Small Space Kitchen Design Suggestions

Find hints and tricks for making a small kitchen feel open, efficient and comfortable.
Small Kitchen With Green Backsplash

Small Kitchen With Green Tile Backsplash

A small "L" shaped eat in kitchen with oak cabinetry, basic appliances, and a green tile back splash to the ceiling. The top cabinets have glass doors creating an illusion of more space.

By: Rebecca Orlov

The kitchen is definitely the heart of the house - playing host to family meals, casual conversations with friends and family, a quiet afternoon tea for one, storage space for décor and accents, art studio for the kids, business center for a burgeoning idea, you name it. In recent years and with the economic shift, many people have downsized and smaller kitchen areas are now a way of life. But don't fret. There are tons of small space kitchen design ideas and practical solutions to make the most of your kitchen square footage. 

Today people are spending valuable time at home and are making it a priority to create comfort spaces that truly suit their lives. Creating a welcome and efficient kitchen space paired with lifestyle comfort that maximizes the entire room is often a priority.

Look and Learn

One great tip to start with when embracing your kitchen space is to simply observe and understand how you and your family really use the space. Some families spend most of their dining and casual time in their kitchen while other families may just eat meals at the kitchen table and use the family room for social gatherings. By evaluating your use of the space, you will get a better idea of how to plan the layout to make the most of the space. Write down your daily kitchen routine for a month. Seeing the day-to-day activities on paper will give you an honest snapshot of how the family uses the kitchen space and how you need it to function -  what's working and what's not. And while you're at it, make note of favorite design styles and what makes you feel good when it comes to color, texture and style. These design accents can ultimately add layers to your kitchen space.  

Your Kitchen, Your Focal Point

Take a look around your home at the focal points in each room to see how it balances the space. A focal point is the center of the space, the key item that the room works around. For living rooms, it could be the fireplace, for bedrooms it could be a canopy bed. For small kitchens, it's the typically the entire space. So how do you deal with this - an entire space? Look at your kitchen as one solid unit. Use either a neutral palette or one color throughout your space to keep the eye moving and for the kitchen to feel like one complete unit. One easy solution for creating this look is to make sure your backsplash pattern is uninterrupted and even the outlets fit into the design aesthetic.  Make sure they are part of the pattern or color palette and that they fit in rather than stand out and fore the eye to stop on them. Take a look around and make sure the room fits together.

Open Shelving Works

Super-small kitchens can benefit from floating or open shelves. Typically free of hardware and heavy structure - open shelving provides a clean and contemporary look. It encourages the eye to continue all the way to the wall, allowing the space to appear bigger. Of course keeping your dishware and glassware nice and tidy is something you will have to maintain, but this can be considered a positive since an organized and clutter-free kitchen is a small-space tip in its own right. Use one color of dishware and stack them for cohesive look. Add personal items in your kitchen by leaning a frame or signature plate behind the stack of everyday plates or row of glasses.

From glass to wood to cork, there really are a variety of affordable, eco-friendly options for shelving. Solid color and clean lines, like Ikea's "Lack" shelf are very popular. The Ikea shelf comes in a range of colors and lengths and has a simple yet modern shape. Or try acrylic shelving, it provides floating look that lends to the illusion of a bigger space.



Floating shelves provide a serene and airy feeling and can also act as part art gallery for your housewares and decor. Image courtesy of Trina via A Country Farmhouse

Floating shelves provide a serene and airy feeling and can also act as part art gallery for your housewares and decor. Image courtesy of Trina via A Country Farmhouse

A Kitchen Cabinet Palette

For color, use one neutral hue for the entire space - the cabinets, hardware, appliances, floor coverings. This creates the appearance of a fluid and balanced space that allows the eye to continue to move around the entire space. Use simple flat cabinets without a lot of detail or replace solid cabinet doors with glass ones -  just make sure the inside of the cabinets are painted the same color as the trim and cabinet exterior. If you are building or renovating, consider adding a soffit or trim and then hanging your cabinets flush so they appear to be receding into the wall instead of sticking out of the wall.  When planning vertical space, remember base cabinets are normally 36 inches tall, countertops are normally 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick and the standard height between the countertop and upper cabinets is 18 inches. If you plan on taking your cabinets up to the ceiling, double check the contour of your ceiling to make sure it is level.

Kitchen with Exposed Shelves

Kitchen with Exposed Shelves

A bright accent wall adds dimension and sophistication to a small kitchen and works well with open shelving.

A bright accent wall adds dimension and sophistication to a small kitchen and works well with open shelving.

Color Theory

Color can emotionally and physically extend the look of a space. Using color in a kitchen is a perfect way to make you feel a certain way while visually increasing the appearance. Try this color rule - cooler colors, like blues, tend to recede and make a space appear bigger. Warm colors, like deep reds, tend to close in a space and make it feel more intimate. So in the case of the small kitchen, cool tones will automatically open up the space and make it feel light and airy.

The Accent Wall

Use one neutral color option for your cabinets, hardware and appliances - continue the look by painting the walls the same color for a complete cohesive look. But, if you are going with open shelves, consider making the wall behind the shelf the accent wall while leaving the rest of the kitchen neutral. This will provide balance in the space and a color pop. Or try wallpaper to create a single accent wall. In the last few years, wallpaper has made a serious comeback and is available in many colors, patterns and styles. And for eco-friendly, zero or low VOC paint for your kitchen, consider using Sherwin-Williams Harmony, Yolo Colorhouse, Benjamin Moore Aura or Home Depot's Freshaire Choice.

Kitchen Ceilings and Floors



Don't forget to integrate design into the floor and ceiling, it will make a small space appear larger. Image courtesy of Gregory Han.

Don't forget to integrate design into the floor and ceiling, it will make a small space appear larger. Image courtesy of Gregory Han.

Don't forget the ceiling and floor when planning your space. Small kitchens can really benefit from adding a few extra touches up high or down low. Keep the floor in your design aesthetic by adding a rug or floor covering to provide texture and color. Add dimension to the ceiling with lighting. Besides adding style and personality, it will draw the eye up adding vertical depth. Keep the ceiling white or a light color so the eye will continue moving up.

Kitchen Design Statement - Your Luxury Item

Add a splash of luxury or shine. While many homeowners are being thoughtful about saving money these days, it's definitely possible to add a little bit of affordable luxury into your kitchen. Instead of planning for an often-expensive marble countertop, go with a more affordable natural stone and draw the eye up with a sparkling vintage chandelier. If you love the look of a stamped copper sink but don't love the price tag, add a copper-tile backsplash. Small, yet affordable, details work big in small spaces.

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