While a large, spacious kitchen is the dream, the reality is that many of us are stuck with small kitchens that feel cramped and crowded. But there are lots of visual tricks and clever ideas for how to make a small kitchen look bigger that don’t involve knocking down walls or a major refurb.
Layout is key to successful small kitchen ideas, whether you have a small, square-shaped kitchen or a long, skinny galley style layout.
How to make a small kitchen look bigger
‘Think about the work triangle,’ says Lizzie Beesley, Head of Design at Magnet. ‘One of the benefits of small kitchens is that you can easily access all areas of your space, making cooking and cleaning efficient. Try to place your cleaning, cooking and preparing areas into three separate zones, with plenty of floor space in-between.’
The right small kitchen paint colour can also make all the difference. ‘The colour scheme of your kitchen will have a big impact on the impression of the space available,’ says Darren Watts, Design Director at Wren Kitchens.
‘Light colours with plenty of white tint will naturally reflect light, which helps to avoid the room feeling cramped and dark. Bright white or cream is an obvious choice, but don't feel limited. Light greens, yellows, blues and even greys can work well too.’
‘Whatever colour you choose, try to make the cabinet doors and walls one consistent colour. This removes any visual barriers that cause the eye to stop short, thus making the room appear much larger than it actually is,’ adds Darren.
1. Streamline units to create the illusion of space
Keep the look sleek and streamlined to create a feeling of spaciousness in a small or narrow kitchen. Choose light-reflective surfaces that will bounce light around the room and instantly make the space feel bigger and brighter. Opt for light coloured cabinets, high-gloss doors and pale, blonde woods and ditch fussy detailing for simple slab-front doors and flush handle-free profiles.
'Gloss finish cabinets and worktops, as well as metallic accents across taps, handles and appliances will reflect the light and make the room feel much larger than it actually is,' says Darren at Wren.
2. Put the focus on the floor
Make a small kitchen look bigger by laying directional flooring. A wide herringbone-pattern floor or chevron-format tile creates lines that draw the eye outwards and will make the kitchen floor feel wider and longer.
Keep to light tiles or pale-coloured woods that will reflect light, rather than dark, heavy colours which are light-absorbing and will make the space feel more closed-in.
3. Lose the clutter
While lack of smart small kitchen storage ideas can be a major problem when space is limited, having too much ‘stuff’ out on worktops will only make the space feel more cluttered and overcrowded. The less there is on show, the neater your worktops will look - and the more organised and tidy your kitchen will feel.
Only leave out the essentials that you use daily, such as the toaster and kettle or coffee maker. Stow all the lesser-used items out of sight, in full-sized cupboards or lower-down cabinets so they can be pulled out when needed, from food mixers and blenders, to sandwich makers and food processors.
4. Try a corner arrangement to free-up space
Having cabinets on all four walls can make a small kitchen feel overcrowded. Opting for an L-shaped arrangement with cabinets that meet in one corner, provides an ample amount of storage, without making the kitchen feel overly-crammed.
For extra worktop space, try adding a small freestanding small kitchen island idea in the centre of the kitchen. Or bring in a breakfast table and chairs positioned in the opposite corner and there’ll be somewhere for the family to gather.
5. Add height with a dual-toned kitchen
Create the illusion of space with thoughtful two tone kitchen cabinet ideas. If your kitchen is on the small side, try incorporating two shades into the colour scheme and see how it enhances the overall feeling of space.
A darker colour on the base units helps to define the layout and works as an anchor point. Opting for a lighter shade on the upper wall units will draw the eye upwards and help make the kitchen feel brighter and more open.
6. Create a focal point with cheery wallpaper
Make a narrow galley kitchen feel more spacious by wallpapering one end in a lively print. A busy pattern on the narrowest wall will draw the eye along and create the illusion of extra width.
Choose a design that complements your kitchen’s decor. Match the colour and pattern to kitchen cabinets, a colourful splashback, wall colour or flooring for a chic, co-ordinated look.
7. Expand your options
Glossy white wall tiles will work wonders in a small kitchen, reflecting light and enhancing the sense of spaciousness. Stretch the space further by choosing brick-shaped tiles and installing them in a simple stacked format. Laid lengthwise like this, longline tiles help to visually expand the space and make the kitchen feel wider than it is.
