As the heart of the home, planning the perfect kitchen is a must. While more petite spaces may seem limited in their potential, finding inventive small kitchen ideas can provide you with more options than you might have imagined.
Exploring kitchen ideas is always a creative process, but there’s nothing like a small space to really think outside the box. By maximising every spare inch, reorganising areas that don’t work as hard as they should and adding extra solutions where necessary, you can turn a tiny kitchen idea into one which does everything you want and need.
‘Small kitchens can be challenging, but can also provide an opportunity to push your creativity, resulting in a space that feels well organised and inviting,’ notes Al Bruce, Founder, Olive & Barr.
‘Some may think that having a small space is a challenge,’ adds Ruth Lavender, design expert, Benchmarx Kitchens. ‘But this doesn’t mean you have to abandon your idea of a dream kitchen completely or compromise on the technology you can include. With clever planning, you can both maximise the space available and add impact.’
‘When planning your small kitchen layout, it’s essential to think about your overall aesthetic,’ says Hayley Simmons, Director of Commercial Range at Magnet. ‘Some décor suits smaller kitchens, while others can make your space feel enclosed. There are some layouts that simply won’t work in a small space such as island kitchens, as there isn’t enough room.’
‘Choose light-coloured wood or natural stone to keep your room feeling bright and airy,’ continues Hayley. ‘Natural textures such as wood, rattan and wicker can work well in small kitchens too.’
Small kitchen ideas
‘One of the benefits of small kitchen ideas is that you will spend less on units,’ points out Ruth from Benchmarx. ‘By saving on this aspect, you may be able to spend more on the details that matter to you, including appliances and lighting.’
1. Rethink kitchen furniture
If you can’t live without a dining table in your kitchen – whether to eat, work from home or entertain – you can still make this work in a small kitchen. Opt for narrow and small kitchen table ideas and push it completely against the wall.
For seating, combine standard dining chairs with a bench – or two – that you can pull out when needed.
2. Build a mini peninsula
‘Galley kitchen ideas are favourable in a small kitchen,’ says Al from Olive & Barr. ‘They instantly offer more flexibility especially in terms of storage space, as the layout is made up of two rows of cabinets facing each other to create a galley between them, removing the need for corner cupboards in favour of using every millimetre of space.’
If you’ve always dreamed of kitchen peninsula ideas you can still make this work in a slimline galley space. Simply take your cabinetry out by a foot to fit one set of small drawers. As a result you have extra storage, a visual zoning and a place to gather and chat while someone’s cooking.
3. Boost the sense of space with light and planning
‘Maximising storage is at the top of most homeowners’ wish lists, however, this can be tricky in small spaces,’ says Vlad Putjatins, Kitchen Designer, Harvey Jones. ‘If you are lucky enough to have tall ceilings, creating two runs of shorter, medium height wall cabinets stacked on top of each other will help to make the most of the vertical space.’
‘For smaller kitchens, I always recommend leaving a gap between the cabinets and the ceiling, as it gives you a clear visual of the room’s full dimensions and avoids enclosing the space.’
Enhance this effect even further by boosting light levels. Think floor to ceiling windows and, if possible, a skylight.
4. Choose alternative storage solutions
Think outside the box when it comes to how you store kitchen items. Think what you might do with small living room ideas, for example. Slimline ladder style shelving units are perfect for minimising how much floor space you’re taking out without compromising on storage levels. Plus, they’re a delight to style!
5. Build in booths
Kitchen booth ideas are always a plus, but they work especially well in smaller spaces. Build in your banquette or booth attached to the kitchen peninsula or cabinets so everything is in one. If you really need to save on space then rely only on the bench seating and only bring in extra chairs as and when needed.
6. Distract with pattern
Distract the eye by going bold. A patterned island or surface will direct attention directly to it, niftily making guests not notice how small the rest of the space actually is. Choose a large repeating pattern rather than small so it doesn’t seem too busy and cluttered.
7. Combine open and closed shelving
‘A small space shouldn’t restrict you in terms of colour, but there are important considerations to bear in mind,’ advises Ruth from Benchmarx. ‘It is inevitable that darker coloured units will absorb the light. So it is best to keep these to floor level to maximise storage without it becoming oppressive.’
‘Less is more here, so instead of filling all available wall space with units, opt for open shelving that will give a modern look and avoid enclosing the space.’
8. Use partitions to separate tasks
In a small kitchen, particularly with small galley kitchens, it can feel like it’s impossible to properly zone the space. ‘Integrating a partition means you can separate functions out more and give designated prep areas within the room,’ advises Graeme Smith, head of design at Second Nature Kitchens.
