While small apartments and homes offer plenty of charm, they tend to be lacking when it comes to kitchen space. Luckily, there are tons of small kitchen ideas that maximize storage and efficiency. It’s all about working with the layout of your space, whether your kitchen is confined to a single wall, U-shaped, or tucked in a corner. Ahead, we’ve gathered 51 small kitchen design tips to help maximize your space. Whether you’re renovating and starting from scratch or just looking to refresh your existing space, you’ll want to give these a try!
1. Add a prep area
You may not have space to expand or add a full island, so think about bringing in a table that can do double duty as a spot for prep and dining. Even a narrow console can work as a spot to set tools and ingredients on while you cook.
2. Remove upper cabinets
“Open shelves are extremely functional and make it so much easier to access dishes and glasses,” says New York–based interior designer Jenny Wolf, adding that you should think about your kitchen architecturally, as it doesn’t always make sense to have upper cabinets—“especially if the ceilings are 10 feet high.”
3. Add some greenery
4. Add extra seating to your small kitchen
Use that extra counter area for casual dinners or your morning coffee. Pull up a few barstools and take advantage of an extra dining spot.
5. Install pendant lights or striking light fixtures
Install lights to brighten up the entire kitchen. “You can never have enough lighting in a kitchen, and I always down-light with decorative fixtures over the island and prep station,” says Wolf. Good lighting, plenty of it, is incredibly important while cooking.
6. Get super organized inside your cabinets
For any small space (kitchens or otherwise), getting organized is essential. When space comes at a premium, you can’t afford to waste any of it—even the hidden space inside your cabinets. Stock up on risers, spice-sorting systems, and anything else that will streamline and maximize your kitchen storage.
7. Install a floating table
If your L-shaped kitchen faces a blank wall, why not make use of it? Install a floating shelf or table for extra counter or dining space. Dealing with a narrow space? Install a table that can fold down to be flush with the wall when not in use.
8. Keep your materials cohesive
Even a small space can look sleek and put-together. Go for panel-ready appliances and match them to the cabinetry and countertops for a minimalist kitchen.
9. Add a kitchen island
Even if your kitchen is on the narrow side, you can still bring in a slim kitchen island. Consider a rolling island, which can be pushed out of the way once dinner is ready. “Don’t think if you have a tiny kitchen that you can’t have an island. You can; you just need to put it on wheels so that when you’re working and you need an island, it’s there, and when the guests arrive, you can push it over to the side or move it into the dining room or living room and let it be the bar,” says interior designer Ellen Cheever.
10. Make your kitchen island really stand out
The island is the centerpiece, so why not make it look special? Try coating the base in a bold color that complements the other cabinetry.
11. Use light colors to visually expand your small kitchen
“The lighter the kitchen, the larger it can feel,” says Wolf. “Sometimes, if there is a good view out a window, I like to focus on bringing the outdoors in and using nature to dictate the palette.” Keeping an especially light palette on countertops, backsplashes, walls, and millwork also helps a small kitchen feel more open.
12. Double down on white
The lightest palette of all, of course, is all white. “White paint will help spread and reflect light around, which also makes a space seem bigger,” says interior decorator and blogger Emily Henderson.
13. Maximize floor space with a dining nook
The shape of the room can have just as big of an impact as the square footage. “It’s important to pay attention to the structure of your kitchen,” says Henderson. “If you have a small dining nook, then go for a round table that opens up floor space and seats more people than a square one would.”
14. Get rid of all clutter
“Countertops are prime real estate for clutter, which instantly makes a place feel smaller,” Henderson says. “Make a point of getting rid of all your unused plastic containers and mismatched dinnerware every couple of months.”
15. Think vertically
Just can’t get rid of that timeworn cookbook or prized flea market find? “Installing pot racks, knife mounts, and open shelving above your stove will free up tons of space,” says Henderson.
16. Add light to shelving and cabinetry
For an instant upgrade, Henderson recommends flooding the space with as much light—natural and artificial—as you can. There is nothing worse than cooking in a dimly lit area. If possible, add library lights or LED light strips near cabinets and shelves to brighten everything up.
