30 small kitchen ideas: design tips for compact culinary spaces

small kitchen with window seat at end
Even tiny kitchen ideas can ooze style and sophistication (Image credit: Nigel Hunt/Neptune)

If you're concerned that a small kitchen simply won't give you the storage, cooking or entertaining space you need, we're here to prove otherwise. 

With our menu of tiny kitchen ideas ranging from how your space functions to finishing details for an extra dose of flair, you'll soon realise that skimping on size doesn't mean choosing a smaller portion of style.

When designing a kitchen, it's essential to make every inch of space count, especially in a less-than-large space. With some clever solutions, however, it's possible to fit everything you need into the room you have available. And of course, let's not forget that the smaller the space, the quicker the clean! 

Transform your space with these clever small kitchen ideas

Join us as we delve into 30 ways to turn a compact or tiny space into a functional and good-looking kitchen that can meet your everyday needs.

1. Add skylights to increase the feeling of height

yellow kitchen units and sink beneath two skyiights

Free up wall space with skylights instead of windows (Image credit: deVOL)

If you want to make the most of all the available wall space in your kitchen, but don't want to be devoid of light, adding skylights can be a solution.

As well as acting as a source of natural light – essential in a smaller space – they can provide ventilation during warmer months and help get rid of cooking smells. For ease of use, consider installing skylights that can be controlled electronically via a wall switch or remote control.

But even with natural light in abundance, don't forget the importance of good kitchen lighting ideas

"Even greater care needs to be taken when it comes to small kitchen spaces to ensure lighting doesn’t feel excessively bright or harsh," says Marlena Kaminska, designer at ValueLights.

“The key to balancing functionality with atmosphere lies in designing a layered lighting scheme which incorporates ambient, task, and accent lighting.”

“Instead of illuminating your entire kitchen with bright lighting, identify your key ‘task’ zones in your kitchen (for example, your worktops and sink) and install tailored lighting solutions for these areas." You might want to consider some kitchen island lighting ideas too if this is your main food prep and/or entertaining space in the room.  

Her top tip for kitchens with lower ceilings? "Avoid large pendant fixtures which can overwhelm your room," she says. "Instead, opt for sleek spotlights to provide your ambient lighting. Under-cabinet lighting is also an ideal way to boost light levels in small kitchens without casting harsh shadows.”

2. Reflect light in a small space with metallic finishes

small kitchen with dark blue walls, cabinets and copper worktop and splashback

Metallic finishes can help bounce light around in a tiny kitchen idea (Image credit: deVOL)

If your preference is for darker painted kitchen cabinet ideas, don't be put off using them in your kitchen. It's easy to assume that a small kitchen has to be decorated in lighter shades to work, but you'll only consider your completed tiny kitchen idea a success if you love being in the room. If it's decorated in anything other than your favourite colours, you're likely to view it from a negative stance.

Instead, be clever with your choice of finishes and consider installing metallic elements to help bounce light around the room as demonstrated by this copper worktop, splashback and moulded sink. Even though the darker blue cabinets make the space seem cosy and warm, the addition of shiny copper surfaces adds extra light.

3. Create a built-in seating area and add storage below

small kitchen diner with pink colour scheme and built in seating area around small round table

Even tiny kitchen ideas can include seating (Image credit: Neptune/Nigel Hunt)

Adding built-in, banquette or dining booth seating is a great way to include seating in a small kitchen. And because it's generally attached to a wall (or sometimes the breakfast bar), it's an efficient way to use empty wall space and is useful for enjoying a quick morning coffee or simple evening meal. 

The added bonus of built-in seating? You can usually incorporate some extra kitchen storage ideas below for those special occasion or seasonal items you only need access to a few times each year.

4. Choose roller blinds for a space-saving window treatment

roller blind with real life images of greenery on window at end of small grey kitchen

Roller blinds fit snugly inside a window and suit a smaller space (Image credit: 247 Blinds)

“Where space is limited your windows are really important," says Amy Wilson, interior designer at 247 Blinds, "so embrace them and the opportunity they present in terms of bringing additional light and offering a view to open up your space. 

"If you want the space to feel light and open opt for sleek roller blinds. Not only are they attractive, but they’re very budget friendly.”

Fitting neatly into your window recess, or just over the top of your frame, they are a snug and streamlined addition to any compact kitchen.

