Small Kitchen Design Made Simple

small kitchen


So you can’t fit a pool table in your kitchen. Maybe you can’t fit more than one person in your kitchen. We all know what they say about size, but when you’re planning your own small kitchen remodel, you may (understandably) start off feeling a little limited.

You wouldn’t know it from flipping through design mags, but very few people actually have a kitchen the size of a New York apartment. The average-size of an American kitchen these days is about 10’ x 10’, or 100 square feet. (Which is probably more than your grandma had, and she managed to whip up Thanksgiving every year.)

But if you’re seriously short on square footage, we’ve got some design tips to help you make every wonderful inch count in your fun-size kitchen.

Use long, clean lines that flow like a jungle river.

You can expand your cramped kitchen (in sight if not in square footage) by using long, unbroken lines and contemporary or transitional design cues.

Not that you can’t include details in your design, but too much embellishment can make a small kitchen feel choppy and over encumbered. Stick to flat or lightly styled cabinetry and hardware and to give your eyes some room to breathe.


small kitchen

Don’t be afraid of the dark.

Pairing light colored paint and cabinets is the conventional wisdom for small spaces, working off the assumption that brighter colors will reflect light and make the space appear larger.

While this is certainly a safe choice, consider that judicious use of dark tones can cause surfaces to appear recessed, visually pushing back walls and cabinets and opening up the center of your room.

Reach for the sky!

You can’t raise your ceilings, but if your cabinets stretch all the way up to the timbers, your whole kitchen will enjoy a height boost.

Pair tall cabinetry with designs that feature strong vertical lines to get the most impact from your skyward thrust.

Tell wall cabinets to take a walk.

Removing top cabinets entirely is another option for de-bulking your small kitchen. Open shelving is a fun, fresh way to store and display dishware. (Especially if you’ve got pieces to show off!)

tall cabinets

Though, if you have mismatched dishes and a little clutter (possibly pirate gold) to hide, frosted glass fronts are a great compromise that lighten up the look while providing good coverage.

Think deep thoughts.

Base cabinets are pretty standard in size, with the vast majority of them being 24” deep. But in a really small kitchen, you might consider getting some that are (oh, here we go…) bigger (wait—what?).

Stick with me, here. Increasing the depth of your base cabinets a few inches won’t cut into your floor space all that noticeably — but you will notice all the extra room you have for storage, which will come in extra handy if you do nix the uppers.

What’s more, deeper cabinets can support a deeper countertop, which will help keep small appliances out of the way, and let you enjoy a larger work surface than a measly 24” can provide.


light finishes

Lighten up.

Spare a thought for your lighting; it is extremely important (especially in the small kitchen). An abundance of light will not only help you use your kitchen better, but it will keep the area looking large and clean.

The kitchen needs three kinds of lighting to function well:

  1. Area lighting that washes over the whole room and provides basic, even coverage.
  2. Task lighting (such as under counter lighting) that illuminates frequently used cooking and prep areas.
  3. Decorative lighting, which adds visual interest and helps with your design.

Area and task lighting should be unobtrusive and “invisible.” This is generally accomplished with recessed can lights or puck lights underneath wall cabinets. (If you’ve ditched the wall cabinets, you may consider a row of pendant or track lights instead.)

Decorative lighting fixtures in the small kitchen should be restrained, but still pack a punch. It may not be the place for a grand chandelier, but if you choose a medium-sized fixture that speaks to your design and palette, you won’t go wrong.



Last but not least: don’t underestimate your flooring.

The floor may be the last element you’d think of to help open your space, but think again — long floorboards placed at a diagonal or perpendicular to the length of your kitchen will create an optical illusion that visually widens your space.

There you have it! Soon you’ll be designing for your small kitchen like a pro. Need help from an actual pro? Marsh’s certified designers are at the ready, waiting to help you get the absolute most out of every precious inch. Contact a Marsh location near you!