Opt for a glass half partition to keep the room feeling open and allow light to pass through. Treat one section as similar to a prep kitchen, and keep your appliances and larger utensils hidden from casual viewing.
9. Keep some storage open
Storage is undoubtedly one of the most important considerations in any kitchen, but none more so than in a small kitchen.
‘One wall kitchen is ideal for those with a smaller space that still want an impactful kitchen,’ says Al Bruce from Olive & Barr. ‘The simplicity of a one wall layout is that you can maximise efficiency without compromising on functionality. You need to think vertically and create as much extra storage space as possible by utilising the height of your walls.’
Once you’ve planned where this storage is going to go, start to think about light. In smaller kitchens, wall-to-wall cabinetry will block out light, making the space seem smaller and more cramped. Resolve this by including some open storage and shelving. Using this on the top half of the wall will help make the room appear taller, too.
10. Zone with flooring
Contrary to popular belief, small kitchens can absolutely be used as petite kitchen-diners. Make the space feels like two separate rooms without compromising on space by clever zoning.
Choose two distinct flooring styles and use them to trick the eye into seeing two spaces. A patterned option is best for the kitchen as it is more energising, and helps disguise spillages. Meanwhile, calming more neutral styles work well for a relaxed dining zone.
11. Break the plan
Broken plan is the new open plan, and small kitchens can benefit from this style of layout. What you’re essentially doing is zoning the room with either full partitions which can be opened or pulled back when needed, or half partitions to give the sense of separate areas. This allows you to differentiate cooking, dining and living areas while preserving the overall open plan feel of the space.
For partition alternatives, look at freestanding furniture, slatted screens or Crittall doors.
12. Incorporate a slim breakfast bar
‘Utilise the space of your kitchen by creating a breakfast bar area,’ suggests Hayley from Magnet. ‘While it may seem a challenging fit, they are an excellent option if you don’t need a lot of cupboard storage space. However, breakfast bars can double as both a preparation and dining space, creating a multifunctional approach to your kitchen design.
Look for slim options which can be built onto peninsulas or islands to further save on space.
13. Pay attention to your flooring
‘A smaller kitchen requires careful thought and consideration to give the illusion of a larger space,’ notes Isabel Fernandez, Director at Quorn Stone. ‘Contrary to belief we often find a larger tile can work well at achieving this. A smaller tile results in lots of grout joints which can enclose the space and detract the eye from the tile. We often suggest a 900 x 600 tile as it is a versatile size that works well in both smaller and larger areas.’
‘Alternatively wood effect porcelain is becoming increasingly popular in tighter spaces due their long and narrow format,’ continues Isabel. ‘If you choose a complementary grout colour it makes the grout less noticeable which again helps to open the space out.’
14. Save space with a sliding door
In a small kitchen where space is tight you may be tempted to remove the door to avoid the feeling of claustrophobia. But a door to a kitchen is a handy tool to be able to contain the smells of cooking from filling the rest of the house.
Consider sliding doors, which are the ultimate space-saving room divider. Even when it is pulled closed, a glass design means it doesn’t act as a solid barrier from one space to the next.
15. Be mindful of dimensions
‘Kitchens need to be as functional as they are beautiful,’ says Tom Howley, design director at Tom Howley bespoke kitchens. ‘If you take a standard galley kitchen to have a 6ft width and a 12ft length, island and peninsula counters are rarely an option in this sort of space. The importance of walkway space should be a key consideration.’
‘When designing your layout, always leave a metre of walkway space either one or two sides of your worktop, island, or peninsula counter. This is a functionally and aesthetically effective dimension to keep in mind.’
16. Make more space with collapsable furniture
Choose collapsable furniture to allow the space freedom in the purpose. Look at including an extendable table, which can provide an island of sorts. Then, when needed, it extends out to form a sizeable dining table for meal times.
The table could even provide a valuable desk space for working from home. Due to the nature of collapsable furniture the space isn’t in any way compromised by the need for a table. It’s a highly efficient way to make the space work to its full potential.
17. Get creative with corners
A tiny kitchen still has to cater for even the most basic of food prep and serving, which requires a lot of ‘stuff’. This means it is key to use every last bit of available space by being savvy with the design solutions.
Ensure the units are as tall as physically possible to elongate the space. Making the most of magic corners and other clever mechanisms will also help use every millimetre of space, such as this under cupboard glass rack.
Hanging glasses below the cupboards is a clever kitchen storage idea. It not only uses up space that is otherwise redundant, but more importantly it frees up storage space inside the cabinets.
