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How to Have a Big-Kitchen Feel in a Small Space

Is Your Kitchen Too Small? Then Give It Flair and Style!


If you’ve lived in an apartment or a small house, you’ll understand the frustration – and sometimes the stress – of prepping and cooking in the cramped space of a small kitchen. But don’t let that get you down. While breaking down walls and undertaking costly renovations – or even moving to another place – may not be immediate options, there are practical and fashionable ways to compensate for the lack of space.

So what if it’s not your dream kitchen! Instead of concentrating on what you don’t have, focus your time and energy on what you can do with the kitchen that you have. You’ll need a little imagination, some inexpensive but creative innovations, and an adventurous spirit in tackling a number of do-it-yourself projects.

And in no time, you’ll have a little breathing room – and the satisfaction of transforming your small kitchen into an attractive, appealing, efficient, and functional space that you and your family will love and enjoy. Let’s get to work and give that kitchen some flair and style!


Give the Kitchen a Clean, Uncluttered Look  

One of the easiest and most basic ways of creating the illusion of a larger space is by keeping things neat and organized. There’s nothing worse than a kitchen counter filled with cereal boxes, snacks, bottled water, recipe books, cooking ingredients, utensils, dishes, mail, reminder notes, and knick-knacks. This clutter can be overwhelming – and an irritant – even in a large kitchen. So just imagine how unsightly it would be in a small space.

Observe the obvious rule of thumb: store food and other staples in the fridge or the kitchen cabinets. Use drawers and all available storage space for your recipe books and utensils. Even personal touches and décor accents should be kept to a minimum to maintain tidy lines and an uncluttered look.

Simple, uncluttered kitchen in Plan #108-1756

Clean and uncluttered paint a pretty big picture in this small kitchen of a 2-story, 3-bedroom Country-style home (Plan #108-1756).


Light Colors Brighten up the Kitchen

You may love brown tones, navy, and darker colors. But ditch those hues when you’re working with a small kitchen. Go with white, beige, or a light blue to brighten up the space. White walls, cabinets, and drawers reflect a lot of light and will make your small kitchen airy, breezy, and roomy. For a nice and warm contrast, use light brown for countertops and natural wood for chairs and tables.

If possible, don’t use kitchen curtains for your window – just keep it open and unobstructed to allow sunlight to filter into the kitchen. In addition to natural light and the standard ceiling fixtures, add pendant lamps and under-cabinet lights for maximum illumination as you cook and work in the kitchen.

White, traditional kitchen in Plan #141-1043

White rules in this small kitchen of a 1-story, 4-bedroom Traditional-style home. The white cabinets and appliances give the kitchen a bigger and more spacious feel (Plan #141-1043).


Install Open Shelves

The traditional look has always been built-in cabinets above the stove and the kitchen sink where there isn’t a window or an opening. With a small kitchen area, however, it’s best to install open shelves for storage. The look is modern, streamlined, less bulky, and makes the kitchen appear brighter and breezier. In addition, the open shelves allow you to display a few of your favorite décor items and play with different color accents to make the kitchen more appealing.

While there are a few disadvantages to open shelves (dust accumulation, grease, washing dishes more often, the constant pressure to keep things tidy and organized), open shelves – in the long run – are more economical than installing solid cabinets. They make daily-use items readily accessible and make it easier for close friends and family to find items without bothering you.

Some homeowners with small kitchens have the perfect compromise – by using both open shelves and cabinets with glass doors in their small kitchen.

Modern kitchen with touches of color in the displays on the shelves and behind the glass doors

A modern and streamlined look is achieved with the open shelves, glass-front cabinets doors, and a backsplash of subway tiles in this smaller kitchen in a 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath European style country home (Plan #168-1088). There are touches of color in the displays on the shelves and behind the glass doors. The shelves and glass doors lend a touch of airiness to the kitchen space. (See below for more about glass doors.)


Glass Cabinet Doors Work Better Than Solid Ones

If you’re not quite comfortable with open shelves in the kitchen, you can keep the cabinets – but think about a high-end built-in cabinet with glass doors to lighten up the kitchen. Like open shelves, they are trendy and make the kitchen seem more spacious. You can also have fun with them as you indulge your inner artist. Paint the inside of your kitchen cabinets and display your work through the glass front doors.

