A small kitchen design can be challenging but with some clever planning and the right selection of cabinets and appliances, you can create a highly functional, beautiful, and efficient kitchen. The key factors are smart storage solutions, multi-functional and space-saving furniture, and a layout focused on ergonomics and workflow. With the right small kitchen cabinets and some creative ideas, you can maximize every inch of space.

Choosing the Right Small Kitchen Cabinets

When selecting cabinets for a small kitchen, you need pieces that are scaled down in size but still big enough to be functional. Here are some things to look for:

Wall Cabinets

Wall cabinets provide abundant storage while keeping the floor and countertops clear. For a small kitchen, choose wall cabinets with these features:

  • Compact footprint: Opt for wall cabinets no deeper than 12 inches to avoid them protruding too far into the room. Wall-mounted cabinets with a shallow depth can be installed higher up, leaving usable space underneath.
  • Open shelving: Glass-fronted cabinets and open shelves take up less visual space. They show off pretty dishes and glassware while providing easy access.
  • Varied heights: Incorporate some shorter wall cabinets along with standard size ones for visual interest. Shorter cabinets are great over the sink or stove.
  • Multi-use cabinets: Spice pull out cabinets, corner lazy susans, and other specialized storage cabinets maximize space in tight corners.

Base Cabinets

For the most efficient use of floor space, choose base cabinets that are:

  • Drawers over doors: Drawers provide full access to contents whereas cabinet doors hide things behind them. Opting for drawers over doors in base cabinets makes the contents more viewable and accessible.
  • Narrow width: Standard cabinet widths are 24 inches but you can find narrower widths like 15 or 18 inches for small kitchens. Align them strategically to create a galley effect.
  • Unpainted interiors: Consider base cabinets with natural wood interiors rather than painted. They convey an airier, more spacious feel.
  • Roll-out trays: Base cabinets with roll-out trays and pull-out shelves fully utilize all the horizontal space so nothing gets lost in the back.
  • Toe kick drawers: Make use of the toe kick space under the lower cabinets. You can find cabinets with drawers built into this area for storing small items.

Other Space-Saving Cabinet Ideas

  • Add a lazy susan in corner base cabinets so contents are easily accessible.
  • Consider glass-fronted upper cabinets to reduce the visual bulk of wall cabinets.
  • Install under cabinet rails that allow you to hang cooking utensils and frequently used items underneath cabinets.
  • Use over-fridge cabinets for bonus storage.
  • Try under sink pull-out cabinets on casters that roll out for easy access to pipes.

Choosing the Right Cabinet Hardware

Along with the style of cabinets, the hardware you choose makes a big impact. For small kitchens, pay attention to these factors when selecting hardware:

  • Small knobs and pulls: Oversize hardware takes up valuable real estate on the cabinet fronts. Opt for dainty, low profile hardware instead.
  • Contrasting finishes: Choose cabinet hardware finishes that pop against your cabinet color, like brushed brass knobs on white cabinets. Contrast draws the eye to the hardware rather than the cabinet size.
  • Recessed handles: Hardware that lies flush with the cabinet fronts reduces protrusions that can make maneuvering in tight spaces difficult. Recessed handles also streamline the look.
  • D-shaped cabinet pulls: Rather than central knobs, pull handles on the sides maximize usable cabinet front space. D-shaped pulls are a great choice.
  • Push to open mechanisms: For a perfectly streamlined look with no visible hardware, opt for cabinets with push-to-open mechanisms. This also reduces protruding hardware.

Small Kitchen Cabinet Layout Ideas

Carefully planning the layout is crucial for a small kitchen. Apply these tips when designing your layout:

Optimal Traffic Flow

Since kitchen space is limited, you want to avoid collisions and traffic jams. Some ideas for optimizing traffic flow:

  • Make aisles at least 42-48 inches wide and unobstructed.
  • Position the fridge, sink, and stove in a convenient triangular workflow.
  • Place the most-accessed cabinets, fridge, and prep space nearest to the main work area.
  • Situate the dishwasher near the sink for easy unloading.
  • Allow enough room to fully open doors and drawers without blocking access to appliances.

