Small kitchen ideas on a budget – 10 ways to make the most of a compact space

Not blessed with a large kitchen? Then don't miss these handy tips and tricks to help you create a stylish and practical design that doesn’t cost a fortune

wood kitchen with island unit and bar stools
(Image credit: Future)

Most of us will have a dream of our perfect kitchen, where money and size isn’t an issue and we can include everything we want, but the reality is that. Unfortunately, for most of us budget will be a big deciding factor, and with houses getting smaller, kitchens are too. So we are faced with the double-whammy of hunting for small kitchen ideas on a budget that are both stylish and functional. 

Don't worry, though, as even the tiniest of spaces can be practical with some clever small kitchen ideas. And, despite these rooms often needing to be multifunctional, with space for cooking, eating, socialising and maybe homeworking, with some ingenious small kitchen storage ideas and a well-planned layout you can have a kitchen that becomes the hub of your home.

Small kitchen ideas on a budget 

‘In a small kitchen, materials are quite important,' says Matt Baker, kitchen designer at Harvey Jones. ‘Be sure to avoid anything that can make the space seem "busy", like strong patterns, as this can draw the room in, while simplicity and paler colours will open the room up. 

'Arranging a smaller room can be tricky, so pay close attention to the size of each cupboard to make sure you don’t waste valuable space with any unnecessarily large cupboards,' Matt continues. 'Making the most of your space will mostly come down to being flexible, so be flexible with your wish list; large American fridge-freezers, wide range cookers and wine coolers may have to be sacrificed for more space-friendly options.’

Here are a few clever small kitchen ideas on a budget to make the most of the space and budget you have – without compromising on style.

1. Make the most of the space available

grey kitchen with wall cupboards and small table and storage options

(Image credit: Ikea)

A small kitchen layout means you need to be careful to make the most of every inch of space and ensure your cabinetry has plenty of storage. Opt for white cabinets and you'll immediately make the space feel bigger, plus they tend to be a bit cheaper than coloured ones, too. 

Where you don't have a lot of floor space, look to your walls to do the hard work, with shelves and cupboards to stack crockery or glassware. To help keep your kitchen feel spacious, include open shelves if possible and choosing one or two colours for all your crockery will also help with a more uniform feel. 

Add hooks or wall-mounted storage systems beneath your shelves for hanging utensils and mugs etc. 

2. Repaint cabinets for a whole new look

pink kitchen with cabinets and a range cooker

(Image credit: Future PLC)

One of the easiest – and cheapest – ways to update your kitchen is with some small kitchen paint ideas, whether it’s the walls, the cabinets or even the floor. A fresh coat of paint will give you a brand-new look and make you love your kitchen all over again – it’s a great small kitchen idea on a budget. 

Make sure to choose the right paint and also prep your cabinets to ensure a long-lasting finish that won’t chip. New paint technology means you can use one paint for everything, such as Crown’s Kitchen Paint or Dulux's Easycare Kitchen Paint, which is a tough grease-resistant paint that's washable – so ideal for a busy kitchen.

3. Add funky new handles

copper pipe handles in a kitchen

(Image credit: Future)

Swapping the handles on drawers and cupboards will instantly refresh them. It is a smart budget kitchen idea as there are tons of designs out there to choose from at different price points. Of course, you could create your own from copper pipes, as has been done here, or spray your existing handles to give your kitchen a new look at an even lower cost.

‘When choosing a design, think about whether you want the handles to be an accent on their own, or to match fittings such as light switches and taps to tie in with the overall look,’ says Ally Dowsing-Reynolds, CEO at Dowsing & Reynolds.  ‘Adding fun pops of colour is a great way to bring your personality into the kitchen for a delicious dopamine boost. People sometimes think colour can only be brought in through paint, wallpaper or accessories, but why not have colourful fixtures and fittings too?'

4. Make a feature of the ceiling

blue kitchen with island and bar stools with wood ceiling and gold pendant lights

(Image credit: Smile Kitchens)

Often called the ‘fifth wall’, adding design detail to the ceiling could make all the difference in a small kitchen, especially if it’s angled like this one. Scandic-style wood panelling is easy to install and looks amazing, plus it covers up any imperfections in your ceiling.

‘Panelling on ceilings is a great way to add texture and depth to a space,’ says Olivia Crosher, interior designer for Naturewall. 'Particularly in a kitchen, this interior feature brings warmth into a space by layering textures with other natural materials. This creates a more interesting interior scheme, introducing a contemporary edge whilst still having that timeless feel.’

If wood panelling isn't to your taste, you could try wallpapering or tiling the ceiling or painting it a bold colour instead? 

