7 Tips for Creating the Illusion of Space in a Small Kitchen

As a native Texan decor enthusiast born and raised in artistic Austin, I’ve always had an affinity for creative design centered around personality and functionality. My childhood immersed in an expressive family and studies in interior design fused my passion for aesthetics with the belief that a home should bring joy while meeting the lifestyle needs of its inhabitants.

After gaining experience across styles from modern to bohemian chic, I realized I could empower people to craft that personal joy through writing. As a home decor expert and writer, I aim to make design accessible so you can create spaces as unique as you are.

Small kitchens can pose a tricky challenge in that endeavor. As a hub of creation and connection, the kitchen should welcome you with the same breadth of potential as a spacious lounge. I’ve put together these seven tips to help you carve out a kitchen that feels expansive, efficient, and utterly yours, regardless of size. With some strategic choices, we’ll have you whipping up feasts quickly in a kitchen that feeds your spirit as much as your creativity.

Optimize Your Layout

In interior design, scale and proportion build the foundation. Before playing with color or accents, nail down a layout aligned with how you cook and assemble.

Optimize Your Layout

Employ the Golden Triangle

Bring flow to your workflow by placing essential appliances in an equilateral triangle formation. Situate your sink, stove, and fridge on each point, keeping them in close triangular proximity. This handy triangle maps the rhythm of kitchen creation, minimizing unnecessary footsteps between tasks.

If you’re squeezed for space, opt for a two-point triangle, using the sink as your centroid. Compact kitchens can align the stove and fridge across from the sink, keeping essentials in close commute.

Open Up with Shelving

Once you’ve aligned appliances for optimized traffic flow, break up any remaining upper cabinet bulk with open shelving.

Trading closed cabinets for airy ledges does wonders to lift tight kitchens. The transparency clears sightlines to the ceiling, erasing visual barriers and filling space with light. The finishing touch? Style shelves to show off glassware, cookbooks, or accent pieces for a dose of personality.

Wield Color and Light

A palette of light and bright colors can work magic in a small kitchen. Cool tones like airy blues or soothing greens have an inherently calming, expansive effect. To prevent overwhelm, stick to a unified scheme. Monochromatic hues in the same color family continue the visual flow.

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Wield Color and Light

Strategic lighting takes the illusion even further. Task lighting under cabinets illuminates counters in the definition. Draw the eye upward by suspending pendant lamps over dining nooks. For small kitchens exceptionally, maximize natural light at every opportunity. Keep windows unobstructed, allowing sunlight to stream in freely.

If you crave a bit more dazzle, install a mirrored backsplash. When set against ample lighting, mirrored surfaces impart a gleaming, limitless aesthetic by reflecting the kitchen. Paired with light colors, the reflective quality doubles apparent dimensions.

Integrate Space-Savvy Appliances

Appliances rank high among kitchen space hogs. But technology now allows for full functionality in compact form factors for modest kitchens. Sleek, low-profile appliances maintain capacity while taking up less square footage.

For a seamless, built-in aesthetic, integrate appliances directly into cabinetry construction. Dishwashers and fridge units designed for integration hide appliance bulk behind cabinet fronts, keeping the sleek lines flowing. With some customization, you can optimize integrated appliances around your cooking habits.

Integrate Space Savvy Appliances

Consider positioning the fridge, oven, and microwave below the counterline if designing a kitchen from scratch. Tucked discreetly out of sight, under-counter appliances save acres of visual space in a small kitchen. Convert unused spaces like pantries into hidden storage for less commonly used kitchen items.

Out of sight, out of mind. Discretely stowing gadgets keep counters clear and kitchens feeling neat and open.

Declutter with Storage Tactics

A strict minimalist protocol regarding hidden storage is non-negotiable when working with a limited area. In small kitchens, clutter intensifies feelings of confinement. By decluttering rigorously, you clear the way for cleaner sightlines, creating the perception of space.

Create Hidden Storage

Once you’ve pared down kitchen tools to the essentials, devote every leftover nook and cranny to keeping necessities out of sight. Stash rarely used gadgets in roll-out cabinet organizers, wall-mounted racks, or closet pantries outside the kitchen area.

Install Slimline Storage

Trade bulky cabinets for slimmer partitions with specially designed interiors to hold your go-to items. Dedicate drawers for utensil corrals and dividers for everyday dishes.

Declutter with Storage Tactics

Install floor-level cabinets with extra deep toe-kick drawers for extensive and odd-shaped cooking tools, while comprehensive, shallow drawers can hold spices and condiments.

Getting everything in order minimizes visual clutter and opening sightlines to maximize light and movement. Use hooks, racks, and magnetic strips to move essentials off counters to the walls and ceilings. The more you can stash unused gadgets and stow everyday items out of the way, the cleaner your countertops will appear.

Incorporate Reflective Materials

Just like mirrored backsplashes, high-gloss and light-catching surfaces impart brightness and depth. Paint walls or cabinets in lacquer finishes to bounce light around. Quartz or granite countertops with shimmering flecks expand dimensions with each glint and sparkle.

Glass cabinet doors maintain visibility while refracting light. For small kitchen tables, a rounded glass top opens sightlines compared to bulky wooden counterparts. Woven barstools and transparent acrylic chairs balance lightweight minimalism. Each material allows light through rather than blocking flow, imparting an ethereal, floating sensation.

