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Make a Small Kitchen Layout Feel Bigger With Clever Design Tricks

A successful small kitchen design is space efficient and includes all the features that make a full-scale kitchen convenient: a seamless workflow, techy appliances, ample storage, and layered lighting.

Blog | Kitchen
Small kitchen layout 3D Photo
Linda White

When it comes to a small kitchen layout, don’t let square footage deter you from realizing your dream kitchen. After all, even a postage stamp can be big in both style and function.

We’ve answered your pressing questions and gathered all the ingredients you need to create a kitchen that will serve as the heart and hub of your home:

What is the Best Small Kitchen Layout?

One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to the best small kitchen layout. For starters, you’ll need to consider the location of windows, thoroughfares, and doorways.

Think about how you plan to use the space. Is it all about food preparation or will it double as a space to entertain or even work from home? How do you like to cook? What are your must haves?

small galley kitchen layout

Add a practical kitchen island

A narrow kitchen island provides instant storage and counter space, as well as seating. If it comes with a drop leaf, you can extend it for larger gatherings or extra prep space. An island also serves as an important design element, perhaps adding an industrial, farmhouse, or contemporary vibe.

Choose a kitchen island and stools that are visually lightweight. Add wheels to conveniently roll the island out of the way when necessary.

Small kitchen layout with practical kitchen island

Create a double galley layout

The galley kitchen is named after a ship’s kitchen, and though it was originally associated with simplicity and tight spaces, it made it to land and has continued to thrive because it’s ergonomically sound.

A double galley typically features cabinets on both sides of the kitchen — though you can leave one wall free of cabinets if you wish — with free space on either end. It also offers a convenient thoroughfare.

double galley kitchen layout small

Save space with a one-wall kitchen

In one-wall kitchens, the cabinetry, sink, countertops, and appliances are located on a single wall. They’re common in apartments, lofts, and condos, but one-wall kitchens can also work well in residential homes because they save space and create an open floor plan.

Adding an island provides extra storage and counter space while creating a seating area and space to entertain. Installing an appliance, such as a sink or microwave, in the island frees up space on the one wall.

Small one-wall kitchen design

Create ample storage with a U-shaped kitchen

A U-shaped kitchen uses three connected runs of cabinets to create its namesake shape, but worktops and cabinetry don’t need to be the same depth around the entire space. Innovative pull-out units can address the challenge of accessing items in awkward corner cabinets.

As in any small kitchen layout, consider drawers instead of cupboards wherever possible, so you have full access to all contents.

Small u-shaped kitchen

Add counter space with a peninsula breakfast bar

Adding a peninsula in a U-shaped, L-shaped, galley or one-wall kitchen creates valuable counter space for food preparation and a place to store small appliances. A peninsula can clearly define the kitchen from the living or dining room and creates a casual eating area.

Small kitchen layout with peninsula breakfast bar

How Should a Small Kitchen Be Laid Out?

Regardless of the size of your kitchen, you likely have more options than you realize. Consider these three tips when planning a small-space kitchen: 

Test different layouts

The RoomSketcher App is an easy-to-use kitchen planner that can help you test out different configurations – including Island Kitchens, L-Shaped Kitchens, U-Shaped Kitchens, Peninsula Kitchens, and Single Wall Kitchens – so you can design the ideal layout and visualize it in 3D.

Ideas for small kitchen layout

Consider the kitchen triangle rule

The kitchen triangle was developed by architects in the 1940s to reduce construction costs but was embraced by kitchen designers who appreciated its efficiency. According to the rule, the three main work areas — the sink, refrigerator, and stove — should be laid out to loosely form a triangle, so your working area is practical and comfortable.

kitchen work triangle in small kitchen layout

Create unexpected storage in a small kitchen layout

Looking for some easy organization hacks to help you maximize storage and make your kitchen more functional? Here’s some food for thought: 

organized fridge for small kitchen
Image fromThe Organized Mama

How to Make the Most Out of a Tiny Kitchen

When space is at a premium, planning is paramount. Fortunately, there are lots of ideas to inspire you.

Invest in flexible storage

If your kitchen cabinets are crammed with cookware and food, flexible shelves and shelving units can be transformational. Think under-shelf hanging baskets, tray dividers, under-the-cabinet sliding baskets, lazy Susans, and lid organizers.

