Space is at a premium in more and more homes these days. But even if your kitchen sits at the cozy and compact end of the size scale, that doesn’t mean it can’t still be stylish and functional. So, if you’re looking for ways to make your culinary corner more efficient, we’ve got your back! Read on for some handy tips and tricks to maximize your kitchen space — and to prove that when it comes to creating great food, size doesn’t matter.
1. Use mirrors for big-space trickery
There’s no doubt about it: mirrors are your most valuable friend in a small kitchen. Having them on your walls can create the illusion of more light and more space. But don’t stop at regular mirrors. Have you considered installing a mirrored splashback, for example? These can instantly make your kitchen look bigger, and they’re super practical, too: they can withstand high temperatures and are very easy to wipe down.
That’s not all! Have you considered putting mirrors between your shelves as well? That’ll also help your kitchen look larger, and it means you get to see your face every time you reach for something. Win win!
2. Hooks, hooks, and more hooks
Before you even get started on remodeling a kitchen, buy a whole load of hooks! And when you think you have enough hooks, get more hooks! They’re great for maximizing the storage space in your kitchen. If you have a shelf with a lot of space underneath it, put hooks on the underside of it to hang mugs or utensils from. Or why not put up a pegboard and use hooks to hang your pots and pans? Don’t forget a hook to hold your trusty kitchen apron, too.
You can even make the hooks a focal point of your kitchen if you like. Why not try painting them a different color to draw the eye towards them?
3. Max out on your cupboard storage
Are you using your cupboards to their full potential? Probably not, but you could be with a simple addition to your kitchen: a Lazy Susan. These devices are little turntables that can make your cupboard so much more accessible. Bonus: they also help make sure nothing gets stuck in the back of the cupboard gathering dust. After all, nothing’s worse than reaching to find something and feeling your fingers brush a gross sticky bottle.
That’s not the only way you can improve your cupboards. None other than the queen of organization herself, Marie Kondo, recommends a three-tiered expandable shelf organizer. Like a Lazy Susan, this will hugely increase the amount of usable storage space in your kitchen.
4. Make utilities into temporary worktops
Get this: you can use your sink and oven even when you’re not using your sink and oven! This is a small kitchen hack that you won’t believe you didn’t think of before. Get yourself some wooden boards that are large enough to cover your sink and/or your stovetop, and then you can use these surfaces as extra worktops for preparing food. And getting hold of one of these is much easier than you’d think.
You don’t need anything fancy or custom-made. All you need to do is buy some chopping boards that are about the right size. Pro tip: make sure your stove is completely off before you place anything over it!
5. Repurpose cheap furniture
You don’t have to break the bank in order to get nice, practical furniture for your small kitchen. Why not buy flat-pack IKEA pieces and transform them with some paint and a few other additions? Measure up your kitchen first, so you know what you’re working with, and then hit the store. Many people have tried this and ended up with fantastic results. Bookcases, wardrobes, and chests of drawers can all be repurposed for the kitchen with surprisingly little effort.
For example, Jasmine Dhillon of the blog Feeling Nifty turned two IKEA “Billy” bookcases into two pantries that fit perfectly into a small kitchen. All she had to do was add baskets, put on new handles, and anchor it to the wall!
6. Ditch the doors
In a small kitchen where space and light are at a premium, removing the doors can be a simple way of making the room feel brighter and less claustrophobic. It’ll also open up the kitchen to the rest of the house, which can really help the whole place feel more spacious. Why not then create a simple DIY arch in the open doorway? It’s surprisingly simple to do, and it’s really effective.
If you want to keep your kitchen door — it can be handy for keeping cooking smells at bay or separating the chaos from the rest of your house — why not try a sliding door? It'll give you the best of both worlds.
7. Paint the whole space white
Did you know that lots of white can make a space look bigger? Be sure to think about the way the light interacts with it, though. Wren Kitchens noted on Instagram in March 2023, “Thinking about the light and the way it falls is so important when designing a space. Whether it's an abundance of sunshine or a case of embracing moodiness, if carefully considered, it can be the complete making of a room.”
So make sure you balance everything out carefully when creating an all-white kitchen. And do also bear in mind that everything will need frequent cleaning to keep it pristine. It’s worth it, though.
