These colours are key to making a small kitchen feel brighter, bigger and full of personality

The shades you'll want to know about...

Navy kitchen with yellow backsplash
(Image credit: Ca'Pietra)

So many of us have kitchens that we wish were bigger. If your space is feeling more cramped and gloomy than airy and welcoming, you may think that forking out for a kitchen extension is your only option. 

But fear not, there are lots of budget small kitchen ideas out there that can make a small kitchen look bigger, and one of the easiest things to consider? Your use of colour. 

Choosing a kitchen colour scheme is an art form in itself. From picking shades that suit the aspect of your room, to selecting colour combinations that enhance each other as well as the size of the space, there’s a lot to consider. 

There are seven key colour tricks to make your kitchen look bigger, and you’ll be surprised what a difference they can make.  

Colour tricks to make a small kitchen look bigger 

Using colour in kitchen design is a balancing act between your heart and head – choosing a kitchen colour scheme that you love and that also works well in your space. 

Colour can act as an optical illusion and, used the right way, completely transform how big (or small) your space feels. 

Whether you’re designing your space from scratch or you’re simply keen to add a fresh lick of paint, these colour tricks will make your kitchen look bigger. Plus, you can do them on a budget, so they’re a win-win in our eyes. 

1. Opt for high-shine finishes

White kitchen with gloss cabinets, wooden dining table and chairs and black and white floor tiles

(Image credit: Future PLC/Beth Davis)

When choosing the colours for your kitchen, you should consider the finish at the same time, as this will make a huge difference to the impact the colour has on the space. Swapping a matt finish for a high-shine version is one of the oldest tricks in the book for making your kitchen feel bigger. 

‘Using more reflective finishes such as gloss paint will not only naturally bounce light around a room in turn opening it up and making it feel more spacious, but it is also a lot easier to clean too,’ says Giverny Slimm, lead interior designer at Studio Howes.

High-shine kitchen ideas aren’t limited to paint – they can include your worktops, tiles and flooring too. ‘Consider adding glossy worktops to your design as they will bounce light around the room and create the illusion of a larger space,’ says Julie Gokce, senior kitchen designer at More Kitchens.

2. Keep to a tonal colour palette

Pale pink shaker kitchen with terracotta tiles

(Image credit: Ca'Pietra)

Choosing a kitchen colour scheme that’s limited to shades of a single colour is a key colour trick for making a small kitchen look bigger.

Colour drenching can visually expand a small kitchen by eliminating any colour transitions that break up the space. The technique will make your kitchen feel less fragmented, therefore giving the impression of increased square footage,’ says Ben Thomson, manager at Promain

While you may be tempted to take this technique and go white all over to largen your small kitchen, Melissa Klink, creative director and kitchen designer at Harvey Jones, warns against this. ‘An all-white kitchen can easily end up looking cold and clinical,’ she says, ‘so think about the undertones of the neutrals you choose.’ Go for warm whites and add interest with textures to add character and personality to a white kitchen.

3. Use colour to heighten your ceiling

pull larder in full height a cream kitchen unit

(Image credit: Future / Darren Chung)

All rooms feel bigger and more pleasant if the ceiling is higher, including kitchens. Luckily for us, there are ways to create the illusion of a higher ceiling, that don’t require a single builder (or sledge hammer!) 

‘You can visually increase the ceiling area by painting a band around the top of the room (of around 20-30cm) in the same colour as the ceiling. This tricks your mind’s eye into pushing the walls away, therefore making the room feel bigger,’ says Clare Pascoe, interior designer at Pascoe Interiors

Choosing a pale shade for your ceiling can also make a huge difference. ‘Whatever wall colour you choose, it's really essential to keep the ceiling much lighter to lift the space and ensure it doesn't feel overbearing,’ says Jayne Everett, co-founder and creative director of Naked Kitchens.

The colour of your wall cabinets can make a difference to the feeling of height in your kitchen too. ‘Lighter tones on upper cabinets draw the eye upward, enhancing the perception of height,’ says Molly Chandler, designer at Willis & Stone.

4. Create a coloured focal point

Ca Pietra blue handpainted tiles in kitchen

(Image credit: Ca Pietra)

An alternative colour trick to make your small kitchen look bigger is to use contrast to form a focal point. This kitchen idea works to draw the eye to a particular feature of your kitchen. If you have a pale neutral kitchen, for example, adding a bright yellow oven or a green splashback will create a statement and allow the rest of the room to somewhat fall into the background. 