17. Consider using chalkboard paint
Chalkboard paint is practical, transformative, and fun. You can use it to completely change the look of your kitchen, and let it take up an entire wall or just a small section. Use ito write grocery lists and dinner menus, or just draw.
18. Opt for small appliances
“Don’t think small means cheap apartment, entry-level, dormitory stuff anymore. High-quality small appliances are now available. The other thing is combination appliances; you can have a microwave-convection-browning appliance,” says Cheever.
19. Find a tiny sink, and get one with a cover so it doubles as a prep area
“Don’t overlook the sink. The biggest innovation in sinks today is they all come with covers; when you need a big sink, it’s there for cleanup, and when you need a tiny sink, it’s there as well,” says Cheever.
20. Or, go for a deep sink to conceal dishes
“Because the sink is a dirty space, our clients also generally prefer deeper sinks so pots and dirty dishes can be concealed,” says Cheever.
21. Consider moving the freezer out of the kitchen altogether
When things just won’t fit, determine if there’s an appliance you can put elsewhere. “If there’s no room, what can you move into another space? With tower refrigeration today, what I oftentimes do is keep the refrigerator in the kitchen and put the freezer next to a stacked washer and dryer in another part of the house,” says Cheever.
22. Consider a mirrored backsplash
“Mirrors are especially useful when there is no, or minimal, natural light in a kitchen,” says Wolf. “They can help to open the space up and bounce light around.” The designer has been known to use antique mirror tiles instead of traditional tile for a backsplash.
23. Hang a mirror above a stove
According to Wolf, you can create the same effect with a mirror. “It’s better to look at than a plain wall,” she says.
24. Use pattern in unexpected places, like your floor
Wolf says the floor—an often overlooked area of a kitchen—is the perfect place for a high-impact design element: “A patterned floor will give the illusion of a greater expanse to the space.” Wolf likes mixing it up with either chevron or herringbone wood-floor patterns or even using hand-painted cement tile for a more bohemian feel.
25. Or, use pattern on your walls
Patterns, of course, aren’t just limited to your floor. You can also jazz up your kitchen walls with patterned tile, wallpaper, or wall decals.
26. Choose hard-wearing surfaces
“Surfaces and durability are things we bring up a lot. We absolutely love natural materials, but if there is heavy use, we lean toward fabricated materials like Caesarstone that allow a higher level of durability. They’ve really improved the color palette that’s available to designers, so when you get a high level of durability plus that palette, it becomes the right choice.”
27. Pair utilitarian appliances with refined cabinetry
“People who are frequent cooks want to maintain something visually appealing. For one client—a New York City lawyer who has eaten at virtually every major restaurant in downtown Manhattan—it wasn’t about being a show kitchen, but a foodie’s kitchen. It’s very utilitarian—he wanted a heavy-duty Wolf stove—yet we took care in the selection of the finishes. The white cabinets are glass, and the gray cabinets are lacquer—they really play with materiality. This way, it’s not too precious or too utilitarian,” said designer Stephanie Goto.
28. Get custom hardware
“I try to use hardware as statement pieces. It’s the jewelry you put on to complete the look,” says architectural designer Karen Williams, who serves as the creative director for St. Charles New York.
29. Or, opt for invisible hardware
“When you lean up against the counter, you don’t want to feel a handle poking into your side. You also want a clean surface where you really see the materiality of the surface. We’ve worked a lot with Dada and have been generally seeing less hardware and more integrated pulls or touch-to-open cabinetry. It makes working much more efficient,” said Goto.
30. Install a pot rack
If those bulky pots and pans are taking up valuable storage space, try hanging them from a rack to create a culinary centerpiece—and free up room in your cabinets for other essentials.
31. Make the most of marble
“I like to incorporate is a full slab of marble running behind the range and through to the back of the cabinet,” says Williams. “The single slab, as opposed to marble tiles, provides drama but can also be hard to implement. For countertops, Williams relishes using slabs with semiprecious stones to create a wow factor. “This is a great area to personalize your kitchen with a fun color or pattern.”