5. Knock through to a dining area for the illusion of space

small kitchen with opening knocked through to dining area

Creating an opening may reduce storage but increase the sense of space (Image credit: Hillarys)

Although storage may be the driving force behind most small kitchen ideas, if space is your goal, then sacrificing a section of wall to create an opening into your dining room may be a loss you're willing to make.

Adding both light and the illusion of a more open-plan environment, it's also a great idea if you like to entertain but still want to chat to your guests. 

If space permits, you could even add a small overhang to the dining room side of the countertop to create a quick and easy breakfast bar.

6. Add a touch of space-enhancing blue

bright blue shutters on window in white kitchen

Bright blue shutters will brighten any tiny kitchen idea (Image credit: Hillarys)

Think of tiny kitchen ideas and you may be transported to holiday homes on Mediterranean islands where the focus is less on being inside and more about embracing the outdoors. 

If this is your vibe, then choose bright blue shutters to adorn your kitchen windows. They're an instant hit of dopamine decor that won't fail to boost your wellbeing and make your kitchen seem blissful, regardless of size.

7. Fit Shaker-style peg rails for extra hanging storage

pale kitchen units with shaker peg rail running around back and side wall

Shaker peg rails can be used for more than just hanging clothes (Image credit: Ellie Homes/deVOL)

Often seen in hallways or bedrooms, Shaker peg rails, such as this great-value wooden peg rail from Amazon, are an easy addition to a small kitchen scheme. Simple in style and usually made from wood, they can be used to hang anything from pots and pans to tea towels and decorative items.

For maximum storage opportunity, run them around the entire width of your walls.

8. Layer on the luxury

marble splashback and worktop, brass textured handles on green and glass cabinets

Finishes and texture can add a luxurious feel to the tiniest of kitchens (Image credit: Tom Howley)

“Size doesn’t have to be a constraint on the style and look of your room," says Mike Whitfield, interiors expert at Lusso, "and with thoughtful design, small spaces can be incredibly chic." 

To create a luxurious ambience within a confined kitchen space, it’s important to hone in on the finer details. Focus on luxurious materials, high-quality finishes, and minimalist yet timeless pieces to offer a subtle high-end look and feel. 

"Marble, in particular," says Mike, "embodies opulence, which is why it’s found in some of the world’s most lavish hotels and resorts. As a timeless and incredibly durable material, this is the perfect choice for a kitchen which will instantly elevate the luxe feel of the space.

In addition to the materials you choose for your kitchen worktops, it's also important to remember smaller details such as handles, says Tom Howley, creative design director at Tom Howley. 

“Hardware plays a crucial role in a kitchen design scheme. Textured handles such as hammered or wire scroll designs, accentuated with contemporary knurling, elevate cabinets and drawers, add a refined, luxurious touch.”

9. Minimise fussy details in a small kitchen 

handleless kitchen

Handleless doors are sleek and suitable for small kitchen ideas (Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

If you're a fan of modern kitchens and prefer to avoid using too much detail, opt for handleless doors when you pick your kitchen cabinets. 

Handleless kitchens will remove extra visual clutter, making even the tiniest of kitchen ideas more streamline and functional. The same rule applies when it comes to choosing tiles – a larger pattern or tile will feel less intrusive than a smaller, busier design.

10. Keep it practical with an L-shaped layout

green shaker kitchen

L-shaped kitchen layouts are ideal in small spaces (Image credit: Olive & Barr)

Small kitchen design ideas are just as much about the flow and access to other areas as they are about the aesthetics and appliances. 

L-shaped kitchen ideas are great for high-traffic routes where you need access to other areas such as utility rooms, dining areas or gardens. However, leaving the central area free for movement doesn't mean losing out on extra worktop space.

Butler units – moveable kitchen island units with shelves, drawers and a work surface – can be a great addition to an L-shaped small kitchen idea. This sage green portable kitchen island from The Cotswold Company would make a smart addition to any space. 

11. Go for deep kitchen drawers to maximise kitchen storage

deep kitchen drawer with multi-colour bowls nested inside one another

Extra deep storage drawers make it easy to organise all your kitchen essentials (Image credit: Joseph Joseph)

To maximise storage, look more to drawers than cupboards. You'll find you can fit more into a drawer than a cupboard, and it also makes for access easier when there's sometimes little room to manoeuvre in a smaller space.  