Strategic Cabinet Placement

  • Place wall cabinets higher up, at least 15 inches above countertops, to open up the space visually.
  • Use a galley approach with upper and lower cabinets lining opposing walls.
  • Place commonly used items in easy-to reach areas. Save hard-to-access spots for occasional use items.
  • Position cabinets to take advantage of all corners and empty areas like gaps between appliances.
  • Leave breathing room around the sink, stove, and fridge doors so they can open fully without obstruction.

Multi-Functional Islands and Peninsulas

To maximize work surface area, incorporate a peninsula or island if space allows.

  • Islands can provide seating as well as prep space. Include an overhang for seating one side.
  • For smaller spaces, a peninsula attached to a wall uses less floorspace.
  • Include storage in an island or peninsula base for extra capacity.
  • Place appliances like a cooktop or sink in an island for convenient access from all sides.

Storage Solutions for Small Kitchens

When dealing with limited space, carefully considered storage solutions can make your kitchen more efficient and usable. Try incorporating:


Installing pull-outs is one of the best ways to fully utilize awkward areas in small kitchens.

  • Pantry pull-outs: Use vertical space for pull-out shelves in a pantry closet.
  • Appliance garage: Install a custom pull-out cabinet to “garage” small appliances when not in use.
  • Roll-out trays: As mentioned, roll-outs allow you to access the entire back area of lower cabinets rather than just the front.
  • Spice drawer organizers: Keep spices neatly organized while maximizing drawer space with pull-out organizers.


Take advantage of vertical real estate with different types of shelving.

  • Wall ledges: Floating ledges mounted on walls provide a place to display decorative items.
  • Pot racks: Hanging pots from ceiling mounted racks clear up cabinet space.
  • Undershelf racks: Rails that allow you to hang frequently used utensils and tools underneath wall cabinets.
  • Countertop plate racks: Upright racks are great for displaying pretty plates and freeing up cabinet space.

Pegs and Hooks

Make use of empty wall space with these storage additions:

  • Back-of-cabinet door racks: Use over-cabinet door racks to hang cooking utensils right where you need them.
  • Paper towel hooks: Install hooks on the sides or bottom of cabinets to hold paper towel rolls.
  • Magnetic knife strips: Mount magnetic strips to hang knives, freeing up drawer space.

Baskets and Containers

Keep items organized with an array of baskets, bins, and canisters:

  • Drawer organizers: Use utensil dividers, tiered cutlery trays, and other inserts to neatly arrange drawer contents.
  • Countertop storage: Keep fruits and vegetables organized in partitioned caddies and attractively contained in ceramic canisters.
  • Under cabinet baskets: Hang small wire baskets underneath wall cabinets for storing spices or packets.

Space-Saving Small Kitchen Appliances

Along with optimized storage, selecting compact appliances allows you to get full functionality, even in a petite kitchen. Look for these types of small kitchen appliances:

  • Mini fridges: A mini fridge is perfect when space for a full-sized model is tight. Opt for a counter-height one that can slip under countertops.
  • Compact ovens: Slim 24-inch wide ovens can fit in a small kitchen. There are even models as small as 18 inches wide.
  • Small dishwashers: Look for dishwashers with slim 18-inch widths if you have a tight squeeze next to existing cabinets. Portable dishwashers on casters are also an option.
  • Mini microwaves: You can find microwaves with internal capacity under 1 cubic foot to fit where full-sized models can’t.
  • Single-serve coffee maker: For those short on counter space, a single cup coffee maker takes up minimal room.
  • Multifunctional appliances: Appliances like the Instant Pot pressure cooker and air fryers give you a lot of versatility in one appliance.
  • Two-burner cooktop: A downsized two-burner cooktop lets you install a smaller appliance on countertops or in an island.

