to paint a kitchen are the shades that you love most. You’re the one that will live with it after all, right? However, if your kitchen is on the small side, you might like to take heed of a few tips to avoid making the space feel even more compact and too dark.

Many of us want our kitchens to be the social hub of the home, no matter its size. ‘Food brings people together, making the kitchen one of the most sociable rooms in the house,’ says Kathryn Lloyd, Crown’s colour specialist. ‘An effective colour scheme for this area is one that works to maximise the space available.’  

And since kitchens are often bustling spaces, with family and friends gathering to cook, eat, work and play, it's important to consider how you use yours when deciding on the colour choice to suit the space and your lifestyle best. 

Here are five colour ideas that will work best in a small kitchen… 

1. Mellow yellow

Yellow kitchen with panelling on wall

(Image credit: Futrue PLC)

While white kitchen ideas, creams and neutrals may seem like the go-to when space is tight, there’s no rule to say you can’t be a bit more creative if more vibrant colours are your thing. And although yellow may not be where your mind immediately goes, this shade has many sunny benefits. 

‘Yellows can brighten up and expand a small kitchen,’ says Milena. ‘Warm yellows can transform a kitchen into the sunniest spot in the house and they reflect the light in such a way to make the room feel larger. Depending on the shape and layout of the kitchen, choose from canary yellow to more gold and ochre shades and even honey tones.’

To get the balance right with the cabinetry, add open shelving to help boost the sense of space and stick to paler shades for units or go for those in unpainted wood.

2. Soft greens

Wooden effect kitchen with sage green walls

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Green kitchen ideas have become a go-to choice for adding colour in an accessible, unintimidating way. In a small kitchen, choose muted shades of green to give a fresh and airy look, creating a calming indoor-outdoor feel.

‘For smaller kitchens, lighter shades such as Crown’s Spice Rack, a timeless pale green, can be a wise idea as they work to uplift the room and make it feel more spacious,’ says Kathryn. 

Or what about using soft greens as part of a space-enhancing paint effect, like stripes? ‘Another simple way to enlarge a smaller kitchen is by painting in vertical stripes. Sage tones like Mellow Sage pair well with earthy, clay-like colours such as Linen Blend to create open, meditative environments,’ says Kathryn.

No matter the shade of paint and how many pairings you choose, it’s advisable to go for tough, durable and wipe-clean formulas that are specifically developed for use in kitchens and areas prone to wear and tear – especially if you’ve got kids or pets running around. 

3. Light blue

Blue painted kitchen with wooden accents

(Image credit: COAT Paints)

Just like greens will evoke a feeling of the outdoors, so too will lovely, soft pale blue tones. The common worry with blue kitchen ideas is that they will make a small space feel cold, but if you take care to choose those with a warmer undertone, you’ll avoid a stark result. The key thing to remember is to always test the paint in situ before committing to it and see how it looks in different lights throughout the day.

‘Pale blues are great at opening up a narrow kitchen and diffuse natural light,’ says Milena. ‘Consider the finish – adding reflective, shiny, metallic surfaces really help bounce light around in a small space.’

The effect of certain colours can trick the eye into thinking a small kitchen is larger than it actually is. ‘Soft blues, and lilacs, known as receding colours,’ explains Emily. ‘They create an illusion of depth, making the space feel larger and more peaceful too. Try an eggshell finish, as their slight sheen ensures optimal light reflection.’

4. A balance of hues

Navy kitchen with island and light plaster pink walls

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Like we said, the best colour to paint a small kitchen is the shade that you love most, so while the shades already mentioned will help to create an airy feel, if you’re a fan of using dark and moody or vibrant colours, then there is still a way to do so. 

‘Dark colours like dark browns, dark grey and black in general should be avoided in a small kitchen because a large expanse of these colours will make the kitchen feel claustrophobic,’ advises Milena. 

‘This doesn't mean that dark browns and black cannot be used in small kitchens but it's about striking the right balance. Consider pairing a bright white worktop with dark cabinets for a striking contrast and to help reflect light around the room.’

5. Colour drenching

Lick Heinz red paint collaboration in red kitchen.

(Image credit: Lick)

The technique of colour drenching involves painting the same shade across walls, skirtings, doors, ceilings and even the kitchen units. The result? A cocooning all-over colour can enhance the feeling of space because there are no breaks between the different areas. 

‘This technique blurs the boundaries allowing your eye to drift around the room,’ says Milena. ‘I would use bold, saturated jewel greens and teals to create a colour-drenching effect.’

You can apply a colour drench with any colour whether bold or more neutral, ensuring that you choose the correct paint formulas for each surface. 

Emily says she would exercise caution with dark shades. ‘Deep, jewel tones such as sapphire, ruby, and emerald absorb light, creating a cosier, more intimate space. This can be a great trick if you have a large kitchen you want to make feel intimate but can make a smaller kitchen feel swamped when placed everywhere,’ she says, suggesting a consistent application of a light, pale tone across the walls, ceiling and woodwork instead.


What kitchen wall colours go with grey cabinets?

Generally speaking soft pale tones help make the space feel light. It’s important to consider the aspect of the room. 

‘North facing rooms have a cooler tone of natural light and this brings out the cool tones within a colour,’ says Milena Vallier at My Bespoke Room. ‘In this case I would suggest off-whites with a yellow undertone and avoid the ones with a green or grey. For south and east facing rooms using soft pale tones helps maximise the feeling of space and in here light greens and blues look fantastic. For west facing rooms I would consider pale muted pinks.’

When planning the colour scheme for your kitchen, always test wall paint samples in the space and – where possible – apply the colour in different test areas to see how natural and artificial light affects the appearance throughout the day. If you’re not keen on painting samples directly onto the wall, paint a swatch onto white paper and use masking tape to stick it to the wall. 

Farrow & Ball setting plaster in pink kitchen

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

 Which paint effects will work in a small kitchen? 

Paint is a great tool for a bit of creativity in a small kitchen. From adding vertical or horizontal stripes, a feature wall, colour blocking or grid effects, you can add your own personality to the space. 

But not all ideas work best in a small room, as some can ‘crop’ it and make it look even smaller..

‘You don’t just have to paint the walls bold colours to get that dopamine boost,’ says Emily Harnasz, lead colour consultant at YesColours. ‘Remember you have other surfaces that need some love. Use your skirting, doors, windows, and ceilings to introduce just a pop of your favourite colour to make you feel good in a unique and exciting way.’

Design features such as borders or half painted walls can shrink a room when not used correctly. ‘They can make a room feel bigger when bringing the colour just above the majority of the low-level furniture such as seating and tables (approximately a third of the wall), any higher and it starts to dominate the space and make it feel disjointed.’ 

A top tip from Emily: paint the remainder of the wall and ceiling a lighter colour, it blurs the line from the wall to the ceiling, creating a seamless transition that makes the ceiling appear higher. It enhances the perception of space in a room with lower ceiling heights too.

Just because your kitchen is on the smaller side, it doesn't mean you have to play it safe with white walls. Take inspiration from the pros for a chic space that feels open and inviting.