More contemporary and modern looking than solid cabinet doors, glass-front doors are appropriate for all interiors. There are a variety of styles to choose from – stained, frosted, or textured – so your cabinets can be fashionable, too. They are easy to clean and moisture resistant. And similar to open shelves, glass front cabinet doors “expose” everything stored inside. So be ready keep the contents neat and uncluttered!

Small kitchen with big-kitchen feel (Plan #109-1112)

A 4-bedroom Colonial-style home features this small kitchen with a mix-and-match of white cabinets with solid doors and glass front doors. The color palette and the cabinet with glass doors add to the bigger feel of the smallish kitchen (Plan #109-1112).


Use Kitchen Walls for Storage

Make the most of whatever space you have in the kitchen – and by all means, include the walls. For starters, you can attach hooks and rods to hang small pots and pans, knives, mugs, and other lightweight kitchen utensils. Just make sure the hooks and rods are strong enough to hold your items. Then think of mounting shelves for cookbooks, spice bottles, baking items, and even glassware. And what about wire baskets for your fruit and vegetables?

As you work on storage ideas for the walls, plan on making the area fun and artistic as well as practical. Paint part of the wall with chalk-paint, for example, and use it as a central spot for reminders and important calendar items for the family.


Blend the Kitchen into a Larger Space

If you have an open floor plan, the small kitchen naturally blends with all the space in the dining and living areas. In these instances, the limited space will not be so “suffocating” because the open design allows plenty of light.

A popular option for some homeowners is to merge their small kitchen into a bigger room to give the appearance of a larger space. Usually, the kitchen is integrated with the Great Room or a breakfast nook. By building a low half wall, you can create a natural design flow as well as a seamless extension between the areas.

Kitchen in an open floor plan seems bigger than it is (Plan #141-1134)

This small kitchen in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath Ranch-style home is merged into the bigger Great Room with a small section of half wall. The result is a brighter, airier, and “larger” space (Plan #141-1134).


Consider Smaller Appliances for the Space

With a small kitchen, you have to think of function more than anything else – primarily, cooking meals. While you may not have all the amenities – eat-in islands, breakfast nooks, walk-in pantries, stand-alone freezer, and more – you can prepare meals in the comfort of a small kitchen by using compact and scaled-down appliances.

Today, there are small but modern and state-of-the-art refrigerators, ovens, and microwaves that do the same job as their larger counterparts. Some kitchens come equipped with electric cooktops that can be used as additional prep space. And if you still need more work space, think about getting a small-scale kitchen island.

And surprise! Giving up the standard kitchen appliances does not affect your ability to cook and bake well in a small kitchen.

Cozy kitchen for a small family in Plan #141-1017

Smaller appliances and compact cabinetry provide workable space in this small kitchen of a 1-story, 3-bedroom Country-style home. A perfect “empty nester” kitchen, the design would also work well for a young couple just starting out or beginning a family (House Plan #141-1017).


Think of Movable Multi-Use Accessories 

Don’t be flustered by the lack of space and modern fixtures like kitchen islands. Step out of the built-in mode, and consider movable accessories on wheels.

What about a portable kitchen island that can be used as a prep area, buffet table for family gatherings, and storage space? Or think of getting a rolling cart that serves the same purpose as the portable kitchen island. They are more economical than built-ins, perfect for a small kitchen, provide you with a lot of flexibility, and help you stay organized around your kitchen. And best of all, you can put away these movable kitchen extras when they are not being used to open up the space, say, while entertaining.


There’s no need to fret about your small kitchen. With a little flair and style, you can create a beautifully designed kitchen space that’s all yours. Remember, small can be trendy and elegant. So, love that kitchen and enjoy it! Share your own ideas and experiences in the comments section below . . .


Footnote: The the top photograph lead image of this article features a simple but attractive modern kitchen from a 2-story, 3-bedroom, 2-bath Modern style home (Plan #116-1015).

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