The kitchen is perhaps the most important room in any home. Whether you enjoy cooking as a solo form of relaxation or like to use yours as a communal space to gather friends and family, our kitchens have the ability to bring us together, indulge our interests and help us create memories.
For those of us with small kitchens, it can be hard to know how to utilise this space fully to make it as warm and inviting as it is functional. Whether it’s planning where appliances go or knowing what colour to paint the walls, having a small space can feel limiting.
Luckily, a small kitchen doesn’t mean having to miss out on doing the things you love. We spoke to a range of experts – from interior designers to storage gurus – to help you make the most of this space…
See the benefits
“Don’t ever be frightened about a lack of space;” says Michele Rodriguez-Wise Co-Founder of L’Una Design – an interior design studio based in Cheltenham. “See a small kitchen as an opportunity to design a space that’s thoughtful – it can perfectly showcase your personality.”
Michele’s husband and fellow Co-Founder, Dustin Wise, echoes this sentiment. “See it as a chance to improve functionality and be more considerate and sustainable in your habits. Use the limited space you have to use your kitchen more efficiently.”
When it comes to seeing the benefits of a small kitchen, it really does come down to mindset as well as practicality. “Often as humans, if we have extra capacity in any room, we feel the needs to fill it,” says Poppy Duffree, Founder of Organised Interiors – a professional home organisation company. “We see this all the time when we help people move home, in every room of the house. However, with a small space you only use what you have, prompting you to think more carefully about how you want your space to look and feel.”
Choose your appliances
Before you can think about the decorative aspects of your kitchen, you’ll need to start prioritising what appliances you need. “Think about the key functions of the kitchen: cooking, cleaning, preparing and storing,” says Dustin Wise. “If you can’t fit in a dishwasher, it’s not the end of the world. Or, if you’re not willing to compromise on this, look for compact versions.”
Forfeiting a dishwasher was a reality for interior stylist, Hannah Bullivant. When her family relocated from London to a static caravan in the countryside, she found herself with the task of designing a kitchen with minimal space. “Think about your non-negotiables carefully,” she advises. “For us, we knew we didn’t need a dishwasher, and that freed up a cupboard space. After assessing our needs, we decided our non-negotiable was a microwave, so ensured we had one in our kitchen. Just because you have a small space doesn’t mean you have to do without your necessities.”
When speaking with experts about other appliances you can forfeit, many suggest using a hot water tap as a space-saving solution. “Hot water taps take up space under the sink but they save so much valuable worktop space by removing a kettle,” explains Charlie Avara, Managing Director at All Done Design, a design and build provider based in London. “While you’re thinking about this, consider if you actually need a toaster, too. Most ovens will have a grill element – so consider using your oven to make your morning toast and grilled sandwiches.”
All in all, it comes down to weighing up your priorities. But, a small space doesn’t have to take the fun out of cooking, and a small kitchen can still have all the appliances you need for this. “A lot of people worry that they won’t be able to cook their favourite meals for their family, like a Sunday Roast, but this just isn’t the case,” says Michele Rodriguez-Wise. “When we design small kitchens, we look for appliances that double-up in their uses, like combination ovens that include microwaves. We also use multifunctional hobs with integrated extraction to save space.”
Use clever storage solutions
To make a small kitchen work, it’s all about using clever storage tips and tricks. Poppy Duffree is well-versed in intelligent storage solutions, helping people every day to become more organised. “Utilise every space, even the ones you haven’t thought about,” she advises. “Think about the insides of cupboard doors, space above cupboards, walls and ceilings. Using all the space available to you won’t make your kitchen feel cluttered; it will give you the opportunity instead to have a perfectly organised space.”
So, just how can you use your space to its maximum potential? Poppy recommends all the following storage solutions:
- Use rectangular and square food storage. This gives containers the ability to be stacked – round jars are not space efficient. Within each cupboard, use shelf inserts to maximise height, too.
- Use hooks on the back of doors for items that can be hung up.
- Look for under-sink storage containers that can fit around piping.
- Use bamboo drawer dividers – allowing you to separate and store utensils clearly without clutter.
- Use shelving rather than cupboards if you’re looking to add wall space. These are much less bulky.
- For small freezers, remove outer boxes, write cooking instructions on packaging and stack vertically to fit more in.
Once you’ve measured up for appliances, found your storage solutions and thought about the functionality of your kitchen, you can start thinking about the fun part – decorating it!
Experts, from stylists to designers, find time and time again that people opt for white walls when designing a small kitchen, but this may not be the best option. “Unfortunately, if you have a small space, you can’t try to make it feel bigger through painting it white,” says Charlie Avara. “Instead, embrace the size and fill it with personality pieces and colours that reflect your tastes. “I’m working on a small kitchen project at the moment where used white units but painted the walls Banana Yellow. This adds character and warmth, and the walls will do the talking, not the cabinetry.”
When Hannah Bullivant was designing the kitchen in her static caravan, she decided to embrace colour fully. “Our kitchen is teal and green,” she reveals. “I’m into teal as it’s got a lovely link to nature and makes the space feel bigger. It also has a lot of grey in it so it’s contemporary yet warm.”
If you would prefer to stick to a neutral colour for your kitchen walls, consider adding texture to give your space colour and depth. “Add texture to your kitchen through flooring and worktops – like by choosing a marble or wood effect worktop,” says Dustin Wise. “With cabinetry, don’t be afraid to mix lacquers and woods. We tell our clients to consider bold colours and adding texture as being similar to when you get dressed in the morning. You contrast and layer to create an overall look that feels unique to you and exciting.”
Lighting can be used to illuminate your space and make it feel and appear bigger. “Use feature lighting, like under cabinet lighting and spot lighting, that are positioned to hit the centre of your worktop space,” suggests Charlie Avara. “This looks great but is also practical – giving you light directly where you’re working. Also, you can consider a feature pendant over the sink to add interest and personality.”
Charlie also suggests adding multi-purpose lighting – like lamps – that can be easily moved between spaces. “I’m a big fan of rechargeable desk lamps and I always use them in my home,” she says. “I have one sitting in the kitchen for ambient lighting while I cook but then when I want to move and eat, I can take it through to the dining table.”
Michele Rodriguez-Wise also agrees that carefully planned lighting is a must for small kitchens. “Lighting needs to function but also be ambient, as this will enhance the space,” she says. “Think of lighting as creating focal points so your eye is drawn to a design aspect on the wall or worktop, be that colour or texture.”
Use décor to express your personality
Adding personality to your kitchen is the finishing touch. Think about what you want to think about when you’re using the space, or what you’d like people to be drawn to when they visit. For example, something like a shelf doesn’t just have to be a space-saving solution – it can also be used to display your interests and tastes. “Consider shelving to be as important for styling as it is for storage, says Poppy Duffree. “Display recipe books, matching spice jars and other decorative items on your shelves. I also love to hang plants from them to bring life into my space.”
Art is another option – whether you opt for prints, decorative tiles or ceramic vases. “I love art in the kitchen and I love bright colours: be that expressed through tiles, cupboards or walls – says Hannah Bullivant. “I also add candles, flowers and plants to express my personality. The key thing to remember is that all kitchens can benefit from adding joy, beauty and ritual.”