8. Be smart with appliances
Choose wisely when it comes to kitchen appliances and you can free up valuable space. Consider compact appliances, such as slimline dishwashers and fridges, or appliances that do the work of two, but only take up the space of one, such as combination washer/driers.
Integrated appliances are another option that will keep a small kitchen looking sleek and streamlined. Rather than a muddle of mixed brands and appliances, hiding everything away behind cabinet doors gives a more fluid, uninterrupted look that will make a kitchen feel more spacious and airy.
9. Match worktops and splash backs for seamless style
Make a small kitchen feel bigger by matching worktops and splash backs for a sleek, streamlined look. Choose a pale colour or light-reflective surface and extend the worktops up the walls to give a seamless appearance and uninterrupted finish. Having no harsh breaks makes walls recede visually and creates a feeling of calm and spaciousness.
10. Let more light flow in
Natural light will enlarge any space and make it instantly feel brighter and more spacious. Maximise what light you do have in a small kitchen by keeping any window treatments to a minimum. If windows aren’t overlooked at street level, consider doing away with window coverings completely if you can. Plants and greenery displayed on the windowsill will keep it from looking too bare and empty.
If some form of covering is a must, consider a sheer blind that will give privacy without blocking too much light. Or try classic cafe-style shutters that will obscure the bottom section of window, while still allowing plenty of light through at the top.
11. Free up wall space
Plan the perfect small kitchen layout to enhance the sense of space. Galley kitchens are often long and narrow and have limited space on both sides. There’s a tendency to cram lots of units into a galley kitchen to give maximum storage, but this can create a ‘corridor-like’ effect that can make a narrow kitchen feel too enclosed.
Instead of units wall-to-wall, try breaking up the space a little by removing wall cabinets on one side and replacing them with a long run of open shelving. Adding a decorative splash back underneath will help grab the attention and make this side of the kitchen the focal point.
12. Lighten up by swapping cabinet doors
Replacing wall units with open shelving is an easy way of making a small kitchen feel more spacious. But if you don’t want to lose any valuable cupboard space, there is another option. Swapping solid doors for glazed fronts will have a similar effect and make the kitchen feel less crowded.
If you have panelled cabinet doors, it’s fairly simple just to replace the panels with glazing. If that isn’t possible, there are lots of replacement door companies that offer this service. Try painting or tiling the interior a lighter colour. This will help draw the eye past cabinet frames and inside, so walls will feel further away.
What colours make a kitchen look bigger?
Light-reflecting colours will make a small kitchen feel bigger, by bouncing the light around the space. So opting for a combination of pale-coloured walls and kitchen cabinets in light tones and glossy, reflective finishes will help open up the space enormously. White is an obvious colour choice for a small kitchen, but white kitchen ideas aren’t the only option. Pearly-sheened pastels, off-whites and neutrals, as well as pale wood finishes and blonde grains will all help to boost light levels in a small kitchen.
Having a small kitchen doesn’t mean that you have to steer away from dark colours totally. Small doses of colour can go a long way and help to energise the space. Use dark colours sparingly so that they don’t overwhelm the space. Strategically-placed dark coloured base units can help ground the layout and by teaming them with a paler colour at the top, the eye will be drawn upwards.
What flooring makes a small kitchen look bigger?
As with kitchen cabinets and wall colours, light-reflective finishes and pale-coloured flooring will also help to make a small kitchen look bigger. The size and scale of flooring will also have an effect on how large the kitchen feels too. Tiny tiles can make a small kitchen feel overly busy and cramped. Opting for large floor tiles in a small square kitchen will reduce the number of grout lines and create a visual illusion of more space.
Or with a small, galley kitchen, opt for directional flooring that runs the length of the kitchen and will draw the eye along.
Lisa is a freelance journalist who has written about interiors for more than 25 years and has worked on all the major homes titles, primarily Ideal Home, but also including Homes & Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors, Style at Home, Livingetc, Woman & Home, Easy Gardens and Good Homes magazines. Homes and interiors have always been a passion and she never tires of nosying around gorgeous homes, whether on TV, online, in print or in person, as well as being a serial shopper/bargain hunter.
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