6 Timeless Design Choices for Small Kitchen Makeovers

Kitchen makeovers can be exciting yet daunting, especially in small spaces. As a home decor expert based in Austin, Texas, I often help clients transform cramped kitchens into stunning and timeless spaces that look amazing and make cooking and entertaining a breeze.

Over my decade-long career in interior design, I’ve identified six quintessential elements that bring visual allure and long-lasting functionality to tiny kitchens. These choices range from intelligent storage solutions to space-saving furniture that effortlessly blends modern appeal with practicality.

I always emphasize striking the perfect balance between aesthetics and practicality. A kitchen should beautifully reflect the homeowner’s style while remaining highly functional for years.

Bright and white kitchen design with colorful accent pieces

So, let’s explore these six timeless design choices, which I wholeheartedly recommend to create a small kitchen that you’ll cherish!

Maximizing Every Inch With Open Shelving

In small kitchens, open shelving emerges as an ingenious space-saving solution. This rustic element instantly creates the illusion of more room by replacing bulky cabinets with airy, lightweight shelves.

When working with clients in my hometown, Austin, I often utilize this charming design choice to amplify the perception of space in cramped kitchens. The key is embracing minimalism on the shelves to maintain a clutter-free and relaxed vibe.

Here are my top tips for organizing open shelves while ensuring they blend seamlessly into the rest of the kitchen:

  • Display only your most-loved kitchenware and decorative items to avoid a cluttered appearance.
  • Group similar items like utensils, glassware, and spices to create cohesive vignettes.
  • For an organic touch, weave in natural elements like plants, woven baskets, and wood accents.
  • Play with height and experiment with hanging pots or pans to add intrigue.
Chic minimalist kitchen with metal and wood open shelving

The impact of open shelving is evidenced in a recent kitchen makeover I completed in an Austin bungalow—the dark, dated kitchen felt beyond tiny, with cluttered cabinets and minimal breathing room. Replacing the cabinetry with open white shelves instantly made the space more spacious, bright, and airy.

Incorporating Multifunctional Furniture

Another space-saving secret weapon is multifunctional furniture that seamlessly tackles storage and seating needs in one fell swoop. I often recommend convertible island carts or lift-top coffee tables that conceal extra seating for my clients with compact kitchens.

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When choosing streamlined, adaptable furniture, I advise looking for pieces that don’t compromise style. Just because a piece of furniture is compact or serves multiple purposes doesn’t mean it can’t also add a stylish focal point!

Some of my favorite convertible kitchen furniture choices include:

  • Kitchen island carts with storage shelves and retractable breakfast bar
  • Bench seating with built-in storage for tucking away kitchen tools
  • Round pedestal table with lift-top design to reveal extra chairs
  • Storage ottomans that provide additional seating when entertaining
Compact kitchen with multifunctional furniture including a convertible island

I recently suggested a sleek kitchen island with a retractable breakfast bar for clients moving into a modern high-rise apartment in downtown Austin. This versatile piece flawlessly adapts to different occasions, providing ample prep space for everyday cooking that instantly transforms into a chic seating area when hosting friends.

Embracing A White and Bright Aesthetic

When working with tight kitchen quarters, I swear by white color schemes punctuated with playful pops of color via accessories and finishes. Not only does white reflect light beautifully to create an airy oasis, but it also provides a classic, timeless backdrop.

White kitchens seamlessly allow small personal touches to shine. For a recent makeover, I helped a client inject more personality into her tiny kitchen by repainting the all-white space and adding a handmade ceramic backsplash in an energetic citron hue. This unexpected pop of sunshine instantly gave warmth to the previously stark area.

Elegant small kitchen with wall mounted herb plants on open shelves

Here are my top tips for infusing white kitchens with character:

  • Accent with an eco-friendly terrazzo, stone, or ceramic backsplash
  • Display colorful vintage dishware in glass-front cabinets
  • Layer in plants, fruits, and vegetables, adding organic texture
  • Add a colorful rug for a playful foundation
  • Contrast with black metal finishes and hardware

Innovative Storage For A Clutter-Free Sanctuary

For me, innovative storage solutions are essential puzzle pieces when designing perfectly optimized small kitchens. Tucking away non-essentials can make even the tiniest kitchen feel instantly tidy and spacious.

When brainstorming storage solutions, I consider the whole room’s dimensions and the family’s cooking needs and lifestyle. Customized, crafted storage transforms wasted space into highly efficient storage.

Some inexpensive storage hacks I often implement include:

  • Install slim pull-out drawers under counters for tucking away gadgets
  • Affix space-saving racks and ledges on walls to neatly hang utensils
  • Build floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinets by repurposing closet space
  • Convert dead space between studs into vertical storage for cutting boards
  • Use cabinet inserts, turntables, and door racks for organizing within existing cabinetry
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Galley kitchen featuring mirrored finishes to enhance space

I recently completed a project in a dated galley kitchen in dire need of storage solutions. Adding pull-out cabinets, extra shelving, and custom-built floor-to-ceiling pantry storage allowed the kitchen to gain a third of storage capacity! The client can now effortlessly locate cooking necessities and keep surplus items out of sight.

