12 Genius Design Moves for Small Kitchens

Article by: Natasha Saroca

Is your kitchen lovely and large, or is it on the smaller side? If it falls into the latter group, I can sympathize. I spent the better part of last year living in a studio apartment with a single-wall kitchen that was a measly 32 square feet (3 square meters). However, it wasn’t the shortage of square footage that was the problem, but rather that the cooking zone wasn’t the smartest, most efficient or space-savviest of kitchen designs. (For instance, it had no usable work area, as the sink and cooktop took up pretty much all of the countertop space.)

Since I was only renting the apartment, I couldn’t renovate the area, but that didn’t stop me from mentally writing a list of improvements I’d make if given the chance. Here are some of the design tricks I would have used to transform the spatially challenged kitchen into a cooking zone that was big on functionality, space-maximizing solutions and visual appeal, and that offered the illusion of spaciousness, too. Borrow these ideas when tackling your own cramped-kitchen makeover or, if you’ve successfully revamped a compact cooking zone for the better, share your must-try design moves in the Comments section.

1. Add a mirrored backsplash. A strategically placed mirror works wonders when it comes to creating the illusion of spaciousness in a cramped room, as it will bounce light around and help visually elongate the walls. An easy way to introduce this reflective surface into a small kitchen is by way of a mirrored backsplash — a sneaky and extremely effective design trick used in this compact cooking zone.

2. Be open to open shelving. While not everyone is a fan of open shelving, there’s no denying it’s a smart storage solution for rooms with a modest footprint. Not only do open shelves deliver an airy, open and bulk-free look — unlike cabinets with solid doors, which can look visually heavy in a small space — but they also ensure that kitchen essentials are easily accessible, too. Hanging storage, another functional and space-maximizing solution spotted in this cooking zone, achieves a similar effect.

If you’re eager to incorporate open shelving, just be mindful that the shelves will require a little extra upkeep to ensure that they and their contents remain dust free.

3. Opt for an all-white palette. Choosing an all-white color scheme will make your compact kitchen look light, airy and more spacious than it is in reality. If an all-white palette isn’t up your decorating alley, or you desire a scheme that offers more visual drama, opt for white walls or overhead cabinets, and try base cupboards made from wood or dressed in a dark, dramatic tone. Using white up top will enlarge the space visually, while the darker tone down below will anchor the room without making it feel closed in.

Alternatively, you might like to consider a soft neutral or pastel palette. Barely-there hues such as powder blue, mint, cream or dove gray are ideal for use in small spaces, as they add a hint of color and interest without being too overwhelming or heavy like bolder, more saturated tones, which can weigh down a compact room.

4. Fill your space with light. Flooding your room with natural light will go a long way toward making a small area look more spacious. However, if you’re restricted when it comes to window placement and size, the next best thing is to come up with a lighting plan that will brighten up and help visually enlarge your space, while transforming it into a more functional work zone, too.

This airy, cheerful kitchen is lucky enough to boast four different light sources: a generously sized window, which allows an abundance of natural light to filter into the room; a ceiling light that provides ambient lighting; a long wall-mounted fixture that illuminates the area from above and draws attention to the sunny feature wall that it’s affixed to; and undercabinet lights that ensure the countertop is well lit and showcase the suspended style of the overhead cabinets, which adds to the room’s sense of spaciousness.

5. Create the illusion of space with horizontal and vertical lines. This striking kitchen is a study in how to enlarge a space visually by introducing vertical and horizontal lines. As you can see looking at the striped cupboard doors and panels in this compact cooking zone, vertical lines draw the eye upward and add height to a small room, while horizontal lines add depth and make narrow spaces appear wider and roomier.

6. Incorporate space-savvy storage. A shortage in storage is a problem usually associated with small kitchens. However, this obstacle can be overcome by incorporating clever, space-maximizing storage solutions in your cooking zone — think corner drawers, appliance garages, pullout vertical pantries, drawer organizers and corner systems. Doing so will ensure that everything has a place to call home in your kitchen, cutting unnecessary clutter and visual bulk and making the area more effective to work in.

7. Go with glossy finishes. High-shine surfaces, such as stainless steel, two-pack polyurethane and ceramic tiles, will not only inject your kitchen with interest and sleek sophistication, but will amplify the natural and artificial light in the room, making the area appear more spacious.

8. Choose a countertop that works double time. Since space is at a premium in small cooking areas, it’s important that every surface, material and design element earns its keep, even your kitchen countertop. While countertops have a practical purpose — as food prep surfaces and general workspace — they can also double as a space to stash kitchenware (such as the crafty pullout chopping board pictured here), which will help keep your counter and cupboards free of physical and visual clutter. Other space-saving, cleverly concealed countertop accessories you might like to consider include a built-in utensil holder, condiments organizer, knife block or bread box, each of which sits flush with the top of the counter.

9. Choose glass-front doors. Like open shelving, glass-front cupboards trick the eye into thinking a compact kitchen is more generous in size, but with the benefit of keeping the contents of your cupboards free from dust and cooking splatter. Just remember to keep things nice and orderly inside for a clean, clutter-free look.

