Small apartments and homes offer plenty of charm, but they tend to be lacking when it comes to kitchen space. Luckily, there are tons of small kitchen ideas that maximize storage and efficiency. By thinking creatively about how to make the most of your tiny kitchen floor plan and utilizing whatever countertop and wall real estate you have, you can make even the tiniest of kitchens a space you enjoy cooking—and hanging out—in. Ahead, we’ve gathered 51 small kitchen design tips to help you maximize your space, be it a petite galley kitchen or just a single wall in an open-plan apartment. Whether you’re renovating and starting from scratch or just looking to refresh your existing space, read on to get your small kitchen in tip-top shape.
1. Add a prep area
You may not have space to expand or add a full island, so think about bringing in a slim rolling kitchen cart or bar cart to hold your mise en place or serve as extra counter space. Even a narrow console can work as a spot to set tools and ingredients on while you cook.
2. Remove upper cabinets
“Open shelves are extremely functional and make it so much easier to access dishes and glasses,” says New York–based interior designer Jenny Wolf, adding that you should think about your kitchen architecturally, as it doesn’t always make sense to have upper cabinets—“especially if the ceilings are 10 feet high.”
3. Get custom hardware
“I try to use hardware as statement pieces. It’s the jewelry you put on to complete the look,” says architectural designer Karen Williams, who serves as the creative director for St. Charles New York.
4. Or opt for invisible hardware
“When you lean up against the counter, you don’t want to feel a handle poking into your side. You also want a clean surface where you really see the materiality of [it]. We’ve worked a lot with Dada and have been generally seeing less hardware and more integrated pulls or touch-to-open cabinetry. It makes working much more efficient,” said designer Stephanie Goto.
5. Get super organized inside your cabinets
For any small room (a kitchen or otherwise), getting organized is essential. When space comes at a premium, you can’t afford to waste any of it—even the hidden space inside your cabinets. Stock up on risers, lid organizers for your various pots and pans, spice-sorting systems, and anything else that will streamline and maximize your kitchen storage.
6. Streamline dish duty
If your small kitchen doesn’t have room for a dishwasher, making sure that the kitchen sink is both an efficient and tidy space is key. Consider adding in a compact dish rack, like this one from Simple Human, that drains directly into the sink and will never rust.
7. Splurge on fun glassware
There might not be room for much decor—so let your dishes do the talking. Unlike hefty serving pieces, colorful drinkware adds visual interest without bulk. Display arty stemware on an open shelf, or let a pitcher pull double duty as a countertop vase.
8. Add a kitchen island
Even if your kitchen is on the narrow side, you can still bring in a slim kitchen island for prep space and conversation. Consider a rolling island, which can be pushed out of the way once dinner is ready. “Don’t think if you have a tiny kitchen that you can’t have an island. You can; you just need to put it on wheels so that when you’re working and you need an island it’s there, and when the guests arrive you can push it over to the side or move it into the dining room or living room and let it be the bar,” says interior designer Ellen Cheever. Alternatively, choose an island with slim legs that you could pull a few stools up to and let it double as bar or breakfast seating.
9. Use light colors to visually expand your small kitchen
“The lighter the kitchen, the larger it can feel,” Wolf says. “Sometimes, if there is a good view out a window, I like to focus on bringing the outdoors in and using nature to dictate the palette.” Keeping an especially light palette on countertops, backsplashes, walls, and millwork also helps a small kitchen feel more open. If you’re not in the market for a full renovation, consider the cooking tools that you always have out: Cutting boards, pots and pans, and linens can all lift a space if you opt for pieces in light shades.
10. Double down on white
The lightest palette of all, of course, is all white. “White paint will help spread and reflect light around, which also makes a space seem bigger,” says interior decorator and blogger Emily Henderson. If you have exposed shelving, create a wall of white by displaying white dish sets.
11. Maximize floor space with a dining nook
The shape of the room can have just as big of an impact as the square footage. “It’s important to pay attention to the structure of your kitchen,” Henderson says. “If you have a small dining nook, then go for a round table that opens up floor space and seats more people than a square one would.”
12. Pair utilitarian appliances with refined cabinetry
“People who frequently cook want to maintain something visually appealing. For one client—a New York City lawyer who has eaten at virtually every major restaurant in downtown Manhattan—it wasn’t about being a show kitchen, but a foodie’s kitchen. It’s very utilitarian—he wanted a heavy-duty Wolf stove—yet we took care in the selection of the finishes. The white cabinets are glass, and the gray cabinets are lacquer—they really play with materiality. This way, it’s not too precious or too utilitarian,” said designer Goto. For those not in the market for a whole new range, consider a striking espresso machine, like this Brutalism-inspired one by Anza, instead.
13. Think vertically
Just can’t get rid of that timeworn cookbook or prized flea market find? “Installing pot racks, knife mounts, and open shelving above your stove will free up tons of space,” says Henderson.