Small kitchens can be challenging to design and organize, but with some clever planning, you can create a highly functional and beautiful space. The key is making smart use of every inch and choosing scale-appropriate fixtures and appliances. Here are some tips for designing a small, efficient, and gorgeous kitchen.

Choosing the Right Layout

The layout of your small kitchen is key to making it feel open and easy to navigate. Here are some effective options:

Galley Kitchen

This layout features counters and cabinets on two parallel walls, creating a corridor-like workspace. The galley layout works very well for small kitchens because it takes advantage of wall space without feeling closed in. Installing shelves above the cabinets can provide extra storage too.

L-Shaped Kitchen

An L-shaped kitchen has cabinets and countertops along two perpendicular walls. One leg of the L is often shorter. This creates an efficient triangular workspace that minimizes steps between the sink, stove, and fridge. An island can be added for more prep space.

U-Shaped Kitchen

Best for larger spaces, the U-shaped kitchen has three counters – along the back wall and two adjacent sides. This shape creates ample counter space and storage while defining a separate cooking zone. It works for small kitchens that can accommodate a U.

Smart Storage Solutions

Storage is essential in a small kitchen. Follow these tips to maximize every inch:

  • Opt for wall cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling. Use roll-out shelves and interior organizers inside cabinets.
  • Consider open shelving for frequently used items. This adds visual space and eliminates cabinet doors.
  • Use racks or pot racks mounted on walls or ceilings for pans and utensils. Hang a rail under cabinets for towels or spices.
  • Install pull-out drawers instead of regular cabinets. Full-extension drawers give you full access to contents.
  • Add a pantry cabinet, even if just 12 inches wide. Use lazy susans in corner cabinets to access everything.

Space-Saving Appliances

Appliance choice is critical in a small kitchen. Look for the following:

  • Compact refrigerator: Opt for an apartment-sized or counter-depth model instead of a full-sized one. Top-freezer fridges are smaller than bottom-freezer types.
  • Slim dishwasher: Look for models just 18-inches wide. These fit in tight spots but wash full-sized loads.
  • Small stove: Choose a 24-30-inch stove instead of a standard 30-36-inch one. Stoves with front controls save space.
  • Microwave drawer: These slide out of hidden cabinets, saving precious counter space. Countertop microwaves should be compact.
  • Mini appliances: Multi-cookers like the Instant Pot take pressure cooking, sautéing, and more off your counters. Have only essential small appliances.

Lighting and Visual Tricks

Proper lighting and some clever visual techniques can make a small kitchen feel open and airy:

  • Use pendant lights over islands and counters instead of recessed lights. Go for light fixtures with transparent or glass shades.
  • Add mirrors to walls or cabinet backs—they visually double the space.
  • Paint walls and cabinets light colors like white, light gray, or pale yellow. Keep counters and backsplashes light-colored too.
  • Maximize natural light with large windows, skylights, and glass cabinet doors. Use sheer curtains.
  • Remove upper cabinets from one wall to open sightlines. Replace with open shelves.
  • Keep surfaces and floor uncluttered. Store items inside cabinets or pantry to maintain the illusion of space.

Choosing Multi-Purpose Furniture

Since small kitchens have limited space, smart furniture choices are critical:

  • Opt for a rolling cart or island that provides storage and extra counter area when needed but can roll away when not in use.
  • Consider a bistro table or fold-down table instead of a permanent dining table. This can double as a prep surface or computer desk area.
  • Look for tables with storage like a farmhouse table, butcher block cart, or banquette seating with cubbies and drawers underneath.
  • Use nested tables that slide together or tuck under each other when not in use. Nesting stools can serve extra guests too.
  • Install fold-down work surfaces on walls that can act as extra counters when needed or fold out of the way when not.


With some strategic planning and savvy design choices, small kitchens can be highly efficient, useful spaces. Focus on a space-maximizing layout, smart storage solutions, compact appliances, and visual tricks that make the room feel open and airy. With clever multifunctional furniture and fixtures, you can create a small kitchen that both looks and functions beautifully. The key is making the most of every inch in your compact cooking space.

Frequently Asked Questions About Small Kitchen Designs

What are some tips for arranging and organizing a small kitchen?

Some tips include utilizing vertical space with tall cabinets, installing pull-out shelves/drawers, using lid racks and hanging pots from ceilings, and having a strategic organizational system for where you store things. Keeping clutter off countertops also helps a small kitchen feel organized.

What colors make a small kitchen look bigger?

Light, bright colors like white, light gray, or pale yellow help reflect light and make a small kitchen appear more open. Darker colors tend to make small spaces feel more closed-in and cramped.

Should I choose a light or dark countertop for a small kitchen?

Light countertops help a small kitchen feel more spacious and airy. Dark countertops, like granite, tend to make the space feel smaller. Lighter options like quartz, butcher block, or laminate create the illusion of a larger area.

What backsplash tiles work best for small kitchens?

Smaller tile sizes, like mosaics or 4×4-inch tiles, make a kitchen feel larger than using big tile slabs. Just avoid large patterns, which can be overwhelming. Neutral tones also give the illusion of more space.

Should I put an island in a small kitchen?

Islands are great for adding counter and storage space, even in small kitchens. Just be sure there is ample clearance—at least 42 inches—between the island and other cabinets/appliances so the space doesn’t feel crammed. Size the island appropriately for the room.

What size appliances should I choose for a small kitchen?

Look for apartment-sized or compact versions of major appliances. Aim for 18-24 inch wide fridges, ranges, or dishwashers. For microwaves, toaster ovens and other small appliances, choose smaller countertop versions rather than full-sized models.