A very small kitchen can present some unique challenges when it comes to designing an efficient and beautiful space. However, with some clever planning and smart solutions, even the tiniest kitchen can be highly functional, stylish, and tailored to your needs. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore numerous tips, tricks, and design ideas to help you make the most of your petite kitchen.

Key Considerations When Designing a Tiny Kitchen

When working with a small kitchen, carefully considering the existing layout, available storage, and how you use the space will help guide your design plans. Here are some key factors to think through:

Measurements and Traffic Flow

  • Take detailed measurements of the entire kitchen including walls, windows, doorways, and all potential storage nooks.
  • Map out the main traffic zones through the kitchen like walkways to the sink, fridge, oven etc. This will help you identify the most functional layout.
  • Look for any narrow points or tight spots that could get congested. Open these up by rearranging appliances and cabinets.

Storage Solutions

  • Assess all your kitchen items and tools. Get rid of anything you don’t use to pare down to the essentials.
  • Take stock of how much and what types of storage you currently have via cabinets, drawers, pantries etc.
  • Look for wasted space that could be converted into storage like dead corners, above refrigerators, and narrow walls.

Multi-Functioning Elements

  • Consider multi-purpose pieces that save space. For example, a rolling cart for extra storage and prep space.
  • Opt for appliances that serve more than one purpose like a convection oven/microwave combo.
  • Use your walls! Shelving, hanging pots and pan racks, and mounted knives all utilize vertical real estate.

Layout and Floorplan Ideas for Tiny Kitchens

How you arrange the floorplan in a small kitchen is key to creating an efficient and livable space. Here are some excellent layout options to consider:

Galley Kitchen

The galley-style kitchen with two parallel countertops and cabinets running down a narrow room is a classic small kitchen layout. It minimizes traffic issues by creating two clear work zones.

L-Shaped Kitchen

An L-shaped kitchen optimizes workflow by separating the sink, appliances, and cabinetry while also opening up floor space. Island placement is flexible for additional counters and dining space.

U-Shaped Kitchens

U-shaped kitchens provide ample counter space and storage by lining three walls with cabinetry. The open side can accommodate a table or island. Appliance placement in the base of the U is optimal.

Single Wall Kitchen

Concentrating storage and appliances along one wall frees up the rest of the space for traffic flow. Built-in or freestanding islands/tables can provide more workspace.

Storage Solutions for Small Kitchens

Lack of storage is one of the biggest complaints in tiny kitchens. With some clever solutions, you can tuck away all your cooking necessities and keep counters clear.

Cabinet and Drawer Organizers

Pull-out cabinet organizers, tiered drawers, and specialized inserts for plates, pots, pans, and utensils help you fully utilize every inch of existing cabinetry.

Roll-Out Shelving

Installing roll-out shelves in lower cabinets and pull-out vertical drawers provides easy access to items pushed to the back that you couldn’t otherwise reach.

Shelving Above Cabinets

Make use of high walls by mounting shelving above cabinets to store less-used items and small appliances. These can also serve as extra display space for pretty dishware.

Hanging Wall Rails

Hanging rails for utensils, pots and pans, or spices utilize vertical space while keeping counters and cabinets clear. Mount them just below the ceiling.

Narrow Spaces Storage

Take advantage of narrow nooks and awkward spaces with specialized storage solutions like corner Lazy Susans, wall-mounted spice racks, or narrow pull-out drawers.

Under-Cabinet Organizers

Metal bins on cabinet undersides or pull-out baskets maximize the space under your counters and provide a home for cooking tools, food prep items, and cleaning supplies.

Pantry Optimization

Use shelves, hanging racks, and clear stacking bins to fully stock your pantry. Labelling and turntables make finding ingredients easy.

Space-Saving Furniture and Appliances

In a small kitchen, every piece of furniture and equipment needs to pull its weight in terms of functionality and efficiency. Fortunately, there are many specialized space-saving options to outfit a tiny kitchen without sacrificing style or performance.

Two-Tiered Islands

A two-tiered kitchen island provides a dining spot and storage shelves below while maximizing prep and serving space up top. Rollers make it portable.

Retractable Table

A slim table that folds into the wall is perfect for eating in a cramped space. Look for retractable models with drawers and shelves for bonus storage.

Magnetic Knife Strips

Mounted to the wall, magnetic knife strips safely store sharp knives without taking up drawer or counter space. They also add nice decorative flair.

