Make a Small Kitchen Look Larger with These Clever Design Tricks

kitchen with white subway tile white cabinets black fixtures
Photo: Edmund Barr

Stretch a small kitchen space without a major remodel. Check out these small kitchen ideas for cabinetry, color schemes, countertops, and more that make a tight kitchen look and feel spacious.

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Paint It White

white kitchen with floating shelves
Seth Smoot

White is your best friend in a small kitchen. It reflects light, enhancing the sense of space and making the walls recede. When you include white on cabinetry, countertops, walls, and the ceiling, you create a seamless space without edges or boundaries. Use several shades of white in your small kitchen design, and combine contrasting textures to keep an all-white room from feeling sterile. Recessed-panel cabinets and crown molding create subtle shadows that can add interest.

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Connect to the Outdoors

double french doors into kitchen with brick floor
John Bessler

A small kitchen for one is no problem, but when you add guests, it can start to get crowded. Double French doors leading to your back porch can open up a small galley kitchen. If your dining space is tight, consider opting for a bistro set or small kitchen table with benches to keep the layout open.

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Line It Up

kitchen with white subway tile white cabinets black fixtures
Edmund Barr

To visually expand a tiny kitchen, install tile in a horizontal arrangement. This small kitchen backsplash features a horizontal stacked bond pattern, which makes the kitchen seem wider than its actual footprint. Open shelving and butcher block countertops mimic the look for cohesiveness.

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Get Creative with Pantry Storage

kitchen pantry snacks
Tria Giovan

No designated pantry? No problem. Utilize clever cabinet add-ons for small kitchen pantry storage. French doors on this upper cabinet swing open to reveal built-in spice racks that take advantage of deep cabinets hiding snacks and staples. A countertop drawer keeps daily cooking essentials close at hand.

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Blend Surfaces

connecting granite counter and backsplash in kitchen
Rett Peek Jr

Connecting your small kitchen backsplash and countertops creates a cohesive look. In this space, black and white granite countertops extend up the walls for a seamless appearance. A gray and white color scheme draws from the natural stone to prevent the small kitchen from looking too busy.

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Accessible Storage

white kitchen sink area above wall shelving
Dera Burreson

An easy way to keep clutter off limited countertop space is with storage that's easy to access. For small kitchen ideas, we love installing open shelving. Here, the top shelf is longer to accommodate occasional drinkware while glasses that see daily use go beneath. A magnetic strip on the fridge holds cutlery within reach of the prep space.

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Use a Low-Contrast Color Scheme

low-contrast gray kitchen with pops of yellow
Emily Followill

Creating a kitchen color scheme with little difference between the colors of walls, countertops, cabinetry, and woodwork makes a space appear larger than it really is. Here, the cabinets, trim, and backsplash are close in color value—a soft gray-green—so the eye doesn't trip over sudden shifts from dark to light. The small space is serene and expansive.

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Replace Cabinet Doors with Glass

gray and white kitchen with glass cabinet fronts
Edmund Barr

One way to make a small kitchen appear larger is to remove some cabinet doors or replace the solid fronts with glass. This pulls the eye past the cabinet frames, into the depths of the cabinets, so the walls feel farther away. This trick is most effective if you can keep what's in the cabinets orderly and color-coordinated. Clutter tends to make a room feel crowded.

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Welcome Natural Light

kitchen sink with aqua cabinets and window
Richard Leo Johnson

Natural light enlarges any space and should be incorporated into your small kitchen ideas. You might have no choice about the number or placement of windows in your kitchen, but you can maximize the light you do have by keeping window treatments minimal. Here, blinds add privacy without blocking the light. If you want more privacy, try an opaque shade that allows light in.

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Small Kitchen Ideas that Borrow Space

white island and kitchen table with navy walls and brass metal chairs
Kim Cornelison

Depending on your home's layout, you might be able to remove part of a wall separating the kitchen from an adjoining living or dining room. It won't increase the square footage of the kitchen, but it can vastly enlarge the sense of space, bringing in more light and a feeling of openness. A half-wall turned into a table or small kitchen peninsula is a great solution for small families or empty nesters.