Use deeper drawers for taller items, but add shallower ones for cutlery and utensils to ensure you are getting the most of out every available centimetre of space.

And when it comes to filling the drawers, there are plenty of clever solutions that are a sensible but stylish option for small kitchens, such as these Joseph Joseph nesting bowls and spoons from John Lewis

12. Choose a galley kitchen for a space-saving layout

small sage green galley kitchen with sash window at end

Galley kitchens are a practical tiny kitchen idea (Image credit: deVOL)

The beauty of tiny kitchen spaces is that everything is readily to hand and this is definitely true of galley layouts.

Making the most of a narrow and long space means following the golden rule of a kitchen triangle to arrange the sink, oven/hob and fridge all within easy access.

Key to the success of galley kitchen ideas is trying to ensure they are open at both ends. But as this beautiful kitchen scheme demonstrates, this doesn't mean you have to be able to walk in and out of both ends. Having a window will suffice – and also help remove any odorous cooking smells.

13. Add clever extra fixtures

matt gold finish pot tap above hob and black pan

Space saving fittings can add a layer of luxury to your tiny kitchen idea (Image credit: Lusso)

Smaller spaces don't have to be devoid of design agree the experts. “Where possible, embrace minimalist design features to create a sleek and sophisticated look," says Mike.

"Some of the most luxurious kitchen additions are designed with this sort of space-saving and accessibility in mind, for example, a kitchen pot-filler, boiling water tap, or slide-and-hide oven. Choose streamlined built-in cabinetry and vertical storage to keep your kitchen feeling as clutter-free as possible.”

This Franke Minerva Mondial 4-in-1 boiling hot and filtered water tap in copper from John Lewis would make a statement in any small space. 

14. Create zones in smaller spaces using colour

small blue corner kitchen

Use colour to zone an open-plan small kitchen (Image credit: Good Homes bought to you by B&Q)

If your small kitchen needs to be open plan to the rest of your living space, use contrasting colours to help define the different zones. It's demonstrated well in this small kitchen diner. Using a dark blue on the kitchen cabinets helps to clearly define the tiny kitchen. 

However, by choosing the same dark walnut wood for worktops and flooring, matching the orange chairs to orange walls, and finally using gold finishes for taps and light fittings means there's an overall sense of cohesion that extends the sense of space.

15. Include a pantry for a multi-functional solution

grey butler pantry unit with doors open showing contents

A butler pantry can house multiple small kitchen needs (Image credit: Tom Howley)

While many beautiful modern kitchens forego wall-mounted cabinets, it may be that extra units are non-negotiable if you want to meet your storage needs in a small kitchen. 

And while pantry ideas or larder units may only seem feasible in larger kitchen spaces, you could be missing a trick if you don't add one. Don't think you can fit it in? Tom Howley says otherwise.

“A breakfast pantry can be designed to your specific needs and routines, and can be incorporated into any space. A double breakfast pantry can hold a barista-style coffee machine, storage for your tea, coffee beans and favourite mugs, plus plenty of surface space for drink prep. It can even be designed to include a boiling water tap and small sink for making a cup of tea in seconds. 

"The best thing about this set-up is that when you’re hosting, you can close the doors behind you, instantly concealing any clutter until it’s time to tidy," he adds. 

16. Lead your eye with curved worktops

curved kitchen units

Curved worktops and kitchen units can make negotiating smaller spaces easier (Image credit: Mereway Kitchens)

This design tip is based on a psychological principle that from a young age, our brains are programmed to avoid sharp objects. In the kitchen, we're not talking about avoiding the knife drawer – instead, think about how we subconsciously give a wider berth to corners when moving about a room. 

In a small kitchen where every inch of space counts, this is less ideal, so creating sections of curved worktops and cabinetry is a smart way to soften the edges and make it easier to traverse your kitchen. 

17. Incorporate clever corner storage 

kitchen with cabinet door pulled open to show corner storage unit inside

Pull-out corner carousels make the most of awkward spaces (Image credit: Smile Kitchens)

Corner units can make great use of limited kitchen space but they do require careful consideration in order to best make use of the space – essential for a small kitchen. Not only do you want to make full use of the volume of storage space, but make it easy to access too. 

Many kitchen makers will be able to provide corner carousel storage solutions that swing out so that everything is within easy reach. 