Maximizing Space With Mirrored Finishes

Incorporating mirrored finishes is one of my all-time favorite tricks for visually expanding petite kitchens. Reproduced materials’ reflective and luminous qualities create a larger area’s deception by cleverly bouncing light.

Strategically placed mirrors can make a narrow galley kitchen appear double in size! When planning a small kitchen, I always look for opportunities to introduce mirrored finishes through backsplashes, glass-front cabinets, or metallic accessories.

Mirrored ideas to open up tiny kitchens:

  • Opt for a sleek mirrored subway tile backsplash
  • Choose glass-front cabinets to reflect and amplify light
  • Incorporate a mirrored peel-and-stick backsplash for temporary shine
  • Add a glossy kitchen island to anchor the space
  • Accent with metallic barstools, pendant lights, and hardware
Modern small kitchen with a sleek pull out breakfast bar

Recently, I worked with clients to inject luminosity into their dark, cramped kitchen. We opted for a bold, blue mirrored glass mosaic backsplash paired with glass-front cabinets. By reflecting light from the window, this kitchen now appears spacious, bright, and bathed in texture.

Infusing Industrial Edge With Open Shelving

Open metal shelving adds an urban edge for clients that gravitate toward modern, minimalist spaces. This popular trend injects industrial flair by displaying gorgeous tableware, barware, and beloved kitchen tools.

Floating shelves and railings constructed from blackened steel, iron, and wood create the illusion of airiness and space when integrated thoughtfully. I love incorporating this edgy architectural element into contemporary kitchen remodels as it maintains clean sight lines.

When designing open-shelving vignettes, I use the following principles to create an effortlessly styled look:

  • Curate shelves with an odd number of items in each vignette
  • Build visual balance by varying heights and sizes
  • Intersperse decorative bowls, baskets, and trays
  • Incorporate an abundance of greenery for softening
  • Use single bulbs or industrial pendants for moody illumination
Small kitchen corner with smart vertical storage for kitchenware

Recently, I worked with a client to reinvigorate her dated mid-century Austin kitchen. We implemented open ironwork shelving on two walls to build a focal display area for glassware and ceramics. Paired with wood floors and marble finishes, this airy, edited kitchen now dazzles guests with its chic simplicity.

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Infusing Personality Through Playful Pops Of Color

White kitchens serve as the perfect neutral backdrop for creative pops of vibrant color via accessories, fabrics, and finishes. An unexpected dash of chartreuse, citron, or fuchsia can enliven a monotonous all-white kitchen most dazzlingly.

When brainstorming playful punches of color for mostly neutral kitchen designs, I advise homeowners to consider their style. Are you drawn to minimalist Scandinavian spaces, or do maximalist vibes with abundant textures resonate? Match additions like colorful appliances, textiles, and dishware to the mood you wish to evoke.

No matter your aesthetic, a thoughtful dose of color can inject cheer and personality. Strategize color placement based on how much or little vibrancy you desire. Consider adding vibrancy through:

  • A color-blocked kitchen island in azure or marigold
  • Vintage patchwork rugs layered underfoot
  • A fruit-shaped ceramic backsplash for whimsy
  • Vintage lime green Smeg refrigerators
  • Bold patterned window valances in carnival hues
Small kitchen with glossy mirrored subway tile backsplash

Recently, I suggested pops of sunshine and metallics to enliven a client’s all-white cottage kitchen in South Austin. We implemented a brass finger pull for cabinets, paired with a lemon and lime ceramic backsplash. These playful additions helped transform the plain space into a warm, convivial gathering place.

Key Takeaways: Crafting Your Dream Kitchen Makeover

  1. Evaluate your family’s cooking needs and aesthetic style before determining layout and storage solutions. Create a kitchen catered to your lifestyle.
  2. Fusing storage with style can strike a balance between form and function. Opt for multifunctional furniture that adapts to gatherings.
  3. Embrace a neutral palette like white to integrate color accents and personal collections over time easily.
  4. Incorporate glass surfaces, metallic finishes, and mirrors to reflect light and the illusion of increased dimensions.
  5. Make bold choices with pops of colors, textures, and patterns that bring joy and infuse personality.
Small kitchen with industrial style open metal shelving

Your kitchen should tell a story about who you are while also being a highly functional space for creating memories. By investing in flexible, multipurpose furniture and ensuring durable surfaces, your kitchen can evolve as needs change. A well-designed kitchen makeover should reflect the people who bring it to life year after year.