‘A great space-enhancing approach is to create one or two bold features that draw your eye to them, tricking you into thinking the room has more depth,’ says Dave Young at Husk Kitchens

‘Decide what’s going to be the focus of your kitchen and then add a depth of colour to that space, so you create a feature. The space will feel larger when the eye can settle on a few colourful key features that elevate the kitchen from a space to cook, to an entertaining experience,’ says Gwendoline Alderton of GA Interiors

5. Be strategic with how you use dark shades

Black painted kitchen cupboards and countertop, white tiled backsplash and decorative open shelving

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

Pale colours reflect light, making them the obvious choice for a small kitchen colour scheme. But, this doesn’t mean you need to strike ‘dark blue cabinets’ off your kitchen wishlist completely – used the right way, dark colours can make a space feel bigger too. 

‘You shouldn’t rule out dark cabinetry if that’s your preference, as it can work well in a small kitchen. You just need to counter balance the dark colour with light colours, so choose pale worktops, splashbacks and surrounding walls,’ says Ruth Lavender, design expert at Benchmarx

‘If you’d like a darker colour in your kitchen, use it on your base units and choose a paler colour for wall units. This will keep the light reflecting around the space and create the illusion of a bigger, taller room,’ says Josie Medved, design manager at Symphony.

6. Draw attention to your window

A purple kitchen with pendant lights

(Image credit: Naked Kitchens)

Your kitchen window is the eye into extra space and the giver of natural light, making it a key tool for making your room look bigger. Transform your window into a focal point by painting your frame in a bright or contrasting colour. 

‘Painting window frames in a smaller kitchen is a great way to draw the eye across the space and towards the view, making it feel like the outside is incorporated into the space,’ says Giverny Slimm.

‘Coloured frames are more reflective than darker frames and can create a contrast against the walls, drawing the eye outward and tricking the mind into thinking the kitchen is bigger,’ says Jo Trotman, marketing manager at The Residence Collection.

Always use a paint that’s especially designed for your window’s material, be it wood, metal or uPVC, to ensure a neat and long-lasting finish.

7. Paint on a decorative stripe

Navy kitchen with yellow backsplash

(Image credit: Little Greene)

It’s true what they say, stripes make a room look bigger, and painted stripes are a perfect modern kitchen idea. If you’re wanting to broaden your room, a horizontal stripe, like this design by Little Greene, can work to visually elongate your kitchen. Here, the lightest shade is used at the top, which also helps to make the ceiling feel higher. 

If you favour adding height to your space, go for a vertical stripe instead, be it with paint like this, or a striped wallpaper. 

When painting on stripes, use a spirit level to pencil on a perfectly straight line. Then, apply painting tape along the line, paint on your chosen colour, and peel the tape away slowly to reveal a perfectly straight edge – the process is so satisfying! 


Which kitchen colours are in for 2024? 

The key kitchen colour trends for 2024 are earthy green, dark blue, and soft pink. These shades are hugely popular in the kitchen design sphere, and have been for the last couple of years. 

The shades we’re seeing freshly emerge this year are butter yellow, mid-tone red, and chocolate brown. Watch this space for more of these bold and brave kitchen colours to come as we head into 2025. 

While it’s great to choose a kitchen that’s on trend, remember you’re likely to have these units for years to come, so ensure you choose a design, style and colour that you love.

What colour kitchen cabinets are timeless?

White, black and wooden kitchen cabinets are timeless kitchen colour combinations. Just like a little black dress, these shades will simply always be in style, so they’re a safe bet if you want a kitchen that’ll look hot for the next 10, 20 or even 30 years. 

Combine one of these colours with a Shaker-style unit and your kitchen will be as timeless as can be. 

You can add on-trend accessories and decorative items – think plant pots, tea towels and wall art – to keep your classic kitchen looking fresh as the years go by. 

Which shade will make it into your new kitchen design?

Amelia Smith
Freelance Writer

Amelia has worked in interiors journalism and home styling since 2016. Having edited Real Homes magazine, and worked across titles including House Beautiful, Homes & Gardens and Gardening Etc, she has written about everything from the bricks and mortar of a renovation, to kitchen design and gardening know-how.