18. Pick appliances that combine functions

black induction hob with integrated extractor

Multi-purpose appliances can save valuable space in small kitchens (Image credit: Bora)

If you're in the process of seeking out appliances for your small kitchen, while smaller versions of standard appliances can be a great space-saving solution, other options such as this combined hob and extractor could work even better.

Designed to fit neatly within a worktop, the central extraction fan not only removes the need to mount one at worktop, wall or ceiling level, but is also located directly at the source of cooking smells – making it ideal in smaller spaces where odours can quickly overpower a room that lacks sufficient extraction.

19. Get your fridge/freezer ratio right

fridge freezer

U-shaped small kitchens can still be optimised for freestanding appliances (Image credit: Fisher & Paykel)

If you have a small kitchen, it's less likely you're going to have a large American-style fridge-freezer, although U-shaped kitchens can be truncated at one end to still allow space for something more substantial.

Either way, you'll still need to make a decision on the ratio split of refrigerator to freezer, whether that's in an integrated or a freestanding style. 

Modern fridge freezers tend to be either 70:30 or 50:50 in favour of refrigeration. To decide on what's right for you, you'll need to consider your lifestyle. 

Larger freezers can be useful if you batch cook, but the growing popularity of fresh ingredient meal boxes may mean more fridge space is a more sensible solution.

20. Add a breakfast bar for seating in a small space

small breakfast bar potruding from kitchen worktop

A breakfast bar can double up as a kitchen island (Image credit: Burbidge)

If your small kitchen seems to end up still being the spot that everyone gathers in, there's an easy way to combine entertaining with the practical needs of preparing meals.

A clever small kitchen island idea is to add an extra overhang on one side. It will still give you space for cooking and preparation, but also provide a handy perching spot for grabbing a quick bite to eat or visiting guests to sit and chat while you cook up a storm. 

21. Enhance the sense of height with floor-length curtains

blue and white patterned full length curtains in small kitchen

Don't dimiss the ability of curtains to make your ceiling seem higher (Image credit: Hillarys)

Although it can be easy to dismiss curtains as a potential window covering in kitchens, their ability to make your ceiling seem higher in smaller spaces should not be dismissed.

Perfect for small kitchens where you have patio doors opening onto a garden, or even for tiny kitchens where you want to make a small window seem grander, choosing a vertical pattern will also trick the eye into moving upwards, adding another illusionary layer to disguise how tall the room actually is.

22. Choose undermounted kitchen sinks to give you some worktop back 

undermount stainless steel sink in a white worktop with pink and yellow floor tiles below

Free up valuable preparation space with an undermounted sink (Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

When worktop space is in short supply, an undermount sink is a great solution as it means that you can extend your workspace right to the edge of the sink. And even if there are draining grooves in the worktop, you can still place chopping boards or plates over them.

Another top tip is to look for sink designs that come with covers or have accessories such as draining racks that can be used over the sink. 

Our kitchen sink buyer's guide has lots more practical information to help you make the right choice for your small space. 

23. Boost light with white walls and units

white kitchen with white venetian blind

There's no denying the power of white in small spaces (Image credit: Hillarys)

Love it or hate it, there's no denying the power of white to elevate a small space into seeming something grander in size and stature.

Bright, light reflecting and easy to maintain, opting for an all-white approach in a small kitchen means your mission to maximise space will rarely fail. Our top tip for avoiding it feeling too bland? Vary the shades of white you use on your tiles, worktop, cabinets and window coverings and add light stone flooring to help ground and balance the room.

24.  ...but don't discount bold shades and patterns 

small kitchen ideas

Colour drenching can be used to create striking tiny kitchen ideas (Image credit: deVOL)

While light-coloured kitchen units and wall can undoubtedly be a great choice for small kitchens, so too can bold, deep shades.

Sometimes there is no getting away from the fact that a kitchen is tiny but there is no reason why it should have to blend away to nothing – being brave with your colour choices for both cabinets and your kitchen wall tile ideas embraces the proportions of the kitchen and allows it go big on the drama front. 

Opt for a colour-drenching approach by painting kitchen cabinets in one colour and using it across walls, units and splashbacks for a quirky but cosy effect.