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Small Kitchen Ideas Using Slender Furnishings

small industrial kitchen island for tools and pots
Jay Wilde

A small kitchen dictates small-scale furnishings, but take it a step further by choosing a kitchen island, bar chairs, or stools that are visually lightweight, such as this narrow industrial island. Clean lines don't distract the eye, and these furniture pieces allow you to see the floor and walls beyond, making the room feel larger.

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Secrets to a Successful Small Kitchen

You might not realize it, but your small kitchen has great potential for extra space. Take a look at a few of our favorite ideas. These smart secrets will have you cooking up a storm in no time.

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Streamline Storage

corner appliance garage in white kitchen
Scott Little

Small kitchens present tough storage challenges. Countertops often become crowded with appliances, but eliminating clutter can help any space feel larger. Use a corner appliance garage in your kitchen and reclaim lost storage space. The cabinet conceals coffeemakers, toasters, and other small kitchen appliances, while keeping them easy to access for food prep.

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Stretch the Floor Space

patterned wall and floor in pale blue kitchen
Brie Williams

Some patterned wall and floor coverings add visual clutter that makes a space feel smaller, but others have the opposite effect. Oversize diamonds or chevrons create diagonal lines that draw the eyes from one side of the room to the other, making it feel wider than it really is. Combine this technique with low-contrast colors for big results in a small kitchen.

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Widen with Stripes

striped flooring in small neutral kitchen
Greg Scheidemann

Just as clothing with horizontal stripes can make a person look wider, striped flooring that runs from side to side across a room, rather than along the length, will stretch the apparent floor space in your small kitchen. These broad stripes were created by alternating light- and medium-tone laminate floor tiles. Achieve a similar effect by painting existing wooden or vinyl flooring or by covering the floor with a large striped rug.

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Lead the Eye High

kitchen with cabinet molding and picnic table
Laurie Black

Giving the eye a vertical path to follow increases the apparent height of the ceiling, thus lifting the lid off a boxy small kitchen. Here, molding atop the sleek wood cabinets draws the eye upward. Using framed prints, decorative plates, or large ceramic tiles achieves a similar effect. For the greatest sense of expansiveness, decorate above cabinets with objects that harmonize with the background rather than stand out against it.

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Consider the Hood

wall-mount range hood in small black kitchen
Brie Williams

A sleek, wall-mounted vent hood over the stovetop trims the visual fat from a wall of cabinets, giving the room a greater feeling of openness. Minimalist vent hoods, like this one, require 30 inches between cabinets, about the same as an undercabinet hood, but give a cleaner, lighter look—a plus in a small kitchen.

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Eliminate Clutter

minimalist european-stye kitchen cabinetry
Laura Moss

Countertops crowded with cookware and collectibles overwhelm a small kitchen and steal workspace. To enlarge the room, clear off counters, windowsills, and cabinet tops, then stash as much as you can behind closed doors. To take decluttering further, opt for minimalist European-style cabinetry with sleek, flat-panel doors.

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Stay Light and Bright

white kitchen with island and lime green stools
Werner Straube

The best small kitchen ideas use materials to an advantage. Reflective surfaces, such as ceramic tile, marble countertops, or stainless steel, subtly amplify the effects of natural and artificial light, thereby making small kitchens seem larger. In addition, adequate lighting improves functionality. Under cabinet lights come in handy while cooking, and pendant lights add ambiance to meals served at an island or peninsula.

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Carve Out Storage Space

recessed shelving unit for kitchen dishes
Werner Straube

Add storage to a small kitchen remodel without consuming valuable floor space by recessing a shelving unit into the wall space between studs. These recessed shelves—trimmed and finished to match the woodwork—blend into the architecture. If you don't have space in your kitchen, look for a spot nearby, a breakfast nook or hallway, for instance, to create recessed shelves.

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