8. Turn a window into a table
No, we don’t mean flipping the window open and using the glass part as a table! You can try that if you want, but you probably wouldn’t get very far... One nifty idea you should look at if you want to make your small kitchen look bigger is a window bar. Install a tiny table or shelf under your window, get a small stool, and you’ll always have somewhere to eat.
And another similar option is a window seat. Perhaps it’s not quite as practical as the window bar, but it’ll definitely make an already cozy space look even cozier.
9. Don’t shy away from patterns
Some people are afraid of using patterns in their kitchen. Don’t be one of them! Having a patterned floor can make a small kitchen look a lot bigger. Homes & Gardens magazine noted in 2022, “Any pattern that creates lines that draw the eye across the kitchen will help make the space feel larger still and if you limit the color palette of the tiles you choose, you will exaggerate the effect further.”
Don’t be tempted to decorate your entire kitchen in patterns, though! That will make it look way too busy and cluttered. Stick with just the floor once you’ve found a pattern you like.
10. Double up on drawers
You may not be using your kitchen drawers to their full potential. They can probably fit in a great deal more than you realize! You can actually integrate smaller drawers into a bigger, deeper one you already have, and use the new area to store items it probably never even occurred to you to put in there. One great tip is to use a drawer, rather than a spice rack, to store your spices.
And there’s no need to worry about how you’ll identify your spices once they’re face-up in a drawer — simply put them in jars and label the tops!
11. Add a pegboard
The humble pegboard is an amazingly useful thing to have in a kitchen. Simply attach it to an unused part of the wall, add some hooks to it and presto: instant storage and show-off space for your pots, pans and utensils. Pegboards can fit into the smallest spaces, are pretty easy to install, and you can paint them whatever color you think would best match the decor of the kitchen.
If you don’t want a pegboard, though, there are other similar storage options! For example, why not try making a wire rack with some spare wire and bits of wood, and use that for your smaller utensils?
12. Use every single part of the cabinet
If you have cabinets in your kitchen, you may not be using them to their full potential. Do you have room to hang anything on the back of the cupboard door? Then use it! Add some hooks and you can put spoons, measuring cups, or other small utensils there. You may need to do a bit of drilling, but think of all the space you can save!
Even the sides of cabinets can be used if you’re careful! Get the drill out again, insert some hooks, and you have a space to hang slightly heavier things such as cutting boards.
13. Get some “wheely” good storage
An underestimated small kitchen hack is this: make sure as many things as possible are on wheels! Especially the storage racks. That way, you can roll things into a prominent place when you need them and tidy them into the background when you don’t! You could even potentially keep some of your more stylish storage racks in your living room and just bring them into the kitchen when needed.
Also consider investing in a wheeled cart! They are incredibly versatile. Some people even use them to grow their own vegetables in, trundling the cart outside to the garden and then back in to collect the food.
14. Think height, not width
You’re probably not using your kitchen height to its full potential, because virtually no-one is. But think about all the space you’re wasting by not building upwards! There’s probably loads of room between the ceiling and everything else. So, you can store items you don’t use very much in higher-up spaces and get a stool or even a cute wooden ladder to use when you need to get them down.
Why not consider putting some simple shelves in that space instead of closed cabinets? Too many cabinets and you run the risk of making your kitchen looking smaller and more boxed-up.
15. Corners are your friends
Home improvement website The Spruce observed in 2023, “Corner space is usually underutilized in many homes. But when you're trying to make every square inch in your small kitchen count, corner shelving can give these awkward spots a purpose.” It’s advice we all should be taking. Some carefully placed corner shelves can be a standout design feature in a small cozy kitchen, rather than just a space-saving measure.
Before making or buying your corner shelves, make note of what style and color would go best with the design of your kitchen. Of course, you can always paint them a different color in the future if needed.
16. Replace walls with windows
One of the best things you can do for your kitchen is to flood it with natural light. In 2022 Forbes magazine suggested, “If the placement of your kitchen offers up amazing views and natural light that pours into your home, consider swapping out the exterior wall for windows that wrap around the kitchen. Whether your windows are floor-to-ceiling, or even part of the ceiling is incorporated into your window display, walking into your kitchen every day will feel like a breath of fresh air.”