Flexible storage ideas for small kitchen

Use an invisible – not bulky – vent

The downdraft stovetop vent is an attractive and functional alternative to a bulky ceiling-mounted hood. The slim and retractable vents are inserted at the back or sides of stovetops and raise and lower at the press of a button so they’re out of sight until needed. They’re especially popular on islands and peninsulas. Pull-out hoods are another option.

downdraft stovetop vent

Maximize space with a sliding door

Sliding doors are a space-saving alternative to hinge doors that swing into a tight hallway or small room. Barn doors slide on a track and cover a wall when open. Pocket doors disappear into a compartment in an adjacent wall when fully open but installing them is more labor-intensive because it usually requires cutting into a wall to create the compartment. 

Small kitchen layout with sliding door

Transform corners into storage space

Corner cabinets can seem impractical but with some creativity, you can enhance storage space and design. On base cabinets, fold-out and sliding shelf devices, the classic lazy Susan, accordion cabinet drawers, or angled drawer cabinets can all optimize space.

On the upper corner cabinets, a garage door, open corner shelving, or hanging wall racks can improve functionality. A corner appliance garage on your countertop will conceal small kitchen appliances you regularly use, such as a coffee maker and toaster.

Kitchen cabinets with clever storage

Get super organized inside your cabinets

Think vertically

Small kitchen layout with peg board

Opt for small appliances

Compact appliances designed in correct proportions create balance and harmony in a small kitchen layout. They might be small, but reputable brands feature the quality and performance you’d expect in full-size appliances, so they’re also mighty.

That’s especially true if they’re multifunctional. Some combination microwaves have features like roasting, broiling, grilling, steaming, and even convection cooking, while variable temperature cooling drawers can switch from freezer to fridge at the flick of the switch. An air fryer is good for cooking with less oil, but some can also bake, grill, roast, toast, dehydrate and reheat.

Kitchen with multifunctional appliances

Advantages of a Small Kitchen

It’s often been said that good things come in small packages and that can certainly be true when it comes to a small kitchen layout.

High-quality appliances and finishes are affordable. Love luxury appliances with restaurant-quality features and trendy hardware and lighting but not their price tags? With a small kitchen layout, you can stretch your budget and just may be able to afford everything on your wishlist!

Lower Cost for Building Materials. Designing a small kitchen layout also means fewer building materials, from cabinets and granite or marble countertops to flooring and backsplash. Cha-ching!

Efficient design and better ergonomics. Small kitchen layouts prioritize function and efficiency. Just a couple of steps in any direction and a critical appliance, work surface, gadget, or ingredient is within reach. The amount of time and effort it takes to clean a compact kitchen is also less than a large kitchen.

Best Color and Materials for Small Kitchen Layouts

Whites and neutrals are to-go colors because they naturally reflect light, which is a foolproof way to make a small space feel roomier. Not your cup of tea? Warm earthy tones or pastels will uplift the space without overwhelming it.

Neutral color palette for small kitchen

If your kitchen has lots of natural light, you might even opt for a monochromatic palette such as black or gray. If you do so, use the color from floor to ceiling. Kitchen cabinets with a lacquered or reflective finish will naturally enlarge a tiny space.

Paint cabinets to match the walls

Painting the cabinet doors and walls one color will make the room appear larger and it removes any visual barriers that cause the eye to stop short.

Kitchen cabinets matching wall color

Select large format tiles

Though it may seem counterintuitive, choosing a larger format tile for floors and walls can make a small kitchen layout feel larger because it requires fewer grout joints. When there are more grout joints, the floor may feel cluttered and boxy, and detract the eye from your beautiful tile.

Large floor tiles in small kitchen

Create depth with textured walls

Texture is a great way to add depth and visual weight to a design. Textured paint, wallpaper, or backsplash, for instance, can create balance, add character to a bland space, and even camouflage minor defects.

Kitchen wall texture detail

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Creating your kitchen design using the RoomSketcher App on your computer or tablet will help you imagine countless possibilities while eliminating the potential of making mistakes that could cost time and money.

Draw your floor plan, choose your appliances and finishes, and see your kitchen design in 3D. Now that’s a recipe for success!

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