Decorating a Small Kitchen

A well thought out color palette, touches of decorative accents, and the right lighting choices help make a petite kitchen feel warm, inviting, and spacious. Consider these small kitchen decorating tips:

Color Scheme

  • Stick to light, neutral background colors like white, off-white, or light gray to keep things looking open and airy.
  • Use pastels like sage green, pale yellow, or robin’s egg blue to brighten up the space.
  • Add pops of brighter accent colors with small appliances, décor,dish towels, or flowers.
  • Choose cabinet colors with light reflective qualities like white, light gray, or light blue.
  • Opt for light countertops and backsplashes. Marble-look quartz counters look upscale.
  • Painting cabinets, walls, trim, and ceiling all the same neutral color makes the kitchen appear bigger.


Proper lighting prevents a small kitchen from feeling dark and closed in.

  • Windows and skylights maximize natural light.
  • Add recessed ceiling lights evenly throughout.
  • Under cabinet lights illuminate countertops for food prep and cooking tasks.
  • Incorporate decorative pendants to enhance the kitchen’s style.
  • Install dimmers so you can control the light intensity.


Carefully chosen accents lend warmth, personality, and visual appeal:

  • Floating corner shelves are great for displaying decorative ceramic pieces or baskets.
  • A stone, brick, or tile backsplash adds texture and charm behind the stove.
  • Add a delicate sheer curtain over small windows for softness.
  • Use live or faux greenery like succulents or herb plants for freshness.
  • Include a focal point like a framed mirror, art piece, or pendant light.
  • Carve out space for an attractive rug to warm up the flooring.

Final Touches

Additional refinements help polish off the space:

  • Organize items attractively inside glass door wall cabinets or open shelving.
  • Roll up pretty dish and hand towels and place them on hooks or in wall-mounted towel bars.
  • Place a small radio on the countertop to add background music.
  • Include a bulletin board or chalkboard to keep menus, notes, and reminders handy.

FAQs About Small Kitchen Design

What are some tips to make a small kitchen appear larger?

Some ideas to help a small kitchen feel more spacious include: stick to light wall colors, use glass fronts on cabinets, incorporate mirrors, keep the space uncluttered, use small-scale furniture and décor, allow light to flow in through windows and skylights, and utilize multifunctional furniture.

How much storage space do you need in a small kitchen?

Plan for at least 30 linear feet of cabinets in a small kitchen. This should include around 8-10 feet of base cabinets and 20 feet of wall cabinets. Also look to incorporate pull-outs, racks, baskets and other smart storage solutions.

What size appliances work best in small kitchens?

Look for small kitchen appliances in compact sizes 24 inches or smaller, like mini fridges, narrow dishwasher units, 18-24 inch wide gas ranges or wall ovens, small built-in microwaves, single-serve coffee makers and multifunctional appliances like Instant Pots.

Should I use an island in a small kitchen?

An island can be a great addition for extra prep space and storage, even in a small kitchen, if you have enough space. For small floorplans, a peninsula may work better attached to a wall rather than a full island floating in the room. Include seating along one side for a space-saving dining area.

What small kitchen cabinet ideas maximize storage?

Some smart ways to increase storage with small kitchen cabinetry include using roll-out trays and pull-outs, incorporating specialty storage like appliance garages or spice pull-outs, opting for drawers over doors in base cabinets, using glass-fronted uppers, and taking advantage of wasted space with corner cabinets and above-fridge cabinets.

How wide should a small kitchen be?

Ideally a small kitchen should have a minimum clear floor space of 60 inches between cabinets and appliances lined up on opposite sides to allow room for one person to move about and open doors and drawers unobstructed. Wider is preferable if possible. Islands can block traffic flow so measure carefully if including one.

Final Thoughts on Designing a Small Kitchen

While a compact kitchen design comes with some limitations, the many available storage solutions, space-saving appliances, and sleek small-scale cabinetry ensure you can create a comfortable and highly functional kitchen. With an efficient layout, optimization of every inch of space, and some decorative flair, tiny kitchens can feel open, relaxed, and far larger than their footprint. Though it takes careful planning, a well-designed small kitchen can be a chef’s delight and the perfect hub for entertaining.