And even if you don’t have amazing views outside, the more windows the better. Why not install a transom window, which goes above the door and thus uses a bit of oft-wasted space?
17. Keep kitchens clutter-free
Do you have appliances that are technically useful, but tend to be underused? Kondo herself says it’s okay to get rid of them! In 2022 she told Homes and Gardens magazine, “If you have small appliances like a mixer or a bread-maker that hasn't been used in over a year, it likely doesn't spark joy in your life any more.” So how about giving it away to somebody whose life it will spark joy in?
But if you absolutely have to keep your unused item, perhaps try hiding it in a cupboard or even behind curtains! This helps the room look more streamlined and less cluttered. No-one likes an over-busy cluttered kitchen.
18. Make your countertops multi-purpose
Every kitchen needs a countertop, that’s one of the, ahem, “top” priorities. Where else are you going to cut and prepare your food? But make sure your countertop isn’t just that! It can also be used for storage. Build shelves or cupboards underneath, and all sorts of things can be stored there. And this doesn’t have to cost much! You can easily buy an inexpensive bookcase and simply install a counter on top of it.
And don’t forget, you can also store things directly on the countertop if you do it right. Things that you use everyday, such as knives or plates, can definitely have a home there without getting in the way.
19. Invest in a laundry helper
Many companies have come up with solutions to help you hide your laundry. For example, deVOL Kitchens has the “Laundry Maid,” and sung its praises in a 2023 post, saying, “If you’ve got a utility that’s a little on the small side, the Laundry Maid is supremely handy. The slats give you plenty of room to hang all your sheets and linens, but you can hoist it up and out of the way so there aren’t reams of washing taking up precious floor space or blocking you from using your cupboards.”
There are also plenty of other, similar options on the market! Definitely take a look around for one if you feel yourself getting frustrated every time laundry day rolls around.
20. Make a dining nook
Just the word “nook” invokes coziness. And you could have one of your very own in your kitchen, especially if it happens to be a galley one. There’s usually a bit of room at the end with a window in those kinds of kitchens, but that space often ends up getting used for trash cans or other unsightly things. So why not get a small table, one you can easily store a couple of chairs under, and install that there instead?
As for the trash cans, you might be able to store them under the table as well. Or why not move them to the inside of an empty cupboard, out of sight?
21. Ditch the wall cabinets
Yes, some kitchens look great with wall cabinets, that’s undeniable. But some others, especially smaller kitchens, not so much. So why not ditch that method of storage altogether? It’ll make the room feel a whole lot less cramped. Instead, put some nice open shelves up and use boxes, baskets, mason jars etc to store your kitchen items. You could even put a few nice cooking-related decorations on the shelves too!
But if you really want to keep your wall cabinets, there’s a simple trick you can use to still make the most of them. If you install glass on your cabinet doors, that will make your kitchen appear so much bigger!
22. Get yourself a ladder
Creative director of Shelved Jonathan Clark gave Good Homes magazine a kitchen tip in 2023. He said, “Get creative with drawers, baskets and cupboards to create hidden storage spots and don’t shy away from using height to your advantage: stack up high and invest in a stepladder which matches your interior.” In fact, you might already have a stepladder lying around in your garage, so why not clean it off and paint it?
Of course, this tip won’t work with everyone since not everybody can climb ladders, but if you can, definitely consider it, especially if you have a kitchen with a high ceiling.
23. Consider bespoke furniture
Good bespoke furniture can be expensive, there’s no doubt about that, but when it comes to your kitchen it just might be an investment worth making. After all, why waste endless hours trawling the big flat-pack furniture stores when a talented local furniture maker could create a piece for you that will fit perfectly into the space you have, last a long time, and maximize the angles of your kitchen?
This comes with another advantage: you don’t have to put the piece of furniture together yourself! No more ripping your hair out over flat-pack instruction manuals or ending up with one leftover screw at the end.
24. Paint cabinets to match the walls
Color is very important in any room, but especially in a small kitchen. And professional kitchen designers think so too, of course! In 2022 Joa Studholme, the color curator at Farrow & Ball, told Homes & Gardens magazine, “If you are short of space in a kitchen, it’s a great idea to paint the units the same color as the walls. The walls should be painted in wipeable modern emulsion and the units in super-durable modern eggshell. This will make the space feel bigger but also less utilitarian: more like a living room than a kitchen.”