Another perk of decking out your cooking zone with glass cabinet doors is that you can easily see what items are stashed inside your cabinets and when you’re running low on pantry items, resulting in a more efficient space to work in.

10. Fit in a cleverly concealed table for casual eats. Don’t have room for a breakfast bar or dining table in your kitchen? Take design cues from this crafty space and incorporate a foldable table that can be tucked out of sight when not in use. The geometric chairs slide into the nook below, so as to not take up precious floor space and to enhance the room’s clean, seamless look.

Another space-savvy solution is to equip your countertop with a pullout table, like the one shown above.

11. Stick with clean, slender lines. Resist the urge to decorate your compact kitchen with fussy design elements and decor that will crowd it and add unnecessary visual bulk. Instead, stick with features with clean, simple lines that are visually lightweight and don’t consume too much floor space. 

This design trick takes shape in several ways in this small yet stylish kitchen. Note the slim breakfast bar, floating shelves and leggy bar stools; the use of finger pulls instead of bulky handles; and the simple industrial-style exposed bulbs, which draw the eye up to the ceiling, adding to the illusion of space.

12. Master the art of distraction. A high-impact feature wall not only will inject visual drama into a compact kitchen, but will also add depth and draw the eye down the length of the room, making it appear longer and more open. This contemporary kitchen proves just how successful this design trick can be when done right.

Likewise, a statement ceiling will also amplify the height of a kitchen that has diminutive dimensions, while doubling as a showstopping focal point. Take design cues from this compact cooking zone and paint your ceiling a bright hue (steer clear of moody colors, like black and dark gray, which will visually lower the roof and make the room appear more intimate). Alternatively, you might like to lift the look of your ceiling with wallpaper or a mirrored surface, or try a recessed ceiling with LED lighting.

[See more from Natasha Saroca on Houzz.]

10 Big Solutions for Small Spaces

From striped floors in the living room to open shelves in the kitchen, designers share their best tricks for tiny rooms. 

Photo: Ngoc Minh Ngo via House Beautiful

#1 Mix Low and Tall Furniture

In any small space, it’s important to not feel boxed in. In this Chicago apartment by architectural consultants Richard Bories and James Shearron, a low credenza is a smart substitute for the obligatory tall bookshelf, which would have closed off the space. “It’s very effective to keep things low and punctuate with verticals here and there,” says Shearron.

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Photo: Ngoc Minh Ngo via House Beautiful

#2 Dare to Be Dramatic

Small spaces are perfect for bold decorating because they require less time, money and materials. “In small, modern apartments you have to create dramatic moments that offset the lack of detail – but don’t hog the space,” says Shearron, who helped chose Benjamin Moore Bright Yellow paint for the apartment’s front door. “Bold, graphic gestures like that look cool in small spaces,” he explains. 

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Photo: Bjorm Wallander via House Beautiful

#3 Choose Side Chairs

Chairs without arms are perfect for small spaces because they’re much easier to get in and out of. They’re also more lightweight. In this 295-square-foot Brooklyn studio, designer Nick Olsen chose a mismatched pair that can effortlessly be moved around the room to wherever they’re needed. 

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Photo: Bjom Wallander via House Beautiful

#4 Don’t Compromise… Everything

Even though space may be tight, don’t settle on what’s important to you. Though this apartment is just one room, the bed is centered in the room rather than pushed against the wall. “But you have to pick your moments. It’s a full size, not a queen,” says Olsen. “She has a love seat instead of a sofa.”

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Photo: Thomas Loof via House Beautiful

#5 Create Distinct Zones

“If a space in monotone, it’s going to feel like one undefined space; if you create distinctions in the space, it feels larger,” says designer Maureen Footer. To make her New York City studio feel larger, she divided up the space by function. A Persian rug sets off the entry while a bookcase helps to define the office area.

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Photo: Thomas Loof via House Beautiful

#6 Hang Curtains at the Ceiling

Vertical lines help create the illusion of height. By hanging curtains directly underneath the crown molding, Footer made the apartment’s low ceilings seem higher and the whole space fell airier.

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Photo: Victoria Pearson via House Beautiful

#7 Install Open Kitchen Shelves

Traditional upper cabinets can close off a kitchen. By in stalling open shelves, designer Chris Barrett made her small California kitchen seem more open. “Wall cabinets are utliltarian but so dull. I love having open shelves and being able to stack pretty dishes and paintings on them,” she says.

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Photo: Victoria Pearson via House Beautiful

#8 Choose Furniture with Curves

Forget about furniture with sharp, pointy corners. For tight corners or narrow hallways, Barrett recommends curved furniture that can easily be walked around.

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Photo: Simon Watson via House Beautiful

#9 Elongate a Space with Stripes

Create the illusion of length by playing with pattern. In architect Bill Ingram’s 1,400-square-foot Alabama cottage, thick and narrow stripes are painted over the stained wood floors. He then used furniture that’s up on legs, so the continuation of the lines are visible under chairs and tables. 

