The kitchen is perhaps the most important room in any home. Whether you enjoy cooking as a form of solo relaxation or enjoy using yours as a communal space to gather friends and family, our kitchens have the ability to bring us together, satisfy our interests, and help us create memories. .
For those of us with small kitchens, it can be difficult to know how to make full use of this space to make it as warm and inviting as it is functional. From planning where to place appliances to knowing what color to paint the walls, having a small space can feel limited.
Luckily, a small kitchen doesn’t mean you have to miss doing the things you love. We spoke to a range of experts – from interior designers to storage gurus – to help you get the most out of that space…
“Never be afraid of the lack of space;” says Michele Rodriguez-Wise Co-founder of Una Design – an interior design studio based in Cheltenham. “See a small kitchen as an opportunity to design a thoughtful space – it can perfectly showcase your personality.”
Michele’s husband and co-founder, Dustin Wise, echoes that sentiment. “See it as a chance to improve functionality and be more considerate and sustainable in your habits. Use the limited space you have to use your kitchen more efficiently.
When it comes to seeing the benefits of a small kitchen, it really comes down to mindset as well as practicality. “A lot of times as humans, if we have extra capacity in a room, we feel the need to fill it,” says Poppy Duffree, founder of Organized interiors – a professional home organization company. “We see it all the time when we help people move, in every room of the house. However, with a small space, you’re only using what you have, which prompts you to think more carefully about how you want your space to look and feel.
Choose your appliances
Before you can think about the decorative aspects of your kitchen, you’ll need to start prioritizing the appliances you need. “Think about the key functions of the kitchen: cooking, cleaning, prepping, and storing,” says Dustin Wise. “If you don’t fit in a dishwasher, it’s not the end of the world. Or, if you’re not ready to compromise on this, look for compact versions.
The confiscation of a dishwasher was a reality for an interior designer, Hannah Bullivant. When her family moved from London in a static caravan to the countryside, they found themselves with the task of designing a kitchen with minimal space. “Think about your non-negotiables,” she advises. “For us, we knew we didn’t need a dishwasher, and that freed up storage space. After assessing our needs, we decided our non-negotiable was a microwave, so we made sure to have one in our kitchen. Just because you have a small space doesn’t mean you have to go without your necessities.
When talking to experts about other appliances you can forgo, many suggest using a hot water faucet as a space-saving solution. “Hot water taps take up space under the sink, but they save valuable countertop space by removing a kettle,” says Charlie Avara, Managing Director of Design completed, a London-based design and build provider. “As you think about it, ask yourself if you also need a toaster. Most ovens will have a broil element – so consider using your oven to prepare your morning toast and toasted sandwiches.
Overall, it’s about weighing your priorities. But, a small space doesn’t have to take away the fun of cooking, and a small kitchen can still have all the appliances you need for it. “A lot of people worry about not being able to cook their favorite meals for their family, like a Sunday roast, but that’s just not the case,” says Michele Rodriguez-Wise. “When designing small kitchens, we look for appliances that double their uses, such as combi ovens that include microwaves. We also use multifunction hobs with integrated extraction to save space.
Use smart storage solutions
Making a small kitchen work is all about using clever storage tips and tricks. Poppy Duffree is no stranger to smart storage solutions, helping people become more organized every day. “Use all the spaces, even those you haven’t thought of,” she advises. “Think inside cabinet doors, space above cabinets, walls and ceilings. Using all the space you have won’t make your kitchen cluttered; rather, it will give you the opportunity to have a perfectly organized space.”
So how can you use your space to its fullest potential? Poppy recommends all of the following storage solutions:
- Use rectangular and square food storage. This gives containers the ability to be stacked – round jars are not space efficient. In each cabinet, also use shelf inserts to maximize height.
- Use hooks on the back of doors for hanging items.
- Look for under-sink storage containers that can fit around the piping.
- Use bamboo drawer dividers – allowing you to separate and store utensils clearly without clutter.
- Use shelves instead of cupboards if you’re looking to add wall space. These are much less bulky.
- For smaller freezers, remove the outer boxes, write cooking instructions on the wrapper, and stack them vertically for more.
Adopt the color
Once you’ve measured the appliances, found your storage solutions, and thought about the functionality of your kitchen, you can start thinking about the fun part: decorating it!
Experts from stylists to designers time and again find that people opt for white walls when designing a small kitchen, but it may not be the best option. “Unfortunately, if you have a small space, you can’t try to make it look bigger by painting it white,” says Charlie Avara. “Instead, embrace the size and fill it with pieces of personality and colors that reflect your tastes. “I’m currently working on a small kitchen project where I’ve used white units but painted the walls banana yellow. This adds character and warmth, and it’s the walls that will do the talking, not the cupboards.
When Hannah Bullivant was designing the kitchen for her static trailer, she decided to fully embrace color. “Our kitchen is teal and green,” she reveals. “I love teal because it has a lovely connection to nature and makes the space feel bigger. There’s a lot of gray too, so it’s both contemporary and warm.
If you prefer to stick with a neutral color for your kitchen walls, consider adding texture to give color and depth to your space. “Add texture to your kitchen with flooring and countertops, such as choosing a marble or wood-effect countertop,” says Dustin Wise. “With cabinetmaking, don’t be afraid to mix lacquers and woods. We tell our customers to consider bright colors and the addition of texture to be similar to when you get dressed in the morning. You contrast and layer to create an overall look that feels unique and exciting to you.
Lighting can be used to brighten up your space and make it feel bigger. “Use feature lighting, such as under-cabinet lighting and accent lighting, that are positioned to hit the center of your workspace,” Charlie Avara suggests. “It’s beautiful, but it’s also practical – giving you light right where you’re working. Also, you can consider a pendant above the sink to add interest and personality.
Charlie also suggests adding versatile lighting — like lamps — that can be easily moved between spaces. “I’m a big fan of rechargeable desk lamps and always use them in my house,” she says. “I have one in the kitchen for ambient lighting while cooking, but when I want to move and eat I can bring it to the dining table.”
Michele Rodriguez-Wise also agrees that carefully planned lighting is a must for small kitchens. “The lighting should work but also be ambient because it will enhance the space,” she says. “Think of lighting as creating focal points so that your eye is drawn to an aspect of the design on the wall or worktop, whether it’s that color or that texture.”
Use decor to express your personality
Adding personality to your kitchen is the finishing touch. Think about what you want to think about when using the space, or what you would like people to be drawn to when they visit. For example, something like a bookshelf doesn’t just have to be a space-saving solution – it can also be used to display your interests and tastes. “Consider that shelving is as important for style as it is for storage,” says Poppy Duffree. “Display recipe books, assorted spice jars and other decorative items on your shelves. I also like to hang plants on it to bring my space to life.
Art is another option, whether you opt for prints, decorative tiles or ceramic vases. “I love art in the kitchen and I love bright colors: whether they show through the tiles, the cupboards or the walls,” says Hannah Bullivant. “I also add candles, flowers and plants to express my personality. The key thing to remember is that all kitchens can benefit from the addition of joy, beauty and ritual.