18. Utilise wall space to create a compact design
When space is at a premium, clever compact kitchen design comes to the rescue. ‘When presented with a smaller space it is essential that the layout is carefully considered to make sure every inch of the kitchen is utilised,’ says Ben Burbidge, managing director at Kitchen Makers.
‘Creating a bank of cabinetry along one wall is a great way of streamlining and opening up the space. Tall wall units are particularly suited to narrow, galley style kitchens, as using this space ensures the area feels less cramped than if filled with larder style dressers.’
19. Pay attention to details
If you’re designing a new kitchen to make your small space more useable, don’t overlook the finer details. ‘Small details, such as the use of materials, is key when designing a small kitchen,’ says Tom Howley. ‘Lighter wood finishes and paint colours work well to expand the perceived space of your kitchen.’
‘However, whites and creams are less popular at the moment, so a great compromise is a smoky grey scheme, using a smoked oak wood paired with a matte grey paint. Pair these tones with very light coloured countertops, and your kitchen will look spacious and airy.’
20. Open up the space with glass
Whether planning a new kitchen or carrying out a makeover on existing cabinets, glass is a key material to enhance a small space.
‘If you do decide on floor to ceiling cabinets, these should only be fitted with glass door display cabinets. This will open up the space in a way that opaque cabinetry will not in a smaller kitchen,’ explains Tom Howley.
21. Use fresh mint green to promote calm
Kitchens of all sizes can feel chaotic, but by their very nature, small kitchens are particularly vulnerable. Tackle this head on by painting your small kitchen in a colour that promotes rest and relaxation. Green kitchen ideas are the ultimate choice for making us feel collected and calm.
Mix in different tones in cabinetry, walls and accessories. That layering will mimic the green of a garden, woodland or forest glade, exaggerating the effect.
22. Create an optical illusion using colour
Painting kitchen cabinets is having a resurgence, as homeowners look for affordable ways to revamp existing kitchens, rather than the expensive task of replacing.
This type of budget kitchen idea is a great way to revive the surfaces and make your space look brand new with a simple splash of colour. In small spaces, a new colour scheme can do wonders to help the space feel that little bit bigger too.
A neutral on the surrounding walls, such as Dulux’s ‘Timeless’ provides a fresh airy feel for the space. While a stronger, more dominant colour such as Dulux’s ‘Urban Obsession’ can give presence to the kitchen cabinetry. By painting all the base units in a darker shade the room will feel divided, creating the optical illusion of a greater sense of space between floor and ceiling.
23. Opt for a crisp colour scheme
Make a small kitchen feel light and airy by opting for a neutral kitchen colour scheme. However, neutral doesn’t just mean beige or cream kitchen ideas. Pair white patterned tiles and marble worktops with duck egg blue kitchen cabinets for a crisp colour scheme that will bounce light around, making the kitchen feel spacious.
24. Invest in flexible storage
In a small kitchen you need to think creatively when it comes to storage. Instead of investing in ordinary shelves, this wire panel shelving from string maximises storage by adapting to your kitchen’s needs.
Add in or take away shelves, hang glasses upside down and even introduce a wine rack. When space is at a premium you need to make sure every inch counts.
25. Distract the eye with bold flooring
In a small kitchen, go all-out with bold tiling. A strong pattern on the floor distracts the eye and makes the room feel bigger. Every inch of a small kitchen should be designed to make the most of the space without losing on style
26. Hide appliances in a breakfast cupboard
Keep surfaces from looking cluttered by tucking the toaster, kettle and coffee machine away in a breakfast cupboard. As soon as you open the cupboard your favourite gadget is sat ready to use.
This is a nifty trick for making use of awkward corners and making sure that none of your kitchen tech gets lost at the back of a cabinet.
27. Swap an extractor hood for a combined extractor induction hob
A combined induction extractor hob is a great space saver in a small kitchen. It means you can swap a bulky extractor hood above the hob in favour of extra storage. If you don’t require an extra cupboard or set of shelves, consider leaving the area above the hob empty to give the illusion of a more spacious kitchen.
28. Swap a table for a kitchen island
Adding an island might sound like a terrible idea in a small kitchen. However, in a long thin kitchen, a well-thought-out kitchen island idea can be the perfect way to add in extra storage and surface space, whilst keeping the kitchen a sociable space.
Choose an island with plenty of storage space underneath for stowing away vegetables and linens. A slight overhang from the counter top ensures that the four bar stools fit easily under the island, avoiding any potential trip hazards.