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Incorporate Reflective Materials

Maximize Vertical Real Estate

In urban layouts, going vertical expands potential. Stash less commonly used kitchen items on ceiling-height shelves and cabinets. Mount custom shelving, pot racks, and magnetic strips on walls to move items off precious counter real estate onto the vertical display.

Hung vertically, frequently used tools and beautiful cookware become artful focal points. Pegboard walls are painted to match the rest of your color scheme corral essentials, adding a graphic pop of texture.

Strategize Flooring

With some clever tiling, even the flooring presents design opportunities for bolstering proportions.

Unify the Floorplan

Maintain continuous flooring from the kitchen through connected rooms without shifts in color or material. Consistent flooring lengthens lines of sight, weaving rooms together for maximum cohesion. Whether tiles, linoleum, hardwood, or laminate, select flooring is durable enough to withstand the demands of kitchen life.

Strategize Flooring

Lay Floor Tile on the Diagonal

If opting for tiled kitchen floors, bypass basic grid installation for diagonal tile patterns instead. Rather than stacking squarely, laying floor tiles on a diamond slant expands dimensions with elaborate angling. The revived sense of depth and dynamic lines pull focus, tricking the eye away from spatial constraints.

Take Inspiration from Transformations

Convinced clever changes can reinvent tight kitchens? These real homeowners maximized their modest square footage through strategic remodels:

The Tiny Kitchen Turned Culinary Oasis

Buried behind clutter and cupboards crammed to the rafters, one couple uncovered a cheery blue cooking space by paring down possessions and swapping upper cabinets for suspended open shelving. The minimalist makeover added breezy charm and a place to display beloved servingware proudly.

From Dated Galley to Kitchen Nook Dynamo

Seeking a communal atmosphere for their narrow galley, another family removed a wall to extend visual space into the adjacent dining room. Installing a spacious breakfast bar reinvented single-file drudgery into a friendly gathering place, keeping connectedness at the center.

Take Inspiration from Transformations

Formerly Dark, Now an Airy Delight

Dingy oak cabinets and poor lighting squandered potential in a third case until skylights above and white lacquer finishes below refreshed the aesthetic with bright elegance. Trading black and brown for a lighter color scheme expanded proportions. The transparency and sheen impart luminosity, reinforcing the revitalized dimensions through lighting effects.

Answers to Your Pressing Questions

Even armed with plenty of tips, undertaking a kitchen overhaul sparks more questions. As an adage goes, there are no silly questions, only silly mistakes! Let’s cover common concerns for avoiding missteps as you optimize your compact cooking space.

Can Dark Colors Work?

Absolutely! The key to rich tones in a small kitchen lies in strategic balance. Embrace moody hues over feature walls or lower cabinetry to ground the room. Counterbalance intense shades with plenty of light elsewhere through paint colors, backsplashes, and lighting fixtures. Reign bold color statements to selective accents so as not to overwhelm the compact area.

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What Kitchen Rug Size Should I Use?

When incorporating a rug as a defining focal point, scale it to delimit the room’s parameters without dominating floor space. For most tiny kitchens, opt for mid-sized accent rugs between 5×7 and 6×9 feet. Galley kitchens can break up a lengthy bowling alley effect with an elongated runner rug instead.

Above all, choose rug textiles crafted to withstand spills, stains, and high traffic. The kitchen is one of a home’s most challenging working zones, exposing rugs to plenty of wear and tear. Prioritize durability in material and easy cleanability.

How Do I Store Specialty Kitchen Tools?

Reduce garden gadgets, bowl sets, and novelty appliances to those you use—catalog seldom-used items in clearly organized bins on shelves of adjacent closets or in the basement.

Display your favorite high-functioning but bulky appliances, like stand mixers, on the counter when in use before tucking them back into storage. For items mostly kept out of rotation, contain appliance clutter in baskets or racks mounted on walls or inside pantry cabinetry. Employ this out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach to keep counters clear.

Can I Fit An Eat-In Dining Space?

Absolutely! Just get clever with the layout. Convert a counter-length into a banquette or built-in bench seating to discreetly tuck a dining nook to the side. Install a space-saving dropdown leaf or wall-mounted folding table to unveil extra serving room when needed.

How Do I Store Specialty Kitchen Tools

Repurpose kitchen islands and peninsulas into casual bar-height dining with the addition of high-top chairs or stools on the opposite side. A narrow counter-height table or breakfast bar stool for the smallest kitchens squeezes space for a standing breakfast.


Don’t resign yourself to a cramped, cluttered kitchen just because of square footage constraints. A few deliberate design details go far to maximize usable space. Optimizing layout, light, and storage make environments feel genuinely expansive.

Adding visual intrigue through clever color pairings, eye-catching textures, and reflective finishes pulls focus from spatial limits. You needn’t undertake complete renovations to realize seemingly drastic transformations. Small touches tailored to your daily routines wield an outsized influence.

With strategic rearranging and simplifying, uncover potential hidden by poor lighting, stale layouts, or sheer clutter volume. Commit to continual editing and organization as a mindfulness practice that pays practical dividends. Decluttering liberates new stylistic possibilities.

Soon, you’ll discover a kitchen that uplifts food preparation into an act of joy. When the space flows in sync with your cooking rituals and personality, it recedes to the background, letting creativity come to the fore. Once unlocked, even diminutive kitchens make excellent workshops for connection through meals enjoyed with favorite people.