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Photo: Simon Watson via House Beautiful

#10 Install Glass Doors

Ingram also used lots of glass doors – even on closets – to “extend views and add sparkle” throughout the home. It’s a smart way to carry light into dark storage spaces. 

(You are reading an article originally posted on House Beautiful)

13 Big Ideas for Small Bathrooms

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Photo: via TOH. A few things all old house lovers are familiar with: drafty windows, less-than-perfect plumbing, squeaky floors – and small bathrooms. While new home baths have nearly doubled in size over the past 30 years, old home bathrooms average about 5- by 8-feet.

Not to worry, though: you can combat the claustrophobia by scaling down to physically save space. (Pedestal sink, anyone?) And, with the right colors and lighting, you can create the illusion of a roomy bath

Here, we dig into the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) Design Competition archives to deliver great ideas from Certified Kitchen Designers that you can use in your next remodel. 

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Debbie R. Gualco, California

#1 Rich, Asian-Inspired Design

This homeowner wanted to bring her home out of the 1980s with contemporary Asian design, so the powder room vanity was inspired by a Japanese kaidantansu (stepped chest), which contributes fluidity of design in the cramped quarters. The use of rich and dark colors makes the walls of the small space recede.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Erica S. Westeroth, Ontario

#2 Day at the Beach

These homeowners opened up their space by getting rid of two small closets and adding task and ambient lighting to help create the illusion of a larger room. Little width remained after incorporating the tub and toilet, so a shallow cabinet was incorporated. Our favorite detail? The playful “dry riverbed” of stones in the floor. 

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Gary Hentges, Illionis

#3 His-and-Her Bath

The use of continuing horizontal lines, a large, frameless mirror, and well-placed task lighting helps to create the illusion of a larger space. The marble-clad dividing wall lends modesty to the toilet area, while creating a recessed storage opportunity. A must in every small bath, the shower has a curbless entry to eliminate demarcation of the limited footprint. 

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Gary Henteges, Illionis

#4 Small and Simple

These homeowners wanted to “keep it simple and do it well.” This cherry and limestone bath replaced a tiny, cluttered space meant for guest use. The curved-front vanity maximizes usable space with two deep drawers on double extension drawer slides.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Holly Rickert, New Jersey

#5 Zen Escape

The size of this room called attention to an eyesore: an off-center, aluminum-framed window. A floor-to-ceiling Shoji screen took care of that by concealing the flaw, while letting light through. A 7-foot framed mirror, hung horizontally, spans the entire length of the room and reflects the ladder towel rack, which adds storage without taking up floor space. 

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Keri Davis, Oregon

#6 Small Spa Retreat

This bathroom was constrained by bedrooms on either side, so it wasn’t possible to increase square footage. To make the space feel roomier, white marble tile and several mirrored surfaces wrap the room. Floor-to-ceiling cabinets add height, while a glass shower wall eliminates the visual barrier of a shower curtain or doors. Rich wood tones add warmth and create balance. 

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Leslie Ann Cohen, California

#7 Hacienda-Style Bath

This guest bath features a custom miniature sideboard topped with a rich red travertine counter and copper vessel sink. Rich shower draperies and handmade tiles add to the charm of this space, showing that patterns used selectively as accents will not overwhelm a small room.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Lori Carroll, Arizona

#8 Tone and Texture

It’s not uncommon to create attention-commanding focal points in compact spaces. This powder room vanity is crafted with smooth, flaxen veneer and is topped with a cast bronze basin and patina counter. Recessed lighting around the large mirror illuminates any reflection.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Leslie Thompson, Florida

#9 Modern Makeover

This vanity continues the lesson of creating a bold focal point in a small space. The upper walls of this ultra-feminine retreat are upholstered in padded silk, but the stainless steel backsplash adds a rugged accent.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Margie Little

#10 Compact Commode

This teeny, tiny full bath features a wall hung toilet; the tank is hidden inside the 2×6 stud wall, allowing for 9 inches of extra space in the center of the room. Clear glass shower doors eliminate visual barriers and a skylight floods the space with natural light.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: MaryLou Kalmus

#11 Glass Grandeur

A curved glass countertop provides a sense of spaciousness, while hand-applied 1-inch Bizazza glass tiles mimic the swooping curves of the fixtures. The high ceiling features a deep amethyst color wash to visually lower the height of the room, which felt “like a tunnel” to the homeowers.

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Sheila K. Tilander, Washington

#12 Retro Redo

This homeowner wanted a nostalgic style with a contemporary twist. Trumpet-shaped sconces flank an oval mirror that conceals a medicine cabinet. A frameless shower door extends the visual expanse of the space, while allowing unobstructed views of oversized subway and amber glass tilework. 

Photo: via TOH | Designer: Tiffany De Tomasi, California

#13 Eastern Oasis

A freestanding vanity with elongated fixtures, a custom bamboo mirror, and ladder towel rack create the illusion of vertical space in this small guest bath. A soft color palette accented with dark woods, balances the space. Artistic relief panels add visual interest without completely walling off light. 

(You are reading an article originally posted on This Old House)