5 Ideas to Make Your Small Kitchen Seem Bigger

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Not everybody wants or has space for a sprawling kitchen. And a compact kitchen doesn’t mean you have to skimp on style and functionality. As a designer in Toronto, I often advise clients with small kitchens on how to maximize their tight layouts. Here are 5 Ideas to Make Your Small Kitchen Seem Bigger

1. Open Shelves

If your kitchen feels cramped, removing all or some of your upper cabinets might be the best option for you. This is a sure way to open up the visual space around the room, making the kitchen appear much larger than it is.


Plenty of light is important in a small space, and upper cabinets can sometimes cast a shadow over the countertops, making the workspace feel darker than necessary. So skipping those uppers can really open a space up. Running tile on the backsplash to the ceiling can also help visually heighten the look of the room.

If you’re worried about losing the storage from ditching upper cabinets, consider a hardworking island, if you have the space, or consult with a design pro to really maximize your lower cabinet storage with pullouts, drawers and other high-functioning components.

Open shelves are another option. You want your shelves to have a depth of at least 10 inches. This is important if you want the shelving to hold dinner plates or other wide items.


Open shelves also allow you to easily change your decor with the seasons, giving you a dynamic focal point that will keep your small kitchen feeling new and fresh.

Choosing the same color for your shelves and walls can help the shelves visually disappear, creating an airy vibe and letting your stylish dishes and decorative items pop.

But keep in mind: With open shelves, be prepared to stay a little more organized, and plan to do a little extra dusting.

2. Invisible Hardware

It might not seem like a big deal, but protruding cabinet knobs and pulls can take up a consequential amount of visual and physical space.

A “handleless” kitchen features cabinets with a lip or touch latch. This approach creates a seamless, minimal look without visual interruptions. And that’s important in a compact space that you want to feel more open.

This London kitchen by Homeconcepts is a good example of how clean and airy a small kitchen can look without hardware. Also note how the muted cabinet color blends in with the wall, backsplash and countertop tones to visually disappear in the room. You can imagine how different this light space would look with, say, dark cabinets.

Going without knobs or pulls not only makes your tight kitchen look more spacious, it also gives you a bit more physical space when every inch counts. With this arrangement, you can move around in the kitchen right up against the cabinets without worrying about snagging your clothes or bumping your hip.

3. Pattern

Bringing in a large design statement like a bold pattern can help detract from your minimal square footage and give your tiny space a big personality.

Plus, a little goes a long way. Using a dramatic pattern often works better in a small kitchen than in a large one because a small area of pattern can deliver just the right amount of style. With a larger area, too much pattern can overwhelm the space.

See how these beautiful tiles in a Tampa, Florida, kitchen by Orange Moon Interiors draw the eye in, creating a focal point with just a few accents while keeping the surrounding space light and bright.

The floor is an often-overlooked area of a kitchen for adding style, but it’s the perfect place for a high-impact design element.

A patterned floor will give the illusion of a greater expanse of space. This black-and-white diamond pattern in a Salt Lake City kitchen by Maven Home Interiors creates a timeless look, and running the pattern diagonally creates the appearance of more square footage.

4. Corner Storage

As I’ve noted, every square inch counts in a small kitchen, and that means you can’t allow dead corners.Designing a corner is often a tricky affair that requires a delicate balance between form and functionality. Notice how the open shelves in this Seattle kitchen wrap around a corner to maximize storage and display space while maintaining an open feel. Also note a few of the other tricks mentioned in this article, such as using light colors to visually recede cabinets, playing with pattern and running backsplash tile all the way to the ceiling to add visual height.
A corner countertop cabinet is another idea worth considering. Extending the cabinet all the way to the ceiling maximizes storage but also makes the room feel bigger by drawing the eye up. A win-win.
Or consider a corner sink. Since work at the sink is often stationary, corner placement leaves space for another person to move freely, putting away groceries, preparing ingredients, accessing the fridge or tending food on a stove.

One thing to keep in mind before making this decision is that corner sinks tend to be smaller than standard ones. If you use a lot of big dishes and utensils, this may not be the best option for you.

5. Stylish Countertop Appliances

 If your kitchen is small, you’re going to need to make the most of every spot, including your counter surface.

This means some of your day-to-day items may need to be kept visible, especially if your cabinet space lacks room for small appliances.

Investing in items you love and that look good is worth it, as they’ll be on display for everyone to see. The white toaster shown here looks at home amid the stylish white-and-wood design.

You’ll also find a lot of practicality in having appliances out because they’ll always be accessible when you need them.

See how the black-and-white toaster next to the range here looks intentional.

Always consider the best-performing appliance for your needs, but do a little extra research to find those that fit the look of your space.

In this Boston kitchen by Oak Hill Architects, the stand mixer and toaster embody a vintage spirit that works well in the traditional space.

Your turn: What tricks or tips do you have for making the most of a small kitchen? Add your thoughts to the Comments.