35. Add a good kitchen rug and other warm accents
Adding warm accents like a good rug can make a small kitchen feel more like a cohesive space, especially if you have a one-wall kitchen that isn’t its own separate room.
36. Realize that anything can become a pantry
An old locker found at an estate sale, then repainted? Yep, that’s your new pantry. Double points for adding a magnetic knife strip to the side and/or magnetic spice jars for even more storage that doesn’t take up counter space.
37. Invest in kitchen supplies you don’t mind showing off
If your kitchen is in the same space as, say, your dining and living room, set out well-designed pots, pans, kettles, and dinnerware right on the stove or counter (or even on that weird shelf created by the tops of your cabinets) when not in use.
38. Use the wall space above the counter for additional storage
Sky’s the limit, or at least your ceiling is, when it comes to how much storage you can add onto a wall. You can create an incredibly efficient storage system with shelves for glassware, hooks for mugs, pegs for pans, and a rod for frequently used utensils without taking up much space at all.
39. Get colorful with an accent wall
An accent wall (or two!) can completely transform the look of your kitchen, regardless of its size.
40. Double down on color with vivid appliances
If you don’t want to commit to a colorful wall, opt for a colorful appliance instead.
41. Hang your mugs
Another one of our favorite small kitchen ideas is this simple one: Hang your mugs. This solution does double duty: It frees up space in your cabinets, and the (right) mugs can become a decorative accent. You can install a rack under your cabinet or set a mug tree on your counter. You can also mount any kind of rack right to wall for an even bigger statement.
42. Think outside the box when it comes to cabinet surfaces.
“Believe it or not, the cabinetry is one of the last items to go in a kitchen. Of the many choices to pick from, try using metal or mirrored finishes to glamorize the kitchen,” says Williams.
43. Add drawers to the inside of your cabinets
Cabinet drawers are easy to install, and they make your assortment of lids, pans, and Tupperware so much easier to access. This solution is also a lot less costly than getting custom cabinetry.
44. Hide your fridge within the cabinetry
This is one of the more expensive small kitchen ideas, but it’s a game-changer. Concealing your fridge within your cabinetry streamlines the entire look of the space and gives it a seamless surface.
45. Knock down walls
If you’re able to, knocking down a wall is one of most transformative things you can do to your kitchen. It takes what was once a cramped kitchen and makes it part of an open space.
46. Or open up part of the walls
It’s often difficult to open up a galley kitchen completely, particularly in old buildings, due to the placement of pipes, but you can still add light and air by removing even a small section of the wall. A portal or open corner can help connect the kitchen to the rest of the living space.
47. Put up artwork
Just like every room in your house, your kitchen deserves artwork. Adding art that fits your space and style is a simple but effective way to amp up your kitchen design.
48. Add a pegboard
Pegboards give you space where you didn’t think you had any—which is a huge boon in a small kitchen. You’ll find plenty of prefabricated pegboards online. You can get one made in the exact size you desire, and then use it to hang everything from measuring cups to colanders.
49. Make use of every nook and cranny
Find a use for everything, even the space next to your stove (it makes a fantastic place to store spices, oils, soup stocks, et cetera). One of Cheever’s favorite small kitchen design solutions is adding in “very, very narrow nine-inch-deep pantries, which can take the place of a filler between a refrigerator and a wall.”
50. Use concealed storage
“Maybe it’s our modern approach, but we design with concealed storage for the most part. With open shelving there’s a concern about dust, and there’s just less of a desire to showcase the interior of cabinetry,” says Goto. It’s not just dinnerware you can conceal—you can basically stash away anything. If you’re designing a small kitchen from scratch—or completely overhauling one—the possibilities for concealed storage are endless. Williams has stashed appliances behind a set of custom French doors, tucked a pullout banquette into an island, devised pullout marble pantries, and concealed outlets. “I love designing in a creative and unique way to incorporate the fundamental necessities of the kitchen,” she says.
51. Use baskets for storage
Last but not least on our list of small kitchen ideas: Add baskets! If you’re running out of space in your cabinets and pantry, baskets and bins can make all the difference. Find baskets that fit the vibe of your kitchen and they can double as decor and additional storage.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest