Designing a kitchen in a small space can be challenging, but with careful planning and clever design, it is possible to create an efficient, beautiful, and functional cooking space even in just 120 square feet. This week’s featured kitchen is a stunning example of how to make the most of limited square footage through thoughtful layout and the strategic use of light colors and materials.

In this modestly-sized Manhattan kitchen, the homeowners aimed to open up the tight quarters and maximize every inch. Through a fresh floor plan and the integration of space-saving elements, they were able to gain a spacious, contemporary culinary retreat that belies its petite proportions. The light and bright palette also contributes to the airy, uncluttered aesthetic.

This kitchen renovation demonstrates how strong design choices can utterly transform a tiny room. With its clean lines, multiple work zones, and abundance of storage, this kitchen punches far above its weight in terms of visual appeal and utility. Read on for an in-depth look at how this compact cooking space achieves a feeling of openness and high functionality.

Clever Floor Plan Creates Multiple Dedicated Zones

One of the primary challenges in a small kitchen is delineating separate areas for food preparation, cooking, cleaning, and storage. With its efficient layout, this kitchen neatly accommodates each zone without congestion or awkward transitions between tasks.

Food Prep Area

The homeowners wisely chose to place the main food preparation area immediately next to the entryway. Situated outside of the primary work triangle, this dedicated prep zone provides generous open counter space for chopping, measuring, and assembling ingredients. It also facilitates a smooth workflow from unloading groceries to prepping meals.

Streamlined Cooking Zone

Opposite the prep area, the highly-functional cooking zone positions the refrigerator, stove, and sink in a compact yet ergonomic configuration. This work triangle allows for easy movement between tasks, with no wasted steps. By lining up the major appliances along the same wall, the floor plan opens up floor space at the room’s center.

Bar Area for Casual Dining

Beyond the work zones, a petite bar-height counter and high chairs carve out space for casual dining. This bar neatly delineates the kitchen from the living area without closing it off completely. The elevated seating also provides a vantage point for interacting with someone working at the stove or sink.

Pantry Storage

A small recessed pantry maximizes every inch by outfitting a narrow cavity with floor-to-ceiling shelving. This dedicated storage area helps keep the main kitchen surfaces clutter-free. The homeowners can stash small appliances, cookware, and food staples in this organized pantry.

Sophisticated Color Palette Enhances Spatial Illusion

The predominantly white color scheme, accented with light wood tones and sleek surfaces, enhances the perception of openness and space throughout this petite kitchen. Crisp white cabinetry, counters, backsplash, and walls reflect light to create a bright, airy ambiance. Pale wood flooring also contributes to the light and natural aesthetic.

Pops of color come from the dark blue-green penny tile backsplash, glass pendant lights, and mustard yellow barstools. These colorful accents keep the space from feeling sterile or monotonous. Altogether, the harmonious cool, neutral palette provides a soothing, welcoming backdrop for this highly-functional cooking space.

Storage Solutions Maximize Limited Space

Despite its modest footprint, this kitchen contains ample storage for dishes, cookware, food, and small appliances. The homeowners were able to increase their organizational capacity by incorporating customized cabinetry, pull-out shelving, and other specialized storage solutions.

Full-Height Custom Cabinets

Taking full advantage of the vertical space, custom cabinetry with ceilings maximizes storage. Upper cabinets reach all the way to the ceiling, rather than leaving unusable space between the cabinets and ceiling. The lower cabinets also minimize wasted space with full-extension drawers and deep pull-out shelves that provide easy access.

Discreet Pull-Out Pantry

Tucked next to the refrigerator, a pull-out pantry provides auxiliary storage space. This narrow, floor-to-ceiling pantry has the same depth as the refrigerator, creating a uniform line. With custom shelving, this concealed pantry can house oils, spices, canned goods, and other kitchen supplies.

Drawer Organizers

To keep contents tidy, the drawers incorporate built-in dividers and organizational components. Cutlery trays, spice racks, and other inserts allow for neat, compartmentalized storage within each drawer.

Easy-Access Corner Cabinet

The blind corner cabinet maximizes notoriously tricky space with a functional rotating shelf. This customizable Lazy Susan provides fluid access to items stored in the back corner.

Stylish Mix of Materials Adds Interest

While the kitchen features a sleek, contemporary style overall, the inclusion of various materials adds warmth and visual interest. Wood, marble, metal, glass, and tile come together in harmonious union across the surfaces and finishes.

Light-Colored Wood Flooring

The homeowners chose wide-plank oak flooring in a pale whitewashed finish that reflects light and enhances the airy ambiance. The light wood tone also complements the crisp white cabinetry.

Elegant Marble Countertops

Honed Carrara marble countertops on the perimeter offer an upscale material and a neutral color palette. The veining in the marble provides organic variation.

Stainless Steel Appliances

The commercial-grade stainless steel refrigerator, stove, oven, and hood align with the kitchen’s contemporary aesthetic. Sleek and durable, stainless steel is an ideal material for high-functioning kitchen appliances.

Glazed Ceramic Backsplash

Behind the cooking zone, mosaic penny tiles in shades of blue and green add a punch of color and texture. The glossy ceramic tiles are also highly water-resistant, making them ideal for the busy backsplash area.

Metal and Glass Pendant Lights

Hanging above the center prep zone, three matching pendant lights of seeded glass and plated silver metal provide both task lighting and decorative flair.

Takeaways for Maximizing a Compact, Contemporary Kitchen

This exquisitely designed small kitchen offers many brilliant strategies for creating a light, open, and functional cooking space in just 120 square feet. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Create dedicated zones for food prep, cooking, cleaning, dining, and storage. Avoid awkward transitions between tasks.
  • Use a light color palette of whites, pale woods, and neutrals to reflect light and make the space feel larger. Incorporate pops of color for visual interest.
  • Incorporate customized storage solutions like pull-out pantries and drawers to hide clutter and make the most of every inch.
  • Combine materials like wood, marble, metal, glass, and tile for depth and style.
  • Maximize vertical storage space with full-height cabinetry and shelving.
  • Position appliances in a streamlined work triangle to facilitate an ergonomic cooking workflow.

With ingenious use of layout, storage, materials, and color, even the most modest kitchen can be utterly transformed into a chef’s oasis. This tiny Manhattan kitchen offers endless inspiration for designing a space that transcends its small square footage.

Frequently Asked Questions About Designing Small Kitchen Spaces

What are some basic design principles to make a small kitchen feel bigger?

Some basic design strategies to make a cramped kitchen feel more spacious include using light, reflective colors on walls, cabinetry and counters; eliminating visual clutter; maximizing natural light through windows and skylights; incorporating glass-front cabinet doors; opening sightlines between rooms; and using space-extending mirrors and lighting designs.

How much storage do I need in a small kitchen?

Plan for at least 30 linear feet of both base cabinet and wall cabinet storage for a functional small kitchen. Also incorporate specialty pull-out cabinets, organizers inside drawers, tray dividers, and other smart storage solutions. Having a pantry, however small, can also help maximize usable space.

What size appliances make the most sense for compact kitchens?

Standard 24-inch wide refrigerators, ranges, and dishwashers are ideal for small kitchens. If space allows, 30-inch appliances provide a bit more room. Be sure to measure carefully during the planning process. Also look for appliance models with smaller depths.

Should I use a kitchen island in a small space?

A small kitchen island can add needed countertop workspace and storage, but be sure it doesn’t cramp the room’s flow. A movable cart-style island can often work better than a permanent built-in island. Also consider using a peninsula instead of an island to gain surface area without eating up floor space.

What are some space-saving substitutes for upper cabinets?

Instead of bulky upper cabinets, consider open shelving, narrow glass-front cabinets, and wall-mounted rails with hanging pots and pans. Removing upper cabinets altogether and focusing storage below can make the kitchen feel airier.

How wide should the walkways be in a compact kitchen design?

Experts recommend at least 36 inches between counters, islands, and walls for main kitchen walkways. At least 42 to 48 inches is ideal for high-traffic routes and multiple cooks. Measure carefully and allow room to open appliances, cabinets, and dishwasher doors fully.

What small kitchen layout is best: L-shaped, U-shaped or galley?

The L-shaped layout is highly popular for small kitchens, allowing efficient workflow and multiple work zones. The U-shaped layout provides ample countertop space and storage with a continuous work area, but requires more square footage. Galley kitchens work best in narrower spaces.

What kind of flooring works best visually in a small kitchen?

Visually expansive flooring like light wood plank, tile, or linoleum can make a compact kitchen feel larger. Medium-toned woods also hide dirt well. Just avoid very dark floors or large tiles, which can make the space seem smaller.

Should I install a backsplash in my tiny kitchen?

Yes, a backsplash is still recommended even in very compact cooking spaces. A backsplash protects the walls from splatters and moisture. Use glass, metal or ceramic tile for durability. For a streamlined look, match the backsplash to the countertops or cabinetry.

How can I integrate more natural light into a windowless kitchen?

For dark kitchens without windows, consider installing skylights as well as increasing artificial lighting. Using reflective surfaces like glossy tile or backsplashes amplifies ambient light. You can also “borrow” light from adjoining rooms through open sightlines or transom windows above doorways.

Designing a Stylish yet Ultra-Functional Kitchen in 400 Square Feet

While this week’s featured kitchen shows how to transform 120 square feet, many homeowners are working with slightly more spacious kitchens in the 400 square foot range. This expanded area provides more latitude in the overall layout and the ability to include larger-scale elements like a full dining area. However, the essential strategies for maximizing utility and aesthetics remain the same. Follow these tips for creating a beautiful 400 square foot kitchen.

Optimize the Layout

As with smaller cooking spaces, you still want to carve out specialized work zones for prep, cooking, cleaning, and storage. But with 400 square feet, you can space these areas further apart to allow for more simultaneous tasks. An L-shaped layout surrounding two adjacent walls often works well to delineate different work zones. Include generous counters, ample cabinets, and a kitchen island or peninsula. Frame the kitchen with three clear boundaries to separate it from adjoining rooms while retaining open sightlines.

Include a Dedicated Dining Area

A distinct dining zone can be comfortably integrated into a 400 square foot kitchen, defined by a different flooring material, lower ceiling treatment, or varied lighting. Opt for a round table or small banquette to maximize seating capacity. Use bold paint, wallpaper or tile behind the table to create an accent wall. Add decorative pendant lighting above the table for ambiance.

Incorporate High-End Finishes

This larger space allows you to splurge on upscale countertops like quartz or granite, premium appliances, and custom cabinetry. Carve out a niche for an upscale drop-in range or French door refrigerator. Install a spacious sink under a wide bay window. Outfit the space with features like a wine fridge, coffee station, or charging drawer.

Add Architectural Interest

With 400 square feet, you can bring in more captivating architectural elements like an arched walkthrough, exposed brick accent wall, vaulted ceiling, or extra-wide window framing an enviable view. Install architectural beams or a pedestrian pendant light. Include a backlit glass tile backsplash or hand-painted ceramic sink.

Build in Ambiance

Use lighting, color, and textures to make a 400 square foot kitchen feel warm, intimate and inviting despite the larger proportions. Incorporate task lighting, accent lighting, pendant fixtures, and indirect lighting. Line the walls with wood or brick. Install framed photos, local art, or floating shelves to elicit a personal vibe.

With thoughtful planning, a 400 square foot kitchen can embody both style and functionality. Maximize the layout, include high-end finishes, carve out specialized zones, and infuse ambiance to create an ultra-modern yet welcoming cooking space.

Achieving Both Beauty and Utility in a 200 Square Foot Kitchen

Mid-sized 200 square foot kitchens are commonly found in apartments, older homes and condos. Designing this kitchen size calls for simultaneously optimizing aesthetics, ergonomics and storage. By incorporating the following strategies, you can make a 200 square foot kitchen look and function beautifully.

Stick to an Efficient Layout

Choose a streamlined L-shaped or galley layout to avoid congestion in a 200 square foot kitchen. Position the sink between the refrigerator and stove for an easy-to-navigate work triangle. Confirm ample clearance zones and walkways per the kitchen’s codes and intended uses. Strategically place windows, doors and lighting.

Build in Storage Solutions

Maximize every inch of storage capacity with pull-out cabinets, Lazy Susans and specialty organizers. Use drawer dividers, tray racks, and spice inserts. Take advantage of high ceilings by extending cabinets up to the top. Add an angled peninsula for concealed storage. Install mounted rails and shelves for frequently used items.

Select Multi-Purpose Furnishings

An expandable island on casters can provide a dining surface when needed or be moved aside for open floor space. Stove hoods with built-in shelving add storage overhead. A drop-leaf table can fold out of the way. Banquette seating doubles as storage.

Brighten With Reflective Finishes

Paint the walls, cabinetry and ceiling a light neutral color to visibly enlarge the tight space. Add mirrors and metallics strategically. Opt for reflective surfaces like polished stone, glass tile, or stainless steel. Install pendant lighting over the central kitchen zone.

Splurge on High-End Appliances

Instead of settling for basic appliances, select higher-end, more compact models with a smaller footprint. For example, choose a 24-inch wide range or fridge. Consider apartment-sized appliances. Sleek integrated models with Handle-less profiles fit in seamlessly.

Multitask With Furnishings

Rather than a freestanding kitchen table and island, opt for one large multifunction island on wheels with seating on one side for casual dining and a wide surface for meal prep. A bistro bar tucked under the eaves can offer additional casual seating without occupying floor space.

With smart spatial planning and intentional, customized elements, a 200 square foot kitchen can marry beauty and functionality. The key is making deliberate design choices that work in harmony to make the most of the modest footprint.

Gaining an Open, Modern Feel in 250 Square Feet

Kitchens in the 250 square foot range beg for an open, contemporary style to avoid feeling boxy and cramped. Take these steps to make a 250 square foot kitchen feel light, bright and modern:

Utilize an Open Layout

Keep walls around the perimeter but avoid excessive partitions. Open the kitchen to adjoining rooms by eliminating unnecessary doorways. Create wide openings with transom windows rather than doors to allow light and sightlines between rooms while retaining separation.

Incorporate Glass Elements

Add glass-front cabinets, a glass tile backsplash, a glass stove hood and glass pendant lights. Swap solid cabinet doors for glass-pane uppers or open shelving. The transparent quality of glass makes spaces appear larger.

Select Light Finishes

Stick to light wall paint, flooring, cabinetry and counter tones like white, pale wood and light greys to prevent a closed-in feeling. Avoid dark or heavily saturated colors. Metallic finishes like nickel hardware also enhance lightness.

Install Strategic Lighting

Ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting all contribute to a bright interior. Recess mini-track lights into the ceiling and under cabinets. Hang pendant lamps over key zones. Outline architectural details with rope lighting.

Hide Clutter

Keep surfaces clear and contents concealed inside drawers and cabinets. Store small appliances when not in use. Opt for handle-less cabinetry profiles and appliances to reduce visible hardware. Add doors or curtains to hide messier zones.

Extend Sightlines

Remove interior walls between the kitchen and adjacent rooms to extend sightlines. Alternatively, use extra-wide openings or half walls. Frame desirable views like gardens or cityscapes with oversized windows.

Add Dimensional Interest

Incorporate textured tile, beaded board panelling, or brick backsplashes. Choose multi-level countertops and varied cabinet heights. Float shelves at staggered heights rather than just flat expanses of cabinetry. Add architectural beams or exposed ductwork.

With an artful combination of transparent surfaces, ample lighting, and high-end finishes, a 250 square foot kitchen can embody a bright, airy, contemporary aesthetic. The key is to avoid boxy, enclosed spaces in favor of free-flowing rooms awash in light.


This featured kitchen packs an incredible amount of style, utility and visual spaciousness into just 120 square feet. Through an intelligent layout, monochromatic color palette, and space-enhancing storage solutions, the petite cooking space transcends its diminutive size. The homeowners achieved their