Microwave Drawers

Installing your microwave in a cabinet or drawer gets it off the counter while still keeping it easily accessible. Some models have ventilation systems so they can be truly built-in.

Small Sinks and Dishwashers

Compact sinks, dishwashers with slim 18-inch widths, and portable dishwashers are designed to fit in tight spaces while delivering full performance.

Mini Refrigerators

In super small kitchens, installing an undercounter refrigerator keeps ingredients nearby without dominating space. Some come with tiny integrated freezers.

Two-Burner Cooktops

Cooktops with just two burners are excellent choices for cooking in cramped kitchens. They maximize room for other tasks.

Small Over-Range Ovens

Over-range ovens placed above the cooktop provide oven functionality without using precious counter space. Just be sure to measure their height vs your cabinets.

Multi-Function Appliances

Look for appliances that combine multiple capabilities like a convection oven with microwave mode, a grill/griddle stovetop, or a coffeemaker with a toaster oven.

Portable Appliances

Having some portable, stowable appliances can add function to your kitchen. Consider a rolling island with a built-in chopping board and prep sink or a mobile induction burner.

Ideas for Open Shelving and Display

While cabinets certainly pack in kitchen items, open shelving provides a lighter, more spacious look in pint-sized kitchens. Plus, it’s a great way to show off your favorite dishware, cookbooks, and accents.

Glass Door Cabinets

Glass-front cabinets maintain a neat enclosed look while allowing you to see what’s inside. Use them above or below countertops. LED lighting highlights contents.

Wall-Mounted Plate Racks

Plate racks add pretty display space for your china, platters, and bowls. Stagger plates and bowls for balance and separate with riser bars.

Hanging Pots and Pans

Install hanging ceiling racks or mounted wall rails to arrange pots, pans, and utensils in plain sight without taking up drawer room. Opt for copper, stainless steel, or brass for flair.

Floating Corner Shelves

Floating corner shelves situated above the countertop make use of awkward space while providing storage and display for cookbooks, plants, and accent pieces.

Vertical Spice Racks

Mount narrow vertical spice racks to organize your collection and highlight unique spices and blends. Position near cooking zones for easy access.

Open Shelving Units

A set of matching open shelves brings cohesive style when used to store, display, and organize an array of kitchen belongings like barware, dishes, cookbooks, cans, and food staples.

Clever Countertop Solutions

When counter space is limited, you have to maximize every square inch. From specialized cutting boards to convertible counters, these solutions keep your counters clutter-free.

Slide-Out Cutting Boards

Mounted to the countertop or the edge of lower cabinets, slide-out cutting boards only take up space when you need them. Otherwise they tuck away to clear counters.

Flip-Up Countertop Extensions

Flip-up counter extensions allow you to temporarily expand your workspace. When not in use, they fold down and out of the way. Great for tight spots near appliances.

Pull-Out Prep Tables

Thin rolling carts with cutlery drawers, spice racks, and butcher block tops can be stowed under counters when not in prep mode. Then pulled out for extra slicing, mixing, and chopping room.

Tiered Counters

A narrow tiered countertop maximizes workspace vertically. Use the lower tier for small appliances, knives, and tools while prepping on the raised section.

Magnetic Tool Bars

Magnetic tool bars under your wall cabinets hold knives, spatulas, and other cooking tools horizontally to clear up counters. Items are conveniently within reach.

Creative Backsplash and Accent Ideas

While backsplashes and accents may seem like minor details, they can make a big visual impact in a tiny kitchen. They introduce color, texture, and personality to your petite cooking space.

Vintage Tile Backsplashes

For a retro vibe, look for vintage tiles sold by the box at salvage stores. Create eclectic patterns by mixing and matching colors, sizes, and shapes.

Tin Ceilings and Backsplashes

The reflective warm tones of antiqued tin panels add dimension and an artsy look. Use tin tile backsplashes or install full tin ceilings to make cramped rooms appear taller.

Woven Rustic Accents

Incorporate natural textures with woven wood, rattan, rope, jute, or wicker accessories. Baskets, mats, and wall hangings complement cottage and farmhouse decor.

Bold Painted Cabinets

Painting your cabinets in a deep hue like navy, olive, or burnt orange makes the cabinets themselves a stylistic focal point and injects color into a neutral space.

Mirrored Accents

Strategically placed mirrors, like on the back of a glass-front cabinet or tile backsplash, visually expand the space by reflecting light. Small round mirrors add nautical flair.