29. Paint kitchen cupboards to match the walls
Create the illusion of more space in a small kitchen by painting the cupboards in the same colour as the walls. The ultimate white kitchen idea, it creates a light and airy space where the units blend into the kitchen walls.
Every spare inch of space could be crammed with storage but a uniform wash of white paint will keep the space looking neat and spacious.
30. Turn an awkward corner into clever storage
A small kitchen requires you to make use of every inch of storage space you have. If you have a small boxy kitchen, rather than cramming all your pots and pans into a deep cupboard that is going to become a nightmare when you need to find a particular frying pan, consider swapping a cupboard for a drawer.
Choose a clever pullout drawer to maximise space and make finding your favourite frying pan easy-peasy.
31. Consider compact containers
Put a windowsill, shelf or recess to work by adding a selection of strong baskets and use to stow bottles, packets or even fresh herbs in pots. Baskets are also a great way to store condiments, meaning you can take them all to the dining table in one trip.
This is also an easy way to incorporate accessories inspired by rustic farmhouses or shabby chic decorating ideas, such as vintage canisters or mason jars.
32. Find a new home for the washing machine
You may think the kitchen is the obvious place to put a washing machine. But in continental Europe, you’re more likely to find it in a bathroom. So if you’re stuck for space, it might be worth relocating your laundry appliances and incorporating them into your bathroom ideas. If your bathroom is just as teeny, you might be able to squeeze it in a cupboard under the stairs.
Alternatively, if you have a separate washer and dryer, you could consider keeping them in the kitchen but stacking them one on top of the other in an old larder cupboard. It hides them out of sight, saves space and helps streamline laundry days.
33. Supersize the sink
Investing in the best dishwasher is tempting, but your small kitchen might not have space for one. So, it’s worth finding room for a double sink instead.
Keep one bowl for washing and one bowl for dirty dishes. That way you’ll have somewhere to stack mucky prep kit and plates out of sight, and without cluttering up the work surface.
34. Turn every corner into a storage space
If you don’t have the budget for a kitchen extension, optimise the space you already have instead. Identify places where there’s wasted space, such as the gaps between shelves, at the back of cupboards, below the sink, unused corners and windowsills. Stack wherever you can and have a clear out of kitchenware that’s infrequently used or only has one purpose, so you have less to store.
Think also about relocating items that aren’t in everyday use, but you don’t want to throw out, to elsewhere in your home. Next, think about the space on your walls and doors. Try adding a utensil rail or magnetic knife board, hooks on the sides of your cupboards or racks hung over a door. Extra shelves in corners or across alcoves will also come in handy.
35. Add storage helpers
Your cupboards and drawers are your biggest storage resource but it’s likely that they’re not being used fully. Internal storage solutions will make the most of them, so think about retrofitting wire racks that pull out of corners or slim cupboards, some plinth drawers, or using drawer dividers for utensils, spices, pans or plates.
You can boost your storage further with a mobile solution, such as a trolley or butcher’s block on castors, or think about popping baskets or containers on top of your wall cupboards. Just keep a sturdy stool nearby so you can reach them.
36. Clear away the clutter in small kitchens
Wall cabinets can really encroach on space, so consider doing away with yours. Open kitchen shelving ideas can have a huge impact in a small kitchen, creating an open and airy feel. Just ensure you limit the amount of shelves you use, and what you keep on them.
37. Tidy your work surface
If there are too many items cluttering up the worktops, consider clever solutions like wall-mounted magnetic knife strips, rails to hang utensils, pans, mugs, spice jars and cutlery bins.
Also think about what you need to have to hand every day, such as chopping boards, wooden spoons, washing-up liquid, and what can be stored away until needed. Look for genius kitchen appliance layout ideas to save even more space.
38. Keep your kitchen scheme simple
Nothing makes a room seem larger like simple white walls, so why not take it further with sleek, contemporary details that open up the space.
Light, reflective materials and minimal designs are your friends in a small kitchen, so consider white or frosted glass cabinet doors, white stone or composite, or stainless-steel worktops, and white splashback tiling.
39. Look to portable storage
Consider a kitchen trolley on casters, which provides an additional prep surface when you need it, tucks away when you don’t and also offers extra storage for cookery books, pots and pans. You can even use it as a handy food and drinks trolley when you have guests.
40. Don’t let space go to waste
Not every kitchen will have room, but if your heart is set on having an island or peninsula, consider a slimline design. The central workstation may be small, but it can still provide extra storage space and a useful worktop for food preparation.
41. Keep it streamlined
Opt for handleless designs for a sleek, streamlined appearance. This will maximise the visible space and make the kitchen feel less cluttered. Boost this effect by keeping your materials and colourways to a minimum.
42. Install floor-to-ceiling cabinetry
Think vertically by continuing your cabinets up to the ceiling but plan carefully to ensure the room feels as open as possible. Store less frequently used items in high cupboards. Add a breakfast bar if you can and smart kitchen lighting ideas.
The amount of storage and workspace it provides makes great use of the footprint and will ensure your kitchen is more sociable.
How do I plan a small kitchen?
As with any kitchen, large or small, you need to think about the journey. How do you use the space? There’s a triangle of use within every kitchen, the journey made from fridge to sink to oven – the key elements that need to be considered. Plan your layout around the best way to use the floorspace. Look to use vertical solutions to make the most of every storage space available.
‘When designing small spaces, considering appliances would be my starting point,’ says Sally Hinks, Kitchen Designer, Harvey Jones. ‘Any large appliances such as washer/dryers that can multitask are worth considering. Integrating appliances wherever possible will also help open up a space visually and create clean lines. Housing small appliances also makes a difference – boiling taps and integrated microwaves and coffee machines free up valuable space and keep surfaces clear from bulky microwaves and kettles, to create the illusion of more space and a more minimal aesthetic.’
‘Lighting is one of the biggest elements of the room’s design which is often overlooked at the early stages,’ adds Daniel Bowler, Director, Eggersmann UK. ‘This can actually make a big difference to how spacious the room feels when finished and should really be incorporated into the initial layout so that electrical planning can take place early on.’
What is the best layout for a small kitchen?
‘When it comes to choosing the right layout for a small kitchen, the most important consideration is for the space to be easy to navigate,’ advises Matt Baker, Kitchen Designer, Harvey Jones. You should ask yourself what is the kitchen triangle design rule, and how to make it work in your space. ‘There should be a good-sized space of worktop run for preparation, preferably next to or opposite the hob zone. Thinking about how you will use the space is really important. For example, opting for an L-shaped layout gives the room an open, more inclusive feel, so it’s easier for family and guests to interact. ‘
‘Other popular layouts for small kitchens include U-shaped and galley styles,’ continues Matt. ‘U-shaped layouts are a great solution to maximise storage and work surface areas, creating a remarkably efficient cooking space. ‘
‘Galley kitchens offer a simple and practical option for small kitchens,’ adds Matt. ‘The great thing about them is that everything is within reach, however, they aren’t really designed for more than one person!’
Ben Burbidge, at Kitchen Makers says small kitchens needn’t compromise on dream layouts. ‘Don’t be afraid to include a breakfast bar but try not to make the overall dimensions too big, as it may restrict movement around the kitchen. The area under the breakfast bar can offer ample space for storage and kitchen.’
‘Islands are best to be avoided within a smaller space as they are more space hungry than people think,’ adds Graeme Smith, head of design at Second Nature Kitchens. ‘You need circulation space around the Island – to ensure you get the best movability and functionality. You could opt for a peninsular to get a similar feel if your kitchen was too small for an island but slightly bigger to accommodate more than galley.’
What is the best colour for a small kitchen?
Light is the greatest tool to help a small space feel bigger, brightening the space by bouncing light into shadows and lifting the entire room. Therefore white is a great option. A staple for small spaces, pure brilliant white is devoid of all pigment. This means it reflects back nearly all light that hits it. Conversely, the darker the colour, the more light it absorbs.
‘Whether it’s a matt or gloss finish, lighter shades like Porcelain and Dove Grey are your best options when designing a compact kitchen space,’ advises Simon Bodsworth, Managing Director of Daval Furniture. Providing high reflection and fluidity of design, this choice of colour will keep the area bright and create the illusion that the space is larger than it really is.’
Help your chosen colour go even further in a small kitchen by painting the cupboards in the same colour as the walls. An allover colour scheme helps to keep the look light and airy by seamlessly blending the cabinets into the kitchen walls.
All that said, you can go bold with dark shades. ‘Much to contrary belief, bold colours can work especially well in smaller spaces,’ points out Al Bruce, Founder, Olive & Barr. ‘Navy, cobalt, or royal blue add impact and a wow-factor and work especially well when used liberally throughout the cabinetry. Maintain balance with a quartz countertop to keep the room feeling light and airy.’
‘Those looking for a classic scheme that lends itself to an understated look, a neutral palette of white, ivory, and grey work to add a sense of modern simplicity to a kitchen.’