25. Save space with a single drawer dishwasher

dishwasher drawer unit

A single drawer dishwasher fits neatly under a worktop (Image credit: Fischer Paykel/Kate Halfpenny)

“When it comes to integrated appliances, opting for smaller models of ovens, dishwashers and hobs, will help you maximise cupboard space and also countertop space," says Ian Palmer Smith, appliance expert at Domestic & General.

Choosing an integrated microwave or oven/microwave hybrid is also another way to save countertop space, as is installing a single drawer dishwasher. Although it's small on size it still provides a great option if washing dishes by hand simply isn't your style.

Mike's other suggestion for a dishwashing solution? "If counter-space is less of a concern, and cupboard space is of a higher priority, a tabletop dishwasher can be a game changer," he says. 

"With little installation needed, these nifty appliances could help you use less water and in turn, could save on your energy bill."

26. Create an open-plan kitchen living space 

open plan kitchen

Dedicate one wall to your kitchen in an open plan room (Image credit: Rational)

Sometimes the only way to go is open plan — why close in an already small kitchen with a wall when it could breathe as part of an open-plan living space?

If you're considering this in your self-build or renovation, there's no right or wrong way to do an open-plan kitchen. While larger open-plan spaces may benefit from an island, you can create a simple one wall kitchen, which opens out onto a living or dining space. 

27. A hidden kitchen could be just the ticket

red kitchen hidden behind white pocket doors

Hide your kitchen behind pocket doors (Image credit: Mowlem & Co)

We love the idea of the trend for concealed kitchens, and think they'd work great in an open-plan room that doesn't have loads of room to accommodate a kitchen. The basic premise is that your kitchen doesn't look like a kitchen, and is sometimes hidden behind pocket doors, as in this example from Mowlem & Co

When it comes to a streamlined kitchen and hiding away clutter, a hidden kitchen is the ultimate example.

28. Design a high level dining perch

wooden breakfast bar shelf on pink walls with blue and gold stools

A simple shelf can transform your small kitchen idea (Image credit: Cult Furniture)

Even mini kitchens can provide somewhere for you to sit and enjoy a bite to eat. A simple piece of worktop projecting from a wall can be transformed into a dining spot when paired with some stylish stools. 

29. Make use of wall space with hanging storage

kitchen hanging rack

A wall mounted shelving and hook system can provide additional storage (Image credit: Cult Furniture)

To get the very most out of your small kitchen you need to ensure you are using every inch of space to its full potential.

Hanging racks – whether fixed to the wall or the ceiling – are a brilliant kitchen storage idea that allow you to keep all the things you use regularly to hand without using up valuable cupboard space. This simple kitchen hanging rack from Amazon comes with eight hooks for your essential kitchen utensils. 

30. Consider a corner kitchen to save space

small corner kitchen

Don't dimiss corner kitchens as they can still combine function and form (Image credit: PullCast)

Get creative with your space when designing your small kitchen layout and make sure your floor plan is being put to the best possible use. 

Have you considered fitting your kitchen into a corner of the room? This is a kitchen idea that works well in open-plan layouts and can result in some of the most practical of work areas. 

If you've used up all the available space in your kitchen and are considering how you can create more, our guide to small kitchen extension ideas has plenty of inspirational options if you're considering taking on a bigger project. 

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Amy Wilson

Amy Wilson is a renowned Yorkshire-based interior designer and past contestant in BBC2’s reality competition series, Interior Design Masters. Her core belief is that good design should make you feel joyful, inspired & safe.

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Marlena Kaminska

Marlena is a dynamic digital designer with a background in interior design. In her role, Marlena merges her interior design expertise with her digital design prowess to bring innovation and style to the world of lighting.

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Ian Palmer-Smith

Ian Palmer-Smith is the Heating and Home Emergency Service Director at Domestic & General. He has a wealth of knowledge on all things appliances & maintenance.

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Mike Whitfield

Mike Whitfield is an interiors expert and Head of Sales at Lusso. With over 10 years of experience in the luxury homeware sector, and nearly 20 years of experience in e-commerce and online sales, Mike possesses a great eye for interior design and stays up-to-date with the latest trends.

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Tom Howley

In 2004, Tom Howley set up his eponymous luxury kitchen company which designs, manufactures, and installs exquisite bespoke kitchens, all made in England. Each entirely unique kitchen is designed around the lifestyle of a client, with their choice of styles, materials, colours, and appliances, creating practical solutions in aesthetically beautiful rooms. 

Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.