Marble, Travertine, or Limestone

Natural stone backsplashes and countertops in white, cream, and gray-veined versions bring elegance to small kitchens. Their veining and subtle color variations provide beautiful visual interest.

Window Gardens and Mini Greenhouses

Install hanging mini greenhouse planters or use succulents and herb gardens in sunny windows and sills to add fresh greenery.

Small Kitchen Lighting Ideas

Proper lighting is crucial for illuminating cramped spaces and task areas in tiny kitchens. Plan for ample ambient, task, and accent lighting.

Under Cabinet Lights

Strip LED lights mounted under upper cabinets provide focused task lighting for key prep and cooking areas without hogging counter space.

Pendant Cluster Lights

A linear row or cluster of pendant lights over islands, sinks, and tables brightens the entire room and provides stylish accent lighting.

Recessed Ceiling Cans

Recessed lights placed strategically throughout the kitchen create ambient fill light. Use dimmers to adjust mood or brightness for tasks.

Slim Track Lighting

Track lights with minimalist profiles fit seamlessly in any small kitchen. Spotlight features and adjustable heads direct light wherever it’s needed.

Lighted Glass Cabinetry

Integrated LED lighting in glass-front cabinets provides both task lighting and display highlighting while maintaining an open, uncluttered look.

Mirrors and Light Reflectors

Position mirrors and hanging shiney metal discs to maximize light reflection and amplify brightness. This helps make dark corners brighter.

Inspiring Design Styles for Tiny Kitchens

Just because your kitchen is small doesn’t mean its style has to be cramped or generic. Your interior design choices can infuse personality and reflect your unique taste. Consider these inspiring aesthetics:


The Scandinavian look with its minimal, airy vibe is perfect for tiny kitchens. White walls, light wood cabinets, and stainless accents keep things light. Pops of color come from dishes, surfaces, and accessories.


Exposed brick, metal finishes, subway tile, and pendant lighting give a sleek edge to small kitchens. Keep things uncluttered and opt for multifunctional furniture.

Modern Farmhouse

White shaker cabinets, antique accents, and butcher block surfaces bring cottage charm to small spaces. Herb gardens, woven baskets, and rustic wood elements enhance the welcoming vibe.


Breezy blues, seashell accents, driftwood details, and stipple glass cabinetry bring beach cottage flair. Built-in sea life displays and porthole mirrors reinforce the nautical theme.

Mid-Century Modern

Clean lines, rounded corners, retro color palettes, and playful prints define this retro style. Sculptural pendants and statement clocks punctuate the distinctive look.

Answering Common Questions About Small Kitchen Design

If you’re grappling with how to improve your petite kitchen, here are answers to some frequently asked questions to help guide your approach.

What are some space-saving substitutions I can make in my small kitchen?

Some smart swaps to consider are a smaller stove for a full range, counter-depth refrigerator instead of a standard depth, and drawer appliances like microwaves and dishwashers. Also look for streamlined, multi-use appliances and furniture.

How much storage and counter space do I need?

Aim for at least 15 linear feet of cabinets and drawers combined. For counters, allow for at least 32 inches circular clearance around appliances and 15 square feet of open workspace. Islands should be at least 36 x 24 inches.

What design tricks make a small kitchen appear larger?

Light, reflective colors, open shelving, raised wall cabinets, varied ceiling treatments like exposed beams or tin tiles, and wide floor planks all visually expand tight kitchens. Also, allowing views and light through windows and sightlines to other rooms.

Should I avoid upper cabinets for an open look?

Limited upper cabinets can make a small kitchen feel more spacious. But well-designed uppers actually provide valuable storage without cluttering the look. Glass-front uppers, sconce lighting inside, and limiting cabinet runs preserves the light, open aesthetic.

How much space do I need for two cooks?

For two cooks to comfortably maneuver and pass through, allow for at least 60 inches between counters faced across from one another and 48 inches between counters situated in an L or U shape. Islands should be no less than 36 inches wide.

Final Thoughts

While small kitchens do pose challenges, there are many ingenious solutions for maximizing every inch. By getting creative with layouts, storage, multi-functioning furniture and equipment, open shelving, and visually expanding lighting and finishes, you can design a welcoming, high-functioning kitchen tailored to your needs and style. Use these tips and ideas to craft your ideal petite cooking space!