You can choose your own color, but lighter shades are recommended, because dark ones will only make the room appear smaller and that’s the opposite of what you want!
25. Use under-cabinet shelves
Bet you never thought that you could use under the shelves for storage! But you can. In 2020 the website Houzz noted, “A shallow shelf under a stretch of upper cabinets can be a great spot to stash small items like spice jars, pepper mills or tea boxes. This works especially well if you use the shortened space below to store other items rather than using that spot for prep.”
These shelves are fairly easy to install as well! Do your measuring correctly and pick out some appropriately sized wood, and you should have your new storage space in a matter of hours.
26. Slide away your seating
Want to actually sit down and eat in your small kitchen sometimes? There are some very easy ways of doing that. In 2022 website The Spruce suggested, “A slim custom built-in bar helps to visually divide the space, provide[s] extra counter space for meal prep, and has a slide-out component that doubles its width for dining, with white bar stools that disappear into the background when not in use.”
Slide-out furniture is great for conserving space! If you have a big enough slide-out table and a little extra room you can even use the kitchen for big family meals every now and again.
27. Use windows for storage
A brilliant idea that perhaps you might have seen on Pinterest or Instagram: using the window as storage space! Not the windowsill, the window itself. All you have to do is string some wire or place some clear shelves over the window, maybe add a few hooks depending on what you want to store, and you’ve got yourself an incredibly handy space to store your pans or cups. And you don’t have to compromise on natural light because plenty will still shine through!
This trick also gives you a chance to show off your finest kitchenware, so make sure it’s all in good condition! You could even put a few decorations between them if you think it would look nice.
28. Make your ceiling float
Don’t forget to utilize the ceiling when it comes to making the kitchen space look bigger. You might have mirrors all over the place already in your kitchen, but you can always have more. Noted interior designer Nina Campbell has some advice on this. In 2020 she told the website YourHomeStyle, “Because I can’t bear the gap between the cupboards and the ceiling, I have put a piece of mirror so that it is a streamlined wall and that makes the ceiling float.”
Of course, there’s also the option of having a kitchen ceiling entirely made of mirrors. That’s a very dramatic and possibly expensive option, but it could work well if done right!
29. Use curtains instead of cabinets
This one may not be to everyone’s taste, but it definitely helps add interest to a kitchen. Why not use curtains instead of doors for your cabinets? If you choose a bright, bold fabric or a trendy pattern you could even make the curtains a focal point of your kitchen. You don’t have to go mad with them either: you can choose to cover only the ends of cabinets, perhaps.
In 2023 deVOL Kitchens wrote on Instagram, “Choose the right fabric and there is an endearing charm about this simple idea,” and it’s absolutely right about that.
30. Consider a fold-down table
You might want a table in your kitchen, but bear in mind that you don’t have to have a table all the time, so to speak. Why not buy a fold-up table, paint it a beautiful color that matches the rest of your kitchen, and fold it up and put it aside whenever needed to make room for other things? You can do the same thing with chairs as well!
If you have spare space on your wall, you can even use that to hang up your chairs when they’re not in use! You’ll need some strong hooks, but if you’ve got them, it’s an ideal solution.
31. Invest in a pocket door
If more than one person shares your kitchen, things can get awkward! You’ve probably been in a situation where you’re trying to put things away in a cupboard while someone else is doing food prep, and everyone gets very annoyed. But there’s a good solution: pocket doors! These are doors that slide open and hide within the cabinet frame rather than sticking out awkwardly into your all-important kitchen space.
Take a look around your local area for any companies who can install some pocket doors for you. Getting them in there could be the making of your cozy kitchen space.
32. No peninsula, no problem
If you have a very small kitchen, hope is not lost! Instead of having a peninsula or island to prepare food on, there’s always the option of getting yourself a slimline wheeled trolley. The best ones are so multifunctional you won’t be able to remember how you lived without one! You can store utensils in the baskets or drawers, chop vegetables on the countertop, and then slide the whole thing safely away when you’re done.
But if you don’t think you have room for one of those either, how about a pullout chopping station? This handy device can be pushed inside a chest of drawers whenever you’re done with it.