5. Install mirrors to make the space seem larger

white kitchen with island and white leather bar stools with mirror splashback

(Image credit: Future PLC)

It’s an old trick, but a good one! Using mirrors really does make a space seem bigger than it is. Here a mirror spans the space between the base and wall cabinets as a unique splashback idea instead of the more usual tiles. It reflects the room making it seem twice the size – genius! 

Mirrors, and mirrored surfaces, can be a big investment, so it's worth exploring available home decor discount codes to keep your project within budget.

6. Add pattern in unexpected places

kitchen island with colourful wallpaper

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you're drawn to bold patterns, but are worried about overpowering a small kitchen, use a strong wallpaper on the base of a small kitchen island idea to see if you like it. Then you could always paper the walls at a later stage.

‘Wallpapering a small area is a great way to add a splash of personality into the home, enabling you to experiment with pattern and colour without committing to full room coverage,' says Paula Taylor, colour and trend specialist at Graham & Brown. ‘Select a design that is bold and eye-catching, then team with calming tones to complement the wallpaper, whilst allowing it to shine.'

7. Update your kitchen with new tiles

kitchen with island and bar stools

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Nothing dates a kitchen more than old-fashioned tiles, so give your room a brand new look with an on-trend design – or paint your kitchen tiles for a new colour hit. 

Want new tiles? You can find affordable designs in bold patterns and strong colour, which can totally transform your kitchen's aesthetic. These small-scale wall tiles, for example, instantly update this classic wood kitchen and draw the eye in. 

8. Use open shelves instead of wall units

white kitchen with black island and wood bar stools with open shelving

(Image credit: Future PLC)

To keep costs down, instead of buying and fitting wall cabinets, use shelving instead. Not only will they cost less than cabinets, they'll also help make the kitchen feel lighter and more open. Plus you can have your favourite items out on display or add plants to bring the outside in.

9. Choose sleek ‘hidden’ appliances

white kitchen with stainless steel cooker hood in ceiling

(Image credit: Franke)

In a small space, big and bulky appliances can take up much-needed room, so it's worth looking at smaller, more compact designs that won't impact on your layout. Cooker hoods, for example, are more important than ever in a small kitchen to remove steam and cooking smells, but they can also make the kitchen feel more enclosed. 

‘Flush fitting ceiling hoods are ideal for enhancing the feeling of space in a small kitchen because they remove "visual clutter" and allow for clear sight lines across the kitchen,' says Jo Sargent, marketing director of Franke. ‘They also fit easily into almost all ceiling voids so can be used in new builds and old properties alike.‘

10. Use low-level storage

blue kitchen with bench seat and cooker hood

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Storage in a small kitchen is essential and it's wise to get a range of options when working out how to organise a small kitchen, from enclosed cabinets, wall shelves and low-level features, such as bench seat storage or baskets.

Here, the whole of the right-hand wall is taken up with a large window, meaning the kitchen has to fit on just two walls, but instead of cramming shelves and cabinets in, it's a nice ordered design with plenty of storage and even a bench seat with extra storage to stash linen or pots and pans.

How do I make the most of my small kitchen?

‘Make sure to use the available space to its full capacity,’ says Alex Main of the Main Company. ‘We often incorporate high-level storage cupboards with open shelving below to create a feeling of openness and light in a room. Use drawers to store crockery (and wine!) and make sure there is no "dead" space.'

How do I re-do my kitchen on a budget?

There's lots of ways to transform your kitchen, whether it's replacing your cabinet doors, giving the room a fresh coat of paint, or updating the fixtures or small kitchen lighting ideas. Old or stained sinks can also make a kitchen look shabby, so replacing them with new, shiny designs can give your room a new look that doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Retiling the walls will also have an instant impact, adding colour and pattern to your kitchen. ‘Getting the right tiles is really important for both the overall style you want to achieve and practical concerns, particularly when you’re dealing with smaller spaces,’ says Amanda Telford, marketing manager of CTD Tiles. ‘With hundreds of colours, patterns and textures available to choose from, tiles in the kitchen allow you to create an individual space with plenty of character.’

What colour makes a small kitchen look bigger?

‘The kitchen has for too long become the victim of the "all white makes it look bigger" design philosophy,' says Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown.  ‘Thankfully, upcoming trends embrace a wider approach to what is one of the most used spaces in the home. 

'Pale blues and greens are calming shades that work well in a room that sees a lot of action and light colours are often more reflective than dark colours, and so will make the kitchen appear bigger. In a small kitchen, stick to one colour rather than a lot of clashing shades.'

Laurie Davidson

Laurie Davidson is a professional stylist, writer and content creator, who lives and breathes interiors. Having worked for some of the UK’s leading interior magazines, styled homes up and down the country and produced sets for TV shows, adverts and top brands, it’s safe to say Laurie has had a pretty exciting career. Find her on Instagram at @lifeofaninteriorstylist or over at