33. Let there be light
Light is absolutely vital to a kitchen, we all know that. But have you ever heard of under-cabinet lighting? The lighting company Lumens says on their website, “Under-cabinet lighting is not a fancy add-on that can be ignored, even if the kitchen’s style is minimal. In fact, under-cabinet lighting greatly improves the functionality and environment of a kitchen. A wide array of systems and fixtures can be added on to existing cabinets, as well as fully custom rail kits that integrate lighting and power outlets into a seamless backsplash.”
If that sounds complicated, don’t worry, there’s an easy way to get this effect. You can simply purchase LED strip lights with adhesive backing and stick them on to your cabinets yourself.
34. Magnetic strips to the rescue
Magnetic strips are useful, versatile, and almost invisible if done right! All you have to do is purchase one, put it along your wall, and use it to hang up your kitchen utensils. If you want some place to display your collection of fine knives, for example, a magnetic strip is all you need. And the strip won’t damage the knives, don’t worry: in fact, it’ll serve the knives much better than a knife block would.
You can even have a little fun with your magnetic strip if the style of your kitchen suits it: put fun, colorful magnets between the utensils!
35. Choose your appliances wisely
You don’t need to get X, Y, and Z kitchen appliances just because everyone else has them. If you really love to cook then of course you’ll want a big oven, but if you don’t, maybe the oven needs to be taken out and replaced with a smaller or an integrated one? That will give you more space for something you actually do want, even if that something is decorative rather than practical.
So take a look around your kitchen and work out what you use every day and what you don’t. If you prefer to do your dishes by hand, out goes the dishwasher!
36. Use vertical tiling to cheat height
Arranging your wall tiles vertically can make a huge, huge difference in your kitchen. In 2019 the magazine House and Home noted, “Subway tile — everyone’s perennial favorite — has slimmed down and veered vertically. The new look sees the tiles flipped upright and slimmer for a captivating do-over. Use vertical tile in tight spaces to draw the eye to the sky, creating the illusion of higher walls and ceilings, or just because you desire a daring new look.”
It doesn’t have to be specifically subway tile though. And it doesn’t have to be on the wall either! Try some floor tiles that run parallel to the length of your kitchen in order to make a small space seem larger. There are a lot of options there!
37. Use light-reflecting accessories
Even the smallest accessory can help your kitchen look bigger. In 2021 the magazine Real Homes advised, “Used sparingly and in the right scale, small decorative touches really add personality to a kitchen. To make a small kitchen look bigger, pick out accessories that will bounce light around the room. Basically, that means all the metallics.” It’s a tip that’s easy to follow, because there are lots of great metallic accessories out there.
Why not hit up your local thrift store and see what you can find? A metallic accessory you would have overlooked before could turn out to be the focal point of your entire kitchen.
38. Clean lines only
When it comes to small kitchen design, you need clean lines and only clean lines. Do you have a door or cupboard handle that sticks out? Get rid of it and replace it with a small integrated handle instead. It’ll make the kitchen look so much nicer, and it will also stop you potentially catching your clothes, which can of course be very dangerous if you’re preparing food.
The ‘clean lines’ rule applies to furniture too: make sure you pick out chairs, tables, and so on that are streamlined and slim. Nothing too chunky, no matter how good it looks on the shop floor.
39. Use dishes as decor
Many people choose to put their dishes away in cupboards when they’re not using them, but consider instead making them into a display! You can actually quite easily and inexpensively make your own wall plate rack at home. The only tools you need are a nail gun, a tack cloth, a sanding block, and a saw. And once you have it ready, you can paint it any color you like.
This works especially well if you have some stylish, colorful plates. There are some out there that are so pretty they just don’t deserve to be consigned to the cupboard!
40. Be savvy under the sink
Yes, many people don’t like using their under-sink cupboard. But you don’t have to be one of those people! Give it a good clean-out if you haven’t been in there recently, and see what you can do with the space. It’s perfect for storing cleaning items, but how to arrange them? Well, think shelves, rods with hooks, plastic bins — simple things that can hold your sprays and sponges until you need them.
There are a few other handy things you can use the space for as well. If you want a noticeboard to write shopping lists on, but you don’t have any space left on the wall, how about attaching it to the back of your sink cupboard?